Acidity - The acidity of a wine is an essential component of the wine. Without it the wine (red or white) would be dull and flabby. The style of wine that the producer is seeking to make, will often determine the levels of acidity, as will the growing climate and the grape variety. The acidity should be in balance with the fruit and tannins.
AOC - French classification term, Appellation dorigine Côntrolée. This is the highest grade of wine available in France and it means that the wine has been subject to controls relating to yields, trellising and so forth.
Apéritif - A drink taken before a meal to titillate the taste buds!
Aroma - The smell of a wine; different from Bouquet which is a more complex smell that requires aging.
Balance - The relationship between the alcohol, tannin, fruit and acid in the wine. Well-balanced suggests that all of these elements have been successfully brought together.
Barrique - A wooden cask of 225 litre capacity in which wines are fermented and / or matured.
Bentonite - A type of light clay mixed into wine to fine or clarify it. As it settles, it absorbs and carries particles suspended in the wine along with it to the bottom of the vessel.
Big wine - A full-bodied wine with a very rich flavour.
Biodynamic - Biodynamic principles take the organic approach a step further by making sure that the growth of the grapes is in tune with the larger environment. Using homeopathic sprays, herbal preparations and lunar cycles, soil fertility is increased and vines are protected from pests and diseases.
Blanc de Blancs - 'White from White.' A sparkling wine made from 100% Chardonnay (white) grapes.
Blanc de Noirs - 'White from Black.' A sparkling wine made from black/red grapes; they are usually made from Pinot Noir and sometimes Pinot Meunier.
Bodega - A wine cellar or wine producing company.
Body - When alcohol and fruit come together you get an impression of weight and this is known as the body of a wine. Please note that a light bodied wine can still have lots of fruit flavour.
Botrytis - The best sweet wines are made from grapes which have been affected by a noble rot called botrytis cinera. Here the grapes become withered and the skins become soft enabling the juice to evaporate through them and the result is extremely concentrated not yet finished!
Bouquet - A more complex smell than aroma that requires aging.
Brut - A term you would find on a Champagne bottle and which means dry
Carbonic Maceration - A style of wine making that originated in Beaujolais, France. A type of fermentation where bunches of whole, uncrushed grapes are placed in a closed tank; the weight of the bunches on top crush those on the bottom, releasing juice that ferments in the standard manner. Fermentation takes place in each grape which creates a very juicy, fruity, soft, grapey wine. These wines are generally meant to be consumed very young.
Cava - Spanish sparkling wine made by the Method Champenoise method.
Cépage - This is another word for the grape variety, for example: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chaptalization - The addition of cane or beet sugar to the wine BEFORE or DURING (not after) fermentation in order to increase the total amount of sugar and to raise the potential alcohol content.
Château - A building where wine is made.
Complexity - A wine described as complex would generally be one that has many dimensions, with lots of flavors and aromas.
Corked - NOT pieces of cork in the wine, but rather a dirty and musty aroma or taste to the wine, which is easily identifiable. Wine becomes corked when bacteria in the cork cells interact with chemical residues that may remain in the cork after bottling.
Crémant - A French sparkling wine that is made outside of the Champagne region.
Cru - Literally means growth and which is used in the wine-trade to describe a specific vineyard.
Cuvée - Can have many meanings and can, in some cases be misleading. It can be a specially selected blend, a wine which comes from a specific barrel, a wine that comes from the first pressing. If you are in any doubt, please dont hesitate to ask us.
Depth - The amount of flavor that can be found in the wine.
DO - A Spanish appellation term, which stands for 'Denominación de Origen'. The French equivalent would be AOC. This is a controlled-quality wine region, of which Rioja is perhaps the most famous, with others such as La Mancha and Navarra becoming increasingly familiar.
DOC - Italian appellation term, which stands for 'Denominazione di Origine Controllata,' a controlled-quality wine region.
DOCG - An Italian appellation, which has higher status than DOC, which stands for 'Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita'.
Earthy - Can either describe a clean, complex taste and aroma that reminds one of fresh garden soil; or a funky, livestock and farm-like connotation that is not a compliment. As a positive example, earthy is often used to describe the wonderful flavor of red Graves wines such as Chateau Haut Brion.
Elegant - Describes beautiful, well-balanced wines-graceful, not necessarily full-bodied.
Enology - The science of winemaking; also spelled oenology.
Enophile - Someone who enjoys and appreciates fine wine; also spelled oenophile.
Enoteca - A wine library; a place where wine bottles are displayed.
Estate-Bottled - Indicates a winery owns the vineyard from whence the grapes come or has a long-term lease arrangement for the grapes.
