Wine Glossary

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One of the naturally occurring acids in wine and other foods, responsible for the sour taste in vinegar. In a healthy wine, the concentrations of this volatile acid are undetectably low. However, overexposure to oxygen can feed the transformation of alcohol into acetic acid, and the result is an unpleasantly sour wine often described as acetic.


Acidity is a crucial and quantifiable element of wine, resulting from the sum of the fixed and volatile acids. It is a factor in determining the quality of the wine because of the direct relationship between a wine's acidity and its balance, color preservation, and inhibition of bacterial growth. Too much acidity makes a wine overly tart, while too little makes a wine flat, watery, and what is often referred to as "flabby".


Natural component of grapes and wine; predominantly tartaric, malic, and/or lactic acids. Acid is responsible for tartness, and is necessary both for a wine's inherent balance and in preventing the growth of unwanted bacteria.


Indicates the foul, rotten egg odor resulting from the addition of too much sulfur dioxide during vinification. Sulfur is used to prevent spoilage of grapes and juice, and helps keep winemaking machines clean.


During winemaking, the controlled exposure of juice/wine to the air promotes fermentation by giving the yeasts proper amounts of oxygen. Limited contact with the air also occurs during racking, with barrel aging, and is also beneficial for many wines just before serving. However, overexposure to oxygen at any point in a wine's life can result in oxidation or undesirable concentrations of acetic acid.


Term used to indicate the flavors which linger on the palate after a wine is swallowed. The duration of the aftertaste and its characteristics are a measurement of quality.


Indicates a wine which has the necessary acid, sugar, tannin, and flavor profile to warrant cellaring.


This is the practice which distinguishes wine from most other beverages. Aging refers to the stocking of wine in oak barrels or bottles in order to promote a balance and complexity of flavors. The external environment—particularly the temperature and the humidity—of storage is critical and must be monitored and maintained. Not all wines benefit from aging, and it also increases costs for a winery.


An ancient Greek red varietal, Agiorgitiko translates to “St. George’s grape” and is grown in the Nemea valley of Peloponnese. It can vary dramatically in quality based on the altitude where the vines are located. The higher the altitude, the better the acidity.


Brought to southern Italy by the Greeks, this high quality varietal gives fame to the wines of Taurasi and Aglianico del Vulture of Campania. It likes sunny, arid climates, preferring the cool of elevation to the heat of the plains. Powerfully tannic when young, it must see years in the cellar before release. Aged, Aglianico has wonderfully balanced fruit and an almost tar-like character.


Town of the Piedmonte region of Northwest Italy regarded as its capital of red wine and white truffles.


The generic name for ethanol. Indigenous and added yeasts convert the sugars in the grape juice into alcohol. A wine high in alcohol will seem hot and heavy bodied, whereas a lower alcohol wine will seem light.


This is a legally required tabulation of the percentage of alcohol by volume in a bottle of wine. Most table wines are between 11 and 14% alcohol.


The north-east region of Italy in Trentino which borders Austria known for clean, crisp white wines comparable in terms of value to the wines of Fruili.


Oak grown in American forests for the production of barrels, becoming more popular because it is less expensive than French Oak. The flavor profiles imparted by barrels made from American oak is different from French oak barrels, namely characterized by stronger vanilla, coconut and cinnamon flavors.


A geographically defined area designated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for grape-growing.


Beverages served prior to a meal to stimulate the appetite. In the case of wine in the states, usually a dry, fairly acidic white wine is used.


Judgement of the wine's clarity. Terms such as clear, brilliant, dull, hazy and cloudy all pertain.


The international term used to define where the grapes of a particular wine were grown. Napa, Sicily, Barossa Valley are all appellations.


French for Controlled Origin Appellation. This is the French system of naming their most highly regarded viticultural areas, and has served as the benchmark for every other country's appellation systems. Those who attempt to make a wine with an AOC designation must adhere to strict regulations concerning the grape varieties, ripeness and alcohol level, yields, as well as the viticultural and vinification methods. There are of course advantages and disadvantages to this system.


The pleasant smells associated with younger wines, not to be confused with the term bouquet which applies to the smells of complexity in aged wines.


A circular chart developed by Ann Noble at the University of Davis, California which categorizes and describes the aromas and bouquets found in wines.


From the Greek island Santorini, this unique variety stands up to the searing heat and strong winds of the island, while simultaneously complimenting the mineral notes acquired from the volcanic soils. It makes pleasantly acidic wines by the same name and can be used to blend with wines lacking in this department.


Wines with a high tannic concentration are considered astringent. This is not a taste but a physical sensation in the mouth of puckering and drying. Astringency contributes to the overall mouth-feel of a wine, and its descriptors include soft, rough, green, and hard.


Balance in a wine is the harmonious synthesis of its alcohol, acid, tannins and sugars, the essential components of a wine's flavor profile. When no single component is dominant and each component complements the others, a wine is considered well-balanced. Each type of wine has a different benchmark for quality balance.


France's finest appellation for Naturally Sweet Wines or Vins Doux Naturels (VDN). The primary grape variety is Grenache Noir, which must comprise 50% of the final product. There are a few different styles, all excellent.


