glossary.of.terms

(reveal your inner cork dork)



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1855 Classification -
The method by which the wines in Bordeaux are organized, largely unchanged since set in 1855. Napoleon III wished to display the best wines Bordeaux had to offer at the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris. The Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce thus put together a list of the top Chateaux [in French, the plural of Chateau is Chateaux, NOT Chateaus]. This list was developed based on reputation and price of the wine at market, which at the time was a fairly accurate representation of quality. More information can be found in the France section of this website.


85F, John Deere -
The John Deere 85F is the pimpin'-ist tractor on the market for use in the vineyard. It's an 83 horse-power turbocharged tractor with a low-profile cab, 54 degree turning angle, 4WD, rear lift capacity over 5,000 lb and 10 gallons per minute of hydraulic flow. Quite clearly the vineyard equivalent of a 1963 Chevy Impala.


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ABV, alcohol by volume -
The amount of alcohol present in a bottle of wine; usually expressed on the label in %. New world wines often tend to be higher, old world wines trend towards lower ABV.


AC, AOC, Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée -
Fr. The highest level of quality for a French wine. Regulations vary greatly from region to region, thus a wine of AOC status is not necessarily an exceptional wine.


accessible -
Refers to the readiness of a wine to drink. The fruit, tannins and acids are in balance and it is time to pop the cork.


acidity -
One of the main keys to the lifespan of a wine. Too much acid can make the wine feel sharp and out of balance as well as adding a sour like impression to the flavors. Not enough, and the wine will likely be dull and flabby in the mouth. Many wines naturally have low acidity and others are naturally high in acid. Low, medium or high acid can work very well for a specific wine as long as the acid level is in balance with the rest of the wine.


aftertaste -
The lingering flavors after a wine is swallowed or spat. For many, this is very important and a good aftertaste can make or break a wine. [Mike Supple sarcastically refers to poor aftertaste as "aftertang".]


aging -
The period of time between when the grape juice has finished fermeting and when the wine is consumed. This can take place in many steps over a number of years including: a) in large tanks at the winery before bottling; b) in oak casks in at the winery before bottling; c) in cool cellars at the winery after bottling; d) in a liquor store or restaurant after being sold by the winery; e) in a consumer's house or cellar. This time period can be just a few weeks or months (as is the case with most white wines) or many decades (as is the case with expensive Bordeaux and Burgundy wines, among others). A party lasting from crush until the end of aging could be a many year event.


AIWS -
Associate member of the Institute of Wines and Spirits. Membership is open only to those who have completed the Diploma qualification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), the foremost international body in the field of wines and spirits education, with a suite of sought-after qualifications. Only 359 people worldwide completed the Diploma in 2009.


alcoholic -
1. A somewhat derogatory term meaning the wine has too much alcohol and is not in balance.
2. A former wine lover who now attends meetings.


American Viticultural Area, AVA -
The US governments "equivalent" to the French AC system. However, unlike the French counterpart, AVAs mean little other than a geographical boundary. To state a particular AVA on a label, 85% of the wine used must be from within the region. Very little is regulated beyond that, and the AVA boundaries largely reflect commercial decisions rather than geographical ones.


amylic -
Caused by the presence of amyl or isoamyl acetate, it presents aromas and flavors of bubble-gum, banana and peardrop in wines. It can occur in white wines fermented at very low temperatures and in red wines fermented by carbonic maceration.


Andre -
A brand of sparkling wine made in bulk in California. It says "Champagne" on the label, but this is due to a technicality in US/EU laws, and the wine does very little to resemble real Champagne. It also has a fair amount of residual sugar making it sweet.


appellation -
Fr. Literally "name". A designated geographic region in which there are specific soil types and micro-climates not found elsewhere in the world. i.e. Bordeaux, or Pauillac (within Bordeaux) or Napa, or Oak Knoll District (within Napa).


aroma -
Specifically refers only to the fruity smells in a wine that come from the grape. However, it is often confused and used synonymously with the word bouquet.


aromatic grape varieties -
Grapes with naturally aromatic essential oils; can be fruity, floral or even give hints of petrol and kerosene (when balanced, these aromas can be desirable in a wine). Classic aromatic varieties include Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat.


aspect -
The direction the vineyards face (North, South, East or West). This plays a key role in the amount of sunlight the grapes receive, which drastically affects the grapes' ability to ripen.


assemblage -
Fr. A blend of wines. Can be different varieties or vintages.


auslese -
Ger. A level of German QmP wine made from select bunches of very ripe grapes, some of which may be affected by botrytis. Although the wines are often sweet, the term refers to the level of ripeness when harvested, not the amount of sugar in the finished wine.


austere -
A wine with too much acidity or tannin making it harsh. Usually lacking in fruit as well.


Asti -
It. 1. A method of sparkling winemaking similar to the Charmat method. The resulting wine is relatively low in alcohol (around 7-7.5% abv) with high residual sugar.
2. A DOCG in Italy.


AVA -
See American Viticultural Area.


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backward -
A young wine that is very tannic and structured so much so as to taste poor but shows incredible aging potential. Chateau Ausone is often a very backward wine when young, but amazing when aged well.


baked -
A quality found in wines with high alcohol due to too much heat during the growth season and harvest. Often the fruit tastes a little cooked and alcoholic.


balance -
The ratio of fruit to body to alcohol to acid to oak, etc. When all the components of a wine are in proportion to each other, the wine is balanced.


barnyardy -
A somewhat funky aroma and/or flavor. Can denote the presence of brettanomyces in a wine, as well as unclean winery conditions; in this case, this is a flaw in the wine (and the bottle should be sent back if you are at a restaurant). Can also be found in rustic Old-World wines, particularly Burgundy and Tuscany; in this case it is NOT necessarily a flaw.


barrel-fermented -
The fermentation of the wine physically took place in a wood barrel of some kind. This is expensive, but can impart some amazing flavors and aromas to a wine when done right (both red and white). Tends to add more complexity to a wine than ones merely aged in wood.


barrique -
Fr. Barrel.


biodynamic -
A style of organic viticulture following the methods of Rudolf Steiner. The treatments of the wines are timed to match astronomical cycles. Most chemical or synthetic sprays and fertilizers are not used, and sulfur dioxide is used at a minimum.


