Acid: A key element of wine present in all grapes. When acid is balanced, wine is fresh and has a long life.
Age: The process of maturing in wines. As white wines age, they tend to turn from a greenish hue to a yellowish tone to a golden amber color. Reds usually begin with a purple tone, turning to a deep brick red color depending on the grape. Rosés should be pink without any other color.
Alcohol: Alcohol is the natural by-product of fermentation. It is one of the main components of taste, the others being acid, residual sugar and tannin. The presence of these components defines a wine that has "good balance."
Anthocyanin: One of the phenolics present in wine; the red and blue pigments found in the skins of dark grape varieties.
Assemblage (ah-sem-blage): The process of blending high-value wines.
Appellation (app-el-ay-shun): The region where a specific grape is grown. Geography and climate combine to produce flavors and style characteristics, which are unique to a region.
Aroma: What gives a wine its distinctive “nose” or “bouquet.” The intensity and character of the aroma can be assessed with nearly any descriptive adjective. (eg: from "appley" to "raisiny", "fresh" to "tired", etc.). Usually refers to the particular smell of the grape variety. The word "bouquet" is usually restricted to describing the aroma of a cellar-aged bottled wine.
Astringent: High tannic acid content giving a furry feeling on the tongue.
AVA: The acronym for American Viticultural Area. An AVA is defined as “a delimited grape-growing region, distinguished by geographic features, the boundaries of which have been recognized and defined.” There are now more than 140 AVAs in the United States.
Balance: All elements of a wine are in harmony, with no one element dominating. Acid is balanced against the sweetness, fruit is in balance with oak and tannin, and alcohol is balanced against both acidity and flavor.
Barrel-Fermented: Used to describe a wine—usually a white—that has undergone fermentation in small oak barrels as opposed to in more neutral large casks, cement vats, or stainless steal tanks.
Big: A descriptive term used for full-bodied, robust wines that are usually high in alcohol.
Bitter: A harsh flavor in wine, often derived from stems and seeds that have been carelessly or inadvertently crushed along with the grapes. Bitterness can also be caused by unripe grapes or unripe tannins. In certain big, smoky, red wines, a slight bitterness is considered a positive nuance, just as it would be in a good espresso.
Blend: To combine two or more lots of wine in hopes of enhancing flavor, balance, and/or complexity.
Blind tasting: Wine tasting term for tasting wine from bottles with hidden labels.
Blush wine: Light, slightly sweet wine, either white or rosé, made from dark grapes.
Body: A tasting term describing the weight and fullness of a wine that can be sensed. A wine may be light-, medium-, or full-bodied.
Bottle Shock: Also known as bottle-sickness, a temporary condition of wine characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile wines) are shaken in travel. After several days the condition usually disappears.
Bottle-aging: Maturing a wine directly in the bottle as opposed to a tank or barrel.
Bottle Sizes: Split 187.5 ml
1/2 bottle 375 ml (aka Fillette)
Bottle 750 ml
Magnum 1.5 liter (2 bottles)
Marie-Jeanne 2.25 liters (3 bottles) (Red Bordeaux)
Double magnum 3 liters (4 bottles)
Jeroboam 4.5 liters (6 bottles)
Imperial 6 liters (8 bottles)
Bouquet (boo-kay): The combination of aromas given off by a wine.
Breathe: When wine is poured from the bottle into another container, such as a wine glass, it mixes with air, releasing aromas which become more pronounced as time passes.
Breed: Also described as complex or elegant, a term denoting a wine made from the best grape varieties.
Brix: A measure of the sugar content of grapes before they are harvested. Used to estimate the alcohol content of the resulting wine
Buttery: The taste of a very good white wine, usually a Chardonnay wine.
Canopy: The parts of the grape vine above ground, in particular the shoots and leaves.
Canopy management: A range of viticultural techniques applied in vineyards to manipulate the vine canopy. This is performed for vine shape, limiting direct sunlight and disease control, in order to create an optimal growing environment.
Capsule: The plastic or foil that covers the cork and part of the neck of a wine bottle.
Carbonic maceration: A winemaking practice of fermenting whole grapes that have not been crushed.
Case: 12 (750 ml) bottles of wine.
Cedar: The term denoting an aroma found in fine red wines.
Chambrer: A term describing opening a bottle of wine so it can come into contact with the air and reach room temperature. From the French meaning “Allow to breathe.”
Citrusy: An aroma and flavor of citrus fruits, often of grapefruit, generally found in white wines made from grapes grown in cooler regions of California.
Clarification: The process of clearing a wine that involves binding cloudy substances and particles, which then settle on the bottom, becoming sediment.