The famous grape of Italy's Piedmont region. Italy's most common red wine grape and now accounts for over 10% of California's plantings. Known for a deep purple hue, bright acidity, ripe berry flavors and a dry finish. Reputation not as high as Piedmonte's most prestigious grape, Nebbiolo.


A village in the Piedmont region of Italy, just south of Alba, where the Nebbiolo grape takes on its most intensely powerful expression.


A wine is barrel aged when the flavor, structure, balance and complexity are improved by spending time resting in oak casks.


Vinification technique of placing small batches of grape juice in barrels to ferment. This technique is used almost exclusively for white wines and is most successful for the Chardonnay grape which complement well the flavors imparted by the oak.


The extremely precise technique of selecting, cutting, drying and shaping oak wood into a barrel. The three-step heating process involving steam, gas, boiling water, burning oak chips in some combination is used to carefully bend the staves into the proper shape. Once the barrels are formed, the wood is toasted in varying degrees upon request of the winemaker to allow for the proper carmelization of resin. This allows for the barrels to impart the flavors associated with oak such as vanilla, coconut, and cinnamon.


A small village in the Rhone Valley region of Vaucluse famous for the production of its aromatic Naturally Sweet Wines or Vins Doux Naturels. It is of the Muscat family.


The small bubbles in sparkling wine and champagne which rise from the base of the glass towards the rim. Fine beading is considered an indicator of high quality.


A bin is a collection of wine bottles stored horizontally in a cellar. Bin number has come to indicate a special selection within the bin.


French for "white of whites". Term used for Champagne made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape.


French for "white of blacks". Term used for Champagne made from red grapes, specifically Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, where the grapes are pressed and the skins are immediately removed so as to impede any phenolic extraction from them. At times the resulting juice has a slight pink hue.


The winemaking practice of mixing different batches of wines. Most of the world's greatest wines are a result of masterful blending. Different batches of the same or of different varieties and vintages can be blended in order to create the most well-balanced final product. Used to correct problems of a certain variety or batch's structure, such as over dominant acidy or lack of tannins.


An organized, controlled tasting of a group of wines when the actual wines' identities are concealed from the tasters. Used to create impartiality and objectiveness.


Synonymous with rose; the name for a light pink wine made from red grapes with reduced skin contact during fermentation. White Zinfandel is the popular stereotype in the American wine portfolio.


Also known as Noble Rot, this is the sought after bacteria which, with the correct weather conditions, can invade healthy white grapes and cause water evaporation within the berries, concentrating the sugars and other flavors. The smell of affected grapes is often described as honey-like. It is the presence of Botrytis that creates the expensive, world famous sweet wines of Sauternes and Tokaj.


The practice of keeping newly bottled wines in storage before release to let the wines settle or in the cellar in order to permit development of more complex aroma profiles or bouquets.


Today the variety of bottle shapes is mesmerizing. The most popular shapes are the bordeaux (tall and narrow with high shoulders), burgundy (wider and shorter with sloping shoulders), the Chianti (squat onion shaped with a longer neck) and the German (very tall and narrow with almost no shoulders).


French term developed in Champagne to describe a champagne or sparkling wine which is dry rather than sweet. A brut should contain under 15g/l of sugar.


Signals the end of the dormant period of the vine. The annual reappearance of shoots from the buds in the spring on the vines.


The less revered grape variety of Bordeaux, though not necessarily deserving. It is used in many Bordeaux blends as well as Vin de Pays from the Loire Valley. Cabernet Franc finds its claim to fame in Chateau Cheval Blanc as well as other vineyards in St. Emilion where it is happiest. It has a similar flavor profile as Cabernet Sauvignon, and though slightly more herbaceous it does not have as many tannins or as acids. It ripens better in relatively cooler climates. Cabernet Franc has aromas of violets and raspberries, but when used in small percentages it is barely perceptible.


The great red variety of Bordeaux. It is often regarded as the king of reds. Though its plantings are not as expansive as one may imagine, it has become a popular variety now planted extensively in the US and all over the world. Because of its high proportion of pulp to skin, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes lend to big, tannic, flavorful, deeply hued and succulent wines. The bordeaux blends of the Medoc are often primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, needing a touch of Merlot of Cabernet Franc to mellow them. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are distinct in color and flavor, leaning towards blackcurrant, tobacco, cedar and green pepper.


The southwest region of Italy with Naples as a capital. Once considered the prominent Mediterranean wine producer, today its reputation has become less important as competition increases. The grapes of this region include Aglianico (which excels in the Taurasi DOC), Sangiovese, Primitivo, Barbera, and Greco di Tufo.


The leaves of the vines in a row are referred to as the canopy. These leaves are often trained to grow in a specific style and direction so as to control the amount of sun exposure on the grape bunches and maximize or minimize photosynthesis. This repertoire of viticultural growing techniques used to control grape yields and prevent disease is called canopy management.


The Spanish term for sparkling wine made using the traditional champagne method. This term was coined in 1970 when France imposed the legislation forcing all sparkling wine not made in Champagne, France to abandon the name Champagne.


