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A-Z of Wine Terms

ABV

The abbreviation of alcohol in a given volume, displayed by percentage on the label (e.g. 13.5% ABV).

Appellation

A legally defined geographical location used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown. In Europe this also includes what kind of wine it is.

Balanced

A wine where all components are working in harmony- acidity, sweetness, tannins and alcohol.

Biodynamic

Biodynamics is a homeopathic manner of farming that treats the earth as "a living and receptive organism”. Biodynamic wine production uses alternative farming methods (natural composts, or preparations and times farming events (including harvests)), with celestial (moon and sun) cycles. It was first popularized in the 1920s by an Austrian philosopher name Rudolf Steiner.

Body

The texture or weight of a wine in the mouth. The more body a wine has the less like water it feels.

Bouquet

The aromas of the wine.

Brut

This means dry in French; it is usually used to described Champagne or sparkling wine.

Harvest at Quinta Solaheiro, Portugal

Carbonic Maceration

Carbonic maceration is a winemaking technique often associated with the French wine region of Beaujolais in which whole, uncrushed grapes are fermented intracellularly in a carbon dioxide rich environment prior to crushing. Wines created without oxygen have low tannin and colour with juicy fruit flavours and bold yeast aromas.

Château

French word for castle (aka Castello). Often used alongside the name of an estate winery.

Chateau Lynch Bages, Bordeaux

Claret

An archaic British term used to describe red wines from Bordeaux.

Corked

Wine that has been spoilt and smells mouldy because the cork has been tainted by cork taint/TCA.

Cru

This French word translates to "growth" and indicates a vineyard or group of vineyards that are recognized for quality. Cru is a status term indicating that the winery, vineyard or estate has met specific qualifications to use that term.

Cuvée

French for "vat" and used to denote a specific blend or batch.

Chateau Lynch Bages, Bordeaux

Domaine

An unofficial French label term for winery estate (usually in Burgundy or the Loire Valley) that makes and bottles wine from its own grapes.

Finish

The taste that stays on the palate after the wine has been swallowed (or spat). Wines can be said to have a long or short finish.

Fruity

A term used to describe wine that has strong primary aromas and tastes of fresh fruit.

Jeroboam

A bottle sized either 3 L (sparkling wines) or 4.5 L (still wines).

Lees

Sediment from dead yeast particles left in wine after the fermentation. Lees stirring or aging - as they say in French, "sur lie" or in Spanish, “sobre lias” - can add a richer body and creaminess to wine.

Length

A term used to describe the “Finish”.  Good length is a sign of a well-made wine.

Magnum

 A 1.5 L wine bottle. Equal to 2 standard bottles.

Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)

Malolactic Fermentation is a winemaking process in which malic acid is converted to lactic acid. Commonly referred to as secondary fermentation (although not strictly a fermentation reaction), the process can occur naturally in wine, however winemakers tend to force it by adding lactic acid bacteria (LAB) to the wine. MLF makes wine taste smoother and creamier.

Minerality

A non-scientific term used to describe flavours that smell or taste like rocks or organic matter (soil). The flavour or aroma of minerality is popularly associated with the “terroir”. Although recent research suggests the majority of mineral-like aromas in wine are due to sulphur compounds derived from fermentation.

Mousse

The white mousse that appears as a “head” or at the edge of the glass when drinking sparkling wine or Champagne.

Off-Dry

A term to describe a wine that is slightly sweet.

Organic Wine

Organic wine must be made with organically grown grapes and without any synthetic chemical products for enhanced yield of. Guidelines between countries vary, the EU allows organic wines to use added sulfites, while the US do not allow for additional sulphites to be added to organic wines.

Oxidation / Oxidized

When wine is harmfully exposed to oxygen. Typically, characteristics of oxidation indicate improper wine making techniques or improper wine storage or aging. One obvious change is an increased level of acetaldehyde, which smells similar to bruised apples in white wine and nail polish remover in red wines.

Residual Sugar (RS)

Any natural grape sugars that are left over in a wine after a fermentation stops. Some wines are fermented completely dry, while others are stopped before all the sugar is converted to alcohol to create a sweet wine. It is measured in grams per litre (g/L).  Residual Sugar ranges from nothing to upward of 400 grams per litre for very sweet wines (for reference, Coca Cola contains around 106 g/L).

 

Reserva

A Spanish or Portuguese wine term that's used to describe a wine that's been aged for at least three years in the cask and bottle, at least one of which must have been in the cask.

Reserve

A wine label term that has many meanings depending on what country the wine is from. Some wineries use this term to describe a special quality level, a wine that has been aged before being sold, or others use it for marketing purposes. Traditionally, winemakers would reserve some of their best wine rather than sell it immediately, coining the term.

Riserva

An Italian wine term that's typically used to describe a wine that's been aged for longer than the standard denomination. Producers use the term Riserva to designate their better wines.

Spumante

Spumante means sparkling in Italian. This term is usually found on Prosecco or other Italian sparkling wine.

Sulfites

Sulfites, sulfur dioxide, or SO2 is a preservative that is either added to wine or present on grapes before fermentation. Wines range from about 10 ppm (parts per million) to 350ppm—the legal US limit. Wines must label if they contain more than 10 ppm. 

Tannins

You experience the effect of tannins any time you drink a wine that creates a drying sensation in your mouth. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds that exist inside grape skins, seeds and stems.

Tenuta/Weingut

Same as Chateau

Terroir

Originally a French word that is used to describe a specificity of place and how a particular region’s climate, soils, aspect of the vineyard and traditional winemaking practices affect the taste of the wine.

Vieille Vignes

French term for "old vines." A mostly unregulated term to describe wines made with grapes from old vines.

Yield

The productivity of a vineyard.

John & Beth Forrest, Harvest at Forrest Estate, New Zealand

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