Find Glossary Term:

Acetic Acid: A volatile acid that can turn wine to vinegar.

Acidify/acidification: The technique of adding acid to the grapes, must or wine to improve the balance.

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.

Alcohol: The sugar in wine grapes is fermented through the winemaking process into alcohol, and is measured as a percentage of volume. In white wines, this ranges between 9 and 14 percent; in red wines between 11 and 14 percent.

American oak: Oak wood for wine barrels sourced in American forests. Favored by many winemakers, particularly those in Australia and Spain.

Amontillado: A very fine Sherry, somewhat darker than Fino.

Ampelography: The science of grape vine identification.

Amphora: Ancient wine container, having two handles.

Anthocyans: Natural organic chemical compounds responsible for the red, blue and purple colors of grapes and wine. Incude anthocyanins, anthocyanidins and pro-anthocyanidins.

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.

Armagnac: a region of Southwestern France famous for brandy.

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

Aromatic: Used to refer to a wine, particularly white wines, with intensely floral or fruity aromas, such as Muscat or Viognier.

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

Attack: In wine tasting, the first impression of a wine on the mouth. Usually perceived as a first "hit" on the tip of the tongue and at the front of mouth.

Ausles: a term used in Germany to indicate wines grapes of very high degree of ripeness-literally, selected.

AVA: Acronym for American Viticultural Area, indicating wine-growing regions as defined through geographic and climatic boundaries by the Federal Government. Theoretically, the American version of the French AOC system.

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: A small wooden barrel used for aging red wine, and fermenting some styles of white wine. Barrels are about 60 gallons in size, and are made of oak, primarily from French and American forests.

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

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

Barrique: Small French oak barrel.

Beerenauslese: German term for individually selected grapes that a very ripe and sweet.

Bidule: a small plastic cup placed inside a Champagne bottle during the secondary fermentation to help collect the yeast in the neck of the bottle.

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

Bio-dynamique: a farming technique which relies on phases of the moon to help determine appropriate times for vineyard tasks.

Black fruits: Aromas and flavors found typically in red wines including those of blackberries, black currants, blueberries and black cherries.

Black grapes: Grapes with reddish or blue pigment in their skins used to make red wine.

Blanc de Blancs: a white wine made exclusively from white grapes.

Blanc de Noirs: literally, a white wine made from black (red) grapes.

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.

Bodega: Spanish word for winery or cellar.

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

Bordeaux blend: A style of wine assembled from the classic red grapes of Bordeaux including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Botrytis: a form of fungus which grows on ripening grapes. It can ruin a crop under adverse conditions, but with healthy grapes can also concentrate the flavors of the grapes and make an intense dessert wine such as Sauternes.

Bottle-aging: The winemaker decides how long a wine will age in the bottle before it is released for sale. Many wines are made to be consumed upon release; finer wines, particularly reds, may require additional bottle aging by the consumer. In the case of Champagne and sparkling wine, bottle aging allows the wine to acquire, complexity, depth and fine texture; it is also known as aging "on the yeast" or "en tirage".

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

Bright: A wine descriptor referring the character of the wine, including its appearance in the glass, to be fresh and exciting, and refracting light.

Brix: Scale of measurement of total dissolved compounds in grape juice and approximate concentration of sugars used in the United States as one gauge of ripeness at harvest. One degree Brix is approximately 12 g/l sugar.

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

Budwood: the varietal grape that is grafted onto the rootstock. This is the part of the vine that produces the fruit.

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.

Carbonic Maceration: technique used in making Beaujolais and other wines, in which whole clusters of red grapes are placed in the fermenting tanks without crushing them. This results in a brighter, fruitier wine.

Carboy: large glass jug or bottle used in winemaking

Case: a case of wine typically holds 12 750ml. bottles, equaling 2.38 gallons.

Cask: A wooden barrel.

Cassis: French term for currants, often used as a descriptor of red wines.

Castello: The Italian word for castle; refers to a wine estate.

Cave: French term for wine cellar.

Cedary: A woody aroma that characterizes certain red varietals.

Cepage: French term for grape variety.

Chai: French term for wine storage building-above ground.

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.

Chaptalization: technique of adding sugar to the grapes or must to balance the wine.

Charmat Process: method of making sparking wine in large, pressurized tanks instead of individual bottles. Generally used for less expensive wines.

Charry: Aromas and flavors of a toasty nature created by the application of oak barrel aging to the wine

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.

Clean: a wine without winemaking flaws or bacterial spoilage.

Clone: A selection within a grape variety which exhibits certain characteristics distinct from others in the group. Viticulturists and winemakers experiment with different clones of the same variety to optimize their plantings and provide specific flavor and tactile characteristics.

Clos: a walled vineyard, typically in Burgundy.

Cluster: a single bunch of grapes.

Colheita: Term used in Port winemaking referring to vintage.

Commune: Typically refers to a wine-growing village in the Burgundy region of France.

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.