Commonplace term for where a wine is made and stored, often underground to provide the proper temperature and humidity. It is seen in Europe as cave, cantina, bodega, keller and quinta.


The northern most region of Burgundy covering 7,500 acres where minerally, dry white wines are produced. The region uses exclusively, as all of Burgundy, the Chardonnay grape for its whites.


Grape-growing region in northeast France located between Paris and Alsace. Also the name of the sparkling wine which originated in this region. A sparkling wine may only be called Champagne if it is produced in the designated Champagne region following the viticultural and vinification regulations under the traditional method or méthode champenoise.


Undoubtedly the world's most saught after grape variety by winemakers and drinkers alike. This grape makes the famous white wines of France's Burgudy region, most abundant in the northern region called Chablis. It is an aromatic, flavorful white wine with the structure to benefit from oak aging. This variety is often high in malic acid, and therefore often undergoes malolactic fermentation. Most people associate green apples, white flowers, pear, peach and of course the signature nutty, butter and vanilla characters brought on by extended barrel aging seen in the new world examples. It is also the grape variety used in Champagne production because of its high acid content. The vines are especially resistant to inclement weather and ripen early making them valuable for cooler climate viticulture, despite the fact that certain Chardonnay clones are also adapted to hotter climates. The flavor profile, style and quality of the wine depend largely on the soil, climate, weather and winemaker making this a varietal that can vary dramatically from brand to brand.


French for castle, but in winespeak it refers to a vine-growing estate and all its facilities.


This variety is the white grape of France's Loire Valley and in more recent history it was transplanted to South Africa where it now has more acreage than in all of the Loire Valley. Nonetheless, the French winemakers' experience with this classic grape proves advantageous and Chenin's most impressive, luxurious expressions come out of Anjou, Saumur and other Loire appellations. This grape makes some of the most interesting, pungent, aromatic and unusually flavored white wines imaginable. The younger, dry wines take some adjusting to appreciate as they can be powerfully mineral, acidic and even salty, yet nearly unbelievably complex. If you have the patience to wait a couple decades, these wines become opulent, rich and honey-laden with ripe apricot, peach and limestone character. The combination of expressive fruit, complex minerality and mouth-watering acidity makes Loire Chenin Blanc tantalizing and often goes under-appreciated. Outside of the Loire, Chenin Blanc is often used to produce more simple white wines or for blending in basic table wines.


The Tuscan region between Florence and Siena in north-central Italy known for red wines of unpredictable quality which traditionally come in onion shaped bottles with straw encasements.


The term used in Britain for red wines from Bordeaux.


Used to define the appearance of a wine. Defines whether or not there are particles visible in the wine or not.


Descriptor for a wine whose appearance is not clear.


The individual who makes oak barrels. The cooperage is where the barrels are made.


The tree or bark from the cork tree which is cultivated for the production of corks, or wine bottle stoppers.


The price incurred at a restaurant by the diner when he brings his own bottle of wine to drink.


French term for a selected plot of a vineyard designated as superior to others. Translated in English as growth.


Common term for the harvest used by people who work in the vineyard. Refers to the grape pressing or crushing.


A select blend of a special wine or lot of wine.


The term for opening and pouring a bottle of wine into a specially shaped glass container designed for the purpose of aerating a wine.


French for wine tasting.


Descriptor developed in France to indicate a semi-sweet white wine or champagne.

DO (Denominatión De Origen)

As with Italy's DOC, this used to be Spain's highest appellation category until it too liberally awarded.

DOC (Denominazione D'origine Controllata)

The Italian system for defining wine regions and wine names. In addition, the D.O.C.G. (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata Garantita) covers regions willing to submit their wines to tougher requirements, including tasting approval.

DOCa (Denominatión De Origen Calificada)

Spanish term equivalent to the French AOC (see above) which indicates the highest controlled quality category of wine.


Italian for "sweet".


The tertiary grape of the northeastern Piedmont region of Italy in terms of prestige, but what is consumed by locals. It's name means "little sweet one" and is loved for its perceptibly sweet fruit flavors and low tannins which make it so quaff-able. It is blended with Nebbiolo and Barolo to make them more drinkable young.


French for "sweet". Used to designate sweet wines or Champagnes as in Vins Doux Naturels.


The point at which a wine has passed its prime and is beginning to decrease in quality.


An individual with an advanced degree from an accredited university or institute in the science of winemaking.


The science of and winemaking. Also spelled oenology.


An individual with a passion and love for everything associated with wine and the vine.


The Italian term for a wine shop usually specializing in fine wines.


American term synonymous for Chateau Bottled or Domaine Bottled. In the US it is put on the label of wines made from grapes entirely owned and grown by the producer and bottled on premise.


Scientific name for alcohol.


The winemaking process originating in Bordeaux whereby the red grape solids are kept in contact with the newly fermented wines in a hermetically sealed tank for up to one month. This lengthy period of skin contact allows for a greater degree of phenolic extraction, giving the wines more varietal flavor and complexity. Only done for full-bodied age-worthy red wines.


