The Wine Glossary for every Wine Lover

Old Wine

AMARONE The most famous dried grape wine in Italy produced from the same grapes and in the same zones as Valpolicella. High-quality grape bunches are dried, often allowing Botrytis to form on the grapes. The grapes are then pressed and fermented, resulting in an intense, highly alcoholic wine with some oxidative qualities that vary depending on the presence of noble rot.

APPELLATION d’ORIGINE CONTRÔLÉE (AOC)This is the French appellation system that controls and designates wines, spirits, cheeses, and other foods of distinct geographic regions in France. Pessac-Léognan is an important wine appellation created in 1987 in Northern Graves, Bordeaux, renowned for red wines with longevity.

ASSEMBLAGE The blending of base wines to create a final cuveé, or blend. This is a crucial part of the champagne vinification process.

ASTRINGENCY A sensation of puckering or drying of the mouth’s tissues. Puckering is a tactile response to compounds such as tannins.

AUSLESE A classification in the German QmP system that means“selected”. These wines are sweeter than Spätlese.

BALANCE A reference to the harmonious relationship between the acids, alcohol, tannins and other compounds in wine.

AVA An AVA is an American Viticultural Area that has been recognized by the federal government for a distinctive combination of soil, climate, and identifiable regional wine character.AVAs are often referred to as appellations or districts, such as the Yountville District or the Napa Valley appellation. The word appellation (and the AVA concept) comes from the French Appellation d’Origine Côntrolée laws, which are laws meant to ensure quality within specific regions of France.

BARRIQUE French word for a barrel. Used worldwide to describe any small oak cask.

BEERENAUSLESE The fourth level of the German QmP system. Wines of this classification are made from grapes that are harvested later and have undergone some noble rot. They tend to be rich and sweet.

BENTONITE A type of clay that is used in the process of fining. Clay is mixed into wine to clarify it. As the clay settles to the bottom, it absorbs and carries with it suspended particles.

BIODYNAMIC A way of farming without the use of chemical or synthetic sprays or fertilisers, vinified with natural yeast, and minimal use of filtration, sulfur, and chaptalization. Biodynamic grape growers also base their planting and harvesting schedule by astrological events and cycles.

BLANC DE BLANCS A term literally meaning, “white of whites,” referring to a wine that is made from white grapes. For example, champagne produced with only Chardonnay grapes.

BLANC DE NOIRS Literally, “white of blacks”, describing a white wine made from black grapes, usually pinot noir in champagne.

BODY The impression of weight or fullness on the palate; usually the result of a combination of glycerin, alcohol, and sugar.

BOTRYTIS CINERE A beneficial form of Botrytis bunch rot commonly referred to as “noble rot” that produces flavours that harmonise with the grape flavours. One of the most famous is the sweet wine, Sauternes.

BRUT A general term used to designate a relatively dry (low sugar content) champagne or sparkling wine.

CHARMAT Method of producing sparkling wines, aka, Metodo Italiano or Martinotti-Charmat
with the second fermentation in stainless steel tanks instead of the bottle as in the traditional méthode champenoise.

COULURE (pronounced coo-LYUR) is triggered by periods of cold, cloudy, rainy weather or very high out-of-season temperatures that causes a failure of grapes to develop after flowering. Flowers stay close and are not fertilized. It also occurs in vines that have little sugar content in their tissue.

CUVEÉ A blend or a special lot of wine.

DECANT Pouring wine out of the bottle to aerate and remove sediment

DISGORGING (dégorgement) Disgorging in sparkling wines involves the freezing and ejection of yeasty sediment that settles in the neck of a bottle after the second fermentation.

DOSAGE In bottle-fermented sparkling wines, a small amount of (usually sweet) wine is added back to the bottle after the yeast sediment that collects in the neck of the bottle is disgorged.

EN PRIMEUR is commonly associated with Bordeaux wine where the previous year’s harvest is available for tasting and contract sales several months before the wine will be bottled and released.

FERMENTATION The process of converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide affected by the oxygen-free metabolism of yeast.

FILTRATION Straining solid particles in wine with various typesof filters. An alternative to naturalsettling,it speeds up the winemaking process, allowing better control. It is sometimes argued that filtration strips a fine wine of some of its complexity and capacity for aging.

FINING The process of clarificationand stabilisation by adding a clarifying agent to coagulate or absorb the colloids in a wine forefficient precipitation. Commonly used fining agents include egg whites, fish bladders (isinglass).

FORTIFIED Denotes a wine whose alcohol content has been increased by the addition of brandy or other neutral spirits.

GREEN HARVEST Trimming unripe grapes to decrease crop yields, thereby increasing the concentrationof flavours in the remaining bunches.

HALBTROCKEN Means “half dry” in German and in wine.

JEROBOAM An oversized bottle holding the equivalent of six bottles. In Champagne, a jeroboam holds four bottles.

KABINETT The first level of the German QmP rating system, indicating a wine made from ripe berries that are not purposefully harvested late. This is the driest of the designations.

LATE HARVEST On labels, indicates that a wine was made from grapes picked later than normal and at a higher sugar level than normal. Often associated with botrytized and dessert-style wines.

