compiled by David Rowe
Abocado (Sp.) Medium sweet. See also 'dulce', 'seco'.
AC, AOC Short for appellation controlee, part of the French system that classifies wines according to their geographical origin. Each AC has a set of rules defining the region of production, permitted grape varieties and yields, and sometimes alcohol and sugar levels. For some ACs, a tasting panel must approve wines before they are sold. The system provides a guarantee of authenticity for the consumer while protecting the producer from competition. See also 'Vin de Pays', 'VDQS', 'Vin de table'.
Acetaldehyde Chemical substance formed by the partial oxidation of alcohol. Normally considered a fault if it can be detected on the nose, though it is an essential part of the aroma of deliberately oxidised styles such as Fino Sherry and other flor wines.
Acetic Tasting term indicating an undesirable vinegary smell.
Acetic acid Chemical substance formed by the oxidation of alcohol. It is present in all wines in small quantities as part of the volatile acidity. In excess it is considered a fault (see acetic). See also 'ethyl acetate'.
Acidity One of the basic flavours which can be detected by the tongue and an essential component of all wine. Contributes to the fresh crispness of white wines. Over-high acidity can make a wine taste tart, while low acidity wines can be flabby.
Acids Essential component of all wines. Several different acids are found in grapes and wine. Grapes are one of the few fruits to contain tartaric acid,the major wine acid and the most important source of acidity in wine. Smaller amounts of malic acid, citric acid and lactic acid can also be found, as can acetic acid. See also 'volatile acidity'.
Adega (Por.) Winery or winemaking cellar.
Aftertaste Sensation left in the mouth after wine is swallowed. A long aftertaste is a sign of a complex, high-quality wine. See also 'length'.
Ageing Complex process of change which take place in wine over time. Simple wines require little ageing and can generally be enjoyed within a few months of the harvest. More complex wines will typically improve progressively over time, reaching a peak after several years or even decades, and then begin to decline.
Aggressive Tasting term, usually indicating a wine with high or excessive acidity or tannin. Wines that are aggressive in their youth may improve with ageing.
Aguardente (Por.) Grape-derived alcohol used to fortifty Port.
Alberello (It.). Bush vine.
Alcohol (or ethanol) Compound formed by the fermentation of sugar. Responsible for the intoxicating effect of wine, but also essential for adequate body and mouth feel.
Alcohol content Amount of alcohol present in wine, normally expressed as percentage by volume (% vol. on the label). A wine at 12 % vol. therefore contains 120ml of alcohol per litre of wine. Most table wines fall between 9% and 15%. Fortified wines such as Port and Sherry are around 20%. Spirits are usually bottled at 40-43%.
Aldehydes Class of chemical compounds, formed by the partial oxidation of alcohols and sometimes found in wine. The most usual is acetaldehyde.
Almacenista (Sp.) Small-scale maturer of Sherry, who buys wine from a producer, ages it, then sells it on to a merchant for blending and bottling.
Amabile (It.) Sweet. Sweeter than abboccato.
American oak Species of oak much used to make barrels for ageing wine. It is cheaper than French oak and generally considered inferior.
Ampelography Study and identification of grape varieties.
Amtichle Prfungsnummer See 'AP Nr'.
Anbaugebiet (Ger.) Term used to indicate the 13 major wine regions of Germany. Each Anbaugebiet can be further subdivided into one or more Bereich, Grosslage (or Ursprungslage) and Einzellage. The name of the Anbaugebiet must appear on the label of quality wine.
Annata (It.) Vintage year
AOC See AC.
AP Nr Number found on German wine labels, indicating that the wine has undergone an official tasting and chemical analysis. Not really any guarantee of quality.
Appellation controlee See AC
Apple, appley Tasting term used to indicate the lively fruity acidity of a young white. Bruised apple taste can indicate oxidation, in reds or whites.
Approved Viticultural Areas (AVAs) US appellation system, defining regions entitled to a geographical designation for their wines.
Are Unit of area, equal to 100m2. The hectare is 100 ares (2.47 acres), and most west European vineyards are measured in hectares. The decare (10 ares, or one-tenth of a hectare) is used in parts of Eastern Europe.
Aroma Tasting term used to indicate the smells of a wine, particularly those deriving from the grape and fermentation. See also 'bouquet'.
Aromatic Tasting term used to indicate a wine with a positive, agreeable smell. Also, a class of grapes (e.g. the Muscat family) which are particularly fragrant.
Ascorbic acid Vitamin C. Sometimes added to white wines as a preservative.
Assaggio (It.) Wine tasting.
Assemblage (Fr.) Blending of different vats, and sometimes different grape varieties. Also used to indicate the composition of such a blend.
Astringent Tasting term used to indicate a sharp bitterness. Usually a fault, a wine may become less astringent with ageing.
Asz Hungarian term, used on Tokaji labels, indicating that botrytis affected grapes were used.
Ausbruch Austrian sweet-wine category, coming between Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese in ripeness.
Auslese (Ger.) Quality white wine category, meaning selected harvest. Grapes are picked at least a week after Sptlese. Minimum must weights are laid down according to variety and region. Normally sweet.
Austere Tasting term, usually indicating a lack of richness or sweetness.
Autolysis Process whereby dead yeast cells break down, to give a biscuity flavour. Found especially in Champagne and other quality sparkling wines.
Autovinificator Fermentation vat, where the pumping over process is performed automatically, using the pressure of carbon dioxide gas generated during fermentation. Now largely replaced by the rotary fermenter.
AVA See Approved Viticultural Area.
Balthazar Champagne bottle of 12 litres, equal to 16 normal (75cl) bottles.
Barrel Vessel used for ageing, and sometimes fermenting. There are many different shapes and sizes, but the most popular are the barrique of 225 litres and the hogshead of around 300 litres. Nearly always made of oak. New barrels impart an oaky flavour to the wine whereas old ones simply allow a controlled oxidation.
Barrique (Fr.) Barrel of 225 litres.