Cork taint: A mildewy smell that results from mold on the cork interacting with chlorine molecules. See also: TCA.

Cote: A slope or hillside with vines. (also côteaux)

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.

Cremant: A sparkling wine with reduced or lesser carbonation.

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-a particular vineyard of merit.

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

Cultivar: like cepage, a word meaning grape variety.

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 a red wine from its sediment

Demi-sec: A Champagne style that is semi-dry, but sweeter than sec.

Demijohn: a large glass container-often wrapped with straw

Depth: The impression of many layers of complexity in a fine wine.

Disgorging: The process by which the sediment collected in the neck of the Champagne bottle during the riddling process is frozen and expelled prior to the final corking.

District: Refers to a geographic area more specific than region, but less specific than commune.

DO: Abbreviation for Denominacion de Origen, which means place name and refers to Spain's official category for wines whose name, region of origin, variety and other defining factors are regulated by law.

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. In Portugal, DOC is also an abbreviation for the highest official wine category, Denominacao de Origem Controlada.

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

Dosage: The liqueur, or sugar dissolved in reserve wine, added to the Champagne just before final corking. The dosage finishes the Champagnes and determines its level of sweetness.

Doux: A Champagne style that is sweet.

Drip Irrigation: an alternative to spraying water over the vineyards, this technique concentrates the water on the vine by using small "emitters' which release the water directly into the ground near the trunk of the vine.

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

Dull: Opposite of bright and clean; can refer to a wine's appearance, aromas and flavors or overall style.

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

Eiswein: a rare dessert wine made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine.

Elegance: Suggests a wine of a certain delicacy and grace as opposed to power and intensity.

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.

Extra-sec: A Champagne style that is extra dry, but sweeter than Brut.

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.

Fining: clarifying a wine by adding a small amount of clay or egg white.

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

Fino: the most elegant and delicate of Sherries.

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.

Flavor compounds: Organic compounds in grapes responsible for many of the aromas and flavors in wine.

Flavor intensity: How strongly wine flavors are perceived.

Flavors: The aromatic components of wine that define its varietal characteristics as noted in the mouth.

Fleshy: Wines described thusly have a rich texture and mouthfeel.

Flor: a yeast that is used in Sherry production-it grows on the surface of the wine and helps prevent oxidation.

Floral: perfumed character in the aroma of a wine the smells of flowers

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

Free-run: juice that runs from the grapes without pressing. It is often the best quality juice.

French oak: Considered by many to be the finest oak for the aging of white wines; also used for reds. From the oak forests of France.

Fruit character: The characteristics of the wine has derived from the fruit, including aromas, flavors, tannins, acidity and extract.

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

Glycerine: an alcohol formed from sugar that gives wines a very rich and full-bodied character.

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.

Green: wine that was made from unripe grapes-tart and tight.

Halb-trocken: Literally, half dry. A German term for slightly sweet wines.

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

Hectare: 2.5 acres

Herbal: Aromas and flavors in wine that suggest those of herbs.

Hock: traditional British term for German wines.

Hybrid: a genetic cross between two different established varieties of grape vine.

IGT: Indicazione Geografica Tipica. A category of wines created in Italy by Wine Law 164 in 1992 to approximate the French Vin de Pays and German Landwein.

Jerez: Spanish name for Sherry, and the town it comes from.

Kabinett: German wine term used to indicate wines of the first level of ripeness and quality.

Labrusca: grape vine native to North America.

Late harvest: grapes picked late in the season, when the sugar is quite concentrated, to make dessert wines.

Lees: The grape solids and spent yeast cells that fall to the bottom of a white wine after fermentation.

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.

Maderized: old and oxidized-the term comes from the white wines of Madeira, which are aged for many years and develop a deep color.

Malic acid: common acid in apples (and 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.

Maturation: The process by which a wine reaches a point of readiness for bottling; can continue in the bottle.

May wine: light German wine mixed with herbs, usually served in the spring.

Mercaptans: wine spoilage caused by overuse of sulfur. The resulting wine smells of garlic.

Méthode Champenoise: The traditional French Champagne winemaking method used for producing sparkling wine

Méthode Traditionelle: The equivalent of the traditional French Champagne process know as Méthode Champenoise, but applied to the making of sparkling wines outside the Champagne region.

Minerally: Used to describe flavors and aromas that suggest minerals, such as flint, steel, chalk etc.

Mousseux: French term for sparkling.

Mulled wine: heated red wine with spices, and often with sugar added.

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

Neck: the uppermost cylindrical part of a wine bottle.

New oak: Can refer to brand new barrels, or barrels that have been used from one to four years previously.

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

Non-vintage: Refers to those Champagnes whose cuvée contains wine from a previous vintage.

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.

Off-dry: Term for wines that are neither fully sweet not dry.

Old Oak: Barrels old enough to have lost much of its woody character. Generally five year or older.

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.

Oloroso: deep, rich sherry

Organoleptic: pertaining to the senses. An organoleptic description involves taste, smell, and texture, rather than winemaking technique or philosophy.

