All wines contain various acids, including tartaric, malic, and citric.  Acidity is an essential element in wine, helping to maintain freshness and balance – too much and it can taste unduly sharp and acidic, too little and a “flabby”, cloying wine will result.

Most wines are designed to be enjoyed as soon as they are released .  However, a portion will improve in the bottle if stored in a cool, dark place.  Full-bodied reds, sweet whites, fortified wines can benefit from again.  However, if in doubt, it is better to drink a wine too young than too old.

A legally defined area where grapes were grown and wine is produced.  it is also sometimes used as a shortened version of AOC or AC.

Appellation d’Origine Controle (AOC)
Also known as Appellation Controlee (AC).  The highest quality classification for wines produced in France.  It guarantees that a bottle has been made in a specific region, according to local regulations.  Not all AOC or AC wines are good quality, but on average they should be better (though not necessarily better value) than wines with lower classification such as vin de pays (Country Wine) or vin de table (Table wine).

Barrels or casks can be used at several stages of wine making.  Better quality whites may be fermented in the barrel to produce subtle and complex wood flavors.  Maturation in barrel helps to soften the wine and, if the oak is new, pick up aromas such as cedar or vanilla.  “Barrel Select” may imply quality, but actually, has no legal definition.

The process of maturing wine in oak barrels, softening taste and possibly adding oak flavors.

This indicates that a wine has been fermented in an oak barrel.  Normally applicable to white wines, the process helps to better integrate oak flavors.

A mixture of wines of different grape varietals, styles origin, or age, contrived to improve the balance of the wine or maintain a constant style.

A term widely used in the US for a pale pink wine.

A wine from the Bordeaux region of France made using the grape varieties and/or techniques common in this area.  Bordeaux is a famously full-bodied red wine made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petite Verdot that is often matured in oak barrels.  It can age for decades.

Means dry.  Normally found in sparkling wines.

A wine from the Burgundy region in France, made using grape varieties and/or the techniques common in this region.  The area is world famous for its dry whites made from Chardonnay and medium bodied reds from Pinot Noir.

The practice of increasing alcohol levels through the addition of sugar during wine making.  Common in cooler wine regions where the climate may struggle to produce sufficient natural sugar in the grapes.

The original zone of production within a SOC/G region (generally with better vineyards).

Cold Fermentation
A slow fermentation at low temperatures to extract freshness and fruit flavor from grapes.

A wine that has been affected by a moldy, musty taint from a defective natural cork.  The wine may be stripped of its normal fruit flavors and can have a slightly bitter taste.  IT is believed that around six percent of wines using natural corks are corked. , and many producers and retailers have now changed over to screw caps and synthetic corks.

French, a term that means “growth” or “vineyard”.  Cru Classe’ means classified vineyard.  The term cru bourgeois is a classification for estates in Bordeaux’s Medoc appellation .

Crusted Port
A non-vintage port style bottled unfiltered like a vintage port.

The process of pouring wine from its original bottle into another vessel or decanter.  The technique normally used for old or unfiltered wines to separate the liquid from the sediment deposited in the bottle.  It can also be used for younger wines, to allow them to be exposed to air, or “breathe”.

Denominazione di Origine or DOC (Italy)
Italian classification for qulaity wines, just be low Denomazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or DOCG.

Dessert wine
Wine containing large amounts of sugar.  It tastes sweet and is traditionally used to accompany dessert.

Estate Bottled/Grown
Today most quality producers bottle on site.  It is no guarantee of quality but is generally a good indicator.  In the US, estate bottled wine must also come from the producers own vineyards or those on a long-term lease.

The process that turns the juice of crushed, pressed, or whole grapes into wine.  The natural sugars contain within the berries are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide using yeast.  Fermentation generally takes place in stainless steel, lined concrete, or large wooden vats, or in oak barrels.

A technique that removes the tiny particles from a wine before bottling, leaving it clear and bright.  Some producers believe filtration can strip a wine of its flavor and will avoid the technique.  Often including the words such as unfiltered or non-filtre‘ on their label.  wines that have not been filtered will generally require decanting.

A process used to remove suspended deposits in the wine.  When a fining agent such as egg white or bentonite clay is added, it binds with the deposits and causes them to fall to the bottom of the cask.

A wine that has been bolstered by the addition of a liquor, usually grape liquor.  Examples include port, sherry, Madeira, and liquor Muscat.

French Oak
A type of wood originating from forests in France such as Allier and Vosges.  French oak is widely considered to make the finest barrels for fermenting and maturing wine.

Grand Cru
Meaning literally “great vineyard”.  In Burgundy, the term grand cru is applied to the finest vineyards in the region.  In the St-Emilion area of Bordeaux, the best Chateaux are classified grand cru classe’, with the top tier known premier grand cru classe’.

Grand Vin
Often seen on French AOC labels, this literally means “great wine” and is often used ti indicate that this is the top wine of a particular estate.

Is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square meters (100 m by 100 m), and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the ‘are’ was defined as 100 square metres and the hectare (‘hecto-‘ + ‘are’) was thus 100 ‘acres’ or 1/100 km2. A hectare of land is about 2.47 acres.

A bottle size containing six liters or eight conventional (750-cl) bottles.

A bottle size containing three liters or four conventional (750-cl) bottles.



The practice of soaking grape skins in their juice or must.  This gives red wines their color, tannins, and flavors.