French term for the category of Champagnes with no added sugar.


Deceptive term describing sparkling wines which are actually slightly sweet.


Action that certain wines may undergo with aging where there is a loss of color and aroma.


Vinification process whereby yeasts transform the sugars in grape juice into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Takes place in an oxygen deprived environment.


The flavor of a wine is perceived by the taste buds working in conjunction with the olefactory system which has a more precise and comprehensive repertoire. The flavors present in wines are exceptionally varied from fruit to mineral to butter to leather.


A group of wines compared and contrasted with one another so as to judge, for example, the evolution of a single wine over many vintages. Usually three to six wines are in a flight.


A winemaker who spends half of his year making wine in both the Northern and Southern hemisphere since their harvest seasons are not the same.


Descriptor for a wine whose alcohol content has been augmented by the addition of spirits, such as Port.


The most renowned oak from a few famous forests (allier, limousin) used to make wine barrels. The most expensive type of oak and snobbishly sought after by many European winemakers.


Italian carbonated wines with less bubbles than ordinary sparkling wines.


In the wine world, wine paid for before it is bottled or available for consumption. Called "en primeur" in France.


The variety which accounts for nearly 100% of the plantings in Beaujolais. It is responsible for the pleasantly light and fruity everyday wine referred to as Beaujolais. It is the only other variety allowed to be planted in Burgundy. While it does not gain the respect that its sister to the North has claimed, the finest Gamays from select appellations in Beaujolais have been known to age to perfection, resembling fine Pinot Noir.


The Australian appellation system.


Most revered in Alsace, this variety's name bears dual citizenship. At first glance it seems undeniably Germanic. "Gewurz" does mean spices or aromatics, however the Traminer indicates the grape's Italian origins from the town by that name. First cultivated in the Alto-Adige region of Italy, now famous for the polar opposite variety Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer is known for its intensely aromatic nose of rose and heady tropical fruits, and a tantalizing spicy bite adds complexity to the rather onctuous mouth-feel.


French tasting term for the "flavors of the land" which is used to describe the unique characteristics of a wine specific to a certain vineyard or terroir.


Spain's highest quality categories is only bottled in the best of years. In order to qualify, the reds must be aged at least five years with a minimum of two in oak.


French for "great growth". Term used originally in Burgundy to identify and separate the best wines from superior vineyards or plots.


French system famous in Bordeaux used to define the greatest vineyards. The first, of which their were 5, were created in 1855.


Grape originally from Spain which has spread rampantly, finding its most popular destination in France's Langedoc and Rhone Valley regions. It is the second most widely planted vine in the world, though usually is used for blending because it often lacks acidity and body, while it brags sugar levels which easily obtain 16% alcohol in the wine. Because it withstands strong sun and brutal winds, it has become a love of southern windy regions like Australia and Spain. Because of it is thin-skinned, fruity and sweet it is used for the production of most rose wines especially in the Mediterranean.


The grape variety which is only successful in the sparkling wine departments of Piedmont, Asti and Alessandria. It is a light, delicate, though terribly pleasant wine enjoyed most as a coctail aperitif because most food would overpower it.


US labeling term for wines which were grown, vinified and bottled at the winery.


A bottle with half the capacity of standard 750ml, or 375ml. Holds approximately 3 glasses of wine.


The period or act of removing grapes from the vine in order to begin pressing and fermentation.


Term used to denote the lack of perfect clarity in a wine.


The land measurement used in most of the world. One hectare is 10,000 square meters, which translates into 2.47 acres.This is how the size of a vineyard is determined.


A quantity of liquid equivalent to 100 liters or 26.4 gallons. In most of Europe, yield is measured in hectoliters per hectare vs. tons per acre in the U.S.


A wine tasting of many different wines from the same vintage, either of one winery or various producers from a given region. As opposed to a Vertical which denotes a tasting of the same winery's wine from many different vintages.


Term commonly used for non-vintage alcoholic beverages such as Champagne and Cognac describing the structure, aroma and flavor profiles unique to a specific estate or company. In order to remain unique and provide consistency from year to year, some wine from prior years will be blended with the new vintage.


In viticulture, the propagation of a new, single variety from two different varieties. This can occur naturally from cross-pollination in the wild or be a result of a deliberate human intervention.


Frozen-pressed and fermented wines made from winter harvested frozen grapes. These wines are sweet and high in acidity, as most of the water has evaporated from the grapes by the time of harvest.

IGT or Indicazione Geografica Tipica

One of the Italian quality categories, second up from the lowest level of Vino da Tavola, or Table Wine (not to be confused with the generic American term for all wines between 9 and 14% alcohol). It indicates a wine which expresses the typicities of a specific region. It received the spotlight with the advent of Super Tuscans, superior quality wines of Tuscany which did not qualify as DOC because they were not made from the regulatory blends, and therefore were labeled as lower category IGT's but priced above many DOC's.


A very large bottle which holds six liters of wine, or 8 standard bottles. In Bordeaux it is called a Methuselah.


The internationally recognized grape varieties which make the most popular varietals such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.


