WINE TERMS

Not all of them, but the most relevant and commonly used terms during wine discussions.  As I find, or think of, more I will update this page.


Acetic Acid:  A volatile acid that gives failing wine the aroma and taste which leads people to state (falsely) the wine has turned to vinegar.

Acidity:  Perceived in the taste of the wine as a level of tartness, acidity is a naturally component consisting of mainly tartaric acid, at about 0.5 to 0.7 percent of the wine by volume.

Aerate:  Exposing the wine to oxygen either through decanting or allowing the wine to "breathe" in an opened bottle or glass. Thought to allow off-odors to bow off in older wines, and to soften aromas in younger ones.

AOC. Short for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (sometimes Appellation Contrôlée abbreviated as AC). Translates literally to protected place, name, and is the official French category for higher-ranking wines. AOC  wines are categorized according to name, origin, grape varieties and other legal definitions.

Aperitif. a wine served before a meal.

Appellation. Official name referring to a wine's geographic region of origin.

Aroma. The smell of a wine. Some people use the term aroma for younger wines; bouquet for those that have been aged.

Astringent. Caused by acid or tannin, or a combination of both, refers to the mouth-puckering character of some wines.

Balance. The relationship of the components of the wine including alcohol, residual sugar, acid and tannin. When no one component stands out against the rest, the wine is said to be well-balanced, an indication of quality.

Barrel-aged. Refers to wines that are fermented in containers such as stainless steel, then placed in oak barrels to mature.

Barrel-fermented. Some white wines, notably Chardonnay, may be fermented in barrels rather than in stainless steel to impart a subtle oak character.

Big. Used to describe wines that are very full and intense; considered the opposite of elegant.

Blend. To assemble individual lots of wine together to make one wine.  Can apply to different grape varieties, or grapes of the same type from different vineyards, regions and vintages.

Body. The tactile impression of wine in your mouth. Think in terms of light, medium and full--or skim milk, whole milk and cream.

Bottle-aging. The winemaker decides how long a wine will age in the bottle before it is released for sale. Most wines are made to be consumed upon release; finer wines, particularly reds, may require additional bottle aging by the consumer.

Bouquet. The more developed and complex aromas said to be evident in older and mature wines.

Brut. A Champagne or sparkling wine style that is very dry, meaning little or no residual sugar.

Buttery. Descriptor often applicable to Chardonnay that has undergone malolactic fermentation; describes both texture and flavor attributes.

Cage. the wire net over the top of a Champagne bottle

Capsule. the foil placed over the top of the bottle to hide the cork.

Castello. The Italian word for castle; refers to a wine estate, such as Castello d'Albola.

Champagne. Refers to sparkling wines made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and vinified using the Méthode Champenoise winemaking process. Term is sometimes used to refer to sparkling wines from different regions, but correctly, only sparkling wine from Champagne may be called Champagne.

Château. A French winery estate, typically found in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, the architecture of châteaux can range from grand to mundane.

Claret. traditional term for the wine of Bordeaux.

Classico. Italian term indicating that wine comes from the heart of a specific region. While Chianti Classico is a demarcated DOCG district, the Classico for Verdicchio, for example, refers to the central part of the appellation.

Clos. a walled vineyard, typically in Burgundy.

Compact. Wine described as intense but not full.

Complex. Opposite of simple. A wine that has a lot going on

Concentrated. Dense aromas and flavors.

Cork. Quercus Suber, the bark of the cork oak tree, which is boiled, punched, washed, and coated for use as a wine stopper.

Corkage. fee charged by a restaurant to customers who bring in their own wine.

Creamy. Wines, particularly barrel-fermented Chardonnay that has undergone a secondary, malolactic fermentation, that have a rich, smooth mouthfeel and are fuller in body are often characterized as creamy.

Crisp. Describes wines that are clean, and possibly a bit on the tart side. Opposite of soft. Wines that are crisp are typically higher in acid, and go well with food.

Cru. Literally, a growth or a particular vineyard of merit.

Cru classé. a classified growth.  A cru that has been formally recognized.

Cuvée. A blend of many lots of still wines, particularly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, designed to become a well-balanced Champagne or sparkling wine.

Decant. To transfer wine from the bottle into another container, to aerate or to separate an unfiltered red wine from its sediment.

DOC. Abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which means controlled place name. Italy's official category for wines whose name, region of origin, variety and other defining factors are regulated by law.

DOCG. Abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita , meaning controlled and guaranteed place. Italy's official category for its highest ranking wines.

Domaine. French term for wine estate, commonly used in Burgundy.

Dry. Refers to a wine that is not sweet. Can also mean a wine that feels rough or dry in the mouth.

Dumb. a wine with limited flavors and aromas-often temporary due to bottling, storage, aging or refrigeration.

Earthy. Refers to aromas and flavors that suggest wet or dry earth or minerals.

Enology. the science of making wine.

Estate. A property that grows grapes and makes wine from its own vineyards.

Estate Bottled. made from grapes grown by the winery within the appellation of the winery.

Esters. chemical compounds which create much of the bouquet and aroma in wines.

Fat. wines that are rich and full bodied are sometimes described as fat.

Fermentation. A naturally-occurring process by which the action of yeasts converts sugar in grape juice into alcohol, and the juice becomes wine. Carbon dioxide is produced as a by-product.