Scale used to measure the sugar in grape juice. Approximates to the potential
alcohol, therefore a juice of 12 Baum will yield a wine of around 12% vol. if fermented to dryness.
Beery Tasting term indicating the malty smell or taste of beer, usually considered a fault in wine.
Bentonite Clay often used in fining wine, particularly white. The bentonite removes protein, helping to ensure a perfectly clear wine in bottle.
Bereich (Ger.) Wine-growing district, comprising a group of sites which produce wines of similar character. The Bereich may be further subdivided into individual Grosslagen.
Bianco (It.) White
Big Tasting term used to indicate a powerful wine with plenty of fruit and structure and possibly high alcohol.
Bite Tasting term used to indicate a powerful initial sensation of acidity or tannin, which grabs attention immediately the wine is tasted.
Bitter One of the four basic flavours which can be detected by the tongue. Bitterness is a fault in excess, but is normally balanced by fruit and sweetness.
Blackcurrant Tasting term used to indicate the often pungent aroma of blackcurrant fruit and leaf, particularly in wines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Blanc (Fr.) White
Blanc de blancs (Fr.) White wine made from white grapes (i.e. most white wine).
Blanc de noirs (Fr.) White wine made from black grapes. Particularly used for Champagne made from Pinot Noir and Meunier (with no Chardonnay).
Blanco (Sp.) White
Bleichert (Ger.) Rose wine.
Blush. US term for pink wine.
Bocksbeutel (Ger.) Squat, flagon-shaped bottle used for wines from Franken and sometimes north Baden.
Bodega (Sp.) Wine-making cellar, winery.
Body Tasting term used to indicate the weight of the wine in the mouth.
Bordeaux mixture Copper-based spray used to treat vines against disease.
Botrytis Fungus which attacks grapes. Essential for the finest sweet whites, where the fungus ('noble rot') allows water to evaporate from the berries leading to a concentration in sugar content. Otherwise undesirable.
Botte (It.) Large barrel.
Bottle age Period that a wine has spent ageing in bottle, which may be months, years or decades. See 'ageing'.
Bottle fermented Sparkling wine in which the second, bubble-forming fermentation took place in bottle (rather than in tank). Always the case for Champagne. The term is found on labels of other quality sparkling wines.
Bottle sickness, stink Disagreeable smell or taste sometimes found in wine immediately after it is bottled. Should disappear rapidly.
Bouquet Tasting term used to indicate the smells that develop with ageing.
Branco (Por.) White.
Brix Scale used to measure the sugar content in grape juice (particularly in the New World). 1 Brix indicates 1% sugar.
Brut (Fr.) Label term used mainly for Champagne and other sparkling wines to indicate 'very dry'.
Bush vine Vine grown as a low bush, without a supporting trellis.
Butt Barrel used for ageing Sherry, of 500-650 litre capacity.
Cantina sociale (It.) Co-operative winery.
Caratello (It.) Small barrel, of about 50 litre capacity, used for ageing vin santo.
Carato (It.) Barrel, barrique.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) Gas generated during fermentation. Normally most is allowed to escape into the atmosphere. For sparkling wines the CO2 is trapped in the bottle and is responsible for the bubbles. Winemakers often use CO2 to protect juice and wine from oxygen at various stages in the winemaking process.
Carbonic maceration Special winemaking process in which whole, uncrushed grapes are placed in a sealed tank. Fermentation takes place within the berries, leading to extraction of fruit and colour but minimal tannin, resulting in a soft, early drinking style. Particularly used in Beaujolais and for many vins nouveaux and vins primeurs.
Cassis (Fr.) Blackcurrant.
Cats pee Pungent, even aggressive, aroma found particularly in some Sauvignon Blanc wines.
Cave (Fr.) Cellar, winery.
Cave co-operative (Fr.) Co-operative winery.
Cedar, cedary Tasting term used to indicate the spicy smell of cedar wood, particularly in Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
Cellar Literally an underground room. Much winemaking was traditionally done underground, though the term cellar is now used to indicate anywhere that grapes are processed and wines stored and aged. Also, a collection of wine, again not necessarily underground.
Cepage (Fr.) Grape (vine) variety.
Chai (Fr.) 'Overground' cellar, particularly in Bordeaux.
Chambre (Fr.) At room temperature. In fact most red wines benefit from being served slightly cooler (15-17C) than modern, centrally-heated rooms.
Chaptalization (Fr.) Enrichment of grape juice with sugar or concentrated must. It is authorised (within limits) in cooler regions where grapes do not achieve adequate natural ripeness.
Charmat method Technique for producing sparkling wines by second fermentation in tank. Cheaper and easier than bottle fermented, it is generally used for less expensive wines.
Chateau (Fr.) Castle; wine-producing estate (even if it doesn't have a real castle).
Chiaretto (It.) Light rose wine.
Chocolate, chocolatey Tasting term used to indicate a rich, warm chocolate-like aroma and taste, particularly in red wine.
Clairet Light red wine from Bordeaux, resembling a deeply coloured rose.
Claret Anglo-Saxon term for any red wine of Bordeaux.
Clarete (Sp.) Pale red wine.
Classed growth English translation of the French 'cru class', meaning a wine-producing estate that has been ranked in an official classification (particularly in Bordeaux).
Classese (It.) Bottled fermented sparkling wine category, particular to the Italian region of Oltrep Pavese.
Classico (It.) Label term appended to several Italian wine names, to indicate the original heart of the zone (e.g. Chianti Classico is the centre of the larger Chianti region).
Climat (Fr.) Individual vineyard site (particularly in Burgundy).
Clonal selection See 'clone'.
Clone Sub-variety within a vine variety (grape variety). There are different clones of Chardonnay for example, and clonal selection results in the choice of the clone most suited to local conditions and the vinegrower's requirement for yield, disease resistance, and so on.
Clos (Fr.) Walled vineyard.
CM (cooprative manipulant) (Fr.) Letters found on Champagne labels, indicating that the wine comes from a co-operative cellar.