bite -
A reference to the grip of a wine. Generally a positive thing, but too much bite can be undesirable.


bitterness -
Typically refers to the bitter taste in your mouth, often caused by tannin. In certain amounts this can be fine if the wine is balanced well. Too much bitterness (particularly on the finish) is no good.


blanc de blancs -
Fr. Literally "white from whites". This is a white wine made from only white grapes, most commonly sparkling wine, but not always. In the Champagne region of France, this means a wine is 100% Chardonnay. When made right, these can be the most stunning, transcendent bottles of wine on the planet. However, poor Blanc de Blancs sparkling wines are quite the opposite.


blanc de noirs -
Fr. Literally "white from blacks". This is a white wine made from black (or red...) grapes, most commonly sparkling wine, but not always. With very few exceptions, the juice from black grapes is clear. Red wines are red because the wine is left to soak on the skins, and the color comes from the skin of the grapes. In Champagne, Blanc de Noirs is made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.


blind tasting -
There are several different ways to do this, but it is essentially tasting wines without knowing something (or anything) about it, i.e. Vintage, Grape Variety, Producer, World Region, etc. This is possibly the best way of assessing the quality of a wine without adding any preconceived notions. It also lets you truly examine a wine and learn about what it is you are actually tasting. Blind tastings are also something pompous jerks use to show how much more they think they know about wine than you.


bodega -
Sp. Spanish term for wine cellar or winery.


body -
Refers to the impression of weight of the wine on the palate (or how big, heavy and round a wine feels in your mouth). This can be affected by the amount of alcohol, tannins, minerals or fruit in the wine. Wines are typically described as light, medium or full-bodied. Full is not necessarily better than light - it is more important that the body matches the style of the wine and improves a wine's overall balance.


botrytis cinerea -
Commonly referred to as "botrytis," this is a fungus that attacks individual grapes. It can form desirable noble rot that aids in the making of some of the world's best dessert wines.


botrytized grapes -
Grapes that are affected by botrytis. The fungus draws moisture out of the grapes, effectively concentrating the juice in the berries. Some of the best (and most expensive) dessert wines in the world are made from botrytized grapes.


bottle shock -
The feeling of despair caused by looking at the prices of 1982 Bordeaux today. Wait...that's sticker shock. Bottle shock refers to a condition that can affect some wines after traveling (or having just been bottled). The excessive jostling of the bottles during transit can cause the wines to "close" or hide the fruit on the nose and palate for brief periods of time. This is not permanent, and a few days rest will clear it right up.


bottle-age -
The amount of time a wine is held in the bottle before consumption. This can be before it is released from a winery, on a dusty shelf at your favorite local shop, as well as in your private cellar before you open it.


bouquet -
Strictly speaking, the smells brought about by oak fermentation/aging, as well as aging in the bottle. However, it is often confused and used synonymously with the word aroma.


breathing -
Giving the wine access to air. This allows the full aromas of the wine to come out, and is particularly important for bold young wines. Decanting isn't only for your old dusty bottles! Air exposure is often the reason why wine tastes better at the end of a meal than it did right after it was opened.


brettanomyces -
Commonly referred to as "Brett," this is a yeast that spoils a wine by causing barnyard, sweaty horse and stable smells. Do not hesitate to return a bottle of wine in a restaurant with these characteristics.


brut -
Fr. A reference to the amount of sugar added to sparkling wines during the dosage period of winemaking. Brut literally means dry, but the wine may have a little residual sugar.


bubbles -
Refers to any wine that is sparkling.


bud break -
The time of year when new growth first appears in the vineyard. This usually happens in early spring.


burnt -
See baked.


butt -
A large cask used for fermenting or storing wine. Typically made from wood, such as oak.


buttery -
The smell, taste and feel of butter or cream in a wine; stronger in wines that have undergone malolactic fermentation. This style was very popular in the 1970s through 1990s in California with Chardonnay. That trend is on the decline, and many wineries now focus on the bright pure fruit flavors in the Chardonnay grape.


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cap -
The thick layer of stems, seeds and skins that forms on the top of a wine vat during fermentation.


carbonic maceration -
A form of bacterial fermentation (rather than yeast) that occurs inside the whole, uncrushed grape. The end result is a wine with very fresh, bright fruit flavors and light tannins, and is typically meant to drink when very young. Most popular in southern Burgundy where it is used for the famous Beaujolais Nouveau wines.


Cava -
Sparkling Spanish wine made in the traditional method used in Champagne and many other parts of the world. Generally a blend of the native Spanish grapes Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, but also allowed to be blended with Chardonnay.


cépage -
Fr. Grape variety.


chai -
Fr. Above ground wine storehouse. Often used to host people for tastings.


Champagne -
The only time you should drink Champagne is on days that end in "y".
1. A region in north-eastern France.
2. By law, the only wines that can be called "Champagne" are those that are produced and bottled using strictly defined methods in Champagne, France. All others must be called sparkling wine.


canopy -
The leaves on grapevines. The way these are trained and managed can have a big effect on the ripeness of the grapes.


cellar -
A common place for storing bottles of wine due to the naturally cool and consistent temperatures. Among wealthier collectors it is common to install intricate rack and storage systems along with temperature and humidity gauges to better protect wines for long term storage and investment.


chaptalization -
The addition of sugar (usually beet or cane) to the must during fermentation to raise the potential alcohol. Named after Comte Antoine Chaptal, a minister to Napoleon from 1800-1805.


Charmat method -
A method for producing sparkling wine in which the secondary fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank. This is also called tank method or cuve close (Fr.).


Chateau -
Fr. Literally "house". However, in the wine world it refers to a vineyard in Bordeaux that usually has an accompanying house, but not necessarily.


chewy -
A wine with so much body and tannin so as to give the impression of having to chew the wine. This is generally good in young, balanced wines as it implies that they will age well.


claret -
Traditionally a term used by the British to describe the red wines produced in Bordeaux in the 1800s. These wines were generally lighter bodied and higher in acid than the dense, age worthy wines produced in much of Bordeaux today.