Wine made under the supervision of a rabbi, present to bless the wine at certain points during fermentation and bottling, in accordance to Hebrew law.


Region in south/southwest France known for its bulk-production. Today it is attempting to correct it's rather deplorable image by eliminating the large cooperative wineries and instituting the once rejected appellation system.


US labeling term for wines picked after the the harvest for table wines. These wines have a higher sugar content and are considered desert wines.


Viticultural term for the percentage of leaves to grape bunches on a vine which is used to predict the vine's grape ripening capacity.


The streams of liquid that adhere to the side of a glass and run down after a wine is swirled in the glass. It is an indicator of the alcoholic content.


The duration of a wine's flavor on the tongue after a wine is swallowed. The longer the length of a wine, the greater the quality, assuming the wine's flavors are pleasant.


One of France's oak forests cultivated for cooperage near Limoges famous for high quality.


Vinification term for keeping the grape skins in contact with the juice during fermentation.


Tasting term derived from the Portuguese wine called Madeira to describe oxidized, browned wines with a nutty, caramelized flavor.


A large bottle which holds 1.5 liters, or 2 standard bottles.


Also known as Cot in the Bordeaux region of France. Less refined and concentrated than Merlot, though similar. It has high yields making it a popular for less expensive wines wishing to reflect the flavor profile of Bordeaux blends.


Town in Sicily known for the fortified wine of the same name.


A variety which has spread rampantly in France's Rhone Valley and slowly migrating to the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Marsanne is the highly productive as well as aromatic component in Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage. To be appreciated this variety should be consumed young, when it contains the freshness necessary to balance out the rich aromas and high alcohol content. It is often blended with Roussanne to allow for greater aging potential and balance, and lends well to oak aging.


The degree held by those individuals who complete the rigorous courses and examinations held by the Institute of Masters of Wine originating in London for wine knowledge and appreciation. It is considered the most difficult and demanding degree in the wine tasting world and is held by only a select number of people.


The point at which a wine has reached its fullest potential, will not benefit from further aging and therefore is ready to be consumed.


Term used by Californian vintners for wines made from blended Bordeaux varieties.


The classic variety famous for its role in Bordeaux, where it takes second place to Cabernet Sauvignon in reputation despite having over twice as much acreage. It is used in most of the famous Bordeaux blends, most importantly in St. Emilion and Pomerol where it accounts for 2/3 of the blend. The eponymous Chateau Petrus owes its reputation to Merlot. The grape is known for its easy drink-ability thanks to a fresh fruit-forward style with lower tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon. It is the favored french variety by Italians, especially in the North, and is found in the Americas as well as in New Zealand and Australia. It is a high yielding variety whose quality is greatly improved when yields are conservative.

METHODE CHAMPENOISE (Methode Traditionelle)

Traditionally recognized sparkling winemaking method developed in Champagne. True Champagne can only be made with this method.


French word for Vintage.


This Greek grape variety produces wonderfully delicate and aromatic wines which compliment an incredibly wide array of cuisines because of its excellent acidity and citrus fruit flavors. It is grown in the plateau of the Peloponnese region, achieving greater finesse when grown at higher altitudes.


French term for the bubbly, frothy foam which forms as champagne is poured.


This is actually a family of grapes with many sub-varieties whose names vary depending on the location in which it is grown. The most respected member of the Muscat family is Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains which boasts high quality and perhaps the most flavorful and sweet eating grapes. Some Ampelographers believe that all vitis vinifera vines are descended from the Muscat family, and this variety is cultivated all over Europe and the New World wine regions. The most important synonyms for the Petits Grains variety are Muscato d'Asti, Muscato Bianco, Muscat Blanc, Muscat d'Alsace, Frontignan, Muskadel. Clearly there is an association with the English word Musk and this grape's intoxicatingly sweet and fruity smell.


The Muscat family is huge, but the best known come from the vineyards of France, and particularly the Rhône Valley vineyards which make Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. Other members of the Muscat grape are planted throughout Italy, Alsace, Germany and in California.


Term for the grape juice before it ferments into wine.


Term for the decreased ability to smell the aromas of a wine due to sniffing too many wines back to back. Common during wine tastings.


The most adored, famous and pricey grape of Italy's Piedmont region, playing the lead role in Barolo and Barbaresco.It is protected by the Italian and therefore plantings anywhere outside of Italy are practically nil. This late-ripening variety produces some of the worlds most inky black, tannic and acidic red wines, making them perfect candidates for long aging. The wines are powerful, robust, and complex winners on the international stage.


Oak barrels that are in their first usage or have never been used. These barrels impart the greatest concentration of toasted oak flavors to the wine. Usually when a particular wine is made, the percentage of new oak is indicated. Since it is so expensive there is a combination of new and old oak used to age the wine and then the products are blended before bottling.


The popular term for wine making regions that have started producing wine more recently than in Europe such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.


Inert natural gas which accounts for 78% of our air which acts as a dilutant for oxygen, which is highly reactive. Nitrogen is used during the bottling process; it is injected into the bottle just after the wine has been filled and before the cork is inserted to eliminate excess oxygen which could negatively affect the wine.


