Weekly wine, food,
& travel features!
 














 

A  B  C  D  E  F  H  I  J  M  N  O  P  R  S  T  V  Y   All

A

ACIDITY
Acid is a natural component in grapes and necessary for a wine to be balanced. Too much acid makes a wine overly tart and sharp on the palate. Too little acid makes a wine tasted dull and flabby. In some areas it is legal to acidify (add acid to) wines that are lacking. But this is illegal in Bordeaux and Burgundy. See chaptalization.

AERATION
Allowing a wine "breathe" in the air by swirling the wine in a glass. Aeration is a process used to soften young, tannic wines. But is not recommended older ones.

AFTERTASTE
Flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is swallowed or spit. Aftertaste also refers to the "finish," which is an important measure of a wine's quality. Rich, long, and complex aftertastes are most desirable.

AGGRESSIVE
Harsh in taste or texture, and often due to a high level of tannin or acid.

AGING
Keeping a wine for a period of time under proper conditions of temperature, darkness, and humidity to soften, balance and open up the flavors of the wine. Different varietals and blends in different vintages all at different rates.

ALCOHOL
Ethyl alcohol is formed by the action of natural or added yeast on the sugar content of grapes during fermentation. Most wines have 12 to 14 percent alcohol by volume.

ALCOHOLIC
A wine that is unbalanced due to having too much alcohol for its body and weight. This undesirable "hot" (burning) quality can be determined from aroma, taste, and aftertaste.

AMERICAN OAK
A much less expensive alternative to French oak, for making barrels to age wine. Lends vanilla, dill and cedar characteristics to the wine. See also French oak.

AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREAS (AVAs)
U.S. regulations governing appellation laws. AVAs are designated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

APPELLATION
Defines the area where the wine's grapes or the majority of the wine's grapes were grown.

APPELLATION D'ORIGIN D'CONTROLEE (AOC)
Begun in the 1930s, this system of French regulations specify the precise geographic area in which a given French wine can be made, types of grapes that can be used, how the vines must be grown, and how the wine can be made.

AROMA
The smell of a young wine. See bouquet.

ASTRINGENCY
That quality in a wine that makes the mouth slightly dry and makes one want to pucker. A small amount of astringency is expected in young, Cabernet Sauvignons.

AUSTERE
High-acid wines lacking balance, depth, and roundness. Young wines that need aging to soften, or wines that lack body are considered austere.

AWKWARD
Poor structure in wine, being clumsy or out of balance.

B

BALANCE
All components are in harmony and no single element dominates the wine.

BARREL FERMENTATION
Wine fermented in barrels, usually small casks (55-gallon) rather than larger stainless steel tanks. This labor intensive method is mainly used for whites, positively effecting the wine's flavor and texture.

BALTHAZAR
An oversized bottle which holds the equivalent of 12 to 16 standard bottles.

BITTERNESS
Coming from one of four tastes (bitter, sour, salty and sweet), bitterness can result from grapes that are naturally have a bitter quality, such as Gewürztraminer and Muscat, or from the tannin or stems used in the winemaking process. Bitterness should not dominate a wine's wine's flavor or aftertaste, not even young reds that need aging. A touch of bitterness can compliment sweet wines.

BLANC DE BLANCS
"White of whites," meaning a white wine made of white grapes. Champagne made of Chardonnay is a Blanc De Blanc.

BLANC DE NOIRS
"White of blacks," meaning white wine made of red or black grapes with the juice squeezed from the grapes and fermented without skin contact. The wines may have a pale pink hue. Champagne that is made from Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier is a Blanc De Noir.

BLEND
The combining of different lots of wine and may be a blend of different grape varietals.

BODY
The weight or fullness of a wine on the palate, usually described as being either light, medium or full bodied. More alcohol generally means fuller body.

BOTRYTIS
Also called "noble rot," Botrytis cinerea is a beneficial mold. In some warm, humid circumstances, it grows on the outside of grapes and sucks water from the grapes, making them shrivel. Sweet wines are made from these grapes in areas, such as Sauternes, Germany, and Tokay.

