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Wine Glossary

This week sees the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) graduation and awards ceremony so this week our blogs are all about how to taste wine. We'll look at why professionals do all that swirly-slurpy stuff and what we look for when we swish it round our mouths. We'll start today though, with a wine glossary to clear up some of the terms that appear on wine labels to make them easier to understand.


ABC - Acronym for Anything But Chardonnay. Usually heard by people who don't like Chardonnay. "I'll have a dry white wine please, Anything But Chardonnay" ABV - Acronym for Alcohol By Volume. Stated as a percentage and must be mentioned on a wine label. Anbaugebiet (German) - German wine region AOP - Acronym for Appellation d'Origine Protegée (French). English - Protected Appellation of Origin . French wine law dictating all aspects of winemaking from what to grow to what bottle to use. A wine that abides by the rules and regulations can take on the appellation name. This if often the region, town or village; Chablis, Saint-Emilion and Languedoc are example and these wines are often known as 'Named wines'


Barrique (French) - a size of oak barrel used to ferment and/or mature wine holding 225 litres Bâttonage (French) - stirring the lees in the wine to produce a rich, creamy texture and extra flavour. Bianco (Italian) - white Bin End - the end of a range or line of wine Biodynamic viticulture - an extension of organic viticulture, taking into account the effect of the moon and planets on the health of the vines. Based on the principles of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Blanc (French) - white Blanc de Blancs (French) - the name given to Champagne and sparkling wine that has been produced entirely from white grapes. Blanc de Noirs (French) - the name given to Champagne and sparkling wine made entirely from black grapes. Only the skin of black grapes holds the colour so pressing the juice out without skin contact will result in white wine. Blanco (Spanish) - white Bodega (Spanish) - winery or wine making company Grapes affected by Botrytis Cinerea - Wine GlossaryBotrytis Cinerea - the fungus that produces Noble Rot and Grey Rot. Botrytis is instrumental in the production of some of the world's best dessert wine such as Sauternes and Tokaji. The skin becomes porous allowing water to evaporate from the grape whilst it ripens. The result is shriveled up berries that have a very high sugar to water ratio making very sweet wine. Branco (Portuguese) - white Breathing - allowing air to get through the wine in order to develop the aromas and flavours. A decanter is often used for this. Brut - a measure of the amount of sugar, usually in Champagne and sparkling wine. Means a dry wine.


Cantina (Italian) - a winery or cellar Carbonic Maceration - a wine making process where full bunches of grapes are covered with carbon dioxide in a vat. The lack of external oxygen means the grapes begin to ferment from within producing red wine with colour and flavour but little tannin. The wines are very easy drinking and have a distinctive 'bubblegum' character. The wines of Beaujolais are the most famous for undergoing Carbonic Maceration. Cave (French) - wine cellar Cépage (French) - the grape variety or blend of varieties found in a wine. Claret - wine from Bordeaux. Classico (Italian) - a term for the historical heart of a wine region, usually located at the centre of the DOC. Clos (French) - traditionally a walled vineyard although the terms is abused on wine labels. Colheita (Portugal) - a tawny Port from a single vintage which will be declared on the label. Corked - a term describing a faulty wine that has been affected by cork taint. It is NOT when you have bits of cork floating in your wine, it is a reaction between between the bacteria naturally found in cork and the chemicals used to sterilise the bottles. This produces and enzyme called 2, 4, 6 Trichloranisole (TCA) which gives off a gas and makes the wine smell of wet dog, damp carpet or something you've left in a cardboard box in the back of the shed and forgotten about. Cosecha (Spanish) - vintage. Côte (French) - a slope or hillside. Coteaux (French) - also a slope or hillside but often several blended together that aren't joined together geographically. Crémant (French) - sparkling wine from France made outside of Champagne Crianza (Spanish) - meaning the wine must have been aged for a minimum of two years, some of which must have been in a barrel. Cru (French) - a term used in a number of French wine regions to classify wine. In Bordeaux the Cru refers to the Château, in Burgundy the vineyard and in Champagne it is the village that is classified as Premier Cru or Grand Cru. Cru Bourgeois (French) - châteaux in Bordeaux that are classified below the Cru Classé. Cru Classé (French) - the upper classification for the châteaux of the Médoc, laid down in 1855. It is divided into five tiers, from Premier Cru Classé to Cinquieme Cru Classé.


Decanting - pouring wine from the bottle into another vessel to remove the sediment. Helps the wine to breath as well. Demi-Sec (French) - medium-dry Denominación de Origen (Spanish) - a high quality level for Spanish wine, often abbreviated to DO. Equivalent to the French AOP system. Denominação de Origem Controlada (Portuguese) - a high quality level for Portuguese wine, often abbreviated to DOC. Equivalent to the French AOP system. Denominación de Origen Calificada (Spanish) - The highest quality level for Spanish wine, often abbreviated to DOC. Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Italian) - A high quality level for Italian wine, often abbreviated to DOC. Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (Italian) - The highest quality level for Italian wine, often abbreviated to DOCG. Dolce (Italian) - Sweet. Domaine (French) - a wine estate. Dosage (French) - at the end of making a sparkling wine a mixture of wine and sugar is added to dictate how sweet, or dry, the wine will be. Doux (French) - Sweet. Dulce (Spanish) - Sweet.


Eiswein (German) - a sweet wine made from grapes that have been picked at night when the temperature is around -7C. The water is frozen and removed therefore leaving a high ratio of sugar to water. Erzeugerabfüllung (German) - bottled by the producer.


