Acidification- The addition of natural acids to wines that are too low.  Tartaric acid is the most common but small amounts of citric acid are also sometimes added.  The laws allowing or against acidification vary by country or production zone.

Aeration - Allowing a wine to come in contact with the air (oxygen) to let younger wines open up.  There is debate among wine experts and drinkers alike as to whether letting wines 'breathe' improves them.  Young tannic wines can often be softened with exposure to oxygen.  Older, mature wines can quickly lose their bouquet and aroma when exposed to air.

Alcohol - Alcohol (ethanol) is the main permanent product of yeast activity.  Many wine components in wine, such as tannin are present because they are dissolved in the alcohol.  A wine with a low alcohol may smell and taste thin and simple.  A wine that is high in alcohol has a strong, heady, hot nose and the taster will feel a spreading warmth after swallowing.  Laws in the United States allow a margin of 1.5 percent greater or less than the alcohol content printed on the label as long as it does not cross a tax bracket.  Many wineries use 12.5 percent on the label with the knowledge that the wine could be as low as 11% or as high as 14% alcohol.

Appellation - The official name of the area of origin of a wine.  Appellation d'Origine Controlee is the term applied in France for the laws controlling wine and its production.  Laws in most other countries had their beginnings based on the A.O.C laws of France. Aroma - The primary fresh fruit smells that come from a wine as distinguished from the secondary smells of winemaking and tertiary smells of bottle age.  The latter categories are usually referred to as bouquet.

Balance - A reference to the levels of dominance of the various flavors and components found in a wine.  When well balanced, the components blend harmoniously and no particular flavor or characteristic dominates.

BATF - United States Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms.  The Federal agency that regulates the production and sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.A.

Bright - See 'Crisp'

Brix - A measure of sugar in grapes.  It is partially this measure of sugar level that determines the harvest date of a vineyard.

Buttery - A descriptive term that refers to the aroma of butter in a wine.  It is caused by the presence of lactic acid created in malolactic fermentation.  This characteristic is most often found in wines made from Chardonnay.

Cava - The term used in Spain for sparkling wines produced with the traditional method used in the Champagne region of France.  Cavas may come from some villages in the provinces of La Rioja and Alava (parts of D.O. Rioja), of Navarra (parts of D.O. Navarra) and of Zaragossa (parts of D.O. Cariñena).  By far the most important zones are in Catalunya, where cava can be produced in villages of the provinces of Gerona (D.O. Ampurdan), Lerida (D.O. Costers del Segre), Tarragona (D.O. Tarragona, D.O. Conca de Barbera and parts of D.O. Penedes) and Barcelona (D.O. Penedes und D.O. Alella).  Of course Penedes is something of cava homeland.  More than 95 % of all Cavas come from the undisputed cava capital San Sadurni.

Cépage - grape variety

Chablis - The Chablis vineyard is situated in the North of Burgundy near the town of Auxerre in the Yonne department. It covers about 3500 hectares (8400 acres) in twenty different villages, including that of Chablis, from which the wine gets its name. The vines are planted on the slopes which are situated along both banks of the river Serain, a small tributary of the river Yonne. A South / South-East exposure helps give good ripening conditions to the grapes. The soil is composed of chalk and marl from the Jurassic period covered with pebbles. Chardonnay is the allowed grape variety in this region.  The Chablis vineyard is very sensitive to spring frosts.  In the United States, low priced jug wines use the name Chablis with no control of origin or content.

Chapitalization - The practice of adding more sugar to the 'must' than was developed naturally in the grapes that have been crushed.  This is allowed in some areas of the world that have difficulty bringing grapes to full maturity.

Clos - A vineyard that is entirely enclosed by a wall.

Cold stabilization - A technique that causes wine to drop tartaric acid crystals due to cooling to low temperatures (28 to 35 degrees) for a period of up to two weeks.  This procedure is usually used only for white wines.

Cooperage - A term that refers to the wooden barrels, vats and containers used in winemaking.  These vary dramatically in size from small barrels to huge vats.  The term can also be used to refer to the shop where a cooper performs his work.

Crisp - A descriptive term describing a wine with high levels of acidity.  The same as referring to a wine as 'bright' and the opposite of describing a wine as 'soft' or 'flabby'.


