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The wine alphabet

from A to Z about wine terminology...

A -

Aging: The process of allowing wine to mature and develop its flavors and characteristics over time, often in barrels or bottles. Aging can enhance complexity and smoothness in wines.

Acidity: A fundamental component of wine that provides freshness, balance, and structure. Acidity adds brightness and can range from crisp (high acidity) to soft (low acidity).

Aroma: The scent or smell of a wine, derived from the grape variety, fermentation process, and aging. Aromas can range from fruity and floral to herbal and earthy.

B -

Brix: A measurement of the sugar content in grapes, which indicates the potential alcohol level in the resulting wine. Brix levels are crucial in determining grape ripeness and harvest timing.

Body: The perceived weight and texture of a wine in the mouth, ranging from light-bodied (low alcohol and viscosity) to full-bodied (high alcohol and viscosity). Body affects the overall mouthfeel of a wine.

Blanc de Blancs: A term used for white wines made exclusively from white grapes, typically Chardonnay. It is commonly associated with sparkling wines.

C -

Cork: A traditional stopper made from the bark of a cork oak tree, commonly used to seal wine bottles. Corks allow a small amount of oxygen to interact with the wine, contributing to its aging process.

Claret: A British term for red Bordeaux wine. It can also refer to a dark rosé wine or a generic term for red wines.

Crémant: A term used for sparkling wines made in France using the traditional method, similar to Champagne but produced in different regions. Crémant wines offer an affordable alternative to Champagne.

D -

Decanter: A vessel used to pour and aerate wine, allowing it to mix with oxygen and enhance its aromas and flavors. Decanting can help separate sediment and open up the wine.

Dry: A wine that has minimal residual sugar, often associated with a crisp and refreshing taste. Dry wines are not sweet, and the term is used to describe both white and red wines.

DOCG: Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the highest classification level for Italian wines. It guarantees quality and specific production regulations.

E -

Estate: A winery that grows its own grapes on the premises, producing wine from the grapes cultivated on its property. Estate wineries have full control over the winemaking process from grape to bottle.

Extraction: The process of extracting color, tannins, and flavors from grape skins, seeds, and sometimes stems during winemaking. Extraction affects a wine's body, structure, and complexity.

Earthy: A tasting note used to describe wines with flavors and aromas reminiscent of soil, mushrooms, or forest floor. Earthiness is often associated with red wines and certain grape varieties.

F -

Fortified: Wines that have been supplemented with additional spirits, such as brandy, to increase their alcohol content. Fortification can also add sweetness and complexity to the wine.

Finish: The lingering taste and sensation that remains in the mouth after swallowing a sip of wine. A long finish indicates a wine with extended flavors and persistence.

Fruity: A tasting note used to describe wines with prominent fruit flavors, such as berries, citrus, tropical fruits, or stone fruits. The level of fruitiness can vary from subtle to intense.

G -

Grape: The fruit that is harvested and used to make wine, with different grape varieties contributing to different flavors and styles of wine. Common grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot.

Grassy: A tasting note used to describe wines with herb

Grand Cru: A French term used to denote the highest classification level of vineyards or wines in specific wine regions, representing exceptional quality and prestige.

H -

Harvest: The process of picking and collecting ripe grapes from the vineyard, usually taking place in the autumn. Harvest timing is crucial for grape quality and determines the style of wine produced.

Hectare: A unit of measurement used to quantify the size of a vineyard or grape-growing area. It represents 10,000 square meters or approximately 2.47 acres.

Hybrid: A grape variety resulting from the crossbreeding of two or more different grape species. Hybrids are often created to combine the desired characteristics of different varieties, such as disease resistance or cold hardiness.

I -

Inoculation: The introduction of selected yeast strains into grape juice or must during fermentation to control and enhance the fermentation process. Different yeast strains can contribute to different flavors and aromas in wine.

Indigenous: Refers to grape varieties that are native to a specific wine region or country. Indigenous grapes are often associated with traditional winemaking practices and reflect the unique terroir of their origin.

Ice Wine: A type of dessert wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine to freeze, concentrating the sugars and flavors. Ice wines are known for their intense sweetness and often have a distinct honeyed character.

J - Jeroboam:

A large-sized wine bottle that holds approximately three liters or four standard wine bottles' worth of wine. Jeroboams are often used for special occasions and celebrations.