A bottle size containing 1 ½ liters or two conventional (750-cl) bottles.

Malolactic Fermentation
A process that converts tart malic acids (as found in apples) into softer lactic acids (as found in milk).  It occurs shortly after the first (conventional) fermentation.  Most red wines undergo malolactic fermentation; in whites, the decision largely depends on the style of wine the producer is trying to achieve.

The process of aging or maturing a wine in cask or bottle. , normally at the winery.  Once the wine is released, it may be matured further by the purchaser, but this is commonly referred to as cellaring or “laying it down“.

The Meritage Association was formed in 1988 by a small group of Napa Valley, California vintners increasingly frustrated by U.S. BATF regulations stipulating wines contain at least 75% of a specific grape to be labeled as that varietal. As interest grew in creating Bordeaux-style wines, which by their blended nature fail to qualify for varietal status, members sought to create a recognizable name for their high-quality blended wines.

In 1988, the association hosted a contest to conceive a proprietary name for these wines, receiving over 6,000 submissions. “Meritage”, —a combination of merit and heritage, was selected and its coiner awarded two bottles of the first ten vintages of every wine licensed to use the brand.


The oak favored by winemakers to ferment and mature their wines.  In general, the newer and smaller the oak barrel, the more woody, vanilla flavor it will impart.  Many cheaper wines receive their oaky taste from oak chips or oak staves that are submerged directly into the tanks.

A wine made in a deliberately creamy, oaky style through the use of oak barrels, oak chips, or oak staves.

The technical term for the study of wine.  It tends to be primarily associated with wine making.

Old Vines
As a vine matures it tends to produce smaller quantities of better-quality grapes, so old vines or vielles vignes on a label may indicate a more concentrated and complex wine.  unfortunately, there are no regulations governing what exactly constitutes old.

It is very difficult to produce a complex organic wine, as certain chemicals are virtually essential during wine making. Many wines advertised as such are simply grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides.

A vine disease that devastated the vineyards of Europe at the end of the 19th century.  Phylloxera is a small insect that feeds on the roots of grapevines and ultimately kills the plant.  Even today, there is no cure for the pest, instead, almost all European vines are grafted onto rootstocks from American species which are phylloxera resistant.

A sweet, fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal.

Premier Cru
First growth or first vineyard.  In the Medoc region of Bordeaux, the finest chateaux are classified as premier cru.  In St-Emilion, just across the river, top producers are known as premier grand cru classe.  Confusingly, in Burgundy, premier cru vineyards lie just below grand cru in the overall classification hierarchy.


The process of separating a wine from its sediment in the winery.  the sediment is normally allowed or encouraged to fall to the bottom of the barrel.  The liquid is then drained or pumped into a clean vessel.

A term saw regularly on wine labels to denote a special bottling or release.  Unless the wine comes from a reputable producer, however, it is no guarantee of special quality.

Residual Sugar
Sugar that remains in wine after fermentation.  High levels of residual sugar make a wine taste sweet.

The root system of a vine.  Today, almost all wines consist of American rootstock grafted onto a fruiting European variety to protect against Phylloxera.

Wines with a pink color, in effect halfway between a red and white wine.

Solid matter found in wine.  This can come from yeasts, fragments of grape skin and pulp during wine making, or it can form naturally in the wine.  Certain wines “throw” sediment when they have been matured in bottle for long periods and will need decanting.

Single Vineyard
Wine made using grapes from just one vineyard.

The process in the winery designed to ensure that a wine undergoes no further fermentation or reaction once it is bottled.  These include fining and filtration.

A tasting term used primarily for red wines to describe the weight of fruit and tannins on the palate.  Full bodied wines such as high-quality red Bordeaux should have a “good structure“.

The astringent, mouth-drying compounds found when a tea bag soaked in water too long.  Tannins in grapes are found in the skins, seeds, and stalks, and particularly important in the composition of a red wine.  Not only do they provide the wine with its structure and weight, but they do act as a preservative, helping it to mature in the bottle.  A wine with excessive tannins is described as “tannic“.

Tawny Port
A style of port characterized by its distinctive tawny color.  Better examples achieve their appearance and soft, mellow taste through extended maturation in cask.  These may come with an indication of age, 10,20,30, or over 40 years.

A French word used to describe the overall growing environment of a vineyard covering its climate, soil, slope, and exposure, among other factors.  Advocates of terroir believe that a wine should not simply taste of fermented grape juice, but rather should express a sense of the place where the grapes are grown.

See Filtration

A wine deliberately made without oak barrels to emphasize its fresh fruit flavors.

A wine that has been labeled on the basis of its principal grape variety.  It can also be used as another word for “grape variety“.

Essentially, “wine making” the process that converts grape juice into finished wine.

Can be used to mean “harvest” or the year in which the grapes were grown to produce a wine.  A vintage wine must come from a single year.  Vintage champagne is only produced in exceptional years and must be matured for at least three years on its lees.

Vintage Port
The very best port made from a single fine harvest and aged in wood for around two years.  It is “declared” or released by production only in the best vintages, on average three times a decade.

Essentially, “grape growing”, covering the skills, science, and techniques required to produce commercial-quality grapes.



A single-cell fungus that is responsible for converting sugar into alcohol during fermentation.  In may regions, yeasts occur naturally on the skins of grapes and in the air.  These so-called “wild” strains are often preferred by local winemakers.  Cultured yeasts, which are often more reliable, can also be used.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.