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Wine Jargon

AN ALPHABETICAL LIST AND BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SOME OF THE TERMS USED IN THE WORLD OF WINE.

To jump to a wine type alphabetically click on the appropriate letter below:

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

ABV (Alcohol by Volume) - ABV is used to quantify the alcohol levels by volume of a wine and is expressed as a percentage.

Acidity - Acidity is very important in the life and vitality of a wine. Too much will make wine too sharp (not sour, that's a fault in the wine) and too little acidity will make a wine flat and dull with short lasting flavour.

AOC - The French Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée, a certification to certain wines. AOC wines, to be granted AOC status, must adhere to strict rules. An AOC wine must be produced in a consistent and traditional manner with grapes from specifically classified producers, in geographically designated areas.

Appellation - The term usually used to refer to an official geographically based designation for a wine. However, it does not necessarily infer any rules applied to what must be grown and how, or what sort of wine must be made. The level of rules applied is purely a matter for each individual country.

Auslese -  A German wine quality designation, meaning "select harvest", made from selected very ripe bunches or grapes, sometimes with Noble Rot. Typically sweet or semi-sweet.

Barrique - Literally translated as barrel, it often refers to any small oak cask.

Batonnage - The process of stirring the lees in the barrel/vat of the unfinished wine after the initial settling (debourbage). Batonnage proponents claim it increases flavour development in the wines and as lees absorb oxygen, promotes reductive oxidation. Opposition to batonnage dislike the reductive oxidation effect and claim it can promote off aromas and blur terroir differences in the wine.

Beerenauslese - A German wine quality designation, meaning "select berry harvest", for wines made from individually selected overripe grapes often affected by Noble Rot, making rich, sweet dessert wines.

Blanc de Noirs - Literally means "white of blacks", Blanc de noirs refers to white wines made from black grapes, often but not exclusively referring to sparkling wines.

Blanco - A Spanish term for white wine.

Bodega - A Spanish word for Winery.

Botrytis (Noble Rot) - Botrytis Cinerea  is a grey fungus that can infect grapes. It requires moist conditions, and if the weather stays wet can form grey rot and wipe out crops. However, if drier conditions follow wet, the resultant grapes can become partially raisined. This form is known as Noble Rot and the wines made from these grapes can be particularly concentrated and sweet.

Brett (Brettanomyces) - Most commonly refered to by its shortened name, Brett is a genus of yeast that produces various phenolic compunds that, whilst in some low quantities can give a young wine an aged character, is generally regarded as a spoilage organism. 

Brut - The amount of sugar (dosage) added to sparkling wines after the second fermentation dictates the sweetness levels. Brut refers to dry sparkling wines, more exactly fewer than 12g of sugar per litre dosage. 

Carbonic Maceration - The process of fermenting the grapes whole in a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere prior to pressing. Most commonly associated with Beaujolais Nouveau, carbonic maceration allows for the fermentation to occur whilst extracting minimal tannins from the skin. The process typically leads to lighter bodied fruity wines and often the technique is employed on a portion of the grapes as opposed to the entire harvest.

Cépage - A French word that literally transaltes as "vine" but refers to the grape variety.

Champagne bottle size - In order from small to large (with number of bottles in brackets): Piccolo (1/4), Demi (1/2), Standard (1), Magnum (2), Jeroboam/Double Magnum (4), Rehoboam (6), Methuselah (8), Salmanazar (12), Balthazar (16), Nebuchadnezzar (20), Melchior (24), Solomon (26.66), Sovereign (33.33), Goliath/Primat (36), Melchizedek (40)

Chaptalization - The process of adding sugar to unfermented grape must in order to increase the alcohol content after fermentation. Control of Chaptilization is strict and generally only permitted in cooler regions where grapes might not ripen enough. Even then, strict controls are in place for the amount of sugar allowed to be added and increase in alcohol content resulting.

Charmat Method - Also known as " Metodo Italiano", the Charmat method is a process of producing sparkling wine, most widely used in Italy. In the Charmat method, the secondary fermentation occurs in larger stainless steel tanks instead of individual bottles. After the secondary fermention, the wine is then bottled under pressure. The Charmat method is a slightly lower cost method for sparlling wine production. 

Château - French word for castle. However château on the lable doesn't necessarily mean the wines are bottled in a fine castle, some are merely a villa or purpose built winery.

Claret - The English term given to red Bordeaux wine.

Classico - The oldest, the best or the most famous part of an Italian DOC zone.

Cool/Cold fermentation - The process of fermentation naturally produces heat. Cool/Cold fermentation is the process of artificialy reducing the temperature during fermentation; this slows down the fermentation process and allows the flavours, colour and freshness of the wine to develop properly. Cold fermentation generally means a temperature range of between 48°F to 55°F and cool fermentation between 55°F and 70°F. 

