Wine Glossary

Posted May 1st, 2017

Refer to our wine glossary below for specific words used in the wine industry to describe wine & vineyard activities.

ACIDITY  |  A naturally occurring component of every wine; the level of perceived sharpness; a key element to a wine's longevity; a leading determinant of balance.

ALCOHOL  |  The end product of fermentation; technically ethyl alcohol resulting from the interaction of natural grape sugars and yeast; generally above 12.5 percent in dry table wines.

AROMA  |  A scent that is a component of the bouquet or nose; e.g., cherry is an aromatic component of a fruity bouquet.

BALANCE  |  The level of harmony between acidity, tannins, fruit, oak, and other elements in a wine; a perceived quality that is more individual than scientific.

BARREL FERMENTED  |  A process by which wine (usually white) is fermented in oak barrels rather than in stainless steel tanks; a richer, creamier, oakier style of wine.

BLEND  |  The process whereby two or more grape varieties are combined after separate fermentation. Common blends include Cotes de Rhone and red and white Bordeaux.

BLUSH  |  A wine made from red grapes but which appears pink or salmon in color because the grape skins were removed from the fermenting juice before more color could be imparted; more commonly referred to as rose.

BODY  |  The impression of weight on one's palate; light, medium, and full are common body qualifiers.

BOUQUET  |  The sum of a wine's aromas; how a wine smells as a whole; a key determinant of quality.

BRIX  |  A scale used to measure the level of sugar in unfermented grapes. Multiplying brix by 0.55 will yield a wine's future alcohol level.

BRUT  |  A French term used to describe the driest Champagnes.

BURGUNDY  |  A prominent French wine region stretching from Chablis in the north to Lyons in the south; Pinot Noir is the grape for red Burgundy, Chardonnay for white.

CABERNET FRANC  |  A red grape common to Bordeaux; characteristics include an herbal, leafy flavor and a soft, fleshy texture.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON  |  A powerful, tannic red grape of noble heritage; the base grape for many red Bordeaux and most of the best red wines from California, Washington, Chile, and South Africa; capable of aging for decades.

CAP  |  Grape solids like pits, skins, and stems that rise to the top of a tank during fermentation; what gives red wines color, tannins and weight.

CAVA  |  Spanish for 'cellar,' but also a Spanish sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style from Xarello, Macabeo, and Parellada grapes.

CHABLIS  |  A town and wine region east of Paris known for steely, minerally Chardonnay.

CHAMPAGNE  |  A denominated region northeast of Paris in which Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes are made into sparkling wine.

CHARDONNAY  |  Arguably the best and most widely planted white wine grape in the world.

COLOUR  |  A key determinant of a wine's age and quality; white wines grow darker in color as they age while red wines turn brownish orange.

CORKED  |  A wine with musty, mushroomy aromas and flavors resulting from a cork tainted by TCA (trichloroanisol).

DECANT  |  The process of transferring wine from a bottle to another holding vessel. The purpose is generally to aerate a young wine or to separate an older wine from any sediment.

DRY  |  A wine containing no more than 0.2 percent unfermented sugar.

EARTHY  |  A term used to describe aromas and flavors that have a certain soil-like quality.

ENOLOGY  |  The science of wine production; an enologist is a professional winemaker; an enophile is someone who enjoys wine.

FERMENTATION  |  The process by which sugar is transformed into alcohol; how grape juice interacts with yeast to become wine.

FORTIFIED WINE  |  A wine into which brandy is introduced during fermentation; sugars and sweetness are high due to the suspended fermentation.

GAMAY  |  A red grape exceedingly popular in the Beaujolais region of France.

GEWURZTRAMINER  |  A sweet and spicy white grape popular in eastern France, Germany, Austria, northern Italy, and California.

GRAND CRU  |  French for 'great growth;' the very best vineyards.

GRAN RESERVA  |  A Spanish term used for wines that are aged in wood and bottles for at least five years prior to release.

HERBACEOUS  |  An aroma or flavour similar to green; often an indication of underripe grapes or fruit grown in a cool climate.

HYBRID  |  The genetic crossing of two or more grape types.

ICEWINE  |  From the German eiswein, this is a wine made from frozen grapes; Germany, Austria and Canada are leading icewine producers.

LATE HARVEST  |  A term used to describe dessert wines made from grapes left on the vines for an extra long period, often until botrytis has set in.

LEGS  |  A term used to describe how wine sticks to the inside of a wineglass after drinking or swirling.

MAGNUM  |  A bottle equal to two regular 750 ml bottles.

MALOLACTIC FERMENTATION  |  A secondary fermentation, often occurring in barrels, whereby harsher malic acid is converted into creamier lactic acid.

MERLOT  |  A lauded red grape popular in Bordeaux and throughout the world; large amounts of Merlot exist in Italy, the United States, South America, and elsewhere.

MUST  |  Crushed grapes about to go or going through fermentation.

NOSE  |  Synonymous with bouquet; the sum of a wine's aromas.

OAKY  |  A term used to describe woody aromas and flavors; butter, popcorn, and toast notes are found in 'oaky' wines.

ORGANIC  |  Grapes grown without the aid of chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.

OXIDIZED  |  A wine that is no longer fresh because it was exposed to too much air.

pH  |  An indication of a wine's acidity expressed by how much hydrogen is in it.

PINOT GRIS  |  Also called Pinot Grigio, this is a grayish-purple grape that yields a white wine with a refreshing character.

PINOT NOIR  |  The prime red grape of Burgundy, Champagne, and Oregon.

PORT  |  A sweet, fortified wine made in the Douro Valley of Portugal and aged in the coastal town of Vila Nova de Gaia. Variations include Vintage, Tawny, Late Bottled Vintage, Ruby, White, and others.

PRESS  |  The process by which grape juice is extracted prior to fermentation; a machine that extracts juice from grapes.

RACKING  |  The process of moving wine from barrel to barrel, while leaving sediment behind.

RIESLING  |  Along with Chardonnay, one of the top white grapes in the world; most popular in Germany, Alsace, and Austria.

ROSE  |  French for 'pink' and used to describe a category of refreshing wines that are pink in color but are made from red grapes.

SAUVIGNON BLANC  |   A white grape planted throughout the world; increasingly the signature wine of New Zealand.

SOMMELIER  |  Technically a wine steward, but one potentially with a great degree of wine knowledge as well as a diploma of sorts in wine studies.

SPICY  |  A term used to describe certain aromas and flavors that may be sharp, woody, or sweet.

STEELY  |  A term used to describe an extremely crisp, acidic wine that was not aged in barrels.

STEMMY  |  A term used to describe harsh, green characteristics in a wine.

SUPPLE  |  A term used to describe smooth, balanced wines.

TABLE WINE  |  A term used to describe wines of between 10 and 14 percent alcohol; in Europe, table wines are those that are made outside of regulated regions or by unapproved methods.

TERROIR  |  A French term for the combination of soil, climate, and all other factors that influence the ultimate character of a wine.

VARIETAL  |  A wine made from just one grape type and named after that grape; the opposite of a blend.

VINTAGE  |  A particular year in the wine business; a specific harvest.

VIOGNIER  |  A fragrant, powerful white grape grown in the Rhone Valley of France and elsewhere.

VITICULTURE  |  The science and business of growing wine grapes.

YEAST  |  Organisms that issue enzymes that trigger the fermentation process; yeasts can be natural or commercial.

YIELD  |  The amount of grapes harvested in a particular year.

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