Co-operative (co-op) Group of vinegrowers who commonly share winemaking equipment and cellar facilities. Large co-ops often employ a team of winemaking and sales professionals. The vinegrowers bring their grapes to the co-op for processing, are paid according to the quantity they deliver, and later share in the profits generated by sales. The system is particularly useful in regions where there are many growers with small vineyard holdings, and it is not economically viable for each to have winemaking facilities.
Complex Tasting term used to indicate a wine with many different layers of flavours and sensations. Complexity is one of the hallmarks of a great wine, as opposed to the one-dimensional simplicity of an easy-drinking wine.
Consejo regulador (Sp.) Spanish regulatory bodies (there is one for each region), which police the rules of the DO(appellation).
Consorzio (It.) Consortium of producers whose job is to regulate production within a region, or promote the sales and marketing of its wines.
Controliran Bulgarian label term, indicating that the wine comes from a quality wine region.
Copita (Sp.) Wine glass particularly appropriate for enjoying Sherry.
Cork Bark of the cork oak tree, and the substance traditionally used to stopper wine bottles. Natural cork stoppers have excellent qualities of elasticity, keeping the wine in the bottle while not allowing air to intrude. It is only quite recently that synthetic substitutes have been developed to try to combat the problem of corked wine.
Corked, corky Fault in wine caused by a contaminated cork. Corked wine is easier to recognise than to describe: it is woody, mouldy, stale and mouth-puckering.
Cosecha (Sp.) Vintage year.
Cote (Fr.) Hill. Some of the finest vineyards are found on hillsides rather than on the plain. The term forms part of many French (and some foreign) regional names.
Coteau (Fr.) Hillside, slope.
Cremant (Fr.) Sparkling wine, bottle fermented, produced in France but outside Champagne.
Crianza (Sp.) Aged. Normally a DO wine must fulfil certain minimum ageing requirements (in barrel and or bottle) before it can be so described.
Crisp Tasting term used to describe a wine with a lively, refreshing acidity.
Cross In viticulture, a vine variety bred from two varieties of the same species (usually Vitis vinifera). Not to be confused with a hybrid (two different species).
Cru (Fr.) Growth. Used to indicate a particular vineyard site, particularly in Bordeaux.
Cru bourgeois (Fr.) Bourgeois growth. Level of classification in the Bordeaux region coming immediately below cru class. Often very good quality wine at an affordable price.
Cru class (Fr.) Classed growth. Top level of classification in the Bordeaux region. Wines of the Mdoc and Sauternes were classified in 1855, and the top wines were divided into league tables from First Growth (the best, or rather the most expensive) down to Fifth Growth. The classification has scarcely altered since, and so some Second Growths, for example, rival their First Growth neighbours (in quality if not in price).
Crusher Machine used to gently crush grapes after they arrive at the winery, breaking the skins and allowing juice to escape.
Cuve (Fr.) Vat, tank.
Cuve close (Fr.) Charmat method.
Decanting Process of separating a wine from any sediment that may have formed. This is essential for Vintage Port and for older reds (which naturally throw a deposit). Aeration is a by-product of decanting, though wine is most efficiently aerated ('allowed to breathe') by swirling in the glass.
Deep Tasting term used to indicate a wine with intense colour (and/or flavour).
Degorgement (Fr.) Disgorgement (disgorging).
Degree Alcohol content. 'Twelve degrees' means 12% alcohol by volume.
Degustation (Fr.) Wine tasting.
Demi-sec (Fr.) Medium dry.
Denominao de origem controlada (Por.) See 'DOC' (Portugal).
Denominacin de origen (Sp.) See 'DO'.
Denominacin de origen calificada (Sp.) See 'DOCa'.
Denominazione di origine controllata (e garantita) (It.) See 'DOC (Italy)', 'DOCG'.
Destemmer Machine used to separate grapes from their stems.
Destemming Process of separating grapes from stems. Traditionally stems were included in the fermenting vat, but they tend to give a tough, bitter taste to the wine. Most good quality wines are now made without stems.
Developed Tasting term indicating a wine with some aged character and maturity.
Dirty Tasting term used to indicate a wine with an unattractive smell, often caused by hydrogen sulphide.
Disgorgement The process of removing the yeast sediment resulting from the secondary fermentation in bottle of Champagne and other quality sparkling wines. This normally involves plunging the neck of the bottle into freezing brine, so that the sediment forms a solid plug that is ejected under pressure when the bottle is opened.
DO (Denominacin de origen) Spanish system for quality wines produced in a specified region (QWPSR). Each DO has a set of rules defining the region of production, permitted grape varieties and yields, and sometimes alcohol and sugar levels. For some DOs, a tasting panel must approve wines before they are sold. The system provides a guarantee of authenticity for the consumer while protecting the producer from competition. A higher level DOCa also exists and Rioja was the first DO to be promoted. See also 'vino de la tierra', 'vino de mesa'.
DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata) Italian system for quality wines produced in a specified region (QWPSR). There are more than 200 DOCs, each with a set of rules defining the region of production, permitted grape varieties and yields, and sometimes ageing requirements. The system provides a guarantee of authenticity for the consumer while protecting the producer from competition. A higher level also exists, DOCG. See also 'vino da tavola', 'IGT'.
DOCa (Denominacin de origen calificada) The highest quality wine designation in Spain. Rioja was the first DO to be promoted.
DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita) The highest quality wine designation in Italy. The promotion of DOCs to DOCGs has generally involved the imposition of more stringent rules on yield and grape varieties, for instance.
Dolce (It.) Sweet. Sweeter than amabile or abboccato.
Domaine (Fr.) Wine estate.
Dosage (Fr.) Dose of sweetness added to Champagne (and other sparkling wines) just before the final cork is put in place. Almost all sparkling wines have some added sweetness, even if they are labelled brut.
Double magnum Bottle of 3 litres equivalent to 4 normal (75cl) bottles. In Champagne this size is called jeroboam.
Dry Tasting term used to indicate an absence of detectable sweetness. Many wines contain a little residual sugar, while still tasting dry.