Classico -
It. Wines produced in the historic or classic center of an Italian DOC. (i.e. Chianti Classico is wine that is produced in the heart of the Chianti region.)


clean -
A wine devoid of any unwanted flavors or aromas.


clone -
A vine that has been propagated by vegetative means rather than sexual reproduction. The resulting vine has identical properties as its parent. Clones are bred for specific characteristics like flavor, size, disease resistance and more.


clos -
Fr. A single named vineyard, historically surrounded by a wall (though the wall may no longer exist).


closed -
A wine that does not reveal much in the way of aroma or flavor, but does show promise with either more bottle age or time in the glass/decanter.


cloying -
Usually a negative characteristic, denoting that the wine has an overly sticky or syrupy quality to it. This is particularly noted in the finish of cheap dessert wines but can also happen in overripe Shiraz, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.


cold stabilization -
A process in which wine is chilled before bottling to encourage tartrate crystals to precipitate out of solution. The crystals are then filtered off. Tartrate crystals are not harmful, thus this procedure is done entirely for aesthetic purposes.


complete -
A wine that has everything going for it. Good balance and mouth feel.


complexity -
Refers to the many nuances of a wine's smells and flavors. In general, great wines show more complexity as they age.


cooked -
A wine that has been damaged by exposure to heat. See baked.


cork dork -
A description for any person to whom wine is more than just an alcoholic drink made from smashed grapes


corked -
A term referring to a bottle that is suffering from the taint of TCA. This causes wet cardboard aromas and flavors in wines. While not harmful, it is largely unappealing. It acquired the name because TCA is usually introduced to the wine through a cork; however, this is not the only way a wine can become corked. TCA has also been found in oak staves as well as within the wineries themselves.


correct -
A wine that tastes as it should (by definition) according to the types of grapes used and the region it is from. Usually also means it's clean and somewhat boring.


côte, côtes -
Fr. Slope(s) or hillside(s).


côteaux -
Fr. Slopes or hillsides.


crémant -
Fr. Traditionally a term referring to Champagnes with less vigorous, more creamy mousse. Now, however, after changes in EU laws regulating the use of the term Methode Champenoise restricted it to only wines produce in Champagne, other sparkling wine regions in France have added the word Crémant to the AC denoting sparkling wines produced in the Methode Champenoise. (i.e. Crémant de Bourgogne is a sparkling wine produced in Burgundy using the Methode Champenoise.)


Crianza -
Sp. Spanish law requires Crianza red wines to be aged a minimum of 2 years, at least 6 months of which must be in oak. Whites and roses must be aged a minimum of 1 year with at least 6 months in oak.


crisp -
A clean refreshing wine with good acidity.


crop -
verb The cutting of stems, leaves and grapes from the vine. This is done for a number of reasons, but all with an end goal of improving the grapes for winemaking.

cru -
Fr. Literally "growth", usually referring to a village or vineyard.


cru artisan -
Fr. A rank of chateaux in Bordeaux below cru bourgeois.


cru bourgeois -
Fr. A rank of chateaux in Bordeaux below Cru Classe.


Cru Classé -
Fr. A classified growth vineyard, usually in Bordeaux. The French governing body deems that these vineyards produce grapes of a specific quality.


crush -
The squishing of the grapes after harvest to remove juice from the berries. There are a variety of mechanical methods for this, some gentler than others. A few wineries still use the traditional method of stomping on the grapes in bare feet.


cuve -
Fr. A vat or tank.


cuvée -
Fr. 1. A blend of finished wines from different vats.
2. The juice from the first press in Champagne.


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debourbage -
Fr. The process of letting the solids in the must settle to the bottom of the vat, tank or barrel. This makes the wine clearer and reduces the need for as much fining or filtering.


decant -
1. The process of carefully pouring an older wine into a glass vessel to leave as much sediment in the bottle as possible. For older wines, this should be done fairly shortly before consuming.
2. For younger wines, the process of pouring a wine into a glass vessel to increase the oxygen contact with the wine, thereby bringing out more of the wine's aromas. For very young wines, this should be done up to several hours before consuming.


decanter -
A glass vessel designed to aid the breathing of a wine, as well as filtering sediment. Do not underestimate the value of decanting young wines, both red and white.


delicate -
Lighter, more subtle characteristics in wine.


demi-sec -
Fr. Literally means semidry. However, wines labeled this way generally have a fair amount of sugar in them.


dirty -
Refers to a wine that has any off characteristics, smells or flavors. This can result from bad winemaking or an unclean bottling line.


disgorgement -
The removal of yeast and other sediment from the bottle during traditional method sparkling wine production.


DO, Denominacion de Origen -
Sp. The Spanish equivalent to the French AOC.


DOC -
It., Port. In Italy it's Denominazione di Origine Conrollata and in Portugal Denominacao de Origem Controlada. Equivalent to the French AOC.


DOCa -
Sp. Abbreviation for the Spanish Denominacion de Origen Calificada which is the equivalent of Italy's DOCG.


DOCG -
It. Abbreviation for the Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. A step above DOC.


dosage -
Fr. The mixture of sugar and unfermented juice added to sparkling wine after disgorgement. The amount added determines whether the final wine is Brut, Extra Brut, Demi-Sec, etc.


doux -
Fr. Sweet.


dry -
A wine with no sugar (or not enough to taste).


dusty -
A possible characteristic in red wine, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford, Napa. Tastes and smells like fine powdery rocks.


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earthy -
Any smells or flavors in a wine that are reminiscent of dirt, stones, peat or anything else related to earth. In the proper amounts this can be a nice addition to wines, and is particularly common in old-world big reds.


easy -
Approachable and accessible but usually with less of a positive connotation. This is particularly true with many modern critics who refer to cheaper wines as "easy" and more expensive wines as "accessible".


eau-de-vie -
Fr. Literally "water of life". A clear spirit usually distilled from fresh fruits and herbs. Traditionally served cold to preserve the flavors. It takes a lot of fruit to produce small amounts of this, so they are generally very expensive. Classic examples are Poire William (France) and Kirschwasser (Germany).


Echezeaux -
A region within Burgundy, France. Famous for producing some of the best Pinot Noir in the world (also some of the most expensive wine in the world).


edelfäule -
Ger. Noble rot.


edelkeur -
S. Afr. Noble rot.


edge -
A wine with tannin to it, and good aging potential.


eiswein -
Ger. A style of dessert wine developed in Germany in which the grapes are left on the vine until it gets cold enough for them to freeze. The grapes are quickly harvested and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a dense, sweet wine made from concentrated juice (the ice floats to the top of the vat and is skimmed off, leaving concentrated juice behind). This style of wine is now copied in other parts of the world through natural freezing (very expensive) and cryogenic freezing (less expensive).


elegant -
A typical characteristic in wines described as feminine. A subjective term referring to finesse and balance of the wine.