Juice: The liquid extracted from crushed grapes, which serves as the base for winemaking. The quality and characteristics of the grape juice greatly influence the resulting wine.

Jéroboam (Champagne): In the context of Champagne, Jéroboam refers to a 3-liter bottle, equivalent to four standard Champagne bottles. It is larger than a regular wine Jeroboam.

K - Kabinett:

A German wine classification indicating a level of ripeness and quality, typically used for Riesling wines. Kabinett wines are usually light and fruity, often made from fully ripened but not overripe grapes.

Keg: A large barrel, often made of stainless steel or wood, used for storing and aging wine. Kegs are commonly used for wine in draft systems or for bulk storage and transport.

Kvevri: Large clay vessels used for fermentation and aging of wine, traditionally employed in winemaking regions such as Georgia. Kvevri winemaking is a unique method that involves burying the vessels in the ground.

L -

Lees: Sediments consisting of dead yeast cells and other solids that settle at the bottom of a wine container during fermentation or aging. These can impart additional flavors and textures to the wine if left in contact. Leaving the wine on the lees is a winemaking technique called "sur lie" aging.

Legs: The viscous droplets that form and slowly slide down the sides of the wineglass after swirling the wine. Legs, also known as tears, can indicate a wine's alcohol content and viscosity.

Luscious: A tasting note used to describe wines with rich, opulent, and indulgent flavors and textures. Luscious wines are often full-bodied and exhibit intense fruitiness.

M -

Malolactic fermentation: A secondary fermentation process in which tart-tasting malic acid is converted into softer-tasting lactic acid, reducing the wine's acidity and adding complexity. Malolactic fermentation is common in many red wines and some white wines.

Microclimate: The specific climatic conditions within a vineyard or wine region that can differ from the surrounding area. Microclimates can impact grape ripening, flavor development, and overall wine quality.

Méthode Champenoise: The traditional method of producing sparkling wines, including Champagne. It involves a secondary fermentation in the bottle, creating carbonation and characteristic yeast-derived flavors.

N -

Nose: Refers to the aroma or bouquet of a wine, encompassing all the scents and fragrances detected when smelling the wine. The nose provides insights into the wine's flavors and can indicate its quality and maturity.

Nebuchadnezzar: A large-sized wine bottle that holds approximately 15 liters or 20 standard wine bottles' worth of wine. Nebuchadnezzars are often used for special occasions and in wine presentations.

New World: A term used to describe wine-producing regions outside of Europe, such as the United States, Australia, South America, and New Zealand. New World wines often showcase fruit-forward flavors and innovative winemaking techniques.

O -

Oenology: The science and study of winemaking, including grape cultivation, fermentation, aging, and wine production techniques. Oenology encompasses the scientific understanding and application of winemaking principles.

Oak: A type of wood commonly used in winemaking for aging wine. Oak barrels can impart flavors such as vanilla, spice, and toastiness, adding complexity and enhancing the wine's structure.

Organic: A wine produced from grapes grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Organic winemaking focuses on sustainable practices and the preservation of natural ecosystems.

P -

Phylloxera: A destructive vineyard pest that attacks the roots of grapevines and can cause significant damage to vineyards if not controlled. Phylloxera devastated vineyards worldwide in the late 19th century and led to significant changes in grapevine cultivation.

Pruning: The process of trimming and shaping grapevines during the dormant season. Pruning influences vine growth, fruit production, and grape quality.

Punt: The indentation or dimple found in the bottom of some wine bottles. The punt strengthens the bottle and collects sediment during pouring.

Q -

Quinta: A Portuguese term referring to a wine estate or vineyard. The term is often used in the context of Port wine, where a Quinta denotes a specific vineyard property.

Qualitätswein: A German term designating high-quality wines made from designated regions. Qualitätswein represents a step above basic table wines and must adhere to specific production regulations.

Quince: A fruit with a tart flavor often used to describe certain arom

R -

Reserva: A term commonly used in wine regions such as Spain and Portugal to denote wines of higher quality or longer aging. Reserva wines typically undergo longer aging in barrels and bottles before release.

Racking: The process of transferring wine from one container to another, typically to separate the clear wine from sediment or to aid in clarification. Racking helps improve wine clarity and purity.

