WINE GLOSSARY

A growing list of definitions for terms found throughout our website and commonly used in the world of wine. At the bottom of the page you will find a form to request definitions to be added to this list.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR SAKE GLOSSARY

 

ACETALDEHYDE

A volatile compound created by yeast or acetic acid bacteria and oxidized ethanol. Aromas range from delicate floral notes to salty, nutty, and savory notes. On average red wine contains around 30 mg/L and white wine contains around 80 mg/L. Wines aged under film yeasts (Sherry) have higher levels, typically around 300 mg/L.

ACID

A natural compound found in grapes that preserves longevity and provides a mouthwatering structural component to the final wine. The dominant acids are citric, malic, lactic, and tartaric. In tasting, expressed in terms of low, medium, and high.

 

ACIDIFICATION

The addition of acid (typically tartaric or malic acid) during winemaking to lower the pH of the wine, creating a final wine with higher acidity. Common in warm climates when not prohibited.

 

ALCOHOL

A chemical compound, ethyl alcohol, created through sugar metabolization by yeast during fermentation. In tasting, expressed in terms of low, medium, and high.  

AMPHORA

Traditional ceramic vessels used for fermenting and aging wine, dating back to the origin of wine.

ANTHOCYANIN

The pigment that gives grapes their color. The level of pH in the wine determines the color. The lower the pH levels, the more red the color, moving to purple, blue, and then black as the pH levels rise.

ASSEMBLAGE

French term for the proportions of different grapes varieties found in a bottle of wine.

AUTOLYSIS

An enzymatic process that breaks down yeast cells and produces amino acids, proteins, and carbohydrates. This adds texture and secondary flavors to the final wine.

 

BARRIQUE

A small, 225L French barrel.

BÂTONNAGE

The stirring of lees during fermentation and/or aging to add body, texture, and secondary flavors to the final wine.

BAUMÉ

A measurement commonly used in France and Australia to estimate sugar levels in grape juice.

1% ABV (potential) = 1.11 Baume (see Brix, Oechsle, KMW)

BIODYNAMIC

A natural farming manner (no herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, etc) that combines principles from the farmer's almanac, lunar cycle, homeopathy, Rudolf Steiner, and more. The overall concept is to treat the vineyard as a living entity, promote biodiversity, and to respect the planet. The top two certifying organizations are Demeter and Biodyvin.

 

BODY

The weight of a wine created by the presence of alcohol, sugar, and other compounds. In tasting, expressed in terms of light, moderate, and full.

BOTRYTIS CINEREA

A fungus that grows slowly and evenly when conditions in the vineyard are optimal. Moist in the morning with sunshine and breeze in the afternoon. In this optimal scenario, the fungus creates tiny holes in the berry's skin, which allows for evaporation of water, and concentration of acids and sugars. During this process, flavors of ginger, saffron, honey, marmalade, chamomile, and more are imparted, enhancing the complexity of the final wine. If conditions are not optimal, grey rot occurs. Synonyms: Aszú (Hungary), Edelfäule (Germany), Edelkeur (South Africa) Muffa (Italy), Noble Rot (New World), and Pourriture Noble (France)

BRETTANOMYCES

A yeast commonly found in wineries that can create faulty aromas in the wine. There are multiple compounds creating aromas such as, animal, Band-Aid, barnyard, iodine, meat, medicine, smoke, spice, etc. Often referred to as "brett".

BRIX

A measurement commonly used in the United States to estimate sugar levels in grape juice. 

1% ABV (potential) = 1.98 Brix (see Baume, Oechsle, KMW)

BUDBREAK

The stage of the vine cycle in which the buds sweet and start to grow shoots.

 

CANOPY

The foliage of a grapevine.

CAP

The layer of solids that rise to the top of a fermenting vat of red wine.

CELLAR

The space in which wine is stored.

 

CHAPTALIZATION

The addition of sugar or must to a fermentation tank to increase the amount of sugar for in the tank resulting in high alcohol levels in the final wine. Common in cold climates when not prohibited.

CHÂTEAU

A French wine estate.

CLONE

A propagation of a single parent plant.

CLOS

An enclosed vineyard commonly previously owned by Cistercian Monks in Burgundy. Many vineyards are no longer enclosed by a wall.

COLD STABILIZATION

A technique that lowers wine temperature to below 30°F (-1°C) for a couple weeks to causing solids to fall out of solution for ease of separating the wine from the solids. This technique helps prevent the formation of tartrate crystals after bottling. 