Edelfule (Ger.) Botrytis. Noble rot.
Einzellage (Ger.) Individual vineyard site, the boundaries and names defined by German wine law. Ownership may be divided among different growers.
Eiswein (Ger.) Ice wine. Sweet wine style made in Germany and Austria (and Canada). Grapes are left on the vine until much later than usual (sometimes after Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere) in the hope that icy conditions will prevail. The water content in the grapes then freezes and they are quickly picked and pressed to yield a juice rich in sugar. The resulting wines are rich and luscious, though without the botrytis flavour of other sweet wines.
Encepagement (Fr.) Grape-variety mix; used to describe the components of a multi-varietal blend.
Erzeugerabfllung (Ger.) Bottled by the producer.
Espumoso (Sp.) Sparkling. Most Spanish sparkling wines come under the Cava DO, but a few are simply classed as vino espumoso.
Estate bottled Mainly New World term, used to indicate that the wine was bottled on the property where the grapes were grown.
Estufa (Por.) Oven in which Madeira is cooked, as part of the production process.
Ethanol Alcohol, ethyl alcohol. The natural product of fermentation of sugars, present in all wines.
Extract Soluble solids (other than sugar) present in wine which contribute to its body and structure.
Fermentation Complex process in which sugars, naturally present in grape juice, are transformed into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the action of yeasts. Heat is the other main by-product.
Fiasco (It.) Wicker-covered bottle, once very popular for Chianti but now considered naff by sophisticated wine lovers.
Fining Winemaking procedure in which a product is added to wine in order to remove unwanted material. Typical fining agents include bentonite clay (to remove proteins) and egg white (to remove bitter tannins). Ox blood was once commonly used as a fining agent but is now generally forbidden.
Finish Tasting term used to indicate the final sensation left in the mouth once a wine is swallowed. A long, persistent finish is considered a sign of a fine wine.
Fino Style of Sherry, pale, dry and pungent, produced by ageing the wine under a layer of yeast cells called flor.
Firm Tasting term used to indicate a wine with positive, assertive attributes, such as fruit, tannin and acidity.
First growth English translation of the French premier cru, indicating a wine at the top of some official quality classification.
Flabby Tasting term used to indicate a wine lacking in structure, often marked by low acidity.
Flinty Tasting term used to indicate the aroma (and sometimes taste) of fresh, pungent whites, particular from the Sauvignon Blanc variety.
Flor Layer of yeast cells allowed to grow on fino Sherry during its ageing process, and which contributes to its typical aroma.
Fortified wine Usually sweet wine, in which the alcoholic fermentation is stopped before all the sugar has been consumed, by the addition of brandy. The alcohol kills the yeast, leaving a sweet wine with high alcohol. Examples include Port and Vin Doux Naturel. Sherry, by contrast, is fortified after fermentation, and so it is naturally dry.
Foudre (Fr.) Barrel, usually larger than a barrique.
Foulage (Fr.) Crushing (of grapes). The machine used to achieve this is called a fouloir.
Fouloir (Fr.) Crusher. One of the first steps in grape processing and often associated with a destemmer (grappoir).
Foxy Tasting term used to indicate the wild, earthy flavour of wines made from hybrid grapes or native North American varieties.
Fresh Tasting term used to indicate a pleasantly youthful and vigorous character, often associated with relatively high acidity, and a complete absence of oxidation.
Frizzante (It.) Gently sparkling. Fully sparkling wines are spumante.
Fruity Tasting term used to describe the attractive flavour of wine made from ripe grapes, which may be reminiscent of a wide range of fruits including citrus fruits, red and black berries, and stone fruits.
Full Tasting term used to describe a wine giving a positive, satisfying sensation in the mouth, possibly associated with ripeness and high alcohol.
Gelatine Fining agent of animal (usually pig) origin, used to remove bitter tastes or the taste of rot.
Girasol (Sp.) Machine used to reproduce the effect of riddling in the production of sparkling wines. Bottles held in a cage are gradually moved to the upright position, shaking the sediment of dead yeast cells into the neck. The girasol achieves this in a few days, compared with several weeks for manual riddling.
Gluhwein (Ger.) Wine served hot, often with the addition of sugar and spices.
Gobelet (Fr.) System for growing vines, in which the plant takes the form of a low bush without a supporting trellis. See bush vine.
Gout (Fr.) Taste. As in gout de terroir (taste derived from the particular location where the vines were grown).
Governo (It.) Technique for producing Chianti, in which some grapes are reserved and dried, and then added to wine after the first alcoholic fermentation. A second fermentation then takes place, increasing alcohol content and colour. Now used only rarely.
Grafting Technique of joining fruit-bearing vines (usually Vitis vinifera) to rootstocks, usually of other Vitis species. Since the outbreak of phylloxera in the nineteenth century, most of the world's vineyards have been planted with vinifera vines grafted onto rootstock of vines native to America, which are resistant to phylloxera. Different rootstocks are chosen to suit soil type and to manipulate yield and vigour.
Grand cru (class) (Fr.) Literally '(classified) great growth'. The meaning varies by region. Within Bordeaux, grand cru class refers to the top estates of Medoc, Graves and Sauternes, and the top wines of St Emilion. In Burgundy and Chablis the very top vineyard sites are referred to as grands crus (which is a higher classification than premier cru). Alsace also has vineyards classified as grands crus (fairly recently), and in Champagne this designation is used for the most highly rated vineyard sites (and by extension the wines made exclusively from them).
Gran reserva (Sp.) Literally 'great reserve'. Wine that has fulfilled certain (lengthy) ageing requirements and, in theory, comes from a good vintage. In practice, such wines are often too old, and reserva is more likely to appeal to modern palates.
Grand vin (Fr.) Great wine. Meaningless on the label, as use of the term is not regulated. Nearly all Bordeaux is labelled Grand Vin de Bordeaux, whatever its quality. Properties producing a second vin often refer to their top wine as the grand vin.