Extra-Dry - The equivalent to extra-sec, Extra Dry is a term used to describe sparkling wines that are not as dry as Brut.
Extract - Pronounced concentration of fruit in a wine. A good sign unless it is manifested in too-high levels of tannin. The components and concentration of a wine that contribute to its flavor. Over-extracted wines, however, are often harsh due to fermenting too long on the grape skins.
Finish - The length and the quality of a wines aftertaste. A persistent finish is one where the flavour of the wine continues long in the palate after swallowing (or spitting!).
Fleshy - A wine described in this way has achieved a considerable amount of extraction from the fruit.
Frizzante - An Italian term and one that indicates a very light sparkle to the wine.
Full - Normally associated with the amount of body a wine has. However, be cautious because a full-bodied wine does not automatically mean that the wine has an equal amount of flavor.
Grassy - Characteristics reminding the taster of grass or fresh hay; frequently used to describe the flavor and aroma of Sauvignon Blanc.
Halbtrocken - A German term for 'half-dry.'
Herbaceous - A positive term used to describe a wine's flavor and aroma that is reminiscent of herbs; frequently a component in Sauvignon Blancs and Cabernets. Different than vegetal which is a negative term to describe a green off odor.
Hollow - Lacking in middle flavors and structure; the sense that something is missing between the first taste and the finish. Hollow wines are often the result of yields that are too large, diluting the quality of the grapes.
House Style - Non-vintage wines (which are blends of multiple vintages) allow vintners to create a "house style" by blending for consistency and distinctive, recognizable aromas and flavors year after year. For example, Champagne producers create a house style with their non-vintage Brut bottlings; Port producers create a house style with their non-vintage ruby and aged tawny ports.
IGT - Standing for 'Indicazione di Geografica Tipica'. This comparatively new category can be equated to the French Vin de Pays. There are some truly excellent quality wines to be had in this category.
Jeroboam - A large bottle that holds the equivalent of six regular bottles; however, in Champagne a Jeroboam holds four bottles of wine.
Kabinett - German QmP wine made from grapes picked during normal harvest; they typically tend to be low in alcohol and light bodied. For QmP wines, they are the lowest level in ripeness..
Lees - The remains of yeast cells that settle to the bottom of the container after fermentation. Leaving the wine in contact with its lees (referred to as sur lie aging) adds complexity to the wine.
Light - Used most often in the same way as a full it talks of the amount of body in the wine. Should not be confused with the amount of flavor the wine has.
Maceration - Stirring the grape skins (and sometimes stems) with the wine during the fermentation process in order to extract color, tannin and aroma.
Maderized - A wine showing evidence of oxidation, including a brownish color and bad Madeira-like flavor.
Malolactic Fermentation - This refers to a secondary fermentation which converts the malic acid in a wine to softer lactic acid, and thereby reduces the total acidity of the wine. This softens and adds complexity to most red wines, and contributes to the buttery richness of white wines such as Chardonnay. Not all wines go through malolactic fermentation.
Mature - Ready to drink.
Methode Champenoise - The secondary, inside-the-bottle fermentation (fermentation takes place inside it's individual bottle, not a large tank or vat)that is used to create authentic Champagne and other high quality sparkling wines. It's what creates the bubbles in the finest sparkling wines, but it is an expensive, labor-intensive process. Cheaper bubblies are made by the Charmat process. See Charmat.
Methuselah - An extra-large bottle holding 6 liters; the equivalent of eight standard bottles.
Mousse - The foam/ froth of Champagne or sparkling wine.
Must - The juice produced by crushing the grapes before fermentation, before it becomes wine.
Nebuchandnezzar - A giant wine bottle holding the equivalent of 20 standard bottles.
Negociant (Negociant-Eleveur) - A wine merchant who buys grapes or already fermented wines, then ages, blends, bottles and ships them under his own label. Many famous French wine companies (particularly in Burgundy and the Rhone) make wines from vineyards they don't own and thus are negotiants. Examples include Guigal, Jaboulet, Jadot, Duboeuf, Drouhin and Laboure-Roi. Many American companies are technically negociants as well, making wines from grapes purchased from vineyards they don't own. Negociant wines can be as good or better than estate bottled wines (and vice versa).
New World - A term used to refer to wine-producing regions that do not belong to the Old World:the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Chile; generally also applies to more modern winemaking methods and techniques.
Noble Rot - See Botrytis cinerea.
Non-vintage - Wine blended from multiple harvests; non-vintage wines are particularly common in Champagne and sparkling wines, Sherries and Ports. Blending allows the winemaker to create an individual "house" style that can be fairly consistent from bottle to bottle, year after year. Examples include Krug Champagne and Grahams 20-year-old Tawny Port.