See Botrytis cinerea.


The classic wine making grapes indigenous to Europe. Red varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Syrah. Whites include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gerwürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillion.


Wine, fortified wine or Champagne made from a blend of different vintages in order to keep that winery's style consistent year to year.


Synonymous with aroma or bouquet, it is the smell of a wine as sensed by the olefactory.


Wine made from vines which were planted 50-100 years earlier. Usually this gives the wine a more complex aroma and flavor profile because the roots access more layers of the soil thus soaking up more varied minerals and components from the soil.


The old world of winemaking is Europe, especially Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain and France.


Farming which prohibits the use of chemical products or genetic engineering. The legal definition is still not written in stone and modifies frequently.


Term for wine which has been overexposed to the air or oxygen and is therefore tainted or prematurely aged.


The surface of the tongue which allows the wine to linger and be tasted and sensed. Also the spectrum of flavors of a wine.


This is the chief grape used in the production of Spain's famous Sherries. It makes everything from the delicate and racy Manzanilla to the full-throttle Oloroso Sherries. It is the backbone of the dessert "Cream" Sherries, where it is blended with Pedro Ximénez grapes.


Spanish grape which lends to the country's sparkling wine, or Cava, production. It has lovely acid levels coupled with good fruit-forward flavor and is responsible for Torres' Vina Sol.


Influential wine critic who developed the now universal 100 point rating system for wine tasting. His guide, the Wine Advocate, is comprised of thousands of wine ratings tallied by Parker during his relentless tasting travels. Read in nearly 40 countries, this guide has a major impact on the success or failure of a wine or region.


The point at which a wine has reached its pinnacle in terms of flavor and aroma potentials.


French term for a lightly sparkling wine.


This grape is planted in Burgundy and Alsace, though it is much more respected and interesting in the latter. In Germany it is called Weissburgunder or "white burgundian". It is, understandably, often confused with Chardonnay, especially in Italy where it is widely planted. This is because the vines resemble one another and because the wines have a few common taste characteristics such as green apple, floral and buttery aromas. There is much Pinot Blanc in northeastern Italy, however the Italians favor Pinot Gris perhaps because it is less heavy and aromatic.


This grape, a descendent of Pinot Noir, is indigenous to France, but present in most wine growing regions of Europe. It can range in flavor profile from honeyed and spicy to clean, low in acid and light.Richest in Alscace and most neutral in Italy, this grape is appreciated by growers and drinkers alike as a pleasant, easy going wine which matches with many different kinds of food.


Burgundy's noble grape, and a truly ancient variety. This region and its grape are married, one relying and feeding off the other. In fact the term terroir is nowhere used as passionately and suggestively as in Burgundy, where they claim Pinot Noir grapes transport the terroir to the glass. Wherever Pinot Noir is planted outside of Burgundy, the winemakers are forever challenged to produce wines of parallel quality and flavor; even in Burgundy this grape is frustratingly difficult to grow and vinify, and has established a global reputation for being the most challenging grape to work with- and perhaps this is it's international appeal with winemakers. However, in some of the cooler regions of California and in Oregon, this variety has found as suitable a home as any. Because it is so prone to genetic mutations, the characteristics can vary drastically. However it is noted for its berry and cherry flavors, nice acidity and high alcohol content (often due to chaptalization). Pinot Noir is also an important grape in the Champagne region where it is carefully grown to produce some of the most intriguing aspects of the most renowned Champagnes.


The period where a wine ceases to improve with aging and is at its most desirable stage for consumption.


The winemaking machine or tool which crushes the grapes, squeezing the juice from the grapes.


Wine crushed, fermented and bottled by the winery. Must be true for at least 75 percent of the wine in the bottle.


The divet or indentation at the bottom of the bottle which creates stability for wine bottles, especially sparkling wine bottles, which must withstand extra pressure. Now most wine bottles have it because of tradition or for show.


Replacement of an old, dried out cork. Practiced for wines which have undergone extensive bottle aging or cellaring. Often bottles need to be topped off with a little extra wine to make up for the wine lost in evaporation.


Spanish system for quality classification. To qualify, a red Riserva must spend at least three years barrel aging, with a minimum of one year in oak.


Wines originating from Greece which have been flavored by the addition of resin. Initially, the Greeks lined their wine jugs with resin to compensate for the porous containers. The resin imparts its aromas and distinct flavor to the wines stored in these vessels. The Greeks developed a preference for wines with this flavor profile, and as well discovered that the resin also preserved the wine. Today, barrels are used, eliminating the need for a resin coating. Yet winemakers add resin staves in order to make resined wine, calling this wine RETSINA.


Sparkling winemaking process of incrementally turning the bottles which are on the lees and undergoing fermentation in order to circulate the liquid in the bottle.