BOUQUET
The aroma a wine after it has aged in the bottle.

BUTTERY
A flavor descriptor that is the result of the barrel fermentation and afterwards being left for a period of time in contact with the yeast.

C

CABERNET FRANC
A red wine grape often used in Bordeaux blends to add acidity and aroma. Genetic research indicates that it is the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet franc often has a violet aroma and spicy flavor.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON
@@@@Cabernet sauvignon possesses what can be an impressive structure along with deep, rich cassis flavors.

CAPSULE
The covering at the top of the neck of a wine bottle that protects the cork.

CHAMPAGNE
The famous sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France, about 90 miles northeast of Paris. Typically a blend of three grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay and made by the methode Champenoise, in which the secondary bubble-causing fermentation takes place inside the bottle.

CHARDONNAY
One of the most popular white grape varieties in America and the white grape of Burgundy.

CHEWY
Full and thick in the mouth.

CLOYING
An unbalanced sweet wine lacking in acidity tastes too sweet and coats the tongue, much like a butterscotch candy.

COMPLEX
A bottle of wine that reveals more layers, facets, and flavors as you continue to drink it.

CORKED
A bottle of wine that has musty smell indicates the wine has been spoiled by a faulty cork. Wet dog and wet cardboard have similar aromas.

CRISP
A zesty and refreshing wine with much (but not too much) acidity.

D

D.O.C. (DENOMINAZIONE D'ORIGINE CONTROLLATA)
The Italian system of laws and regulations.

DECANT
Slowly pouring wine from bottle into a carafe but not the sediment. Older red wines need decanting.

DELICATE
Light to medium weight wines with good flavors.

DEMI-SEC
A semi-dry sparkling wine that tastes somewhat sweet.

DENSE
Concentrated aromas in young wines.

DEPTH
Depth of flavor that comes from complexity and concentration.

DIRTY
Off smell or off taste in a wine likely caused by bad barrels or corks.

DISENGORGEMENT
A step in the traditional process of sparkling wine production when the temporary cap and frozen sediment are removed from the neck of the bottle. The wine is then topped with a traditional Champagne cork.

DOSAGE
In bottle-fermented sparkling wines, a small amount of wine (usually sweet) that is added back to the bottle once the yeast sediment that collects in the neck of the bottle is removed.

DRY
No perceptible taste of sugar, approximately at levels of 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent.

DRYING OUT
At this point in the aging process a wine is losing freshness and fruit (or sweetness in sweet wines) and should not be aged much longer but drank instead.

DUMB
A phase young wines undergo when their flavors and aromas are undeveloped.

E

EARTHY
Wine that smells or tastes similar to the earth, soil, forest floor, mushrooms, or dried leaves.

ENOLOGY
The science of winemaking.

ESTATE BOTTLED
A wine that is made 100% from grapes growing in vineyards owned by the winery or in vineyards that the winery leases under long-term contract. The vineyards must be in the same appellation.

F

FERMENTATION
Chemically converting grape juice into wine through the action of yeast. Yeast enzymes convert grapes' natural sugar s into alcohol, giving off carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

FILTER
A device used to remove certain large particles, such as yeast or bacteria from wine.

FINISH
The final aftertaste of a wine. Long finishes are desirable.

FLORAL
A smell reminiscent of flowers or meadows.

FORTIFIED
Raising a wine's alcohol content by the addition of neutral grape spirits.

FULL BODIED
Usually high in alcohol wines, which carry much weigh on the palate.

H

HOT
A wine that is unbalanced with too much alcohol.

I

IMPERIAL
Oversized bottle equivalent to eight standard bottles.

J

JEROBOAM
Oversized bottle equivalent to six standard bottles of wine or four of Champagne.

M

MACERATION
Steeping of the grape skins and solids in the wine during fermentation. The alcohol extracts color, tannin and aroma from the skins.

