Three primary acids are naturally present in grapes: tartaric, malic and citric. In reds it gives the wine grip and in whites, the tang. Too little and the wine will be broad/flabby and too much and it will seem sharp.
Necessary for many fine wines and for some everyday drinking ones. Too short and the wine can be aggressive and too long and the wine can lose too much of its fruit.
The strength of the alcohol. It is always displayed on the bottle.
The process where yeasts eat up/convert the grape sugars into alcohol. The process halts when all the sugars have been converted.
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AC or AOC)
Official designation in France, guaranteeing a wine by geographical origin, grape variety and production method.
The French term for the blending of wines.
Wines that are aged in barrels made from oak in most cases. Generally the newer the oak, the more flavour the wine will take on. The gentle oxygenation caused by gaseous penetration through the pores of the wood is important to the aging process.
Where wine is fermented in oak barrels rather than stainless steel tanks or concrete vats.
The traditional oak barrel of 225 litres capacity used for aging and sometimes fermenting wine.
Mostly used on white wines, a traditional practice of stirring up the lees (see lees).
Brix is the term used in New Zealand and the U.S.A. and Baumé pretty much the rest of the world. It is the measurement of sugar levels in the grape's juice. For example, if the grape juice measures 10 degrees baume, the potential alcohol in the wine will be 10%.
German and Austrian QmP category for wines made from individually selected berries. Almost always affected by noble rot or Botrytis. These wines are sweet to very sweet. Predominantly made from Riesling.
Biodynamic wine is produced with a farming framework that views the farm or vineyard as one complete organism. The ecosystem functions as a whole, with each portion of the farm or vineyard contributing to the next. The idea is to create a self-sustaining system. Biodynamic uses traditional farming techniques and a prescribed list of biological or natural “preparations”, whilst acknowledging and working with universal or cosmic forces that are at play in the farming environment. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are forbidden for the sake of soil fertility. A range of animals live on the soil and fertilize it, creating a rich, fertile environment for the vines to grow in. Biodynamic farming also seeks sustainability, leaving the land in as good or better shape as they found it for future generations.
Blanc de blancs
Generally Champagne (only the white varieties used) and sometimes white wine. Blanc de Noir wines are made from black grapes only.
Blending is an art, it's the blending together of wines of different styles, origins or age.
A Spanish winery
In reds the blend is primarily composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with smaller components of Malbec and Petit Verdot and on the odd occasion, Carménére. In the white blend, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon dominate with Muscadelle fairly frequently added to the make up.
A fungus that rots the grapes. Very often it is unwelcome, however the Botrytis Cinerea (known as noble rot) is responsible for many of the world's outstanding sweet wines.
Brut is the term for dry, mostly seen on Champagne and sparkling wine labels.
Essentially making sure the fruit has the right amount of exposure to light and heat for even ripening. This is done by pruning, training or altering the the shape of the vine's vegetation.
A method that started in Beaujolais. Whole bunches of grapes are fermented whole in closed containers, fermentation actually taking place inside the whole berry. This process delivers a fresh, early drinking wine with very soft tannins.
Spanish sparkling wine produced in the traditional style like Champagne. The varieties used are generally Macabeo, Parellada and Xael-lo.
Grape variety in French.
This is the traditional way of making sparkling wine. The wine must go through a secondary ferment in it's bottle. It is now known as the traditional method.
The addition of sugar during fermentation to raise the wine's alcoholic strength. Generally a technique used in cool climates where ripeness is difficult to achieve,
A wine producing estate, this term is predominantly used in Bordeaux.
An English term for a Bordeaux style wine.
Fining and filtering, removing any solids from the must or the wine.
An Italian term for the heartland of a wine zone where it's best wines are produced.
The French term for a defined area of vineyard which is often very small.
Propagating vines by taking cuttings produces clones of the original plant.
A vineyard that's enclosed by a wall, traditional to Burgundy.
A long , slow fermentation at a low temperature to produce very fresh wines. This can be crucial for white wines produced in hot climates.
A fault derived from a cork that has been contaminated with Trichloroanisole/TCA. There are varying degrees of taint, the mouldy, wet cardboard smell is quite evident in most.
A French village and its surrounding area.
Higher levels of sulphur, fining and filtering, commercial yeasts, sugar can be used, acid can be added and more control in the vineyard through the use of sprays.
Côtes / Coteaux
French for slopes, Hillside vineyards generally produce more superior wines.
Traditional method sparkling wine from French regions other than Champagne.
A Spanish term to describe the process of aging as well as the youngest official category of matured wine. Aged in barrel, tank and/or bottle for at least two years.
The French term for growth that is used to describe a wine from a single vineyard.
The ranking below Cru Classé in Bordeaux.
Meaning Classed Growth which indicates a vineyard is included in the official ranking system of its region.
The term for a single grape variety, predominantly used in South Africa.