CORKED

A fault in wine that is created by 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) that dulls aromatics and imparts musty aromas and flavors. Levels can typically be detected at 1 to 6 parts per trillion (ppt).

COULURE

A uneven flower fertilization due to poor weather in spring (wind, rain, hail, etc). This results in missing grapes throughout on the cluster (if the flower falls off) or tiny, seedless "shot" berries (if the flower stays on the vine). Also known as "shatter".

CRU

French term referring to one or a group of quality vineyards.

CUVÉE

Refers to a special batch or blend.

 

DEBOURBAGE

Settling of solids prior to racking.

 

DÉGORGEMENT

French for disgorging. A technique used in sparkling winemaking to remove the lees sediment from the bottle. À la glace is the modern technique in which the neck of the bottle is dipped into a freezing brine to minimize spillage. À la volée is the traditional technique performed by hand.

DÉLESTAGE

French for rack and return. Wine is pumped off of the solids into a second vessel, to remove the solids from the first vessel, then returned to the first vessel.


DIACETYL

An organic compound commonly produced during malolactic conversion that creates flavors of butter.

DISGORGMENT

A technique used in sparkling winemaking to remove the lees sediment from the bottle. See dégorgement for more details.

DOMAINE

A winery that owns vineyards.

DORMANCY

The stage of the vine cycle in which the leaves haves fallen off, the shoots have hardened, and the vine is in hibernation storing energy and nourishment in the roots. 

DOSAGE

In sparkling wine production, the addition of wine and sugar (liqueur d'expedition) is added after disgorging. 

DRY

The lack of perceptible sugar in wine. 

DRY EXTRACT

Solid particles present in wine (what would remain after boiling) that add texture and body to wine. Expressed in grams per liter. Grape varieties and winemaking techniques affect levels.

DRY FARMING

A farming practice that does not use irrigation.

 

EDELFÄULE

German term for noble rot.

ÉLEVAGE

French term referring to what happens to the wine after fermentation, including aging, bottling, etc.

EN PREMEUR

The wineries first offering of the vintage, sold prior to the release. Also known as futures. 

ENCÉPAGEMENT

French term for the proportions of different grapes varieties found in a vineyard.

 

ESTATE

A property that typically contains vineyards.

ESTATE BOTTLED

A wine produced and bottled by the winery that owns the vineyards.

ESTERS

Aromatic compounds created during fermentation and aging.

 

FAULT

A defect in a bottle of wine caused by improper winemaking, storage issues, tainted corks, etc.  

FILTERING

An optional technique that removes grape solids and large particles from the wine.

FINING

A technique used to clarify wine by binding solids together to settle to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. Conducted with bentonite (clay powder), casein (dairy protein), egg whites, gelatin, isinglass (fish bladder), and more.

FINISH

The length of time the flavor of the wine lingers once it leaves the palate. Expressed in terms short, medium, and long.

FLASH DÉTENTE

A process created in the south of France in which the grape must is exposed to high temperatures (185°F) for a short period of time (30-60 seconds) then immediately cooled.

FLOR

A film yeast that develops in Sherry production when wine alcohol levels are below 15.5%.

FLOWERING

The stage in the vine cycle once temperature raise and flowers begin to form on the shoots.

FORTIFIED

A wine that has a high proof neutral spirits added to either during or after fermentation.

FOUDRE

A large wooden vat that is typically 20 to 120 hectoliters in size.

FREE RUN

The grape juice that is collected by gravity, due to the weight of the berries, rather than pressing. 

FRIZZANTE

Italian for semi-sparkling.

FRUIT SET

A stage of the vineyard cycle in spring/summer when the fertilized flowers of the vine form berries.

 

GARRIGUE

Shrubbery found in Southern France. In terms of tasting, this refers to the aromas of lavender, rosemary, and thyme.

 

GRAFTING

A process that splices a cutting of one vine onto the rootstock of another vine to grow as one. Bench grafting occurs in a green hours during the winter months with young vines. Field grafting occurs on currently planted rootstock in a vineyard.

GRAPE MUST

Unfermented grape juice.

GREEN HARVEST

The pruning of unripe grapes to manage yields and focus energy to the remaining clusters. 

GREY ROT

A fungus, botrytis cinerea, that grows rapidly and unevenly when vineyard conditions are not optimal, persistently wet and humid. Resulting in a fuzzy grey mold on the grapes that destroys the fruit that it touches.

 

GYROPALETTE

A machine that completes the riddling stage of traditional method sparkling wine in one week.

 

HARVEST

The process of picking grapes. This can be conducted by hand or by machine. Harvest months depend on grape variety, climate and hemisphere. Northern hemisphere harvest is typically conducted between August and October. Southern hemisphere harvest is typically conducted between February and April.

