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Wine Dictionary

acidity — the liveliness and crispness in wine that activates our salivary glands

aeration — the deliberate addition of oxygen to round out and soften a wine

aging  holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state

alcohol  ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the product of fermented sugars by yeast

appellation  a delineated wine producing region particular to France

aroma  the smell of wine, especially young wine (different than “bouquet”)

astringent  tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, and drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannin

balance  term used to describe when the elements of wine – acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol – come together in a harmonious way

barrel  the oak container used for fermenting and aging wine

barrique   a 225-litre oak barrel used originally for storing and aging wines, originating in Bordeaux

bitter  a taste sensation that is sensed on the back of the tongue and caused by tannins

  a wine made from more than one grape varietal

body  a tactile sensation describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth.  A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.

Bordeaux  the area in Southwest France considered one of the greatest wine-producing regions in the world

botrytis  a beneficial mold that pierces the skin of grapes and causes dehydration, resulting in natural grape juice exceptionally high in sugar.  Botrytis is largely responsible for the world’s finest dessert wines. 

bouquet  a term that refers to the complex aromas in aged wines

breathing  exposing wine to oxygen to improve its flavors

brettanomyce   a wine-spoiling yeast that produces barnyard, mousy, metallic, or bandaid aromas (read more here)

brilliant  a tasting note for wines that appear sparkling clear

brut  french term denoting dry champagnes or sparkling wines

chaptalization — adding sugar to wine before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels.  Chaptalization is illegal in some parts of the world, and highly controlled in others.

citric acid  one of the three predominate acids in wine

claret  the name the English use when referring to the red wines of Bordeaux

complex  term used to describe a wine exhibiting numerous odors, nuances, and flavors

cork taint  undesirable aromas and flavors in wine often associated with wet cardboard or moldy basements

corked  a term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint (not wine with cork particles floating about)

cru classé  a top-ranking vineyard designated in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855

crush  the English term for harvest

cuvée  a term used only to describe Champagne that is comprised of a blended batch of wine

demi-sec — french term meaning “half-dry” used to describe a sweet sparkling wine

dry   a taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth; the opposite of sweet

earthy  an odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil

enology  the science of wine and winemaking (see “oenology”)

fermentation  the conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast

fining  the addition of egg whites or gelatin to clear the wine of unwanted particles

finish   the impression of textures and flavors lingering in the mouth after swallowing wine

flavors  odors perceived in the mouth

fortified wine- process by  which alcohol usually in the form of grape brandy has been added during or after fermentation of wine.

foxy  a term that describes the musty odor and flavor of wines made from vitis labrusca, a common North American varietal

fruity  a tasting term for wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit

full-bodied  a wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as “big”

herbaceous — a tasting term denoting odors and flavors of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary, etc.)

Italian Charmat method- now referred to as 'Metodo Italiano' (Italian Method), is the process where wine undergoes first or secondary fermentation in large pressurized stainless-steel tanks rather than individual bottles, and is bottled under pressure in a continuous process

lees  sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seed, and other grape matter that accumulates during fermentation

leesy  a tasting term for the rich aromas and smells that results from wine resting on its lees

length  the amount of time that flavors persist in the mouth after swallowing wine; a lingering sensation

malic acid  one of the three predominate acids in grapes.  Tart-tasting malic acid occurs naturally in a number of fruits, including, apples, cherries, plums, and tomatoes.

malolactic fermentation  a secondary fermentation in which the tartness of malic acid in wine is changed into a smooth, lactic sensation.  Wines described as “buttery” or “creamy” have gone through “malo”.

mature  ready to drink

mouth-feel  how a wine feels on the palate; it can be rough, smooth, velvety, or furry

must  unfermented grape juice including seeds, skins, and stems

noble rot  the layman’s term for botrytis

nose   a tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine

oak/oaky  tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla, baking spices, coconut, mocha or dill caused by barrel-aging

oxidation  wine exposed to air that has undergone a chemical change

phenolic compounds  natural compounds present in grape skins and seeds that affect the tastecolor and mouthfeel of wine

pomace-the skins, seeds and stems left over from winemaking, often used to produce grappa

rough  the tactile “coarse” sensation one experiences with very astringent wines

sec  French term  for “dry” in reference to the taste on the palate

Solera Method- Spanish and Portuguese fractional aging process that yields the finished product of a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years.

Sommelier — A wine butler; also used to denote a certified wine professional. 

spicy  a tasting term used for odors and flavors reminiscent of black pepper, bay leaf, curry powder, baking spices, oregano, rosemary, thyme, saffron or paprika found in certain wines

structure a tasting term that refers to the overall composition of the wine regarding the harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins

sweet  wines with perceptible sugar contents on the nose and in the mouth

tannins  the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckering feeling in the mouth

tartaric acid  the principal acid in grapes, tartaric acid promotes flavor and aging in wine

terroir  French term for geographical characteristics unique to a given vineyard

typicity  a tasting term that describes how well a wine expresses the characteristics inherent to the variety of grape

ullage  the empty space left in bottles and barrels as a wine evaporates

vegetal  tasting term describing characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavors of the wine.  Bell peppers, grass, and asparagus are common “vegetal” descriptors.

vinification — the process of making wine

vitis vinifera — the species of wine that comprises over 99% of the world’s wine

vintage  the year a wine is bottled.  Also, the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.

weight  similar to “body”, the sensation when a wine feels thick or rich on the palate

yeast  a microorganism endemic to vineyards and produced commercially that converts grape sugars into alcohol

yield  the productivity of a vineyard

young  an immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.  Wines meant to be drunk “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.