Learn About Wine
Acid is naturally present in grapes. Too much of it in the wine will make it taste too sharp, whereas too little acidity and the wine is described as flabby.
A geographically defined wine region. In France, where the word originated, the appelation contrôlée system guarantees that a wine comes from the place, is made from the grapes, and is produced in the manner identified on the label.
Properly Botrytis chinerea, also known as noble rot, botrytis is an airborne fungus that attacks grapes in cool, humid conditions. Botrytis makes grapes shrivel and rot, concentrating their sugars and flavors.
Fermentation that occurs inside intact red grapes, especially in the Gamay variety in Beaujolais, France. This form of fermentation produces purple, fruity wines meant for drinking young.
Adding of sugar during fermentation to raise a wine's alcoholic strength.
Classed Growth (Cru Classé)
A vineyard, estate or château included in the Bordeaux wine classification system. In 1855, 61 red wines of the Médoc and one from the Graves were classified as cru classé. They were divided into five ranks determined by price. Only a few wines have been added to this classification since that time.
A wine is said to be “corked” when the cork is diseased and taints the taste and smell of the wine giving off a damp, musty odor.
From the French word cuve for vat, cuvée refers to a blend of wines, particularly in Champange production.
A wine estate, particularly in Burgundy, France.
The final addition to a sparkling wine that may top up a bottle in the case of Champagne method wines, and also determines the sweetness of the finished wine.
A scientist specializing in wine.
The wine-trade term for wine sold as futures, a common practice with wines from Bordeaux, France.
Fining and Filtering
The process of removing small particles from wine. This is accomplished by adding and agent that absorbs the particles and sinks to the bottom, before being removed. Egg whites, dried ox blood, bentonite clay, and isinglass are all commonly used agents. The wine is then passed through a fine filter.
Also “international winemaker,” a consultant recruited by a winery to improve its wine.
Grape bred from an American vine species and European Vitis vinifera.
Late-harvest grapes have a longer time on the vine to ripen and therefore contain more sugar and concentrated flavor. These usually produce sweeter wines.
All the sediment that falls to the bottom of a tank, such as dead yeast cells, pulp, seeds and stalks. Lees can also refer to the dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom of a bottle of bubbly after its secondary fermentation.
Fermentation process whereby crisp, hard malic acid is converted by bacteria to much softer lactic acid. This process can occur naturally over time, but is usually induced by the winemaker.
The foam head created when a sparkling wine is poured into a glass. Good sparkling wine should have a delicate mousse that stays in the glass and small, persistent bubbles.
Another wine term borrowed from the French. A négociant is a merchant or shipper who buys wine or grapes from growers, then matures, and sometimes blends the wine, before bottling and selling.
Every wine-producing country outside of Europe is considered New World. New World producers are commonly regarded as keeping better pace with new technology and not necessarily conforming to the rigid conceptions and methods of Old World makers.
The older the vine, the better it is in terms of quality wine production.
The traditional wine-producing countries of Europe including France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Germany (as well as the UK). These producers tend to apply more traditional methods and techniques in their wine making.
A process of aging that occurs when oxygen comes in contact with wine. When exposed to air, wine becomes brown and flat, eventually turning to vinegar. Oxidation can be used in a controlled manner however to produce a more complex wine such as sherry.
A root louse that attacks the roots of Vitus Vinifera grapes. Phylloxera resulted in the near destruction of the European vineyards at the end of the nineteenth century. As a result, vines are now invariably grafted onto more resistant American rootstocks.
Also described as glugging wines. These wines are easy, fruity, and simple, thus prompting easy swigging rather than thoughtful contemplation.
The root stump of the vine on to which the fruiting branches are grafted.
Used during vinification for cleaning equipment; as an antioxidant with fresh grapes and wine; and added as sulfur dioxide to stop or delay fermentation.
The French term meaning on the lees. It is applied to white wines that derive a bit more character from some form of lees contact.
In the classic method of sparkling wine production, the riddling process is used to cause the sediment to fall to the cork after secondary fermentation. During this process, the bottles are positioned upside down at a 45° angle and gradually shaken, turned and the angle increased every couple of days until they are positioned straight downward and the sediment is ready for disgorgement.
The bubbles produced when sparkling wine is poured into a glass. Good sparkling wine will create a persistent stream of tiny bubbles.
A term that describes both the year of the actual grape harvest and the wine made from those grapes. In the United States, the label may list the vintage year if 95 percent of the wine comes from grapes harvested that year. Elsewhere, a vintage marked bottle might contain as little as 75 percent of a particular year’s harvest.
Any effervescent wine, including Champagne.