Nose - Includes both the aroma from the grape and bouquet from aging.
Oaky - Describes the aroma or taste character of a wine that has interacted with the oak of a wood barrel. Most of the world's greatest red wines (and many of the world's greatest whites) are aged in wood before bottling and show some vanilla-spice-toast character contributed by oak.
Off-Dry - A slightly sweet wine.
Oxidized - A wine that has lost its freshness from exposure to the air, similar to an apple turning brown and losing its flavor once the skin is peeled away. Oxidation is what ruins the flavors of leftover wines. Using products such as Private Preserve Wine Preserver (which blankets the wine with inert gas and prevents contact with oxygen) can prevent oxidation.
Palate - The taste or the flavor of the wine is most commonly called the palate of the wine.
Pead - The time when a wine displays its smoothest, fullest flavors; this can vary from a few months for Nouveau or fragile white wines, to spans of decades for long-lived Ports, Bordeaux and dessert wines.
PH - A chemical measurement of the intensity of the acidity in a wine; the lower the pH, the more intense the acid. Low pH wines are better candidates for aging as they are less sensitive to oxidation and have greater resistance to bacteria. But pH is really a much more important factor to winemakers than to most consumers.
Phylloxera - The name of a root louse which attacks and devastates grapevines. It spread from America to Europe in the 1860's and destroyed the vineyards of France, then spread elsewhere. Most of the world's vineyards are now planted on American rootstock (which is more resistant to Phylloxera). However, in the last 20 years it has become rampant in the Napa Valley and caused major replanting.
Placomusophile - A collector of Champagne caps.
Private Reserve - A label once used to indicate a producer's finest bottlings, Private Reserve has no legal definition and is now applied to everything from cheap wines to $100 bottles.
Prosecco - The principal grape in Italy's Spumante (sparkling wine), also known as Prosecco. Made by the Charmat process in which the wine undergoes a second fermentation in a pressurized tank, rather than the individual bottle.
Punt - The name of the indentation found in the bottom of most wine bottles.
Qualitätswein Bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) - A German classification of wine, must be from 1 of 13 Germany's official winegrowing regions, the basic level of everyday wines that may be chaptalized.
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) - A German classification of wine, "Quality Wine With Specific Attributes," the highest level of classification. These wines cannot be chaptalized. Wines are rankded within QmP according to the ripeness level of the grape when harvested. From lowest to highest they are: Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beernauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese.
Racking - A term for the traditional winemaker practice of moving wine from one container to another; it's essentially decanting on a grand scale by moving a wine from barrel to barrel. The purpose of racking is to rid the wine of sediment by leaving it behind in the first barrel. It requires more labor, but racking is less disturbing to the wine than filtration.
Residual Sugar - A measurement, usually expressed in degrees of Brix, of the amount of grape sugar remaining in a wine after fermentation is completed. Dry wines have little or no residual sugar; dessert wines have much residual sugar.
Sec - A French term which means dry.' However, when Champagne is labeled sec, it is medium sweet to sweet.
Structure - Used in the same sense as a building structure. So, the way the wine has been put together. Good structure means that all the components of the wine come together well.
Tannin - A component of primarily red wines, and which comes from the pips, stalks and skins of the grape. If tannins are raw, then this would suggest that the tannins are very dry. As with acidity, tannins are an integral part of winemaking and what the wine-drinker is after, is balance
Terroir - Encapsulates every aspect of where the vines are grown, including soil, climate, direction in which the site faces and so on. This was a term that used to be used mostly in the old world, though the new world is using it increasingly frequently.
Trocken - German for 'dry.'
Varietal - A particular variety of grape--Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,Chardonnay, are examples of varietal wines.
VDT - This stands for 'Vin da Tavola' in Italy and appears on some of Italy's very finest wines and some of their worst. It is because there are few restrictions that winemakers who are focused on quality are able to make truly brilliant wines under this category. It is not uncommon for some VDT wines to be more expensive than certain DOCG wines.
Vegan wines - Winemakers, both organic and conventional, are not obliged to declare on the label when they use animal by-products as fining agents to clarify wine. These include egg white (to brighten red wines), casein (a milk protein to make wine taste softer), gelatin (removes bitterness) and isinglass (derived from fish). A vegan wine, on the other hand, uses no animal products whatsoever.
Vintage - The year in which the grapes are harvested for the final wine. The reason that Vintage Champagne is so special is that it is only ever made in the years that the grower believes the harvest has been of high enough quality to warrant making a Vintage Champagne. Most commonly, sparkling wines are non-vintage.
Yeast - Important microorganisms that cause fermentation by converting sugar to alcohol. Without yeast, the world would lack wine, beer and most bread.