Cloudy: Opposite of clear; generally an undesirable quality in a wine.
Color: One of the distinguishing characteristics of wine, color is derived primarily from grape skins. While the color of a wine is a tip-off to its variety and an indication of its age, color is not a predictor of a wine’s flavor or quality.
Corked: A tasting term for a wine that has cork taint. Wines become corked or corky when certain bacteria in the cork cells interact with minute amounts of chemical residues that may remain in corks or wine bottles after they are cleaned. A corked wine has a defective aroma and flavor, although it will not harm the drinker.
Creamy: Refers to the silky taste of wines, usually white, subjected to malolactic fermentation as opposed to the tart or crisp taste of the same wine lacking the treatment.
Crisp: A term used when wine has a pronounced but pleasing tartness, acidity. Generally used to describe white wines only
Cru: A term for a particular wine, type of wine, vineyard or the wine produced at that vineyard.
Cuvée (coo-vay): A term for the initial pressing of the grape, and also a term for a blend of high-quality wines.
Decanting: Pouring wine slowly from the bottle into a carafe, which can add oxygen or separate the wine from the sediment.
Dégustation: A term meaning the lack of sweetness in a wine
Depth: Intensity and concentration. An especially intense and concentrated cabernet sauvignon, for example, might be described as having depth.
Dry: A term meaning the lack of sweetness in a wine
Enology: The science of wine production. Also spelled Oenology
Earthy: Used to describe wine, the aroma or flavor of which is reminiscent of the earth. It refers to flavors that evoke soil or things that grow in it –moss truffles, and the like.
Extract: The soluble particles in wine that would remain if all the liquid were drawn off.
Fermentation: The process of winemaking that turns the sugar in the grape into alcohol and carbonic acid. Grapes on the vine are covered with yeast, mold and bacteria. By putting the grape juice, or must, into a container at the right temperature, the yeast will turn the sugar in the juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Fining: Same as clarification, the process of clearing a wine that involves binding cloudy substances and particles, which then settle on the bottom, becoming sediment.
Finish: Term used to describe the taste left in the mouth after swallowing the wine. Both character and length of the aftertaste are part of the total evaluation. May be harsh, hot, soft and lingering, short, smooth, tannic, or nonexistent.
Flat: A wine-tasting term denoting very low acid and lacking flavor.
Flavones: One of the phenolics found in wine; the yellow pigments in small amounts in all pale and dark skinned grape varieties.
Fortified: A wine, such as Sherry or Port, that has had its alcohol content increased by the addition of distilled frappe spirits (clear brandy). Most fortified wines contain 16 to 20 percent alcohol by volume.
Floral: A wine-tasting term indicating the aroma or taste of flowers in the wine, mostly applied to white wines.
Forward: Wine-tasting term indicating that the fruitiness of a wine is immediately apparent, and is at perfect maturity for drinking.
Fresh: Describes the lively fruity acidity of good, young red, white and rosé wines.
Free Run: The juice that runs—freely—simply as the result of the weigh of the grapes, before any mechanical pressure is applied in a press.
Full-bodied: A wine-tasting term denoting a wine that fills the mouth and weighs on the tongue.
Glycerin: A natural by-product of the fermentation process, giving the wine a sweet taste on the tongue and a smooth sensation in the mouth.
Grassy: A descriptive term for flavors and aromas reminiscent of those of just-cut grass, meadows, fields of hay, and the like, often overlaid with a green or vegetal note.
Growth: A term for a particular wine or type of wine.
Jammy: Having the thick, concentrated berry aroma or flavor of jam. Also, the thick, rich, mouthfilling texture of jam.
Lees: The sediment remaining in the tank after fermentation.
Legs: Swirling a wineglass filled with wine will produce rivulets, or legs, indicating the amount of alcohol present in the wine. Generally, the higher the alcohol content, the more impressive the legs.
Maceration: Part of the fermentation process where grape skins, seeds and stems are steeped for hours or weeks before pressing.
Malolactic Fermentation: Also known as malo or MLF, a secondary fermentation in wines by lactic acid bacteria during which tart tasting malic acid is converted to softer tasting lactic acid.
Marc: The residue left in the winepress after pressing or fermentation.
Mash: The pulp of the grape, including skins and seeds, that settles in a fermentation tank or barrel.
Maturing: The process of ripening in the bottle.
Meritage: Combining the words “merit” and “heritage,” a cuvée made from several varieties of quality grapes. The Red blend is made from at least 2 of the 5 boreaux variatals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The White Meritage is a blend at least 2 of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Vert and Semillon.
Méthode champenoise: The traditional method of producing sparkling wine by fermenting it in the bottle.