Grape Fruit of the vine, and the raw material for wine production. There are many species of vine, but most wine grapes are from Vitis vinifera. Within this species there are many varieties (see grape variety).
Grapey Tasting term indicating a wine with smell or flavour reminiscent of fresh grapes or grape juice.
Grappage (Fr.) Destemming. The machine used to achieve this is an grappoir.
Grappoir (Fr.) Destemmer.
Grassy Tasting term indicating a wine with the smell of freshly-cut grass. Complimentary when applied to a fresh young white.
Green Tasting term indicating a lack of ripeness, particular in red wine. Not complimentary.
Grey rot Undesirable form of botrytis.
Grosslage (Ger.) Under German wine law, name of a group of neighbouring Einzellage sites producing wines of a similar style. On the label, the village name is followed by the name of the Grosslage or Einzellage.
Gutsabfllung (Ger.) Estate bottled.
Machine used to reproduce the effect of riddling in the production of
sparkling wines. Bottles held in a cage are gradually moved to the upright
position, shaking the sediment of dead yeast cells into the neck. The
gyropalette achieves this in a few days, compared with several weeks for manual
Hard Tasting term indicating a wine with tough tannins or aggressive acidity.
Hectare (ha) Unit of area, equal to 10 000 m2 (2.47 acres). Vineyards in Europe are normally measured in hectares and yields expressed in terms of hectolitres of wine produced per hectare of vineyard.
Hectolitre (hl) Unit of volume, equal to 100 litres.
Herbaceous Tasting term used to indicate the smell or taste of green plants.
Heurige (Ger.) Austrian term for young wine, sold immediately after vintage.
Hock. Anglo-saxon term for any German wine from the Rhine.
Hogshead Barrel, usually of about 300 litres capacity.
Hollow Tasting term used to indicate a wine lacking in depth, particularly on the middle palate.
Hybrid Vine variety produced by crossing two parents of different species, normally with a view to achieving earlier ripening or improved disease resistance. Not to be confused with a cross (two parents of the same species).
Rotten egg gas. Often produced during fermentation, but should have been
dealt with by the time a wine is bottled. Occasionally develops in bottle (such
a wine is said to be reduced or dirty).
IGT Indicazione geografica tipica Italy wine designation, roughly equivalent to French Vin de Pays. Used for some up-market wines that fall outside the local DOC/G regulations. See 'Super-Tuscans'.
Imperiale Bottle of 6 litres, equal to 8 normal (75cl) bottles. Mainly Bordeaux.
Invecchiato (It.) Aged.
Kir Drink made by mixing white wine with a little blackcurrant liqueur. Kir royale is made with sparkling wine.
Lagar (Por.) Shallow stone trough, used for foot treading of grapes, particularly for making Port. This tradition still continues, though many Port producers now perform fermentation in tanks.
Landwein (Ger.) German wine designation, roughly equivalent to the French Vin de Pays. There are 15 Landwein regions, though the category is seldom used as it is so easy to qualify for the superior QbA category.
Lanolin Tasting term used to describe a wet-wool aroma or taste. Particularly associated with the Semillon grape.
Late harvest Label term used to indicate a wine made from grapes harvested later than usual, normally therefore at a high degree of maturity and possibly affected by botrytis. Normally sweet.
Lees Dead yeast cells, which form a deposit at the bottom of a tank after the alcoholic fermentation. Winemakers may age the wine in the presence of the lees, to protect from oxidation and provide a more complex flavour. Some wines, notably Muscadet sur lie, are bottled directly off the lees.
Legs Tasting term used to describe the pattern formed when drops of wine trickle down the inside of the glass after the wine has been swirled. 'Good' or persistent legs indicates a high viscosity and is sometimes associated with high alcohol.
Length. Tasting term used to indicate the duration of the aftertaste, once a wine has been swallowed. Good length is a sign of a high-quality wine.
Lie(s) (Fr.) Lees.
Light. Tasting term used to indicate a wine pale in colour or lacking in body or mouthfeel.
Liqueur de tirage (Fr.). Mixture of wine, sugar and yeast, added to the base wine to induce the second, bubble-forming fermentation in Champagne and other sparkling wines.
Liqueur d'expedition (Fr.) Mixture of wine and sugar added to Champagne and other sparkling wines after disgorgement and just before the final cork is inserted. See also dosage.
Liquoroso (It.) High alcohol wine, usually sweet.
Lodges Anglo-saxon name for the cellars (mostly in Vila Nova de Gaia) where Port producers age and blend their wines./P>
MA (Marque auxillire) Champagne label term, indicating the name of the wine does not belong to the producer (for example on supermarket own-label Champagne). The number following the letters identifies the producer.
Maceration Process of steeping grape skins in their juice, to extract flavour and, in the case of reds, colour and tannin. Essential for red wines, the maceration may last between a few days and a few weeks. Optional for whites, and usually limited to a few hours.
Macration carbonique (Fr.) Carbonic maceration.
Maderized Tasting term used to indicate a wine that has become over-mature, oxidised, and with a cooked taste.
Maduro (Por.) Mature. A vinho madureo is an aged Portuguese wine, as opposed to a vinho verde (green wine) which is designed to be drunk young.
Magnum Bottle of 1.5 litres, equal to 2 normal (75cl) bottles.
Malic acid See 'acids', 'malolactic fermentation'.
Malolactic fermentation Transformation (not technically a fermentation at all) in which the tart tasting malic acid present in young wine is transformed into the softer lactic acid. Normal for reds, but optional for whites. Whites that have undergone malolactic can have a distinctive buttery taste.
Marc (Fr.) Solids, such as dry skins and pips, left after pressing. Also used to describe the spirit made by distilling the marc.
Marque auxillire See 'MA'.
Mature Tasting term indicating a wine that has aged sufficiently to be ready to drink at its best.
Methode champenoise (Fr.) Champagne method. Sparkling wines made by this method undergo the second bubble-forming fermentation in the actual bottle in which they will be sold. The term was formerly used on labels of sparkling wines from outside Champagne, but has now been replaced by methode traditionnelle, and local equivalents.