LEES Spent yeasty sediment remaining in a barrel or tank during and after fermentation.

LIQUEUR D’EXPÉDITION The wine that is added to top up the wine in the bottle after disgorging. It is a mixture of wine and a small amount of sugar to balance high levels of acidity.

Old WineMETHUSELAH An extra-large bottle holding six litres, the equivalent of eight standard bottles.

MOUTHFEEL The tasting term used particularly for red wines to describe the texture of a wine within the mouth. This relates to attributes such as smoothness or grittiness. Among the factors that influence a wine’s mouthfeel are tannin, acidity, body, and bitterness.

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

NEBUCHADNEZZAR A giant wine bottle holding 15 litres; the equivalent of 20 standard bottles.

NOUVEAU A style of light, fruity, youthful red wine bottled and sold as soon as possible. Applies mostly to Beaujolais.

NON-VINTAGE Blended from more than one vintage. This allows the vintner to maintain a house style from year to year. Many champagnes and sparkling wines, ports, and sherries are non-vintage.

OXIDISED Wine that has been exposed too long to oxygen and taken on a brownish colour, losing its freshness. Oxidised wines are also called maderised or sherrified.

PHENOLICS Phenolics in wine that mostly come from the pulp, skin, seeds and stems of grapes are molecules that help preserve wine by absorbing oxygen. They are also responsible for structure, colour and ageing potential in red wines. Two key phenolics found in wine are tannin and anthocyanin.

PHYLLOXERA Tiny aphids (root lice) that attack vitis vinifera roots. The disease was widespread in
both Europe and California during the late 19th century, and returned to California in the 1980s. There is no known cure at this time. Vinifera vines are instead grafted on to native American rootstocks.

QMP OR QUALITÄTSWEIN MITPRÄDIKAT German for a ‘qualitywine with distinction’, a classification based on the level of ripeness of the grapes. The grapes must be picked as specified by law and the wines cannot have any added sugar. The six levels of QmP wines, starting with the driest and harvested earliest, are Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, and Trockenbeerenauslese.

QUALITÄTSWEIN German for “quality wine.” A broad category encompassing the majority ofGerman wine. It includes QmP and QbA wines. In Austria, it is the category between Landwein and Prädikatswein.

RACKING The practice of moving wine by hose from one container to another, leaving the sediment behind, for the purpose of aeration or clarification.

White grapesREMUAGE In sparkling wine production, a tedious process where each individual bottle is rotated and tilted very slightly over time so that the yeast is loosened and settles into the neck of the bottle.

RIPASSO A traditional style in Italy’s Veneto region, where fresh, young Valpolicella wine is placed in contact with the used lees and unpressed skins of Amarone wines after their fermentation, activating a second fermentation, which imparts a sweet, raisiny character into the young wine while increasing alcohol content.

SAIGNÉE Meaning “bleeding” in French, involves making rosé as a by-product of red wine fermentation, where a portion of the pink juice from the grape must is removed at an early stage, and fermented separately to produce rosé.

SALMANAZAR An oversized bottle holding nine litres, the equivalent of 12 regular bottles.

STRUCTURE The interaction of elements such as acid, tannin, glycerin, alcohol and body as it relates to a wine’s texture and mouthfeel. Usually preceded by a modifier, as in “firm structure” or“lacking in structure”.

SUR LIE Wines aged sur lie (Frenchfor “on the lees”) are kept in contact with the dead yeast cells and are not racked or otherwise filtered. This is mainly done for whites, to enrich them (it is a normal part of fermenting red wine, and so is not noted).

TANNINS Compounds that contribute to a wine’s structure, mouthfeel, and astringency. Tannins in wine are derived from grape skins, seeds, and stems. The more contact the juice has with these elements, the more tannic the wine.

TERROIR The overall environment within which a given grape variety grows. Derived from the French word for Earth, “terre”.

TROCKEN The German word for “dry” and indicates dry wine.

TROCKENBEERENAUSLESE Wines made from grapes picked after they are fully infected with noble rot.
The water has dried leaving behind more concentration. The wine produced is golden and honeyed, high in alcohol and lusciously sweet. The best quality is balanced by acidity and thus avoids being cloyingly sweet.

UNION DE GRANDS CRUS an organisation comprising 134 estates located in exalted Bordeaux appellations of the Gironde like Barsac, Graves, Médoc, Pessac- Léognan, Pomerol, Sauternes and Saint Emilion.

VARIETAL A varietal is a wine named for the dominant grape variety although other grape varieties may also be present in the wine.

VITIS VINIFERA Classic European winemaking species of grape. Examples include cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. There are many other species of grapes such as Vitis Labrusca, a North American grape species.

VOLATILE ACIDITY Describes an excessive and undesirable amount of acidity, which gives a wine a slightly sour, vinegary edge. At very low levels (0.1%), it is largely undetectable. At higher levels, it is considered a major defect.

YEAST Micro-organisms that produce the enzymes which convert sugar to alcohol. Yeast is necessary for the fermentation of grape juice.