MAGNUM
Oversized bottle equivalent to two standard bottles, holds 1.5 liters.

MERITAGE
California wineries' term for Bordeaux-style red and white blended wines.

METHODE CHAMPENOISE
Labor-intensive and expensive process, wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle creating bubbles in Champagne and high quality sparkling wine.

METHUSELAH
An extra-large bottle holding 6 liters; the equivalent of eight bottles.

MUST
The unfermented juice of grapes extracted by crushing or pressing; grape juice in the cask or vat before it is converted into wine.

N

NOSE
Synonymous with aroma. Yet nose is also used as a verb.

O

OAKY
Pronounced oak flavor resulting from aging the wine in new small oak barrels.

OXIDIZED
Wine that has been significantly exposed to air (oxygen), thereby changing the wine's aroma and flavor. Fully oxidized wines have a tired, spoiled flavor. Oxidized white wine turns brown.

P

PHYLLOXERA
Tiny aphids or root lice that attack Vitis vinifera roots. The disease was widespread in both Europe and California during the late 19th century, and returned to California in the 1980s.

PRESS WINE (OR PRESSING)
The juice extracted under pressure after pressing for white wines and after fermentation for reds. Press wine has more flavor and aroma, deeper color and often more tannins than free-run juice. Often blended with portion of press wine into the main cuvée to add backbone.

PRIVATE RESERVE
Meaningless term lacking a legal definition.

R

RAW
Young and undeveloped. A good descriptor of barrel samples of red wine. Raw wines are often tannic and high in alcohol or acidity.

REDUCED
Commonly used to describe a wine that has not been exposed to air.

REHOBOAM
Oversized bottle equivalent to 4.5 liters or six regular bottles.

RESIDUAL SUGAR
Unfermented grape sugar in a finished wine.

S

SALMANAZAR
An oversized bottle holding 9 liters, the equivalent of 12 regular bottles.

SOMMELIER
The French term for a wine steward. Although some wine stewards are called sommeliers, certification by the Master Court of Sommeliers is awarded on various levels after passing their examinations.

SULFUR
A small amount of sulfur dioxide, a preservative, may be used both in the vineyard and during winemaking to protect grapes and wine from spoilage.

SULFITES
A form of sulfur that occurs naturally as a by-product of fermentation. Some people are allergic to sulfur, so wine labels must carry the message "contains sulfites" if the wine contains more than 10 parts per million (ppm) sulfites.

SUR LIE
French for "on the lees." Wines aged sur lie are kept in contact with the dead yeast cells and are not racked or otherwise filtered.

T

TANNIN
A group of beneficial compounds in wine that come mainly from the grape's skins and seeds. Tannin gives wine structure and because it acts as a natural preservative, allows wine to age. Under ripe tannins taste dry and astringent.

V

VARIETAL
A type of grape variety.

VELVETY
Rich flavor and silky, sumptuous texture.

VINICULTURE
The science or study of grape production for wine and the making of wine.

VINOUS
Literally means "winelike" and is usually applied to dull wines lacking in distinct varietal character.

VINTAGE
The year that a wine was made. In the United States, a wine must come from grapes that are at least 95 percent from the stated calendar year.

VINTED BY
Largely meaningless phrase that means the winery purchased the wine in bulk from another winery and bottled it.

VINTNER
A wine producer or winery proprietor.

VITICULTURAL AREA
A legal grape-growing area distinguished by geographical features, climate, soil, elevation, history and other definable boundaries. Rules vary widely from region to region, and change often.

VITICULTURE
The cultivation, science and study of grapes.

VITIS VINIFERA
Classic European winemaking species of grape.

VOLATILE
Referring to a wine with excessive amounts of volatile acidity, having an unpleasant, sharp vinegary aroma.

Y

YEASTY
A term for a wine with aromas of bread dough, found in any good sparkling wines and Champagnes have a yeasty aroma.

      Privacy Policy       Terms of Use