élevé en fûts de chêne -
Fr. Aged in oak barrels.


en primeur -
Fr. A tradition started by Bordeaux wine merchants. Wines sold en primeur are made available for purchase within a year of harvest, and while still in barrel (or tank) before the final blending or bottling happens. This is risky as the wines can change quite a bit between the initial barrel samples and final blend, but the prices for wines sold this way are generally much lower than the release price as compensation for the risk.


encépagement -
Fr. The % blend of grape varieties in a wine.


esters -
Chemical compounds created during fermentation and aging that contribute to the smells of a wine.


euphoria -
A feeling of elation brought on from drinking fantastic wine (particularly Champagne).


ex-cellars -
The price of wine directly from their cellar, before any shipping or applicable taxes are applied.


expressive -
A wine that shows a lot of varietal characteristics.


extract -
The tannins, minerals, vitamins, etc. (essentially all small insoluble particles that aren't sugar) that give a wine its body.


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farmyardy -
A somewhat funky aroma and/or flavor. Can denote the presence of brettanomyces in a wine, as well as unclean winery conditions; in this case, this is a flaw in the wine (and the bottle should be sent back if you are at a restaurant). Can also be found in rustic Old-World wines, particularly Burgundy and Tuscany; in this case, it is NOT necessarily a flaw.


fat -
A big wine with a lot of mouth feel.


feminine -
A descriptor for wines that are elegant, subtle and refined. Also sneaky and conniving, and always seem to be draining your wallet.


fermentation -
The process of converting sugar into alcohol. Usually done by active yeasts, except in the case of carbonic maceration.


feuillette -
Fr. A smaller 30 gallon oak barrel traditionally used in Burgundy.


field blend -
Wine made from several different grape types all harvested together and mixed before pressing or crushing.


filtration -
A process used to remove unwanted particles from wine. Some winemakers argue that this strips the wine of flavor and aromas, but many consumers refuse to drink wine that has sediment in it.


fine wines -
A reference to the top tier of expensive wines. Generally more of a reference to price than quality.


finesse -
Wine with soft elegant style.


fining -
Removes smaller particles from wine that are often left behind after filtration. This is done by adding a coagulating element to the wine so the small particles clump together and can be filtered out.


finish -
The final flavors in the back of the mouth when swallowing wine.


firm -
A wine with good body and tannic grip.


First Growth -
One of five of the top classified growths in Bordeaux.


first pressing -
The initial juice that comes from the grapes during press. This is usually the lightest, sweetest juice, unadulterated by exposure to grape skins, stems and seeds.


flabby -
A wine without enough acid or body, leaving it flat in the mouth, particularly on the finish.


flat -
1. A champagne that has lost its bubbles.
2. See flabby.


fleshy -
Wine with a lot of ripe, juicy power and ripe tannins.


flying winemaker -
A recently adopted term for winemakers who fly around the world, consulting and assisting in many different wineries.


fortified -
A wine with higher alcohol content due to the addition of distilled spirits. (i.e. Port, Madeira, etc.)


foudre -
Fr. A large oak cask.


foxy -
A distinct aromatic component that is typically attributed to American wines produced in the north-east (particularly New York).


free-run juice -
Juice that comes from the grapes under the pressure of their own weight, before any outside pressure is applied. This is even fresher and cleaner than first press juice.


fresh -
Young wines with very fruity aromas and flavors.


frizzante -
It. Lightly sparkling wine.


fruit -
1. The grapes used to produce wine.
2. Flavors and aromas in wine that trigger specific memories and comparisons.


full -
Rich, big and tannic.


fully fermented -
A wine in which all of the sugars have been converted to alcohol.


fût -
Fr. An oak cask.


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Geris -
[jer-ees] Slang for "geriatrics." A term referring to anyone for whom wine is only about collecting, hoarding and lording over others. Doesn't necessarily have anything to do with age. Wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed, not locked away forever in a dusty cellar, bragged about, passed on to descendants and ultimately opened when already too old to be enjoyed.


gout de terroir -
Fr. Literally "taste of the earth". Refers to flavor and aroma characteristics specific to wines from a particular geographical region.


graft -
Attaching a cutting of a vine to different rootstock, usually to increase a vine's resistance to bacteria, insects, fungus, etc.


Gran Reserva -
Sp. Spanish law requires Gran Reserva red wines to be aged a minimum of 5 years, at least 18 months of which must be in oak. Whites and roses must be aged a minimum of 4 years with at least 6 months in oak. Generally Gran Reserva wines are only made in the best of years.


grand cru -
Fr. Literally "great growth". This term has different meanings in different regions. In Burgundy and Champagne it has specific meaning, denoting wines from vineyards of the highest qualities. In other regions the term is largely uncontrolled and does not carry much significance.


grand vin -
Fr. A term generally specific to Bordeaux. Chateaux often produce wines of varying qualities. The best quality wine labeled under the name of the Chateau is the "grand vin".


grande marque -
Fr. See Grand vin. "Marque" is French for "brand".


grapey -
Refers to aromas or flavors of grapes dominating the wine. Most common in Muscat.


grassy green -
An aroma or flavor of grass in wine. Can denote that the grapes were not fully ripe when harvested.


grip -
Refers to tannic strength in red wine and acid in white. This is generally used to describe wines in a positive manner.


growth -
A term attached to various words helping to denote vineyard quality in France (i.e. First Growth).