HECTARE

A unit of measurement commonly used in the Old World equivalent to 2.47 acres or 10,000 square meters.

 

IRRIGATION

Watering the vineyard. The top methods of irrigation are RDI, PRD, and flood. Regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) regulates the amount water applied to the vines at a rate less than required for optimal grape growth. Partial root-zone drying (PRD) irrigates one side of the vine, or alternates between sides. In flood irrigation, trenches are dug around the vines and filled with water. Irrigation is prohibited in many regions. 

 

JETTING

A step in traditional method sparkling wine production to reduce oxygen exposure. A small amount of wine, or water, is added just before the cork is inserted to induce foaming and expel oxygen. 

 

KMW

The Klosterneuburg Must Weight Scale commonly used in Austria to estimate sugar levels in grape juice.

1% ABV (potential) = 1.17 KMW (see Baume, Brix, Oechsle).

KOSHER

Wine produced by observant orthodox Jews under strict guidelines and certified by a rabbi. 

 

LACTIC ACID

A round, creamy textured acid, commonly found in dairy, created through malolactic conversion.

LEES

Dead yeast cells. Once fermentation is complete, the yeast cells die. Gross lees are larger solids that are often removed after fermentation. Fine lees are smaller solids that are used for "sur lie" aging.

LIQUEUR D'EXPEDITION

A combination of wine and sugar used during the dosage stage of traditional method sparkling production.

LIQUEUR DE TIRAGE

A combination of wine, sugar, and yeast used during to induce secondary fermentation in traditional method sparkling wine production. 4 g/L of sugar results in 1 atmosphere of pressure. 

 

MACERATION

The contact of solids with grape must to extract color, tannin, aromas, and more. 

MADERIZATION

A term indicating a wine that has been in contact with oxygen and heat.

 

MALIC ACID

A tart acid naturally occurring in grapes. Also found in green apples.

MALOLACTIC CONVERSION

A conversion by way of bacteria, oenococcus oeni, that converts tart, malic acid into round, lactic acid. This occurs after alcoholic fermentation and adds secondary flavors to the wine such as butter, cream, yogurt, and other dairy notes. Along with flavors, the process creates a round, creamy texture in the final wine. Commonly referred to as "malo"

MARC

A distillate made from grape pomace.

MERCAPTANS

A blend of Bordeaux varieties commonly produced in California. Red blends may consist of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and/or Petit Verdot. White blends may consist of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. 

MERITAGE

An organic sulfur compound that imparts unpleasant aromas such as garlic, rotten eggs, rubber, sulphur into wine.

 

MICRO-OXYGENATION

Controlled introduction of oxygen into wine to mimic the effects of barrel aging in a shorter amount of time.

MILLERANDAGE

An uneven ripening of grapes resulting in small and large berries on one cluster. Also known as "chicks and hens"

MINERALITY

A tasting term indicating a wine has the aromas and/or flavors of inorganic or organic material.

 

MISTELLE

An unfermented fortified beverage that has neutral grape spirit added to grape must. Also known as vin de liqueur (VDL). 

MOG

An abbreviation for materials other than grapes to describe other particles that can be brought in with the grapes during harvest.

MULTI-VINTAGE

Another way to describe a non-vintage wine that is a blend of multiple vintages.

MUST WEIGHT

The level of fermentable sugar in grape must.

 

MUTAGE

The process of adding a neutral grape spirit to unfermented grape must (VDL) or during fermentation (VDN).

 

NÉGOCIANT

A merchant that purchases grapes, must, or wine, and sells the finished wine under their own name.

NEW WORLD

Winemaking regions that began producing wine after the Age of Exploration: North America, South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.

NOBLE ROT

A fungus that when conditions are optimal, concentrates acids and sugars, and imparts flavors of chamomile, ginger, honey, marmalade, and saffron adding complexity to the wine. See botrytis cinerea for more details. Synonyms: Aszú (Hungary), Edelfäule (Germany), Edelkeur (South Africa) Muffa (Italy), Noble Rot (New World), and Pourriture Noble (France).

NON-VINTAGE

A wine comprised of more than one vintage. Common in Champagne, Sherry, and Port production to ensure a consistent house style.

NOUVEAU

A French term referring to a wine that bottled and released shortly after fermentation. Common in the French region of Beaujolais.

 

OECHSLE

A measurement commonly used in Germany to estimate sugar levels in grape juice.

1% ABV (potential) = 7.72 oechsle (see Baume, Brix, KMW).