Cork - Cork is bark harvested from the Cork Oak. It is used around the world as a bottle stopper as it is impermeable and it is easily compressed, fitting into a wine bottle and expanding to form a tight seal.

Corked Wine (Cork Taint) -  A broad term referring to wine that has spoiled and is generally attirbuted to compounds, primarily TCA, in the cork. Cork taint can occur irrespective of quality and price of a wine. A corked wine is NOT a wine with bits of cork in it from a disintegrated cork. 

Cosecha - A Spanish term used on wine labels from that country. Literally it means Vintage and indicates that a minimum of 85% of the wine must by law come from the labelled vintage.

Coulure (Shatter) - A term referring to the metabolic reactions of a grape to weather particularly cold, cloudy, rainy or out of season high temperatures, most often occuring in spring. The result of coulure is the failure of the flowers to open, inhibiting polination and fruit development. It can also occur after unfavourable vineyard conditions and practices such as pruning to early or excessively fertile soils.  

Crianza - A Spanish term. For a red wine, it means that the wine must be aged for a minimum of 2 years (6 months of that in oak minimum) prior to release. For white wines it means the wine must have at least 1 year of ageing (with at least 6 months in oak0 prior to release.

Cru -  a French wine term traditionally meaning "growth" but more often it is used to refer to a specifically named and legally defined vineyard or ensemble of vineyards and the grapes grown on it.

De-stemming - The process of separating the stems from the grapes. Depending on the winemaking procedure, this may be done before crusing lessening the development of tannins and vegetal flavours in the resulting wine.

DO/DOC/DOCG - Based on the French AOC classification, this is the Italian classification system for wines.

DO refers to Denominazione di Origine (designation of origin).

DOC refers to Deniminazione di Origine Controllata (controlled designation of origin)

DOCG refers to Denominazione de Origine Controllata et Garantita (controlled designation of origin guaranteed)

Dolce - Dolce is an Italian term meaning sweet.

Dosage - This is the addition of a little sugar syrup dissolved in wine, into champagne straight after disgorgement to top up the levels of the bottle (disgorgement naturally loses some of the champagne) and adding a little sweetness.

Disgorging - The process of ridding champagne of the frozen champagne cap of the bottle containing the yeast. The process of riddling the champagne collects the yeast over time in the top of the neck. To get rid of this, the neck is rapidly frozen and the ice cap sprung out (disgorged).

Eiswein (Ice wine) - A German wine quality designation (althought the term Ice Wine is often used in other regions around the world) made from grapes naturally frozen on the vine. When pressed, the unfrozen grape juice is heavily concentrated as the water has frozen making very concetrated sweet wines

Élevage - Literally translated as "breeding", élevage is a French term loosely referring to the care/attention used to bring out the quality of the wine.

Fining - The process where a fining agent is added to the wine, creating a bond with the suspended particles. This creates larger particles that then precipitate out of the wine. Unlike filtering that will remove only particles, fining will also remove soluble substances from the wines. 

Frizzantino - An Italian term meaning very lightly sparkling. 

Kabinett - A German wine quality designation. Grapes are picked fully ripened resulting in typically semi-sweet wines with crisp acidity.

Late Harvest - A term applied for wines made from grapes left on the vines longer than usual, and typically referring to sweet wines. The late harvest grapes are similar to raisins, but have been naturally dehydrated on the vine.

Lutte Raisonnée - La lutte raisonnée means 'the reasoned struggle'. Growers who practice this kind of viticulture claim to use chemicals less often and less aggressively than conventional growers. There is no system of checks and no agreed limites, however, as to what is permissable as La Luttte Raisnnée, so the term is sometimes abused to claim semi organic status without actually committing to anything.

Lees - Lees are the sediments (yeasts, other particles) that accumulate at the bottom of the vat during fermentation.

Maceration - Maceration applies to the period during vinification when the fermenting grape juice is in contact with its skins. Maceration is employed to extract tannins, colour and flavour compounds from the skins and is usually applied to red wines, although sometimes also for white wines.

Malic Acid -  A strong tasting acid in the grape, that diminishes during ripening and fermentation. The quantity of malic acid present in a wine may be considered too much, particularly in a red wine, and it is often desirable to replace a portion of it with softer smoother lactic acid, a process called Malolactic fermentation.

Malolactic Fermentation - Often termed secondary fermentation, malolactic fermentation is not an alcoholic fermentation, but a process trasforming the hard malic acids in wines into softer lactic acids. Very important in reds but much less so in rosé and white wines and avoided altogether in some varietals.

