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Wine Glossary
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An essential component in wine. Malic, citric and tartaric acids come from the grape; lactic acid converts the malic acid to a softer one during fermentation. The oxidation of alcohol can cause acetic acid, sometimes referred to as volatile acidity. Acidity can balance sweetness, and is necessary for wines to age well.

The process of letting a wine "breathe" in the open air, or swirling wine in a glass. It's debatable whether aerating bottled wines (mostly reds) improves their quality. Aeration can soften young, tannic wines; it can also fatigue older ones.

The taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is tasted, spit or swallowed. The aftertaste or "finish" is the most important factor in judging a wine's character and quality. Great wines have rich, long, complex aftertastes.

All wine is aged, from a few weeks to many decades. Ageing in barrels is a very slow oxidation, and the barrels can impart flavors to the wine: bottle ageing allows the wines to soften and various components within the wine to harmonize. After a certain point all wine will decline in the bottle. The difference between oak and stainless steel barrels is evident.

Appellation d'origine controlee

Any wine served before a meal. Traditionally, aperitifs were vermouths or other similar wines flavored with herbs and spices.

Defines the area where a wine's grapes were grown, such as Bordeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin, Napa Valley or Russian River Valley. Regulations vary widely from country to country. In order to use an appellation on a California wine label, for example, 85 percent of the grapes used to make the wine must be grown in the specified district.

A term loosely used to describe the smell of wine, specifically it refers to the smells that derive from grapes. Now it more commonly means the wine's total smell, including changes that resulted from oak aging or that occurred in the bottle--good or bad. "Bouquet" has a similar meaning.

It is the blending of several wines from different grape-varieties, independently vinified.

A lighter style, fresh , easy to drink wine.

A tasting term, states whether the fruit, acid, wood flavors etc. are in the right proportion. A wine is well-balanced when none of those characteristics dominates. The general balance of a wine corresponds to the proportion between its smooth and its harsh nature.

A container of various sizes, usually made of wood, most typically oak. New barrels give more flavors to the wine, how long a barrel is toasted for, where the oak comes from and who coopers (makes) it, all affect the final product.

A system used to measure specific gravity, which indicates the sugar of unfermented grape juice. 1° Baumé is roughly equivalent to 1% alcohol when the wine is fully fermented.

A marked degree of acidity or tannin. An acid grip in the finish should be more like a zestful tang and is tolerable only in a rich, full-bodied wine.

Describes one of the four basic tastes (along with sour, salty and sweet). Some grapes--notably Gewürztraminer and Muscat--often have a noticeable bitter edge to their flavors. Another source of bitterness is tannin or stems. If the bitter quality dominates the wine's flavor or aftertaste, it is considered a fault. In sweet wines a trace of bitterness may complement the flavors. In young red wines it can be a warning signal, as bitterness doesn't always dissipate with age. Normally, a fine, mature wine should not be bitter on the palate.

Black rot
Fungus disease of grape vines

French word for 'white'.

The weight of wine in your mouth. Alcohol makes a wine seem heavier, as does tannin. Commonly expressed as full-bodied, medium-bodied or medium-weight, or light-bodied.

Also known as 'noble rot'. A fungus that attacks the skin of grapes, causing water to evaporate and thus increasing the sugar content. It is key to the production of great sweet wines such as Sauterne (from France), Trockenbeerenauslese (from Germany) and many new world 'stickies'.

A tasting term used to describe the smell of the wine as it matures in the bottle. Aroma denotes the smell of the grape.

Allowing a bottle of wine stand for several minutes (to several hours) after the cork is removed, but before serving it. It is believed that wines may be improved by air exposure prior to serving.

A scale used to measure sugar content of grapes and wine. Each degree of Brix is equivalent to 1 gram of sugar per 100 grams of grape juice. See also Baumé

French for 'Dry'.

Indicates the smell of melted butter or toasty oak. Also a reference to texture, as in "a rich, buttery Chardonnay."

Charmat method
The method of putting bubbles in wine by adding sugar to a sealed tank, letting the second fermentation take place, and transferring to a bottle under pressure. Less expensive and time consuming than Methode Champenoise.

Describes rich, heavy, tannic wines that are full-bodied

Describes wines that are concentrated and have character, yet are shy in aroma or flavor.

Common term in general use to describe any container used for aging and storing wine - includes barrels and tanks of all sizes

The wine tastes of cork, it is unpleasant to smell and taste, slightly musty. Bad corks are a relatively common problem.

A tasting term, denotes a fresh, young, wine with good acidity.

Harvest season when the grapes are picked and crushed.

Pouring a wines directly from its bottle in a jug, in order to separate it of its sediment and to oxygenate it and liberate its aromas.

Used to describe light- to medium-weight wines with good flavors. A desirable quality in wines such as Pinot Noir or Riesling.

Describes a wine that has concentrated aromas on the nose and palate. A good sign in young wines.