OIDIUM

A fungal disease that affects the green parts of the grape, also known as powdery mildew.

OLD VINES

Old Vines is an unregulated term that has different meanings throughout the world, some say the oldest vines in the vineyard are considered old vines, where places such as Australia, have minimum age requirements. Labels that indicate the wine is produced from old vines are: vieilles vignes (France), alte Reben (Germany), vecchie vigne (Italy), viñas viejas (Spain), vinyas vellas (Catalunya), and vinhas velhas (Portugal).

OLD WORLD

Winemaking regions where winemaking occurred prior to the Age of Exploration, Europe, Middle East, and England.

ORGANIC

A wine production method focusing on purity, using non-synthesized ingredients, no genetically modified organisms, minimal sulfur additions, and more. Rules vary depending on certification organization, European Union and USDA Organic, are the major certifiers.

 

OXIDATIVE

A wine that has been produced with limited exposure to oxygen. Common vessels are various sizes of types of wood. 

OXIDIZED

A term referring to a wine that has been exposed to oxygen for too long, deteriorating the wine.

 

PALATE

This term has two definitions, one is the flavor or taste of a wine. Second refers to a persons mouth.

PASSERILLAGE

French for late harvest. Grapes are intentionally left on the vine to begin raisinating to concentrate sugars for sweet wine production. Also known as passerillé.

PÉTILLANT

French for semi-sparkling wine.

PHENOLICS

Varied compounds (phenols and polyphenols) that serve as protection for the grapes and wine. Common phenolics found in wine are either grape derived (anthocyanins and tannins), oak derived, or from additives.

PHOTOSYNTHESIS

The vine's use of sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen.

PHYLLOXERA

An aphid that attacks Vitis vinifera rootstock.

PIGÉAGE

French for punching down the cap during red wine fermentation.

PRESS

A machine that adds pressure to separate liquid from solids. White wines is pressed before fermentation. Red wine is pressed after fermentation.

POMACE

The solids (seeds, skins, and stems) that remain after making wine. 

 

PRUNING

Trimming the vine.

PUMPING OVER

Pumping grape must from the bottom of the tank over the cap, to submerse the cap into the grape must, during red wine fermentation. Also known as remontage.

PUNCHING DOWN

Conducted by hand or machine to submerse the cap into the grape must during red wine fermentation. Also known as pigéage.

PUNT

The indent on the bottom of the bottle.

PUPITRE

An A-shape wood frame used during the aging and riddling stages of traditional method sparkling wine.

PYRAZINES

Short for methoxypyrazines, an organic compound found in all grapes. Levels lower as the grape ripens. Grapes in the Bordeaux family (Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, etc) typically have higher levels from the start resulting in herbal and vegetal aromas.

 

QUINTA

Portuguese for a single estate.

 

RACKING

The process of moving wine off of the solids.

REBÉCHE

The third pressing in Champagne production that by law must be discarded or distilled.

REDUCTIVE

A wine that has been produced without exposure to oxygen. Common inert vessels are stainless steel tanks.

REFRACTOMETER

A tool used to estimate sugar levels in grape juice to help determine grape ripeness and potential alcohol levels.

REMONTAGE

The French term for pumping grape must from the bottom of the tank over the cap, to submerse the cap into the grape must, during red wine fermentation.

REMUAGE

French for riddling.

RESIDUAL SUGAR

Remaining sugar in the wine that was not metabolized by yeast during fermentation creating sweetness in the final wine.

RIDDLING

A stage in traditional method sparkling wine in which the lees are moved to the neck of the bottle in preparation for disgorging. A six week process when conducted by hand, one week by machine.

 

SAIGNÉE

French for "to bleed". A style of rosé winemaking that involves removing a portion of liquid from a fermenting red wine tank. This occurs a few hours into fermentation to ensure a minimal amount of color extraction. The liquid is put into a separate tank to finish fermentation as its own wine. This also concentrates the remaining wine in the first tank.

 

SANS SOUFRE

A French term indicating a wine was bottled without added sulfur. 

SECONDARY

Wine aromas and flavors that are imparted through winemaking techniques such as lees aging, oak aging, and/or malolactic conversion.

SEDIMENT

Harmless solid particles in wine that form with age, due to color and structural compounds binding together and falling out of solution. 

 

SÉLECTION DE GRAINS NOBLES (SGN)

French for selection of noble grapes. Indicates the grapes picked for production have been affected by noble rot.

 

SOUTIRAGE

French for racking.

 

SPARKLING

A wine that goes through a fermentation in a closed vessel to contain carbon dioxide and create an effervescent wine.