Methode traditionnelle (Fr.) Traditional method (of making sparkling wines). Sparkling wines made by this method undergo the second bubble-forming fermentation in the actual bottle in which they will be sold. The term is widely used on labels of sparkling wines from outside Champagne.
Methuselah Bottle of 6 litres capacity, equivalent to 8 normal (75cl) bottles, used mainly for Champagne.
Metodo classico (It.) Bottle-fermented sparkling wine. See 'methode traditionnelle'.
Millesime (Fr.) Vintage.
Mis(e) en bouteille au chateau (Fr.) Bottled at the chateau (where the wine was produced).
Mistelle Alcoholic drink made by adding brandy to unfermented grape juice. Examples include Floc de Gascogne, Pineau des Charentes, Ratafia.
Moelleux (Fr.) Sweet. Much used in the Loire Valley for fully sweet, rich wines.
Mosto (It.) Must.
Mousseux (Fr.) Sparkling. Usually indicates that the wine was made by the Charmat method rather than the methode traditionnelle.
Muffa nobile (It.) Noble rot, botrytis.
Musky Tasting term used to indicate a floral, perfumed aroma, typical of aromatic grapes of the Muscat family.
Must In winemaking, the mixture of grape skins and grape juice that results after crushing but before fermentation has transformed it into wine.
Must weight Measure of the amount of sugar in the must. This gives a guide to what the final alcohol content will be. See 'Baum', 'Brix', 'Oechsle'.
Negociant (Fr.) (Wine) merchant.
Negociant-manipulant See 'NM'.
NM (Negociant-manipulant) Champagne label term, indicating that the wine was produced and sold by the same company. The number following the letters identifies the producer.
Noble rot Anglo-saxon term for pourriture noble, or botrytis, which is responsible for the greatest sweet white wines.
Non-vintage Wine with no specified vintage on the label.
Nose Tasting term used to indicate the aroma and bouquet of a wine.
Nouveau (Fr.) New. Wine sold very soon after the vintage, typically in November. Beaujolais Nouveau is the best known example, but there are many others.
Oak Family of trees much associated with wine. Oak is considered the best material for construction of barrels for fermenting or ageing wine. It has the necessary mechanical properties for cooperage and, when new, imparts a pleasant flavour to the wine. A by-product of barrel-making is oak chips, and recently some winemakers have started to use these to impart oak flavour to wines without incurring the high cost of buying barrels. Finally, the bark of the cork oak is the source of the traditional closure for wine bottles.
Oaky Tasting term indicating the presence of oak flavour on the nose or palate, typically a smell of freshly sawn wood, or vanilla. Well-integrated oak may not be detectable, giving added complexity without dominating the flavour. Excessive oakiness is considered a fault by many wine lovers.
Oechsle Widely used German scale for measuring must weight.
Oenologist Qualified winemaker.
Oenology Scientific study of wine.
Organic wine Made from grapes grown without use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and with a minimum of additives in the cellar.
Oxidation Group of chemical reactions which occur when wine comes into contact with air. Slight oxidation results in a loss of fruit and freshness and browning in white wines. More severe oxidation results in a high level of volatile acidity and, eventually, transformation of the wine into vinegar.
Passito (It.) Method of making wine from semi-dried grapes. Water in the grapes evaporates, leaving a higher concentration of sugar, so passito wines are often sweet and high in alcohol.
Perfumed Tasting term used to describe an attractive, delicate floral or fruity aroma.
Perlant (Fr.) Semi-sparkling.
Perl (Fr.) Semi-sparkling.
Perlwein (Ger.) Sparkling wine, generally of lower quality.
Petillant (Fr.) Semi-sparkling. Used on labels, and also as a tasting term to describe any wine with bubbles evident in the glass or on the tongue.
Petrolly Tasting term used to describe an oily smell which is typical of fine, aged Riesling.
Phylloxera Vine disease caused by an aphid which attacks the root system. Phylloxera devastated Europes vineyards in the nineteenth century. The solution was eventually found: to graft European vines onto resistant American rootstocks. More recently, California has suffered from phylloxera, owing to the use of non-resistant rootstocks. A few privileged areas are free from phylloxera, notably much of Chile.
Pice (Fr.) Barrel of between 205 and 225 litres, especially in Burgundy.
Pipe Barrel of between 534 and 620 litres used for storing, ageing, and transporting Port.
Pourriture noble (Fr.) Noble rot. See also botrytis.
Pradikat See 'QmP'.
Premier cru (Fr.) First growth. In Bordeaux, this means one of the wines at the very top of the classification. In Burgundy, premier cru is the next level down from grand cru; such wines are labelled with the village appellation plus the name of the premier cru.
Pumping over Winemaking term for the process of pumping fermenting juice from the bottom of the tank into the top, to break up the floating cap of skins and help extract colour, fruit and tannin.
QbA (Qualittswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete) Basic level of German quality wine. The wine must come from one of the Anbaugebiete areas, be made from permitted grape varieties, and minimum must weights are laid down. That said, it is not a great guarantee of quality.
QmP (Qualittswein mit Pradikat) Higher level of German quality wine. Within this category, wines are classified in ascending order according to the must weight achieved: Kabinett, Sptlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, and Trockenbeerenauslese. The sweetness varies considerably within each category and Auslese, for example, can range from bone dry through to lusciously sweet.
Qualittswein (Ger.) Quality wine. See 'QbA', 'QmP'.
Quinta (Por.) Wine estate.
Quintal Unit of weight equal to 100kg.
Rancio Tasting term used to describe the rather pungent smell of intentionally oxidised wines, such as wood-aged fortified wines and older vins doux naturels.
Recioto Italian term for sweet heady wines made from grapes that have been concentrated by air drying. The most commonly found is the red Recioto della Valpolicella but white recioto is also made in some regions, as are sparkling versions.
Recoltant-manipulant See 'RM'.
'Recolte' (Fr.) Harvest.