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habillage -
Fr. The large foil wrap around the top of bottles of sparkling wine. In the process of making Champagne some amount of wine is lost. The habillage is traditionally used to hide varying degrees of fill levels in the bottles. More controlled production today has increased uniformity in fill levels, and the habillage is used more for looks than necessity.


hard -
A wine with excessive tannin or acid.


harsh -
A derogatory term for a wine that lacks balance.


harvest -
The picking of ripe grapes destined to become wine. This will often be a long period of time for any one winery as different types of grapes ripen at different times. Even the same kind of grape can ripen at different speeds in different vineyards depending on soil type and water, heat and sunlight received during the growing season.


herbaceous -
A green or leafy character brought about by under ripe grapes and an overly vigorous canopy.


herbal -
Some grapes give characteristic flavors or aromas of fresh herbs (mint, marjoram, eucalyptus, etc.) in finished wines. These can range from pleasant additions to unholy abominations, but in general it is a much more positive term to describe wines than herbaceous.


high-tone -
A reference to up-front acid generally found in young, fruit forward wines.


hollow -
A wine lacking body on the mid-palate and finish.


honeyed -
A quality some wines (particularly aromatic whites) pick up with bottle age, but young wines can also have honey notes from oak influence or the presence of botrytis.


horizontal tasting -
A tasting of many wines from the same vintage (i.e. Napa Cabernets from different wineries, all produced in 2005).


hot -
The discernable presence of alcohol in wine, usually meaning the wine is somewhat imbalanced.


hybrid -
A cross of different types of grape vines from different species. Usually done to help breed a higher tolerance to diseases or other problems.


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ice wine -
See eiswein.


inky -
A reference to the appearance of wine meaning the color is so dark and thick that it is opaque.


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jammy -
A wine that is ready to drink and fairly bold with thick, heavy fruit flavors. Generally lacking in elegance.


juice -
The liquid that comes out of a squished, ripe grape that is used to make wine.


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kabinett -
Ger. The first level of German QmP wine made from ripe grapes. Generally among the driest of German wines, though this can vary. The term refers to the level of ripeness when harvested, not the amount of sugar in the finished wine.


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lactic acid -
An acid present in some wines that gives a sensation of creaminess. Created during malolactic fermentation.


late harvest -
Grapes that are left on the vine to become affected by botrytis and used for sweet dessert wine production.


lees -
Sediment that builds up in the bottom of a tank during fermentation. It is made up of yeast cells and other small particulates in the wine. Some wines are aged for a long time on the lees, and others are filtered out very quickly. Aging on the lees can increase flavors and aromas of toast, bread and yeast.


legs -
The formation of drops that look like legs or tears (think crying) on the inside of the wine glass. This happens due to a complex relationship between surface tension of water and alcohol evaporation. Historically it has been thought that the style of tears (speed, width, etc) were connected to the viscosity and alcohol level in the wine. While wine with more sugar or higher alcohol may develop thicker legs, the style of glass, cleanliness of the glass, detergent last used when cleaning the glass, atmospheric pressure [bored yet?] and on and on may all impact the formation of legs as much as the alcohol. So while noting the presence of legs may suggest the wine is high in alcohol or sugar, you should still confirm this by smelling and tasting the wine.


Left Bank -
The regions on the west side of the Gironde river in Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon is usually the grape that dominates the blend in these wines. St-Estephe, Pauillac, St-Julien and Margaux are the most famous regions in the Left Bank.


length -
A somewhat abstract term referring to the amount of time that a wine can be tasted after it is swallowed or spat. A longer finish is generally desired and implies that the wine is more complex and is of high quality. Unless of course the aftertaste is bad.


lie -
Fr. Lees.


lingering -
A reference to the amount of time flavors remain in the mouth after a wine is swallowed or spat. Higher quality wines usually linger longer.


liqueur de tirage -
Fr. A mixture of sugar, yeast and wine added to still wine destined to become sparkling wine. This addition causes the creation of the mousse.


liveliness -
A descriptor of the acidity level and freshness of a wine.


longevity -
The length of time that a wine can age in the bottle before becoming undrinkable. Not the length of time it can keep you entertained for one night.


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maceration -
The period of time when the fermenting grape juice is in contact with the skins. Colors, flavors and tannins come out of the skins during this process.


maceration carbonique -
Fr. See carbonic maceration.


maderized -
A characteristic of dessert wines from Madeira. Maderization is a slow process that exposes the wine to oxygen and heat. This is generally not good for most wines, but when done carefully to certain dessert wines, it does impart some rich and pleasant flavors of cooked fruit.


malic acid -
A strong acid found in high concentrations in unripe grapes, and still present in ripe grapes. It is the type of acid associated with sour green apples. This can be good in white wines, but often overpowering in reds. Malic acid is softened and turned to lactic acid through malolactic fermentation.


malolactic fermentation -
Somewhat of a misnomer as this is not actually a fermentation, but a bacterial reaction that converts harsher malic acid into creamier lactic acid.


marc -
1. The remaining stems, seeds and skins after the grapes and fermenting juice have been pressed.
2. A name for brandy made from the residue of the stems, seeds and skins after being pressed.


marque -
Fr. Brand.


masculine -
A descriptor for wines that are tannic, bold and powerful. Also that leave the toilet seat up and forget to call you on your birthday and lie about it later.


Master of Wine, MW -
A qualification given by the Institute of Masters of Wine. The Institute exists "to promote excellence in the art, science and business of wine". The qualification is sought by many professionals in the wine industry, and is held by winemakers, viticulturalists, wine writers, wine educators, restaurateurs and hotel management. As of 2007 there were only 264 Masters of Wine worldwide. The MW qualification is generally regarded as much more difficult than Master Sommelier.


Master Sommelier, MS -
A qualification given by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Their goal is "to encourage improved standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants". This qualification is sought mostly by professionals in the food and beverage industry, restaurateurs and hotel management. See also sommelier.


maturity -
Refers to how developed a wine is in the bottle.


meaty -
Refers to wines with a lot of body and tannin.


Methode Champenoise -
The method by which sparkling wine is made in the region of Champagne. By law in the European Union, only wines made in Champagne can use this term.


microclimate -
A set of climate characteristics unique to a specific vineyard or region.


microvinification -
The making of wine in very small batches, typically for research purposes.


mid-palate -
A term referring to the feel and taste of a wine in the middle of your mouth. This can range from full and rich to thin and acidic.


mineral -
A quality found in the aromas and flavors of some wines. Depending on the degree to which it is present, this can be pleasant or not.


moelleux -
Fr. A wine that is described as medium-sweet. In the Loire region of France, it means a fully sweet wine that is made with botrytized grapes.


monopole -
Fr. An entire vineyard owned by one person or company.


mousse -
Fr. The bubbles in sparkling wine.


mousseux -
Fr. Literally means "sparkling".


mouth feel -
The description of how a wine feels in your mouth based on body, acid and tannin.