This classic German grape is undoubtedly the most undervalued variety in the world. With an incredible interplay of sweet fruit aromas and pungent acidity, these wines are delicious young and have the greatest aging potential of any white variety, except perhaps Chenin Blanc. It is arguably the most versatile grape for food be it the dry or even botrytized styles. However, the image of this grape was tarnished by Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch, poor quality, uninteresting sweet German wines which flooded the international market and has still left a bad taste in many consumers' mouths- even though little Riesling was even used in those wines. Riesling is recognized for its ability to remain true to its varietal character while still incorporating the flavors and traits of the terroir. The Rieslings of Alsace are well-valued, though not widely exported. Australia, despite it's warmer climate has been making excellent Rieslings and New Zealand has cultivated this grape making wines modeled after traditional German Rieslings.


Extra aged Italian wine.


French for a pink wine, the term was adopted for pink hued wines in America as well which can range from nearly imperceptibly tinged to deep rose color. The only exceptions are pink wines made from red grapes labeled as, for instance, White Zinfandel.


The more elegant sister to Marsanne, this grape variety and her sister are the only two allowed in northern Rhone appellations Hermitage, St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. It is also one of the four whites allowed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, known for its rather elusive aroma of white flowers and flowering herbs like a wild flower meadow. It is barely cultivated outside of the Rhone Valley.


Descriptor for wines made using old-fashioned or ultra-traditional methods without the use of modern technology.Can also be a tasting term for wines which smell of the country- barnyard, musk, leather, earth etc.


The tasting of a grape or wine, often from the barrel to discern a future wine's flavor profile and characteristics. This is a difficult task which only trained professionals can really properly perform as a young wine can be unpredictable and deceptive to the inexperienced.


The grape which makes the Tuscan wines of Italy, some of which are among the world's greatest such as Brunello di Montalcino, others among the wine world's least palatable. Much of the quality depends on the clone selection, the climate and vineyard management, and on the skills of the winemaker. It is also the main ingredient in Chianti though national regulations require the addition of other poorer quality grapes, hence the variable quality of these wines.


One of the most distinctly aromatic and richly flavorful white grape varieties. Interestingly, crossing it with Cabernet Franc resulted in Cabernet Sauvignon. Originally a grape indigenous to the Bordeaux region of France, it has traveled well all over the world, finding a great second home in New Zealand, South Africa and California. It has aromas of freshly cut grass, herbs like sage and thyme, grapefruit, pineapple, and at its most pungent a sweaty odor described by the french as "pipi de chat" or cat urine. The wines can be aged in oak, making them creamier and reducing some of the characteristic tartness, and the unoaked versions are some of the most seductive wines in the world- such as Sancerre or Puilly-Fume. New Zealand has received much acclaim for their tropical fruit-forwardness and bright acidity.


French for dry; term used for wines which are not sweet.


The grape which, along with Sauvignon Blanc, provides for the internationally renowned desert wines of Sauternes, just south of Bordeaux in France. Opulent wines made from botrytised grapes, they could be referred to as liquid gold- both because of their rich golden hue and the price tag. The complexity and appeal of Sauternes are undeniable. On its own it can produce lovely fine wines both in their youth and with age.


The concentration below which any aroma, taste or flavor cannot be detected by the human olefactory system. Individuals can vary greatly in their personal threshold for any given aroma or flavor.


Spanish descriptor for wines which are not aged in oak.


Allowing a wine to remain in contact with the skins so as to absorb color and flavor.


The restaurant professional who is responsible for the selection and service of wine to diners. In order to be a sommelier you must have a certificate.


Italian for sparkling wine.


The character of a wine as determined by the wine drinker or winemaker. Has no bearing on the quality of the wine.


The resulting minimal residue left behind from the sulfur dioxide which is used to sterilize winemaking equipment and is dusted over grapes just prior to the crush and after fermentation in order to prevent spoilage of the wine.


Wines from Tuscany which fall into the IGT category though they are rated often above the more elite DOCG system. The Tuscan winemakers deviated from the elite system because they made the wine with non-permissible varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah rather than relying on the traditionally accepted varieties such as Sangiovese.


The beloved grape variety of the Rhone River Valley, famous for its expressions as Cote Rotie and Hermitage in the north, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the south. It is being embraced in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France as this region undergoes a quality amelioration movement. It is known to Australians as Shiraz; what may seem as a bastardization of the name at first glance may actually be a nod to the grape's origins, which are suspected to be the ancient wine city of Iran, Shiraz. As with any most noble red varieties, Syrah needs time to display its finest character. Plantings in France have increased dramatically as the wine has spread around the wine-growing world. Syrah wines tend to be full-bodied, robust and fruity with spicy and often licorice and meaty overtones.


In American terminology, still wines with 7 to 14% alcohol content. When used in Europe, it usually indicates the lowest quality of wine.


Element present in the grape and in wines found initially in the skins, stems and seeds.


The perception of sour, salty, bitter sweet and the more recently discovered umami (sensation of meat or protein) that are sensed by the taste-buds.


The wide, round, shallow silver cup which winemakers and sommeliers use to taste a wine, especially helpful in dark cellars because the metal reflects any light allowing for the wine to be seen more clearly.


The deliberate assessment of a wine's color, aroma, flavor, length and structure, and overall quality.


The written documentation taken during a tasting.


See legs.