Describes the complexity and concentration of flavors in a wine, as in a wine with excellent or uncommon depth. Opposite of shallow.

A tasting term referring to the maturity of a wine.

Covers any and all foul, rank, off-putting smells that can occur in a wine, including those caused by bad barrels or corks. A sign of poor winemaking.

Used to describe both positive and negative attributes in wine. At its best, a pleasant, clean quality that adds complexity to aroma and flavors. The flip side is a funky, barnyardy character that borders on or crosses into dirtiness.

Used to describe wines of grace, balance and beauty.

Similar to hollow; devoid of flavor and interest.

Describes a wine that is losing color, fruit or flavor, usually as a result of age.

Grape sugar is converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the action of yeast. For dry wines the process is allowed to continue until all the sugar has been converted into alcohol. For wines such as port, fermentation is stopped by the addition of high level alcohol which kills the yeast and allows some sugars to remain in the juice, unfermented.

The process of clarifying wine to remove any solids.

The taste that remains in the mouth after swallowing. A 'long finish' is desired in a good wine. Great wines have rich, long, complex finishes, also called aftertaste.

Soft, feeble, lacking acidity on the palate.

Having low acidity; the next stage after flabby. Can also refer to a sparkling wine that has lost its bubbles.

A tasting term referring to the flavor of grapes, which can include flavors of berries, citrus etc.

Describes a wine that is harmonious and pleasing in a subtle way.

Process of reproduction of the plant, by grafting a branch on a selected root stock in order to favour the development of solid vinestock.

A vine fruit, and the only one from which experts accept real wine can be made. There are thousands of varieties of grapes, some for eating and others for wine production. Wine grapes are known as varietals - Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon etc.

Characterized by simple flavors and aromas associated with fresh table grapes; distinct from the more complex fruit flavors (currant, black cherry, fig or apricot) found in fine wines.

In viticulture, a cross between two different species or varieties of grapes, with the purpose of creating a new grape variety with especially desirable characteristics.

Ice wine
Wine made from frozen grapes. The grapes are pressed while frozen and only the juice (never the solids) is used in the fermentation. Canadians originated the process and own the trade name.

A red grapes grown all over Italy, used to make slightly sweet, effervescent wines. It Italy also used for still wines that should be drunk young.

Late harvest
Wines made from grapes that were allowed to hang on the vine until their sugar content was very high, thus the resulting wine is sweet

The viscous droplets that form and ease down the sides of the glass when the wine is swirled. Tears are formed more readily by higher alcohol wines.

The amount of time the sensations of taste and aroma persist after swallowing. The longer the better.

During fermentation, the steeping of the grape skins and solids in the wine, where alcohol acts as a solvent to extract color, tannin and aroma from the skins.

Malolactic fermentation
The process in which lactic acid converts malic acid, resulting wines are soft in style, sometimes taste 'buttery.'

These are fortfied wines from the western tip of Sicily. As with Sherry and Madeira the flavor comes from oxidation. The various quality levels for Marsala are Fine - the lowest level, 1 year of aging and 17% alcohol; Superiore - 2 years of aging and 18% alcohol; Superiore Riserva - 4 years of aging; Vergine - This is the higest quality, it cannot have concentrated must added, and must be aged in wood for a minimum of 5 years and Vergine Riserva - These wines are dry and somewhat austere, they are aged in wood for a minimum of 10 years and usually served as an aperitif.

Medoc(pronounced may-doc)
Red wine district within the Bordeaux region of France

Merlot (pronounced mer-low')
One of the great red varieties of Bordeaux. Also produces fine red wines in California, Chile, Australia, Argentina and in many other regions. They tend to age a little faster in the bottle, making the wine somewhat faster to attain drinkability in your cellar.

Methode Champenoise
The method by which real Champagne gets its bubbles, i.e. the secondary fermentation takes place within the bottle.

Méthode Champenoise
French term, developed in the Champagne region, used to describe sparkling wine made via the classic methode of secondary fermentation taking place naturally in the individual bottle.

French term used to describe sparkling wine made by the Charmat Method - a method where sparkling wine is made in bulk in sealed tanks and then bottled under pressure.

More than deeply colored; lacking brightness, turbid and sometimes a bit swampy. Mainly a fault of red wines.

The unfermented juice of grapes extracted by crushing or pressing; grape juice in the cask or vat before it is converted into wine.

A tasting term to describe a stale smell, sometimes dissipates with airing the wine, sometimes the result of a bad cork.

Having an off-putting moldy or mildewy smell. The result of a wine being made from moldy grapes, stored in improperly cleaned tanks and barrels, or contaminated by a poor cork.

Would like to see a definition

Noble Rot
Common name for Botrytis cinerea, the famous fungus of more than a few fabulous dessert wines.

Nose (Aroma)
The character of a wine as determined by the olfactory sense. Also called aroma; includes bouquet.

Wood used for barrels. Oaky refers to the flavors that using oak imparts to wine. Oak barrels can also give a vanilla flavor to wine.