Fiasco. the traditional straw-wrapped bottle of Chianti.

Finish. The final impression of the wine in the mouth after swallowing, particularly in terms of length and persistence of flavor.

Firm. Describes a wine neither soft nor harsh in reference to tannins in a red wine and acidity in a white.

Flabby. Describes wines that are too soft.

Fortified wine. Wines such as Port to which alcohol has been added.

Fruity. The fruit aromas and flavors evident in wine. Can be fresh, dried, cooked; examples include fresh apples, dried figs, citurus, melon and strawberry jam.

Generous. a rich and often alcoholic wine is said to be generous.

Grand cru. the best growths, or specific vineyards in a region. These produce exceptional wine.

Grape tannin. Tannins in a red wine attributed to the grapes as opposed to winemaking methods.

Grape Variety. Type of grape, such as Chardonnay or Merlot.

Harmonious. Referring to a pleasant and graceful balance of components in a wine.

Intense. Used to describe wines that express their character powerfully.

Legs. the streams of liquid formed on the sides of the wine glass after the wine is swirled, indicative of the body and texture of the wine.

Length. The sustained impression of a wine across the tongue.

Maceration. The process of soaking the skins of red grapes in their juice to extract color, tannins and other substances into the wine; can occur pre or post fermentation.

Malic acid. common acid in grapes which gives a bright crisp element to the wine.

Malolactic fermentation. A natural, secondary fermentation, optional in the winemaking process, which softens the total acidity of the wine through the conversion of malic into lactic acid.

Must. the combination of grapes, juice and skins that ferments to create wine.

New World. Winemaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand,  USA, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Canada etc. outside of Western Europe.

Nose. the generic term for the smell of a wine.

Nouveau. literally, "new." Wines made to be drunk quite young, within a few months of harvest.

Nutty. Broad descriptor to describe aromas and flavors of nuts in a wine; more specifically hazelnut, almonds, roasted nuts etc.

Oaky. The aroma and flavor characteristics imparted to a wine through the use of oak barrel fermentation and/or aging. These may be characterized as vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, toast, smoke or char.  Sometimes associated with imparting a higher tanning level than the wine might ordinarily have.

Oenology. the science of making wine.

Old Vines. Term referring to vines that are generally 40 years or older.  Presumed to deliver small yields, but good quality.

Old World. Refers to the winemaking countries of Western Europe including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Germany.

Oxidized. having been spoiled by exposure to too much air. The resulting wine tastes old, flat, and tired.

Palate. Referring to the mouth, or how a wine's characteristics manifest themselves in the mouth.

Plush. Describes a wine that feels luxurious in the mouth.

Pomace. the collection of skins and seeds of the grapes after pressing.

Powerful. Describes a wine of intensity and strength.

Premier cru. a first growth-the highest quality vineyard. Although in Burgundy, Grand crus rank higher.

Pretty. Describes a wine of delicacy and finesse.

Primary aromas. Fresh fruit aromas suggestive of the wine varietal.

Proof. measure of alcoholic content. 100 proof is 50% alcohol by volume.

Punt. The dome-shaped indentation in the bottom of a wine bottle.  ( a great trivia item)

Region. Geographical area for wine growing less specific than a district; more specific than a state or country.

Reserve. Loose designation for presumably higher quality than "standard" version of the wine.

Riserva/Reserva. Italian/Spanish term for "reserve" indicating longer aging before release and suggesting higher quality. Regulations determine how long this is for individual wines.

Rosé. In still wine or Champagne, a slightly pink tint comes from contact with the grape skins or the addition of a small portion of red wine to the cuvée.

Round. As opposed to flat or angular, refers to a wine's structure, particularly acid, tannin, sweetness and alcohol.

Shoulder. the part of a wine bottle where the neck flares to the full diameter of the bottle.

Silky. Refers to a smooth, supple texture.

Smooth. Describes a wine that is not rough or harsh.

Soft. Wine lacking in hardness or roughness, and present when alcohol and sugar dominate acidity and tannin.

Sommelier. a professional wine steward.

Sparkling wines. Refers to all effervescent wines outside those from the Champagne region of France, vinified using the Méthode Champenoise (correctly known elsewhere are Méhode Traditionelle).

Still wines. wines without carbonation.

Structural components. A wine's alcohol, tannin, acid and sugar (if any).

Structure. How a wine's structural components are perceived. Ideally structure should be well-balanced, without any one component dominant.

Style. Characteristics that form the personality of the wine.

Sulfur.  Used in winemaking to inhibit wild yeast and bacteria.

Tannin.  A substance found in the skins, stems and seeds of grapes (grape tannins) and imparted by oak barrels (wood tannins), that, in balance, can lend structure, texture and ageability to red wines.

Tartrates.  Tartaric acid, a naturally occurring acid in wine that forms crystals on the cork along the sides of the bottle. While cosmetically unattractive, these crystals only show that the wine has been handled quite delicately.

Tastevin.  Small, flat silver wine cup used for tasting by Sommeliers.

Varietal.  Term for grape variety.

Vin de Pays.  Wine of the country.  An everyday table wine.

Vintage.  The year in which a wine's grapes were harvested; sometimes referring to the grape harvest itself.

Viticulture.  The activity of growing grapes.

Yeasts.  One-celled organisms responsible for turning grape juice into wine.

09/05/01

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