Riddling: A technique used in the production of sparkling wines, particularly Champagne, where bottles are gradually rotated and tilted to collect sediment in the neck of the bottle for removal.

S -

Sommelier: A trained and knowledgeable wine professional who specializes in wine service, selection, and education. Sommeliers often work in restaurants, hotels, or wine bars, assisting customers with wine choices and pairings.

Supple: A descriptive term for wines that have a smooth and velvety texture, often associated with well-integrated tannins and a balanced mouthfeel.

Syrah: A red grape variety known for producing full-bodied and rich wines, with flavors and aromas of dark fruits, spices, and sometimes a peppery note. Syrah is popular in regions such as the Rhône Valley and Australia.

T -

Terroir: A French term that encompasses the combination of factors, including soil, climate, topography, and vineyard location, that influence the character and quality of a wine. Terroir imparts unique characteristics to wines from specific regions.

Tannins: Natural compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems, as well as oak barrels, that contribute to a wine's structure, bitterness, and aging potential. Tannins can create a drying sensation in the mouth.

Tasting Notes: Detailed descriptions of a wine's appearance, aroma, flavors, and overall characteristics. Tasting notes provide insights and guidance for assessing and appreciating wines.

U -

Ullage: The empty space between the wine and the top of a wine bottle. Ullage can indicate the level of wine oxidation and can be a factor in evaluating a wine's condition and potential aging.

Unoaked: Refers to wines that have not been aged in oak barrels, preserving the fruit flavors and showcasing the natural characteristics of the grape variety and terroir.

Ugni Blanc: A white grape variety commonly grown in France, particularly in Cognac and Armagnac production. Ugni Blanc is also used in the production of crisp, high-acidity white wines.

V - Varietal: A term used to describe wines that are labeled with the specific grape variety from which they are made. Varietal wines emphasize the distinct characteristics of a particular grape variety.

Viniculture: The science and practice of grape cultivation for winemaking, encompassing all aspects of vineyard management, including planting, pruning, irrigation, and harvesting.

Vintner: A term used to describe a person or company involved in winemaking or wine production. Vintners can refer to winemakers, vineyard owners, or wine merchants.

W -

Winegrower: An individual or entity engaged in the cultivation of grapes and production of wine. Winegrowers oversee the vineyard operations, grape harvesting, and winemaking processes.


Wine fault: Undesirable characteristics or flaws in wine that negatively impact its taste, aroma, or appearance. Common wine faults include oxidation, cork taint, and excessive volatile acidity.


Wine tasting: The sensory evaluation and assessment of wine, involving the observation of its appearance, evaluation of its aroma, and the tasting of its flavors and structure. Wine tasting helps in assessing the quality and characteristics of a wine.


X -

Xarel-lo: A white grape variety primarily grown in the Penedès region of Catalonia, Spain. Xarel-lo is one of the key grapes used in the production of Cava, a sparkling wine.


Xynomavro: A red grape variety native to Greece, particularly the region of Macedonia. Xynomavro wines are known for their high acidity, tannic structure, and potential for aging.


X-factor: A term used to describe the unique or exceptional qualities of a wine that make it stand out or differentiate it from others. The X-factor can refer to factors such as complexity, balance, or an extraordinary flavor profile.


Y -

Yeast: Microscopic fungi responsible for the fermentation process in winemaking. Yeast consumes the grape sugars, converting them into alcohol and carbon dioxide.


Yield: The amount of grapes harvested from a vineyard or a specific area. Yield can impact wine quality, as lower yields often result in more concentrated flavors and higher quality grapes.


Young: Describes a wine that has not undergone extensive aging and is meant to be consumed soon after bottling. Young wines are typically fresh, fruity, and vibrant.


Z -

Zinfandel: A red grape variety widely grown in California, known for producing robust and fruity wines with flavors of blackberry, raspberry, and spice. Zinfandel is also used to produce off-dry rosé wines known as "White Zinfandel."


Zibibbo: A white grape variety grown primarily in Sicily, Italy, and used in the production of aromatic and sweet wines. Zibibbo is also known as Muscat of Alexandria.


Zymology: The scientific study of fermentation, including the process of converting sugars into alcohol by yeast during winemaking. Zymology explores the chemical and biological aspects of fermentation.

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