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Wine Glossary Of Terms (Basic)


A

Acidity

A naturally occurring component of every wine; the level of perceived sharpness; a key element to a wine's longevity; a leading determinant of balance.

Alcohol

The end product of fermentation; technically ethyl alcohol resulting from the interaction of natural grape sugars and yeast; generally above 12.5 percent in dry table wines.

Alsace

A highly regarded wine region in eastern France renowned for dry and sweet wines made from Riesling, Gewuerztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and others.

Amarone

A succulent higher-alcohol red wine hailing from the Veneto region in northern Italy; made primarily from Corvina grapes dried on racks before pressing.

AOC

Appellation diOrigine Controlee, a French term for a denominated, governed wine region such as Margaux or Nuits-St.-Georges.

Aroma

A scent thatis a component of the bouquet or nose; i.e. cherry is an aromatic component of a fruity bouquet.

AVA

American Viticultural Area; a denominated American wine region approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

B

Bacchus

The Roman god of wine, known as Dionysus in ancient Greece; a hybrid white grape from Germany.

Balance

The level of harmony between acidity, tannins, fruit, oak, and other elements in a wine; a perceived quality that is more individual than scientific.

Barrel Fermented

A process by which wine (usually white) is fermented in oak barrels rather than in stainless steel tanks; a richer, creamier, oakier style of wine.

Barrique

French for 'barrel,' generally a barrel of 225 liters.

Beaujolais

A juicy, flavorful red wine made from Gamay grapes grown in the region of the same name.

Beaujolais Nouveau

The first Beaujolais wine of the harvest; its annual release date is the third Thursday in November.

Blanc de Blancs

The name for Champagne made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.

Blanc de Noirs

The name for Champagne made entirely from red grapes, either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or both.

Blend

The process whereby two or more grape varieties are combined after separate fermentation; common blends include Cotes de Rhone and red and white Bordeaux.

Blush

A wine made from red grapes but which appears pink or salmon in color because the grape skins were removed from the fermenting juice before more color could be imparted; more commonly referred to as rose.

Bodega

Spanish for winery; literally the 'room where barrels are stored.

Body

The impression of weight on one's palate; light, medium, and full are common body qualifiers.

Bordeaux

A city on the Garonne River in southwest France; a large wine-producing region with more than a dozen subregions; a red wine made mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc; a white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

Botrytis Cinerea

A beneficial mold that causes grapes to shrivel and sugars to concentrate, resulting in sweet, unctuous wines; common botryt's wines include Sauternes, Tokay, and German beerenauslese.

Bouquet

The sum of a wine's aromas; how a wine smells as a whole; a key determinant of quality.

Breathe

The process of letting a wine open up via the introduction of air

Brix

A scale used to measure the level of sugar in unfermented grapes. Multiplying brix by 0.55 will yield a wine's future alcohol level.

Brut

A French term used to describe the driest Champagnes.

Burgundy

A prominent French wine region stretching from Chablis in the north to Lyons in the south; Pinot Noir is the grape for red Burgundy, Chardonnay for white.

C

Cabernet Franc

A red grape common to Bordeaux; characteristics include an herbal, leafy flavor and a soft, fleshy texture.

Cabernet Sauvignon

A powerful, tannic red grape of noble heritage; the base grape for many red Bordeaux and most of the best red wines from California, Washington, Chile, and South Africa; capable of aging for decades.

Cap

Grape solids like pits, skins, and stems that rise to the top of a tank during fermentation; what gives red wines color, tannins and weight.

Cava

Spanish for 'cellar,' but also a Spanish sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style from Xarello, Macabeo, and Parellada grapes.

Chablis

A town and wine region east of Paris known for steely, minerally Chardonnay.

Champagne

A denominated region northeast of Paris in which Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes are made into sparkling wine.

Chaptalization

The process of adding sugar to fermenting grapes in order to increase alcohol.

Chardonnay

Arguably the best and most widely planted white wine grape in the world.