Reduced Tasting and winemaking term used to indicate a wine that has developed a dirty smell reminiscent of rotten eggs. Before bottling this can usually be remedied by aeration of addition of copper. When it develops in bottle, vigorous aeration sometimes removes the reduced smell.
Rehoboam Bottle of 4.5 litres capacity equivalent to 6 normal (75cl) bottles, mainly used for Champagne.
Remontage (Fr.) Pumping over.
Remuage (Fr.) Riddling.
Rendement (Fr.) Yield.
Reserva (Sp.) Reserve. Wine that has been aged for a minimum specified period (according to the DO) normally including a period in barrel. Many of the best red wines of Rioja are bottled as reserva, while the older gran reserva category can be rather too old for modern tastes.
Residual sugar Sugar remaining in a wine after fermentation and once it is ready for bottling. The level of residual sugar determines whether the wine will be dry, medium dry, sweet, etc, though even the driest wines contain a little residual sugar.
Riddling Winemaking term for the process of gradually turning and shaking bottle-fermented sparkling wine (such as Champagne) so that the sediment of dead yeast cells moves to the neck, for subsequent removal by disgorgement. Riddling can be done manually or using a machine (see 'gyropalette', 'girasol').
Riserva Label term used in Italy to indicate a wine of superior quality which has normally also fulfilled a minimum ageing requirement.
RM (Recoltant-manipulant) Champagne label term, indicating that the grapes were grown and the wine produced by the same company. The number following the letters identifies the company.
Rosado (Sp. Por.) Rose.
Rosato (It.) Rose.
Rosso (It.) Red.
Rotary fermenter Rotating tank used for maceration of reds. Rotation is used instead of traditional pumping over and leads to quicker extraction of colour and fruit.
Rotling (Ger.) Type of rose wine, made by fermenting red and white grapes together.
Rotwein (Ger.) Red wine.
Schaumwein (Ger.) Sparkling wine usually of basic quality.
Schloss (Ger.) Castle.
Sec (Fr.) Dry. Still wines labelled sec should taste completely dry, but sec Champagne is relatively sweet (sweeter than brut).
Secco (It.) Dry (or off-dry for some sparkling wines).
Seco (Sp., Por.) Dry.
Second wine Second-quality wine from a property (particularly in Bordeaux), often blended from wines not considered appropriate for the first wine (or grand vin). Can represent good value for money.
Semi-secco (It.) Medium dry (in fact medium sweet).
Semi-seco (Sp.) Medium dry (in fact medium sweet).
Sharp Tasting term used to indicate an acidic or bitter taste. Usually uncomplimentary.
Short Tasting term used to indicate a wine with little aftertaste. See also length.
Silky Tasting term used to indicate a voluptuous, smooth texture in the mouth.
Sin crianza (Sp.) Without ageing. A wine that has received no barrel ageing.
Smoky Tasting term used to indicate the smell of wood smoke on the nose. Desirable if it is not overpowering.
Soft Tasting term, usually complimentary, indicating a wine with a mellow, unaggressive character. Also used to qualify fruit and tannin.
Solera (Sp.) System by which Sherry is aged.
Spatlese (Ger.) German and Austrian quality wine category, meaning late harvest. Grapes are picked a week after Kabinett, and certain minimum must weights are laid down. Spatlese wines can be dry, medium and even quite sweet. See 'QmP'.
Spicy Tasting term used to indicate a piquant, herby aroma or flavour, derived from the grape or from oak ageing.
Spumante (It.) Fully sparkling. See also 'frizzante'.
Stalky Tasting term indicating a woody, slightly raw taste.
Sugar Essential component of grape juice, sugar is converted into alcohol by fermentation. In areas where there is insufficient natural sugar, more may be added (see 'chaptalization'). Sugar, often in the form of concentrated must, is sometimes added to wines before bottling to improve mouth feel in dry wines or to make a 'medium' style. See also 'residual sugar'.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) Preservative which is added to nearly all wines to protect them from oxidation and microbial infection. Good winemakers keep the level of SO2 at the minimum necessary to protect the wine, and its distinctive smell (similar to the smell of striking a match) should not be detected in finished wine. In some countries (notably US and Australia) the use of SO2 must be declared on the label ('Contains sulfites'). A few individuals are allergic to sulphites, but they will discover this long before they are old enough to drink wine: a bag of prepared salad contains more sulphites than a bottle of wine.
Supple Tasting term indicating a soft, easy-drinking wine, with no sharp or bitter flavours.
Sur lie (Fr.) On lees. The practice of ageing wine, normally white, on its lees or dead yeast cells, to give more complex flavour and protect against oxidation. Sometimes found on labels, notably in Muscadet.
Sussreserve (Ger.) Sweet reserve. Unfermented grape juice that is added to wines before bottling to increase the sweetness (and balance the acidity).
Sweaty Tasting term used to indicate a pungent, leathery aroma. Some tasters like this in New World Shiraz, for example, but others regard it as a fault.
Table wine General term for any wine that is not fortified. More specifically, in the EU, a wine not entitled to any quality/regional designation (see 'QWPSR'). See also 'tafelwein', 'vin de table', 'vino da tavola', 'vino de mesa'.
Tafelwein (Ger.) Table wine. May contain wine from outside Germany, while Deutscher Tafelwein must be entirely German.
Tannic Tasting term used to describe the quality and intensity of tannin in red wines. Young wines may have harsh, bitter tannins, reminiscent of stewed tea, that will mellow with age. Ideally, the tannin is well integrated and in balance with the fruit and acidity.
Tannin Group of compounds found naturally in grape skins, which contribute importantly to the structure and ageing potential of red wines. Extra tannin is sometimes added during winemaking, and oak-derived tannin comes from ageing the wine in new barrels.
Tartaric acid. Naturally occurring acid found in grapes (and almost nowhere else) and the most important acid in wine. A good level of acidity is essential for balance, the refreshing taste of crisp whites, and ageing potential in all wines. In hot regions, extra tartaric acid is added to 'correct' the acidity.