Muscadet -
A region in the Loire Valley of France that produces white wine from one grape. The proper name for the grape is Melon de Bourgogne, but many refer to it as Muscadet. The wine produced is fiarly light in body with low alcohol and good acidity. The flavors are light as well, and consist of notes of green apple and a touch of grass. Shows at its best when paired with seafood. Is sometimes made in a slightly different style called Muscadet Sur Lie.


Muscadet Sur Lie -
A version of Muscadet that is aged on the lees before bottling. This generally results in a wine that has more flavor and richness than the traditional Muscadet.


must -
Juice before or during fermentation. Can include skins, yeast, seeds and stems.


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négociant -
Fr. A merchant who acts as the go-between for producers and wholesalers or customers.


neutral grape varieties -
Refers to any of several grape varieties that produce bland wines. Often used to increase volume in bulk production wines.


new world -
Regions of the world that have not been producing wines for hundreds of years (i.e. United States, Australia, Chile).


noble rot -
See botrytis.


nose -
1. Both the aroma and bouquet of a wine.
2. When used to describe a person it refers to ones ability to detect the aromas and bouquet in a wine. Somebody who can't smell very well is said to have no nose.


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oak -
The wood used to make barrels in which many wines are either fermented or aged. Different types of oak have different influences on the wines. Oak aging generally softens a wine's tannins while imparting flavors that can be smoky, toasty, spicy or fruity.


oenology -
The scientific study of wine.


off vintage -
A year in which growing and harvesting conditions were not optimal. Usually this means lower overall quality for the wines in a given vintage, but there are also often some well made wines in the mix that can be outstanding values.


oidium -
A fungus that causes the appearance of gray powder on the leaves and grapes. This dehydrates and ruins the grapes for winemaking.


oily -
A term used to describe viscous wines.


old world -
Regions of the world that have been producing wines for hundreds of years as part of the culture and heritage, often using traditional methods of production. Most European wines are old world.


opulent -
A wine that is very rich and approachable both in the nose and on the palate.


organic wines -
Wines produced in accordance with organic guidelines, using less sulfur dioxide, and without chemicals.


overtone -
The dominant aroma or flavor in a wine.


oxidation -
The exposure of wine to oxygen. This is unavoidable during fermentation, and in small amounts necessary to the softening of the wine. Overexposure to oxygen can lead to negative oxidative characteristics in a wine.


oxidative -
Generally a negative characteristic in wine brought on by prolonged exposure to oxygen. The fruit aromas and flavors will begin to subside, and more buttery, nutty and spicy characteristics will show.


oxidized -
A wine that has been overexposed to oxygen.


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palate -
1. The flavors of a wine.
2. The inside of your mouth.


peak -
The point when a wine is at its absolute perfect time to drink. Not too young, not too old.


peppery -
A component in wine aromas or flavors, whether red, white, black or bell.


perfume -
A positive term describing the floral components of a wine's bouquet.


perlant -
Fr. A wine that is very slightly sparkling.


petillant -
Fr. A wine with just enough carbon dioxide to make it sparkle.


petit chateau -
Fr. Literally "small house". In France, a wine that is not a cru classé or cru bourgeois.


pH -
A measure of the alkalinity of a liquid. The perceived acidity of a wine on the palate is more closely linked to the pH of a wine than the amount of total acid in the wine.


phylloxera -
A vine louse that feeds on the roots of vines. It spread from America to most regions in the world in the 1800s killing thousands of vineyards. To this day, vines in most parts of the world are grafted onto phylloxera resistant American rootstock.


premier cru -
Fr. Literally "first growth". This term has different meanings in different regions. In Burgundy and Champagne it has specific meaning, denoting wines from vineyards of the high quality (below grand cru). In other regions the term is largely uncontrolled and does not carry much significance.


pump-over -
A process during fermentation and maceration by which the juice is pumped out of the bottom of a tank and sprayed back over the cap. This increases the extraction of color, tannin and flavor from the skins.


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QbA, Qaulitätswein bestimmter Anabaugebiete -
Ger. The German equivalent of the French AOC.


QmP, Qualitätswein mit Prädikat -
Ger. Literally "quality wine with predication". A term for all German wines above QbA quality. The rating of QmP is determined by the ripeness level of the grapes at harvest.


quaffer -
A wine that is easy to slam back without much thought. Not complex, but not offensive either.


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racking -
The removal of wine from the lees.


racy -
Refers to wines that are very lively due to high acidity. When balanced, this can be a very good thing.


RD, recently disgorged -
A sparkling wine that has just been disgorged. The Champagne house Bollinger has trademarked the letters R.D.


remontage -
Fr. See pump over.


remuage -
Fr. A part of traditional method sparkling wine production in which the yeast and deposits in the bottle from the secondary fermentation are collected in the neck to be removed during disgorgement.


reserve wines -
Still wines (as opposed to sparkling) from past vintages that are held and blended prior to secondary fermentation in the making of non-vintage and multi-vintage Champagnes. This is important to maintain consistency and create a regular house style of Champagne.


Reserva -
Sp. Spanish law requires Reserva red wines to be aged a minimum of 3 years, at least 1 of which must be in oak. Whites and roses must be aged a minimum of 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.


residual sugar, RS -
Refers to the amount of sugar from unfermented grape juice still in the wine after it is finished being made. This sweetness is desirable in some wines, whereas other wines are fermented completely dry.


rich -
A wine that has ample body.


Riedel -
An Austrian manufacturer of glassware, most famous for their line of hand-blown leaded crystal wine glasses and decanters. They produce a different shape of glass for just about every kind of wine available. Believe it or not, drinking a wine from the appropriate Riedel glass will bring out aromas and flavors that are simply not noticeable in any other glass.


Right Bank -
The regions on the east side of the Gironde and Dordogne rivers in Bordeaux. Merlot and Cabernet Franc are typically the dominant grapes in this region. Pomerol and St-Emilion are the most famous regions in the Right Bank.


ripe -
The physiological term for a grape that is fully developed. Grapes ripen, whereas wines mature.


ripe acidity -
Refers to the tartaric acid in ripe grapes as opposed to the malic acid in unripe grapes.