Mouthfeel: The tactile impression of a wine in your mouth.
Must: Raw, unfermented grape juice.
Non-vintage: A blend of different grape varieties from different areas and different years.
Nose: The overall scent of a wine.
Oenology: see Enology.
Oaky: A descriptive term for the toasty, woody, and vanilla smells and flavors contributed to wine during its fermentation or adding in oak barrels.
Oxidation: The result of too much oxygen in the wine, causing color change and loss of freshness.
pH value: A measure of the degree of the relative acidity verses the relative alkalinity of wine on a a scale of 0 to 14. . The lower the pH, the higher the acidity. The term comes from the French Pouvoir Hydrogéne meaning "hydrogen power".
Phenols: A group of chemical compounds occurring naturally in all plants. In wine, phenols are derived from grape skins, stems, and seeds, as well as from oak barrels. Among the most important phenols are tannin, color pigments, and some flavor compounds, such as vanillin.
Phylloxera: A highly destructive, small aphid that attacks a wine’s roots and slowly destroys the wine by preventing the roots from absorbing nutrients and water.
Pomace: The mashed-up solid residue (skins, stems, seeds, pulp) that is left after grapes are pressed.
Pressing: The process that separates the grape solids from the juice.
Pruning: Cutting back the canes of the wine when it is dormant.
Pulp: The soft, fleshy part of the grape, which is infused with juice.
Racking: A natural clarification that removes sediment by transferring the wine from one cask to another until it is clear.
Residual sugar: The natural sweetness of a wine, produced from the sugar not converted to alcohol during fermentation.
Rosé: Pink champagne or wine, usually made from black grapes with little skin contact, or from a blend of red and white wines and often fruitier than white champagne or wine.
Secondary Fermentation: Most commonly the term is used to refer to the continuation of fermentation in a second vessel - e.g. moving the wine from a stainless steel tank to an oak barrel.
Sediment: The accumulation of tannin and pigment deposits in a bottle of wine. Can be removed by decanting.
Solera: System for making brandies, sherry, port and other fortified wines that ensures the same quality year after year.
Sommelier (soh-mal-lee-ay): French term for a professional wine server.
Smoky: A smoky smell and taste found in a both white and red wines. Though wines can take on smoky characteristics from the barrels in which they are ages, certain wines just have a naturally smoky character as a result of their terroir.
Smooth / Soft: Generally has low acid/tannin content. Also describes wines with low alcohol content. Consequently has little impact on the palate.
Specific gravity: The degree of ripeness of the grapes.
Spicy: Almost a synonym for "peppery". Implies a softer, more rounded flavor nuance however.
Stabilization: A condition reached when a wine has all the undesirable sediment removed and is clear in the bottle with no further fermentation.
Tannin: Provides the astringent effect in wines, important in the aging of red wines. Tannin decreases as a wine ages.
Taste: Four basic tastes detected by the tongue - sweet, salty, sour and bitter.
Unfiltered: Used to describe a wine that has not been filtered to clarify it. Winemakers who believe that filtering strips wine of some flavor and textures may leave their wines unfiltered and may even label the as such.
Vanillin: A compound in oak barrels that is ultimately imparted to wine as flavor and smell reminiscent of vanilla. New barrels have more vanillin than older barrels and hence wine stored in new barrels has a more pronounced vanilla character.
Varietal (Vah-rye-ah-tall): The grape variety used to make a champagne or wine. In Europe, wines are usually named after the region in which the grapes are grown (i.e. Bordeaux, Chianti, Burgundy). Elsewhere, wines are usually labeled with the name of the grape variety that the wine is made from (i.e. Cabernet, Chardonnay, etc.).
Veraison (ve-ray-zon): The phase of growth where the grape begins to turn color and the sugar begins to form.
Vinification: The production of wine from the harvest to the bottling.
Vitis Vinifera: The premier grape species used for the world's most admired wines.
Vintage: A term referring to a wine from an exceptional year; can also refer to the year in which the grapes were grown.
Wine-tasting: How soil, climate, and weather affect different varieties of grapes, and how those factors are manifested in the taste of the wine. Wine-tasting breaks down into four basic steps:
1. Color of the wine
2. Clarity of the wine when viewed against a light source
3. Smell which is referred to as the “nose”
Tasters use specific words and phrases such as “buttery”, “cedar”, “crisp”, “creamy” , and “bright” to describe their perceptions of the wine. These words and phrases describe the subtle flavors of the wines that differentiate one from the next.
Yeast: Micro-organisms, some of which make grape juice ferment.
Yield: The amount of grapes produced from a particular crop.