Tartrates Crystals which sometimes form in wine. When this happens to white wine in bottle it is usually considered a fault, though it doesn't affect the taste and is not dangerous to health. Most wine producers treat wine before bottling to protect it against tartrate precipitation.
Tastevin Small round dish, often in silver, traditionally used for tasting wine, particularly in Burgundy.
Teinturier General term for the (rare) red grape varieties which have coloured juice. For most reds, the colour comes from the skins.
Tenuta (It.) Estate, farm.
Terra rossa Red-brown, clay-limestone soil found in parts of southern Europe, and notably in Coonawarra, Australia.
Terroir French term for the notion that the complex combination of soil, climate, exposition and local tradition define the style of wine.
Tinto (Sp., Por.) Red.
Tonneau Unit of volume equal to 900 litres, used in Bordeaux for trade in bulk wine.
Tough Tasting term used to indicate a wine with a harsh taste, usually as a result of high tannin content.
Trocken (Ger.) Dry.
German and Austrian quality wine category, meaning 'selected dried berries'.
Individually selected, shrivelled, over-ripe grapes are cut from the bunches.
High must weights are laid down, and the resulting wines are normally lusciously
sweet and rich. The best are made from the Riesling grape. See also 'QmP'.
Ullage Term used to describe a vessel, which is not entirely full. A tank which is not completely full of wine is said to be 'on ullage', and there is the danger that it will become oxidised through contact with air. Old bottles of wine, where the level has dropped below the neck, are described as 'ullaged' (and 'badly ullaged' if the level has dropped below the shoulder). Badly ullaged bottles should be treated with caution, as the wine will almost certainly have deteriorated.
Vanilla Tasting term used to describe a vanilla-like aroma, often a result of ageing in new American oak barrels.
Varietal Wine from a single, named grape variety.
Vat Vessel used for fermentation and storage of wine. Vats come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and can be made from wood, concrete, or metal (nowadays usually stainless steel).
VDQS ( Vin delimite de qualite suprieure) French quality wine designation coming just below AC in the hierarchy. Regions are generally awarded VDQS status in the expectation that they will eventually be promoted to AC. As with AC, there are rules to define the vineyard area, permitted grape varieties and yields, etc.
Vegetal Tasting term used to describe a vegetable like aroma. Usually pejorative.
Velvety Tasting term used to describe a textured, opulent mouth feel in wine.
Vendange (Fr.) Harvest.
Vendange tardive (Fr.) Late harvest. Usually implies ripe fruit and hence sweetness or high alcohol.
Vendemmia (It.) Harvest.
Vendimia (Sp.) Harvest.
Venencia (Por.) Little bowl with flexible handle used for testing and tasting sherry from a barrel.
Vraison French term for the moment when red-wine grapes change from green to black as they mature on the vine.
Vieilles vignes (Fr.) Old vines.
Vigneron (Fr.) Vine grower.
Vignoble (Fr.) Vineyard.
Vin (Fr.) Wine.
Vin de garde (Fr.) Wine suitable for ageing.
Vin de Pays (Fr.) Country wine. French wine category which, like AC, lays down designated areas, permitted grape varieties and yields, etc. The rules are generally more flexible than for AC and, importantly, varietal designations may be used. Vin de Pays may cover entire regions (e.g. Vin de Pays d'Oc), single French departements (e.g. Vin de Pays de l'Aude), or smaller areas.
Vin de table (Fr.) Table wine.
Vin Delimite de Qualite Suprieure (See VDQS).
Vin doux naturel. French term for sweet wines made by arresting the fermentation by the addition of alcohol (in the form of grape spirit). See 'fortified wine'.
Vin Gris (Fr.) Pale pink rose wine.
Vin Mousseux (Fr.) Sparkling wine.
Vin Santo Sweet. Aged style of wine made in Italy, particularly in Tuscany.
Via (Sp.) Vineyard.
Vinho (Por.) Wine.
Vinification Making wine. Can be used to cover all stages from reception of grapes through to preparing the wine for bottling.
Vino (It., Sp.) Wine.
Vino da tavola (It.) Table wine.
Vino de color Spanish term for the deeply coloured wine used to colour brown styles of Sherry.
Vino de la tierra (Sp.) Country wine. Spanish equivalent of the French Vin de Pays category. Little used in practice.
Vino de mesa (Sp.) Table wine.
Vintage Year in which the grapes used to make a wine were grown. Also used to describe the harvest period.
Viscous Tasting term used to indicate a heavy, dense wine. See also 'legs'.
Viticulture Vine growing.
Vitis vinifera Species of vine from which most wine grapes are grown. In most regions, the vinifera vine is grafted onto rootstock from other Vitis species to protect against phylloxera.
Volatile acidity (VA) General term for the substances in wine that are formed by the oxidation of alcohol (mainly acetic acid and ethyl acetate). All wine contains some VA but when a vinegary smell can be detected it is considered a fault. All wine will develop VA if it is left in an open bottle over a few days.
Weingut (Ger.) Wine estate. If the term appears on the label it implies estate bottling.
Weissherbst (Ger.) Pale pink rose wine.
Wine Fermented juice of the grape.
Winery Place where wine is made.
Winzergenossenschaft (Ger.) Co-operative winery.
Wood Tasting term used to describe the flavours in wine derived from ageing in barrel.
Yeast Living substance responsible for the production of the enzymes that permit fermentation, the conversion of sugar into alcohol, with heat and carbon dioxide as by products. Yeast occurs naturally on grape skins, but many winemakers today use specially selected cultured yeasts to allow better control of the fermentation.
Yeasty Tasting term used to describe the distinctive smell of yeast (as in unbaked bread dough). In wine this usually indicates a fault, though the smell of freshly-baked bread can be desirable in Champagne and lees aged whites.
Quantity of grapes harvested from a given area of vineyard. Received wisdom
is that low yield equals high quality, though in practice there are many factors
at work, including density of plantation, local climate, etc. Yields are
normally expressed in weight per unit area (tons per acre) or volume per unit
area (hectolitres per hectare).