A tasting term to describe stale or 'off' wines, caused by exposure to air.

A tasting term referring to the feel and taste of wine in the mouth. 'Nose' refers to the smell.

A tasting term referring to a delicate bouquet.

A measure of the intensity of the acidity (hydrogen ions) in grape juice and wine. pH is often a better measure of acid balance in a juice than is the total acidity.

A vine disease caused by an aphid attacking the roots. Originally from America (where native vines were resistant) this disease has caused widespread global damage. New vineyards are being planted on American resistant rootstock grafted with 'vitis vinifera' grape varieties.

The pomace is the residue of the harvest. It contains stems, skin and pips. It can be distilled to obtain raw brandy.

A fortified wine of Portugal, also known as Oporto. Very richly flavored and sweet. There are a number of different styles: tawny - aged in wooden barrels, rather than the bottle, the age (10 years etc.) refers to the average age of the wine in the barrel: colheita - refers to a port of a single vintage that has been aged in wooden barrels: vintage- port of a specific year that is aged in the bottle; late bottled - aged in the barrel but not for as long as a tawny port; ruby - about three years old, sweet and ruby red colored, usually fruity and ready to drink.

The process of separating the clear wine from the solid elements suspended in the wine. The wine is left to settle for a period of time during which the solids sink to the bottom of the container. The clear wine is then drawn off the solids and transferred to another container. Sometimes fining agents are used to help the solid particles settle out before racking.

Residual sugar:
The amount of sugar left in a wine at bottling.

A dry white wine made in Greece, mostly from the Savatiano grape, to which pine resin has been added.

It is exceptional when a vinegrower manages to harvest when all his grapes are perfectly mature. Perfect ripeness is quiet unusual.

Means full-bodied, intense and vigorous, possibly a bit overblown.

Sangria is made from red wine, fruit juices, soda water and fruit. Sometimes brandy is added. Sangria Blanco is made from white wine. Both are served cold with ice.

An area located south of Lisbon (Portugal) that produces fortified wines from Muscat of Alexandria. The wines are aged in large vats and small barresl for 5 or 6 years, resulting in a deep golden wine capable of aging for many years.

A tasting term to denote a wine which does not remain on the palate after swallowing - see 'finish.'

A tasting term used to describe a subtle wood-smoke aroma (from toasting the barrels) and also some wines (i.e.. Madeira) that seem to pick up a steely or smoky aroma from the earth in which they are grown.

A tasting term to describe a wine with low acid and gentle tannins.

A tasting term to describe flavors, Shiraz has a spicy flavor as does Gewurztraminer. A descriptor for many wines, indicating the presence of spice flavors such as anise, cinnamon, cloves, mint and pepper which are often present in complex wines.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
Used to kill wild yeasts, sterilize equipment and prevent oxidation. A naturally occurring substance.

A substance found in the skin of grapes, can be supplemented by oak tannins from barrels. A necessary component of wine that is to be aged. It is a bitter-tasting material which is partially responsible for preserving wines during their sometimes long aging periods. As a tasting term it identifies a dry sensation, with flavors of leather and tea.

Sharp-tasting because of acidity. Occasionally used as a synonym for acidic.

Tartaric Acid
A naturally occurring acid, found in grape juice and hence in wine. White crystals of tartrate salts can sometimes be precipitated from wines when they are chilled, they are harmless and tasteless. Tartaric acid is important for providing acid balance in wine and creating good ageing potential.

French word for earth or soil, used in the special sense of "place," which includes localized climate, soil type, drainage, wind direction, humidity and all the other attributes which combine to make one location different from another.

Lacking body and depth.

Celebrated sweet white wine; specifically, the special product of the Tokay district in northeastern Hungary. The chief grape variety is Furmint, although a little Harslevelu is also grown.

Varietal wine
A wine produced primarily from a single grape variety and labeled accordingly.

Having rich flavor and a silky, sumptuous texture.

The point in the development of a red grape when it turns from green to red. The process can take up to ten days from the time the first color shows until all the clusters in the vineyard turn completely red.

A wine based beverage that originated in Italy and is often served as an aperitif.

The natural evolution of the juice of grape, vine is only a way towards vinegar. Any wine might become vinegar.

Winemaking, including all the operations and processes involved. Often substituted for the word "winemaking."

Year of vinification.

Generally indicates a wine producer/or winery proprietor. (wine merchant)

The science and art of grape growing, as distinguished from viniculture, the science of wine-making.

White oak
The variety of American oak which is used to manufacture barrels

Promotes fermentation of grape juice. The 'dust' on a grape, known as the 'bloom' is wild yeast. Most wine makers prefer to use their own yeast strains.

Zero Dosage
Dosage is the mixture of sugar, wine and sometimes brandy, that is added back to Methode Champenoise wines to create the sparkle through secondary fermentation. Zero dosage is a blend of wines that contains no sugar, thus creating the driest style sparkling wine.

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