Robert Parker -
One of the foremost wine critics in the world, particularly known for his reviews of ageworthy red Bordeaux and Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. His reviews have the power to affect global pricing of wines that he lauds and wines that he pans. This has caused much debate, as many winemakers have been accused of making "Parkerized" wines, or wines that appeal directly to Parker and would thus achieve better reviews, rather than wines that are true to the nature of the grape and region where they are being produced.


rootstock -
The lower part of a grafted vine which roots in the earth. Different rootstocks are chosen based on various soil, climate and pest tolerances and resistances.


rosé -
A fairly broad term for wine ranging from very pale pink to fairly dark ruby. It can be made in a variety of ways, but typically from black grapes where the juice receives very brief skin contact. Another method more common in Champagne is done by adding still red wine to white wine.


round -
A wine that has been appropriately aged in bottle so all the acid and tannins come across as smooth in the mouth.


row -
Vines are typically planted in orderly rows to allow easier access to the grapes by people and machines (like tractors).


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saignée -
Fr. A method of rosé production in which free run juice is drawn off the skins after minimal contact.


sec -
Fr. Dry. Refers to wines with no residual sugar (or so little that the wines do not taste sweet).


secondary fermentation -
A fermentation that takes place under pressure so the carbon dioxide remains in suspension in the wine. This is crucial for the creation of mousse in sparkling wines.


sediment -
The deposit of materials in the bottom of a bottle after prolonged aging. This can be prevented by filtration before the wine is bottled, but too much filtration can strip the wine of flavor and color. A little sediment is natural in older wines, and is not harmful. It can be removed through proper decanting.


sekt -
Ger. Sparkling wine. Most German sparkling wines are produced from bulk still wines purchased from other countries within the European Union. Sparkling wines made with German grapes will say Deutscher Sekt on the bottle.


sélection de grains nobles, SGN -
Fr. Literally "selection of noble berries". Refers to botrytized wine made in Alsace.


short -
A wine with very little length or persistence on the finish.


skin-contact -
The maceration period when the fermenting juice is in contact with the skins to extract color, tannins and aromas.


smooth -
Even more approachable and velvety than a round wine. Most often a reference to the finish of a wine.


soft -
Similar to smooth but applies more to the entry and mid-palate. A wine can be too soft and end up being flabby.


sommelier -
A person who is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, most often working in fine restaurants, and specializing in all aspects of wine service. The term can have a wide application to people with varying degrees of knowledge, as there is no certification or aptitude required to use this title. The Master Sommelier qualification is awarded only to a select few sommeliers who have achieved a diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers.


soutirage -
Fr. See racking.


sparkling wine -
A wine that has been forced to retain carbon dioxide so as to be bubbly when the cork is removed. Sparkling wines tend to go with more foods than any other type of wine, and are great before, during and after a meal. Too many people consume these just for special occasions, which happen far too seldom.


spatlese -
Ger. A level of German QmP wine above kabinett and below auslese that is made from late picked grapes. Although the wines are often sweet, the term refers to the level of ripeness when harvested, not the amount of sugar in the finished wine.


spit -
A technique used when tasting dozens of wines in a short period of time. Spitting out the wine instead of swallowing it slows the body's absorption of alcohol and allows one to taste a greater number of wines before the tastebuds become numb to the flavors.


spray -
The most common method for dealing with vineyard pests (bugs, fungus, etc) is by spraying the vineyards with chemicals. This can have a negative affect on the grapes and the environment if done in excess, so many wineries are moving towards using as few chemicals as possible. Not all sprays are chemical though, and some natural substitutes are being used.


spumante -
It. Sparkling.


stickies -
A term used for sweet wines, most commonly applied to the very rich and heavy Australian late harvest and fortified wines.


stomp -
The traditional method for extracting the juice from grapes is by having groups of people stomp on them in bare feet, squishing the juice out. This is still practiced in some parts of the world (like Portugal) though most wineries have done away with this practice by implementing more sanitary mechanical methods.


stuck fermentation -
A premature stopping of fermentation which can be caused by a variety of factors including extreme temperature (above 95°F), nutrient deficiency and too much sugar, all of which cause yeast cells to die.


sugar -
Wine is created when yeast transforms the natural grape sugar into alcohol by a process of fermentation. In general there is a small amount of sugar remaining in the wine after fermentation, but in the majority of dry wines the level of sugar is so low that people cannot taste it. Some wines are made leaving larger amounts of sugar behind so a wine has perceptible sweetness to it. Both dry and sweet wines can be very high quality as long as the sugar is in balance with the rest of the wine.


sulfur dioxide -
A compound used in several stages of the winemaking process as both an antioxidant (to prevent oxidation) and an antiseptic (to prevent bacterial formation). Too much can cause off burnt match or rotten egg aromas and flavors in a wine. The burnt match aromas can fade if the bottle is left open for a brief time, but the rotten egg is caused by the sulfur dioxide forming hydrogen sulfide compounds, and is very difficult to remove.


super-second -
A term that evolved in the 1960s - 1980s referring to Second Growth classified Bordeaux that performed equal to or above the quality of the First Growths.


super-tuscan -
A term spawned in Tuscany in the 1980s when some producers began adding Cabernet Sauvignon to their wines that resulted in wines of superior quality to those made from the traditional Sangiovese grape.


supple -
1. A wine that is soft on the palate.
2. The convenient last name of somebody in the wine industry looking for an ironically suitable moniker for a company.


supple tannin -
Refers to tannins from ripe grapes that are not harsh or mouth-puckering. Tannins also soften and become more supple with time as wine ages in the bottle.


sur lie -
Fr. Literally "on the lees". Lees tend to help prevent oxidation in wines, and wines aged sur lie can have fresher aroma and flavor characteristics.