SPUMANTE

Italian for fully sparking.

 

STILL

A wine that goes through fermentation in open vessels to release the carbon dioxide to create a wine without effervescence.

STRUCTURE

A wine term encompassing sweetness, body, texture, acid, tannin, and alcohol.

 

SULFITES

A natural bi-product of fermentation that is present in wine. Additional sulphur dioxide (SO2) can be added for preservation. Most wines range from 100 to 350 parts per million (ppm). By law wines over 10ppm must be labeled as "contains sulfites". Click here to see more about sulfites. 

 

SÜSSRESERVE

German for sweet reserve. The process of adding unfermented sterile grape juice to a wine to increase the final level of sweetness.

 

SUR LIE

When a wine is aged on its fine lees to add texture, complexity, and secondary flavors to the wine. This is required in traditional method sparkling wine production.

 

TANNIN

Natural occurring compounds, known as polyphenols, found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. The longer grape juice spends in contact with the solids, the more tannin the final wine will have. In terms of tasting, tannin is the drying sensation felt on the palate that may also impart a bitter flavor. Expressed in terms of low, medium, and high. 

 

TARTRATE

A harmless crystal that forms in wine in cold temperatures causing tartaric acid to bind with potassium.

TCA

A fault in wine that is created by 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) that dulls aromatics and imparts musty aromas and flavors. Levels can typically be detected at 1 to 6 parts per trillion (ppt). 

 

TDN

1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronapthalene (TDN) is an aromatic compound commonly associated with aromas of petrol and kerosene in Riesling and other grape varieties.

TERPENES

A group of over fifty compounds responsible for floral and fragrant aromas. The most commonly found in wine are cis-rose oxide (rose and lychee aromas), linalool (geranium and lemon aromas), citronellol (citrus aromas), and alpha-terpeniol (grape and pine aromas). 

 

TERRIOR

A French term that refers to how a bottle of wine tastes due to the climate, exposure, location, soil, winemaking, etc.

TERTIARY

Wine aromas and flavors that occur with bottle age and oxidation.

TEXTURE

The mouthfeel of the wines created by acid, tannin, alcohol, and other components. In tasting, expressed in terms such as lean, round, creamy, glycerol, oily, etc.

 

TRIAGE

French for the sorting of grapes prior to winemaking to remove materials other than grapes (MOG).

TRIES

French for making multiple passes through a vineyard to harvest optimal grapes.

TROCKEN

German for dry. Wines typically have less than 9g/L of sugar.

 

ULLAGE

The air space between wine and the top of a bottle or barrel.

 

VARIETAL

A wine made from one single grape variety.

 

VARIETY

Refers to the type of grape. There are over 1,000 different grapes used for commercial wine production.

VENDANGE TARDIVES (VT)

French for late harvest.

VERAISON

The stage in the vine cycle in which berries ripen and start to turn colors, green to gold for white varieties and green to red/blue/purple for red varieties. During this stage grape acids decrease and grape sugars increase.

VIEILLE VIGNES

French for old vines.

VIN DE LIQUEUR

An unfermented fortified beverage that has neutral grape spirit added to grape must. Also known as mistelle (France), and jerepigo (South Africa).

 

VIN DOUX NATUREL

A sweet fortified wine that has a neutral grape spirit added during fermentation.

VINIFICATION

The production of wine, also known as winemaking.

 

VINTAGE

The year in which grapes were harvested.

VITICULTURE

The cultivation and harvesting of vineyards.

VOLATILE ACIDITY

A group of acids that build up in wines with long aging in large barrels. Excess amounts are associated with aromas of acetone, balsamic vinegar, nail polish remover, paint thinner, etc. and are considered a fault. Commonly referred to as VA.

 

WINE

An alcoholic beverage made from fermented grape juice. 

WINEMAKER'S VINTAGE

A vintage that was challenging and/or cooler resulting in high quality, structure driven wines, that may not receive high ratings with critics or consumers, but are often sommelier favorites.

WINKLER INDEX

An index that classifies the climate of winemaking region based on growing degree days. Click here for the list.  

 

XÈRES

The Old Spanish term for Sherry.

 

YEAST

Micro-organisms present on grape skins and in vineyards (native) or manually added (innoculated) that metabolize sugar during fermentation to produce alcohol, carbon dioxide, flavors, and heat.

YIELD

The amount of grapes, or wine, that is produced from a given unit of measure. Typically expressed in tons per acre or hectoliters per hectare.

 

ZYMOLOGY

The scientific study of fermentation.

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