The grape variety highly regarded in Spain's renowned Rioja region. Accounts for approximately 50% of the vineyards in Rioja, concentrated in the more prestigious areas of the region, whereas Garnacha is planted as the less prestigious grape. Produces relatively high yields of flavorful, perfumed, full-bodied wines.


French terminology which has now been adopted nearly world-wide to indicate the unique combination or climate, soil composition and location which is believed to contribute to the quality and character of a wine. A wine is often said to reflect the terroir from whence it came.


The government and state controlled alcohol distribution system unique to the United States of America. Almost without exception, a wine must pass from producer or importer (Tier 1) to the wholesaler or distributor (Tier 2) to the retail shops or restaurant (Tier 3) before it can be had by the consumer.


Red wine is often called Vino Tinta in Spain and Portugal.


All oak barrels are subject to a small flame which toasts the inner surface, thus caramelizing the resin in the wood and giving better flavor to a wine stored therein.


Viticultural method of forcing the vine to grow in a certain manner or direction. The training of a vine has enormous influence on the ultimate quality and flavors of the grapes.


Also known as Ugni Blanc in France, this variety covers much of the world's vineyard surfaces despite its rather undistinguished character. In Italy it is liked for it's fresh, light, refreshing style. Ugni Blanc is used nearly exclusively for the production of Cognac's base wines. Statistics reveal that it is responsible for more wine than any other variety.


As with most types of vine, the grapevine's natural tendency is to sprawl with vigor. Therefore the viticulturalist uses a trellising system to reduce sprawl and give the vine a framework, made of stakes and/or wire, to structure the growth. The style of the trellis depends on the desired training method.


See fill level. Refers to the excessive space in a bottle or barrel which should be minimized so as to prevent oxidation.


Chinese taste term which has been universally accepted as the fifth taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Though a long established concept in Eastern culture, umami is revolutionary in western thought concerning how we taste food. Protein rich and cured foods, soy sauce, seafood and mushrooms contain umami. Tannins or the toasted characters in wines are accentuated by umami.


Term for a wine made from a single grape variety.


Term for the actual species of vine. An example is Merlot.


The period in late summer when a grape begins to ripen and the color develops from green to its final color.


Late harvested grapes which are then dried on hay or "paille" for months in order to further concentrate the sugars. The resulting wine is intense, voluptuous and sweet.


French meaning Stored or leftover wine. This is the term for the wine that is carefully stored from prior vintages and used in the production of future champagnes or wines to help keep a winery or house style consistent from year to year.


French for "naturally sweet wines"; but these wines are made by adding alcohol to arrest the conversion of sugar into alcohol, known as mutage, keeping the sugar concentration relatively high. They must have at least 14% alcoholic content to classify. These wines come out of southern France and are made from Grenache or Muscat, producing highly aromatic desert wines.


The science of winemaking.


Term which indicates the year the grapes were harvested in order to produce the wine, not the year the wine is bottled or goes to market.


Term used in America for the wine producer or winemaker.


This variety is surprisingly well known given the fact that fewer than 100 acres of it are planted over the entire globe. Despite its miniscule vineyard coverage, it manages to make a name for itself due to its amazingly tantalizing flavor and aroma profile- and perhaps its rarity is part of the appeal. It provides some of the most sought after Rhone Valley white wines, with orange blossom, white flowers, summer fruits and pear. In California small plantings have been imported.


An American term which denotes a legally defined grape-growing region (also known as American Viticultural Area, Or AVA). See also appellation


The science of grape growing.


Traditional European grape varieties which have been internationally recognized as fine wine grapes. See International Varieties


French Abbreviation for Vin de Qualité Produit dans une Région Determinée. This is the general classification term adopted by the entire European Union for a Quality Wine Produced in a Designated Region.


The state when a vine or other plant suffers from a lack of water. This can actually be beneficial for the production of quality grapes, as reduced quantities of water will concentrate the flavor compounds, sugars and acids in relation to the water content in the grapes.


Greece's most respected and widely planted indigenous variety linked primarily to northern Greece's Naoussa region. Xinomavro is a deeply hued variety with pleasantly strong acids which contributes to its aging potential. Many modern Greek winemakers have found that this variety blends superbly with softer, fruitier varieties such as Merlot.


The minute organisms that are responsible for the transformation of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, aka fermentation. The primary yeast in wine fermentation is the same as what makes beer ferment and breads rise.


The amount of grapes, weighed in pounds, that a specific vineyard produces in a given year. Yields are controlled by either the vintner or a limit may be imposed by the appellation if the winery falls into one.


California's namesake variety whose roots trace back to antiquity (the exact origins of which had been a major research topic until it was discovered that Zinfandel is descended from Plavac Mali of Croatia). The grape of many hats, Zinfandel is most becoming as a dry, ruby red, fruit-filled red wine, but also fashionable as an off-dry blush, a clean white, a base for sparkling wine, and as a fortified desert style wine. This variety is not planted much outside of the US, and is becoming more widely respected as a serious varietal contender with great aging capacity.

"To take wine into our mouths is to savor a droplet of the river of human history."
- New York Times, 1967

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