Denominación Especifica - A classification in Spain that guarantees the production process for a wine.  It does not guarantee the region of origin.

DOCG - An abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.  This is the highest ranking wine classification in Italy.  It guarantees the origin of the wine as well as certain production standards.

Dry - The opposite of sweet when describing wines.  Sweetness is tasted on the front of the tongue and starts to become noticeable to most people when the residual sugar is above 1%.

En Primeur - Wines that are sold from a winery after fermentation but before aging are called 'futures' or 'en Primeur'.  It is a common practice of many of the chateaux of Bordeaux to offer their wines for sale the first spring after the vintage.  These wines are not delivered for at least 18-24 months while the wines are finished and aged in the winery.  The advantage to the winery is that they get their money quickly rather than waiting two years before selling their wine.  For a customer (retailer, restaurant or consumer) the advantage is that the prices are much lower than the final release prices and the odds of getting rare wines are much improved.  If you choose to buy wines this way, be sure you are dealing with a very well established merchant.  You will need to pay some or all of the price of the wine on confirmation of the sale and will not get your wine for 1 1/2 to 2 years.

Flabby - A descriptive term to indicate a wine that is too 'soft' and has too little acid.  

Fining - The process of clarifying wine by removing suspended solids from wine before bottling.  This is usually done by adding egg whites or another fining agent (like bentonite) that using ionic bonding to attract the solids and drop them out of the wine.  This technique removes the protein haze that sometimes forms.

Finish - The aftertaste of a wine that remains once a wine is swallowed.  A characteristic of a 'better' wine is a finish that is of extended length and is harmonious and smooth.

Fino - A Sherry type that is dry with delicate aromas and flavors.  It is usually served as a chilled aperitif.  It should be consumed as young as possible because it will begin to oxidize within a year of bottling.  The entire bottle should be consumed within a week of opening.

Fortification - Introducing brandy into the fermenting must to stop the fermentation process.  By raising the alcohol level, the yeast are killed, fermentation ends and any unfermented sugars remain in the wine.  This is the way ports and several other fortified wines are produced.

Foxy - Musty, earthy flavor characteristics of native American wines.  This is usually a derogatory term when applied to a wine.

Futures - See 'En Primeur'

Lactic Acid - An acidic component of wines that is also found in diary products.

Lees - The solids which settle to the bottom of a barrel or vat as a wine ferments and ages.  In some wines the lees are stirred on a regular basis to create a richer fuller mouth feel in the wines.  Wines undergo racking to remove these sediments.

Left Bank - The side of a river that is to your left if you position yourself in the middle of the river and look downstream.  In Bordeaux, this would be the side that contains the Medoc.

Light - Describes a wine that is thin and has little body.

Lightstruck - A condition that can occur in wines (especially delicate wines like Champagne) when they are exposed to ultra-violet light rays for too long a time.  It is a flaw that has been described as having the smell and taste of wet cardboard. 

Maceration - This contact of grape skins with the juice is essential in making red wine.  It extracts phenolic compounds including tannin and color.

Mâcon - The Mâcon Appellation is situated in Southern Burgundy, on the right bank of the Saône River, North of the city of Mâcon. The soils there are granite with chalky underlying rocks. The white wines are made from the Chardonnay grape as are all the great white burgundies.

Malic Acid - A naturally occurring acid in many wines that is characterized by the sharp crisp acid in a 'Granny Smith' cooking apple.  This acid is often reduced in a wine through the use of malolactic fermentation.

Malolactic Fermentation - A second fermentation that can be induced by a winemaker that changes the malic acid in a wine into lactic acid.  The process softens the sharpness of a wine and can impart a 'buttery' aroma to some wines (especially Chardonnay).  Most red wines undergo malolactic fermentation.  This fermentation can also start unexpectedly in a winery that re-uses a vat or barrel that has previously had malolactic fermentation take place in it.

Marc - The material that remains in the wine press after the pressing has taken place.  This material is composed of skins, pulp, and pips.

Must - The mixture of unfermented grape juice and grape solids that is created at the initial crushing of harvested grapes. 