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.

Pétillant: lightly sparkling or spritzy.

Petrol: Aromas or flavors reminiscent of gasoline, classic in European versions of Gewürztraminer and Riesling.

pH: a measure of the acidity of wine, based on the ionization of hydrogen. The pH of most wines is between 3.2 and 3.8.

Plummy: Aromas and flavors that suggest ripe plums.

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

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

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.

Pruny: descriptor meaning that the grapes were over ripe and have lost their fresh character.

Qualitätswein: German wine term used to describe wines which have met the standards of quality.

Quinta: a farm or vineyard estate in Portugal or Spain.

Racking: The process by which clear wine is removed from the settled sediment or lees in the bottom of a container.

Red Grapes: Also called black grapes, with skins that have reddish or blue pigment in their skins.

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. In the case of Champagne, reserve wine refers to wine from previous vintages added to the cuvée for consistent quality and style.

Residual sugar: Remaining sugar in wine after fermentation.

Riddling: The art of turning and tilting bottles of sparkling wine in order to ease the sediment into the neck of the bottle. Often performed mechanically in modern facilities.

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.

Saccharomyces Cereviseae: traditional wine yeast.

Sake: rice wine

Sangría: Spanish wine beverage made with wine, fruit and sugar.

Sec: A Champagne style that is dry, but sweeter than extra-sec.

Second-label wine: A less expensive or second brand made from grapes or wine a level down from primary label

Sediment: Residue in the bottom of a bottle of red wine that forms as the wine ages.

Seepage: leakage of wine past the edges of the cork. In time, this can lead to loss of wine and oxidation.

Serious: Describes a high-quality wine.

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.

Single-vineyard wine: Wine made from the (presumably) good grapes of a single plot of land and not blended with any other grapes.

Skin contact: The pre-fermentation period in which the grape juice rests in contact with the skins of the grapes. Used in red winemaking to enhance colors and texture; may be used briefly in white winemaking to enhance aromas.

Smoky: Aromas and flavors suggesting smoke or smoked wood imparted by oak barrel fermentation or aging.

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

Solera: a Sherry aging system in which the youngest wines go into the top level of barrels and a cellar, and work their way through a number of tiers of barrels as the old wine is bottled from the last tier. This blends the wines from vintage to vintage.

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).

Spätlese: second level of quality and ripeness in German wine.

Spritz: a light effervescence in wine, often caused by bottling when the wine is quite young.

Stemmy: Red wines with green or stalky tannins.

Stems: Woody part of the grape bunch which are high in tannin. Usually removed and discarded before fermentation.

Still wines: wines without carbonation.

Stony: Aromas or flavors that suggest the mineral quality of stones.

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.

Supple: Describes a wine that is fluid in texture in the mouth, without roughness or harshness.

Sur lie: literally, "on the yeast." An aging technique which adds complexity to the wine.

Sweetness: The impression of a sugary taste in a wine. Can be due to the presence of residual sugar or other sweet-tasting substances such as alcohol.

Tannic: Describes wines too high in tannin.

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.

Tawny: amber colored, used to described well-aged ports.

Terroir: French term referring to the growing conditions in the vineyard, including climate, soil, elevation, slope, drainage, topography etc.

Texture: How a wine feels in the mouth.

Tight: Can refer to a certain lean or underdeveloped quality of the wine in its aromas, flavor or structure.

Trocken: dry, in German.

Trockenbeerenauslese: these are grapes that are individually selected for their ripeness and concentration. Wines made from these grapes are very sweet and very expensive.

Twenty-point scale: tasting system developed by U. C. Davis to rate table wines.

VA: see Volatile Acidity.

Varietal: Term for grape variety.

Varietal character: The unmistakable set of sensory characteristics attributable to a grape variety.

VDQS: Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure-the first level of quality in French wines, just above Vin de pays

Vin de pays: French phrase for country wine. Lower status than AOC.

Vineyard designated wines: wines made from a single vineyard, and identified as such on the label.

Vinification: The activity of making grape juice into wine.

Vintage: The year in which a wine's grapes were harvested; sometimes referring to the grape harvest itself. Vintage designations are only given to Champagnes whose cuvées contain wines made from a single year's harvest. As with Port, a Champagne vintage is only declared in a year of exceptional quality.

Viticulture: The activity of growing grapes.

Volatile: that which evaporates quickly.

Volatile Acidity: an indicator that the wine is turning to vinegar. At high levels, this smells of acetone or nail polish remover.

Weight: Impression of heft and volume of the wine in the mouth.

Well-balanced: Used to describe wines in which all component--alcohol, acid, tannin (if any) and sugar (if any)--relate to each other in such a way that none seems dominant.

Wood tannin: Describes tannins attributable to barrel aging, rather than the grapes.

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

Yield: The production of a vineyard in tons/acre or liters/hectare. Generally a lower yield gives wines of more power and concentration