Mousse - A term used to describe the effervescence of a sparkling wine encompasing the size and quantity of bubbles. Smaller, finer bubbles are a sign of a good mousse but it can really only be judged in the mouth, not by sight.

Must - Refers to the grape juice in an unfermented or partly fermented state.

Mutage - The process of making sweet wines by adding grape spirit to the must to kill the yeast, halting fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wines and upping the alcohol content.

Négociant - A French term for a winemerchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells it under their own name.

Oak - Many wines, red and white, are fermented or aged in oak barrels. The two main categories are American and French oak, imparting soft vanilla tones to the wines. French oak is generally considered finer and more refined, with American oak generally perceived as more up front. Oak barrels are often charred to certain levels to impart other smokier flavours as well. Oak barrels are expensive though; a cheat for lower cost wines is to use oak chips in wines to achieve a similar effect.

Phenols - The phenolic compounds are a large group of chemical compounds that affect the colour, taste and mouthfeel of a wine. Phenols include various acids, tannins and many many more compounds.

Pissato - The Italian name for Straw wines. 

Pump-over - During fermentation, the carbon dioxide naturally produced rises and pushes the skins up to the top of the mixture. This forms what is known as the cap and means that there is very limited contact between the must and the skins. Pumping over is when the must is pumped up and over the cap regularly to ensure the mixture is balanced and the must gets maximum contact with the skins

Punch-down - Punch-down has a similar effect to pump-over, but instead of the must being pumped over, the cap is pushed down into the must regularly to ensure the mixture is balanced and the must gets maximum contact with the skins.

Punt -  The name of the dimple/indent in the base of a bottle.

Racking - This is the process of draining/transferring wine off its lees into a fresh vat or cask.

Riddling (Remuage in French) - The process of moving the yeast deposits in sparkling wine to the neck of the bottle after the secondary fermentation. Riddling is done by slowly moving the bottles from a horizontal to near vertical (upside down) position over time in a riddling rack.

Ripasso - Meaning Re-passed, Ripasso is a winemaking technique where the left over grape seeds and skins from the fermentation of Recioto and Amarone are added to Valpolicella for maceration. The additional food source for the fermenting yeast increases the alcohol levels and body to the wine. At the same time additional tannins and phenolic compounds are leached from the skins/seeds into the wine.

Rosado - Spanish term for rosé.

Rosso - An Italain term meaning red wine.

Spätlese - A German wine quality designation, meaning "late harvest". Typically semi-sweet.

Straw Wine - A dessert wine, made by drying the freshly harvested grapes on straw mats or racks in a warm well ventillated area of a house for a period of time, before crushing and fermentation. The dried grapes, similar to raisins have a reduced water content and a highly concentrated grape juice content, leaving much residual sugar after fermentation.

Sur Lie - Used to describe wines that have been left on their lees and not racked/fined before bottling. This process is used to enhance fruit, depth and liveliness of otherwise bland grape varieties such as Melon de Bourgogne used in Muscadet.

Tannins - Tannins refer to a large group of compounds that affect the colour, aging ability and texture of the wine. They are found in the skin, stems and seeds of grapes but can be introduced through the use of oak barrels or chips. Tannins have no discernable taste or smell but can be perceived in tasting by their tactile drying sensation and sense of bitterness left in the mouth. However, tannins are widely regarded as a positive component of a fine wine when well integrated into the winemaking process.

TCA - Short for trichloroanisole, a chemical compound that is one of the main causes of corked/tainted wine. it can be found in oak staves, wooden pallets, wooden beams and corks, so thereoretically can account for corked wine from a bottle sealed with a screwcap.

Terroir - A term used to describe the combination of geology, geography and climate that all can impart characteristics on the wine. Terroir loosely translates as "sense of place".

Tinto - A Spanish term for red wine. 

Trockenbeerenauslese (Tba) -  A category of German wines produced from selected botrytized grapes that have been left on the vine to shrivel. Massively sweet, amber in colour and viscous.

Vieilles Vignes - Translates as older vines. As a vines reach a certain age, usually around 20 years, the yields go down but the quality of the grapes increases, leading to more concentrated an intense wines.

Vin doux Naturel - Lightly fortified wines typically made from Muscat or Grenache grapes. The fermentation process is stopped by the addition of up to 10% of a 95% ABV. grape spirit.

Vin Santo - An Italian version of Straw Wine, Vin Santo or Vino Santo (Holy Wine) is a traditional wine originating in Tuscany often made from Trebbiano or Malvasia. Vin Santo can be dry through to very sweet, depending on the ripeness and amount of grape drying before pressing. Like Straw Wine, the grapes are partially dried before pressing, often on straw mats or racks in warm, well ventilated rooms, concentrating the residual sugar in the grapes.