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table wine -
A wine of any quality (low to excellent) that is not fortified or sparkling; this is the definition when the term is used in our "Type of Wine" column of the Grades. It can also be associated with lower quality wines as it is the literal translation of the French term vin de table.


tank method -
See charmat.


tannin -
A phenolic substance in wine that comes from grape skins, seeds and stems, as well as oak. Tannins help give structure to a wine, and when ripe and properly balanced are essential to the longevity of good red wines. A wine with too much tannin can feel almost painful to drink when young, but will be more likely to age longer. Wine with very little tannin will feel softer in the mouth and be much easier to drink when young, but will be less likely to age well. Just because a wine has a lot of tannin does not mean it will be undrinkable. Tannins can feel unripe (coarse) or ripe (fine) in the mouth. If they are ripe or fine they add a feeling of silkiness to the wine. If they are coarse or unripe they can cause the wine to feel chunky and angular. To understand what tannins feel like in your mouth, boil some water and put a fresh tea bag in it, leaving it to steep for about 20 minutes. Don't add anything else to the tea. Take a sip and swish it around your mouth. The dry, astringent and chalky feeling you get (mostly on the sides of your tongue) is caused by tannins in the tea.


tart -
A noticeable quantity of acid in a wine.


tartaric acid -
The acid of grapes that is detectable on the tongue. It increases when the grapes go through véraison.


tartrate crystals -
Small objects that resemble sugar crystals and that can precipitate out of wine when it gets cold. These are not harmful and do not affect the quality of the wine. They can be prevented by cold stabilization. They may also form on corks that have been sterilized with metabisulphite before bottling.


tastes/smells -
Of course wine smells and tastes like grapes, but it is a unique drink because it also has the ability to evoke aromas and flavors of thousands of other things. Some common categories of aromas found in wine are: fruity, spicy, floral, chemical, earthy, woody, nutty, vegetative and herbaceous. Smell is tied very strongly to memory so many people often pick different things out of the same wine because they are drawing from different memories - i.e. you can't smell it in a glass of wine if you've never smelled it in real life!


TBA, Trockenbeerenauslese -
Ger, A level of German QmP wine made from individually selected and hand-picked grapes that are affected by botrytis. These are among some of the best sweet wines in the world. They are produced in tiny quantities and are quite expensive.


tca; 2,4,6-trichloroanisole -
The agent that causes wines to be corked.


tears -
A more modern terms for legs.


terroir -
Fr. Literally "soil". It refers to the unique climatic and soil conditions of an area that make quality of the grapes distinct to that specific region.


tête de cuvée -
Fr. The first juice that comes out during the press. This juice is the highest in quality and has the best balance of acids, sugars and minerals.


thin -
A wine that is lacking in body.


tight -
A young wine that has muted aromas and flavors, and needs time to show its true potential.


traditional method -
A term used outside of Champagne to describe wines that are made in the Methode Champenoise.


transfer method -
A method of sparkling wine production. After the secondary fermentation in bottle the wine is dumped into a tank and filtered under pressure to retain the mousse before being rebottled.


Tuesnight -
The one night of the week explicitly reserved for drinking sparkling wine. Everybody already knows all about Mondays, and Wednesday is hump day, but poor old Tuesday gets lost in the mix. Well no longer. Your week is still not even halfway done and you deserve something good. Any region, any price range, any grapes - as long as it sparkles then you're celebrating Tuesnight in style.


typicity -
A wine that accurately displays specific characteristics known to be associated with a particular grape or region.


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Umami -
A fifth basic taste (along with salty, sweet, sour and bitter) that is commonly associated with Asian foods. It can be helpful in pairing wines with foods. Its legitimacy is still under debate in some scientific circles.


undertone -
Minor aroma and flavor components in a wine that help make up the bouquet and palate.


ungenerous -
A wine that just will not give much in the way of aromas or flavors. This could be due to the wine being young or in bottle shock, but it could also be a sign of a wine past its prime or one poorly made in the first place.


up front -
A wine that presents a lot of big bold fruit readily in the aromas and particularly on the front of the palate. Often new world wines are up front.


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varietal -
The term for a wine named after the dominant grape from which it is made. Often mistakenly used for vine variety.


vegetal -
A description for aromas or flavors in a wine that pertain to the vegetable kingdom, such as "green pepper" or "asparagus". While characteristic of some vine varieties, it more often denotes that the grapes were unripe when harvested and is a negative characteristic in the wine.


vendange tardive, VT -
Fr. Late harvest.


véraison -
Fr. The moment during ripening when the grapes begin to change color.


vertical tasting -
A tasting of the same wine across several different vintages. (i.e. Chateau Margaux 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.)


vigneron -
Fr. Vineyard worker.


vignoble -
Fr. Vineyard.


vin de paille -
Fr. Literally "straw wine". A sweet wine made from grapes left to dry and raisin in the sun on straw mats.


vin de pays, VDP -
Fr. Literally "country wine". One step in quality above vin de table.


vin de table -
Fr. Literally "table wine". The lowest level of wine in France. Neither the grape variety nor the area of origin is allowed to be put on the label. Generally a blend of different grapes from different areas.


vin gris -
Fr. A very pale and delicate rosé typically made in the saignée method.


vin mousseux -
Fr. Sparkling wine.


vine variety -
One of any number of distinct vines within a specific vine genus.


vinification -
The process of making wine, from the picking of the berries to the end of the bottling line.


vino de la tierra -
Sp. The Spanish equivalent to the French vin de pays.


vino de mesa -
Sp. The Spanish equivalent to the French vin de table.


vintage -
The year in which the grapes are harvested. By European Union law (and also in the US), a wine may have a vintage date on the bottle if a minimum of 85% of the wine in the bottle is from one vintage.


viticulture -
The cultivation of vines.


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wine -
Yes, this is actually an entry. Wine does not just refer to grapes. Technically speaking, wine is any fermented fruit mash. ["Yuzu" is citrus wine made from the Japanese fruit by that name. Plum wine is common in sushi restaurants - often heavy and very sweet, and known to cause me hangovers.] In this industry, "wine" usually refers to the fermented juice of fresh grapes. Champagne is simply wine with bubbles caused by one of various methods. Port is wine with extra alcohol added to it.


WSET -
Wine and Spirits Education Trust. An organization based in London founded to provide high quality education and training for people in the wine and spirits industries. Since 1969, WSET has grown into the foremost international body in the field of wines and spirits education, with a suite of sought-after qualifications. Receiving a Diploma in Wines and Spirits is their highest qualification, and is a prerequisite to beginning the Master of Wine program. Individuals who successfully complete the Diploma program are elligible to become Associate members of the Institute of Wines and Spirits and are entitled to the post-nomial AIWS.


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yeast -
Single celled organisms that convert the sugars in grape must into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the process of fermentation.


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