Derived from the French word cuve which means tank or vat. It usually indicates a blend of grape varieties or a blend of the best barrels.
A medium-sweet style of wine.
Denominación de Origen (DO)
The main quality classification for Spanish wine.
Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC)
Portugal's top quality classification.
Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC)
Spanish wine classification that is a notch up from the DO classification.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)
The top Italian wine classification which is a notch up from the DOC. Here the restrictions on grape varieties and yields is much tighter.
An estate, a term used largely in Burgundy.
Austrian and German wine produced from grapes harvested in the winter. They are pressed off while still frozen and produce a very small amount of sweet, concentrated juice.
This is the French term for everything that happens to a wine between fermentation and bottling.
The removal of solids, yeasts and any impurities in the wine prior to bottling.
A clarifying technique where traditionally egg whites are used as a coagulant which bring any leftover solids to the surface for removal. The egg whites do not affect the flavour of the wine in any way.
A film of yeast that grows on the surface of certain wines when in barrel. It protects the wine from oxidation and imparts a lovely nutty taste. Most commonly used in sherry and in oxidative examples of the Jura's white wines.
Wines that have alcoholic spirit added to them before or after the fermentation process.
The Italian term for lightly sparkling.
Geographical Indication (GI)
The term used in Australia to indicate the origin of the wine.
The grafting of a cutting of Vitis vinifera on to the roots of another.
Mature, Spanish wines that have been selected from an outstanding vintage with at least 5 years of aging for the reds and 4 years for the whites.
This translates to 'great growth' and is the top quality classification in Champagne, Burgundy and Alsace. The term can also be applied to Châteaux in Saint-Émilion, although here it has a different meaning and does not represent the top tier of classification.
A Bordeaux term used to indicate a producer's top wine.
A grape bred from an interspecific crossing of two vine species.
Indicação de Proveniência Regulamentada (IPR)
The official Portuguese category for wine regions aspiring to DOC status.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)
The quality level for Italian wines that sits between Vino da Tavola and DOC.
The lowest level of German QmP wines. This style is produced from ripe grapes and are usually lighter in alcohol than ordinary QbA. In Austria Kabinett is a subdivision of Qualitätswein.
Like the name suggests, grapes that are harvested later in the vintage. The grapes contain more sugar and concentrated flavours. The french term is Vendange Tardive.
Dead yeast cells etc that form a sediment and are left behind after racking. Some wines stay on the fine lees for as long as possible giving the wine more texture and flavour.
This is a Burgundian term for a single vineyard that is below the rank of Premier Cru.
The process whereby colour, flavour and/or tannins are extracted from grape skins before, during or after fermentation.
Only in white wines, it's a form of oxidation caused by heating over a period of time. It takes its name from Madeira, which is the embodiment of the style.
One of the two principal acids found in grapes. Cooler climates have significantly higher levels of malic acid.
This is a secondary fermentation where sharp-tasting malic acid is converted into riper-tasting lactic acid and carbon dioxide. This is often encouraged in red wines which helps them soften and reduces their acidity. In whites produced in a warmer climate it is generally avoided because as much freshness needs to be kept as possible.
This is the climate of a very small or restricted area.
The French term for a sparkling wine not produced in the traditional method.
The mixture of grape juice, pulp, pips and skins produced after crushing, prior to fermentation.
The French term for a merchant or shipper who buys wines directly from growers. The Négoçiant will mature, blend and bottle the wine for sale.
Italian and French terms for 'new wine'. These wines are fresh and bright and are meant to be drunk young.
Organic wine is produced from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming, which typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
The over-exposure of wine to air/oxygen. This causes loss of flavour and fruit and spoils the wine.
The French term for lightly sparkling.
Also known as polyphenols. These are chemical compounds found in the juice, pulp, skins, stalks and pips. These compounds affect the taste, colour and mouthfeel of the wine.
A vine aphid (Phylloxera vastatrix). This little aphid almost destroyed viticulture worldwide in the late 19th century. Since then the (extremely vulnerable) European Vitis vinifera has been grafted onto phylloxera-resistant rootstocks.
The winery/winemaker is not certified biodynamic but is practising biodynamic methods or in the process of being certified.
The winery/winemaker is not certified organic but is practising organic methods or in the process of being certified.
One of the six German Qualitätswein Mit Prädikat or QmP categories of wine.
The term for first growth, top quality classification in parts of Bordeaux but second to Grand Cru in Burgundy. It is also used in Champagne to designate vineyards just below Grand Cru.
The fleshy component to the grape. Some wines are considered to be 'pulpy' in modern wine speak.
Known as remontage in France. The fermenting must is drawn over the cap of skins in the vat. This process is essential in red wines as it extracts colour and tannins. Lighter reds are often pumped over less.
Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA)
This is the German wine classification for quality wine from designated regions. They are often hit and miss when it comes to quality so it is worth paying a little more for a wine from a highly regarded producer and a good vintage.