Nouveau - Literally 'new' in French, this term is used to describe the first wine of each vintage, Beaujolais Nouveau.  This wine from the Beaujolais region of Burgundy is made from the Gamay grape and is traditionally the first wine of each vintage.  By law, it is released worldwide to consumers on the third Thursday of November.  It is light and grapey in character and is not generally regarded as a serious wine.  It has always given an indication of the overall quality of the vintage and is an excuse for a good time.  Beaujolais Nouveau parties are held in many restaurants around the world as the wine is flown in from France in order to be available on the official release date.  Drink it within the first couple of months since it looses its charm as the fresh fruit fades.  


Oporto - The second largest city in Portugal behind Lisbon.  Oporto is the traditional home of the Port trade.  The Douro river runs through the production zone for Port in the upper Douro (Eastern Portugal) and through Oporto on its way to the Atlantic.


Organic Acids - The natural acids in wine include tartaric, malic, and citric.  Lactic acid will exist if malolactic fermentation has been completed.  Without sufficient acid, wines taste flat, age poorly and are more likely to spoil.  If there is too much acid, the wine tastes tart and puckery.


Oxidation - process of aging that occurs when oxygen comes in contact with wine.


Phylloxera - A root louse that attacks the roots of Vitus Vinifera grapes causing the death of the vine over a period of several years.  


Pips - Grape seeds.

Pouilly Fuissé - Situated at the southern end of Burgundy, the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyard is the most renowned of those in the Mâcon region. The vines grow in 5 villages : Pouilly, Fuissé, Chaintré, Vergisson and Solutré. The soil is composed of chalk and marl, typical of the five localities. The wines are made from the Chardonnay grape as are all the great white burgundies.   

Punt - A deep indentation found in the bottom of many wine bottles.  The earliest origins of the punt are lost to us but punts are believed to be for strength of the bottom of the bottle (especially with sparkling wine) or in order to form a stable (non-rocking) bottom in the hand-blown bottles.  Whatever the beginnings, a punt is unnecessary today and is used as a marketing tool.  Modern glass technology allows bottles to be made that do not require a punt for strength or stability.  Many consumers view wines in punt bottles to be of higher quality than those in bottles without punts.

Quinta -  The Portuguese word for a vineyard, farm or estate.

Racking - The act of moving wine from one barrel to another in order to separate it from settled solids (lees) at the bottom.  

Residual Sugar - Sugar remaining in a wine after fermentation has concluded.  These are usually natural grape sugars but can include added sugar in areas that allowchapitalization.  Wines with less than 1% of residual sugar are considered dry wines.  

Right Bank - The bank of a river that is to your right if you position yourself in the middle of the river and look downstream.  In Bordeaux, this would be the bank containingSaint Emilion and Pomerol.

Short - A descriptive term that describes a wine which has no lingering aftertaste or finish.

Soft - A term applied to a wine that is not bright, crisp or high in acid.

String Rim - Click here for info about string rims.

Sugar - Wines are chemically "dry", the opposite of sweet, when they test out to have less than 0.2% residual sugar.  The taste threshold for sweetness generally falls between 0.5% and 1%, though there are wine experts who have trained their palates to recognize as little as 0.3% residual sugar.  If a wine is higher in components that mask sugar, such as acidity, tannin or alcohol, the normal threshold may be higher.

Sulfites - Amino acids that result from the breakdown of proteins during fermentation.  They may be added to through the addition of sulphur during the winemaking process.

Tank - A large closed container used for the storing, fermenting or blending wine.  Tanks are often stainless steel, wood or fiberglass lined concrete.

Tannin - The astringent or bitter qualities in a wine come from tannins, which are found in grape skins, stems and seeds. Tannins are extracted from grapes by skin contact and heavy pressing.  Another source of a different type of tannin called flavonoids, is aging in oak barrels.  Subtle amounts of oak tannins can give wine an aromatic complexity that can be desireable.

Terroir - A French term used to describe the growing environment including the soil, drainage, exposure, micro-climate and other factors that make a site unique and different than another place.

Thin - A descriptive term used to describe a wine that lacks much flavor, body or depth.

Vat - An open topped container for holding wine during fermentation.  Usually quite large and made of stainless steel, wood or fiberglass lined concrete.

Vintage - Grape harvest.  If the year of a vintage is listed on a label, it indicates that the wine was made only from grapes harvested in that year.


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