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)
The German classification that is used to distinguish superior quality wine styles that have to meet specific criteria based on the region in which they are produced and the sugar levels at harvest. The ascending order of the ripeness of grapes is as follows: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. Some Kabinett and Spätlese may be Trocken (dry) or Halbtrocken (half-dry).
A Portuguese wine estate or farm.
The process of transferring wine from one barrel to another, leaving the lees behind. It also helps with aeration producing softer tannins.
This is a style of wine that is deliberately oxidised. This either happens naturally or from being fortified. The wine is generally aged in the sun in glass bottles, earthenware jars or wooden barrels.
The French term for a grower that produces their own wine or sells their grapes to a merchant or negociant.
Spanish quality wine from a good vintage that has been aged for at least three years in reds and two in whites. In Portugal it designates a wine that has an alcohol level that's at least half a percent higher than the minimum for the region.
A new world term that indicates different wine styles or a special release rather than a superior wine. There is no legal definition.
Valpolicella that is fermented on the lees of Amarone della Valpolicella to lend extra richness to the wine.
The Italian term for wines aged for a specific number of years according to DOC/DOCG laws.
This is the root of the vine on to which the fruiting branches are grafted.
Rosado is the term for Spanish and Portuguese Rosé and Rosato the term for Italian Rosé.
Dry in French but when it comes to Champagne it actually means medium-dry.
Generally a cuvee assembled from fruit/wines that never made it into the producer's flagship wine.
The German term for sparkling wine.
The blending system used for sherry and a few other fortified wines. When mature wine is run off a cask for bottling, only a quarter or so of the volume is taken, and the space is filled with similar but younger wine from another cask which is topped up from an even younger cask and so it goes on.
The German QmP category for wines harvested late in the vintage. Riper grapes that produce moderately sweet wines although these days some dry versions are produced.
Italian for sparkling.
Sulphur is often used during vinification as a disinfectant for equipment. It is also used on freshly harvested grapes, grape must and wine as an antioxidant. More and more producers are preferring to only use sulphur on the wine at the bottling stage.
Coined in the early 1980's, it's the English term for very high quality (generally expensive) non-DOC Tuscan red wines. They cannot be considered a Chianti as grapes that are not indigenous to Italy are used.
The French term for "on its lees'. This means the wine is bottled directly from the fermentation vessel to gain extra flavour from the lees.
Sustainability is a little complicated because of the unique environmental stresses of different wine regions, so there are many different accreditations. In a nutshell, it is the mitigation and reduction of wastefulness in grape growing and winemaking. Some examples are: grazing sheep on weeds and grass in the vineyard during winter, treatment and recycling of waste water, cover crops between the vines to produce nitrogen, the use of natural fertilizers.
A harsh, bitter element in red wine and skin contact whites. It is derived from grape skins, pips, stems and from oak barrels. Tannin softens with time and is essential for a wine's long-term aging. These days many producers are making wines with ripe tannins so that the wines may be drunk earlier.
As important as malic acid and tends to be the dominant of the two in warmer climates. Here it may be added during fermentation to correct low acidity levels.
A French term that translates to the combination of soil, climate and exposure to the sun that makes each vineyard and it's region unique. This is the basis of the Appellation d 'Origine Contrôlée in France.
The modern term for what used to be called méthode champenoise or Champagne Method.
German for dry.
The German quality wine category for wines produced from individually hand-harvested grapes that have been shrivelled by the noble rot. They often possess the highest levels of sweetness.
This is the specific grape's character. It typically displays the name of that variety on the wine label.
Wine from old vines, mostly used in France.
French for wine-grower.
A vine's growth rate. Soils can also be regarded as having low or high vigour. In most cases, high vigour means high yields.
Vin de paille
Wines produced by drying grapes on straw before they undergo fermentation. The drying concentrates the sugars in the grapes, resulting in sweet wines. These wines are found mostly in the Jura.
Vin de pays
This means country wines in French. It is the third category in the official classification of French wines. It does include some first-class wines which don't follow the local AC rules.
Sweet wine predominantly from Tuscany. Trentino also produces it but up there it is called Vino Santo.
Spanish for vineyard.
This is the process of turning grapes into wine.
Vino de tavola
Italian for table wine. Quality ranges from average to exceptional, although many of these wines have now been reclassified as IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica).
A new Italian category for Vino da Tavola.
The year's grape harvest.
Grape farming, from vine-growing to vineyard management.
This species of vine is native to Europe and Central Asia.
Wine of Origin (WO)
The South African system of controlled appellations which certifies the wine's area of origin, grape variety/varieties and the vintage.
An organism that causes the grapes to ferment. Cultured yeasts are generally more reliable, however many producers are fast turning to wild/ambient yeasts that occur naturally on the grape, in the air and in the winery.
The yield is the amount of fruit/wine produced from a vineyard.
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