Fermentation - the process where sugar is eaten by yeast resulting in bi-products of alcohol and carbon dioxide. Filtering - removes bits from wine that you can see, often bits of grape skin, yeast and other unwanted materials Fining - removes protiens from wine to clarify it. Fortified wine - wine that has neat alcohol made from grape spirit added to it. During Port production it is added prior to the fermentation finishing. The yeast is killed off leaving unfermented sugars, therefore resulting in sweetness. For Sherry it is added after fermentation is complete ensuring a dry wine. Free-run wine - wine made from juice that runs out of the grapes without any pressing.


Gran Reserva (Spanish) - meaning the wine must have been aged for a minimum of five years, some of which must have been in a barrel. Grand Cru (French) - in Burgundy it means the best quality vineyards, in Champagne it refers to the villages producing the best grapes. In Saint-Emilion the classification system is Grand Cru at the 'lower' end of scale followed by Grand Cru Classé with Premiére Grand Cru Classé saved for the very best wines.


Hectare - a measure of area commonly used for vineyards. It applies to 10,000 square metres and is equivalent to approximiately 2.5 acres.


Icewine - produced in Canada, the same principle as German Eiswein, producing sweet wines.


Jeroboam - a large format bottle equivalent to 4 standard bottles in Champagne and Burgundy but equivalent to 6 bottles in Bordeaux.


Legs in a red wine glass - Wine GlossaryLees - once yeast has done its job and is spent it is now known as lees. If left in the wine whilst it matures before bottling it adds flavour and texture to the wine. It is then filtered out before bottling. Legs - the sticky, trickly lines that stick to the side of a wine glass. They are an indication of either higher sugar and/or alcohol which both add viscosity to wine.


Malolactic-fermentation - often abbreviated to MLF and not stricltly a fermentation at all but a conversion. Malic acid is the crunchy crisp acidity found in grapes but if the winemaker wants a softer acidity he will either allow MLF to occur naturally or will introduce lactic bacteria to the wine. This converts the malic acid to lactic acid, the kind of acidity found in dairy products, which is a lot softer. Maturing - leaving wine to mature, usually either in oak barrels or in the bottle. Mise en bouteille (French) - bottled. Moelleux (French) - sweet or medium-sweet wine Mousse (French) - the term given to the feeling of the bubbles in sparkling wine. Sparkling wine should not feel 'fizzy' in the mouth but should have a delicate tingle, the mousse. Mousseux (French) - sparkling wine generally produced outside of Champagne in France.


Négociant (French) - term to describe a winemaker who buys in grapes or juice (fermented or unfermented) and then completes the winemaking process. The wine will then be bottled under their own label, but may sometimes make reference to the source of the grapes. Many négociants also own some vineyards as another source of grapes. Although the system does not sound as though it will result in great wine, many négociants, who operate extensively in Burgundy, produce benchmark examples and perform a very important role. Négociant-Éleveur (French) - a négociant equipped to perform all the tasks involved in taking an unfinished wine through to the bottling process, including ageing in barrel if desired. New World - generally the countries where the Europeans settled and took the vines and winemaking techniques with them. Generally speaking, because New World countries tend to receive more hours of sunshine and more heat the wines produced are richer, fuller and more forward than Old World wines with more tropical fruit characters and often higher alcohol.


Old World – the term given to countries in Europe, where all wine grapes originate from. Generally speaking the climate is cool but can be temperamental leading to vintage variations. In France particularly this can result in large differences in price. The style of wines produced is overall lighter, earthier, elegant and more aromatic than those form the New World. Organic Viticultre - Like any other branch of agriculture, some winemakers wish to rely less on fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals. Those that meet certain criteria may be labelled as organic. It is often compared to biodynamic viticulture, although this is much more extreme. Oxidation – the degrading effect of oxygen on wine in known as Oxidation and can leave wine with a darker, eventually brown, hue and a musty, almost Sherry-like aroma. In the winery great care is taken to avoid exposure to air but some winemakers allow it to happen in small amounts. This reduction, as it is known, adds an ‘already aged’ quality to wines which in some cases is favourable. The effect can be seen in a Gran Reserva Rioja such as Conde de Valdemar 2004.


Passito (Italian) – the process where grapes are dried after harvest to allow some water to evaporate. This leaves a higher concentration of sugar than normal which results in a slightly sweet, and usually more alcoholic, wine. Amarone Della Valpolicella is a good example of this. Traditionally whole bunches are laid on straw mats but they can also be hung from rafters or left in baskets in warm lofts. Phylloxera – a louse that destroyed much of the vineyard in Europe in the late 18 hundreds. The Phylloxera Vastatrix louse eats grapevine roots but administers an anti-clotting agent meaning the sap drains out of the plant. Once infected a vineyard must be burnt or flooded to ensure the louse is dead. Wine as we know it must be produced from European grapevines which is not resistant to Phylloxera. American rootstocks are, however, resistant and so most of the vineyards in the world are now planted with American rootstock then have the European variety grafted on. Only small pockets of vines are still planted with the European variety in the ground. This is either down to tradition as in Champagne topography, Chile has not been infected Phylloxera, or because the soil is not attractive to the louse, it dislike sandy soils. Pruning – cutting back the shoots and leaves of the grapevine to ensure effective canopy management.


Quinta (Portuguese) – farm, estate or vineyard.


Racking - Removing wine form one vessel and transferring it to another. Usually done to remove sediment from the wine. Recioto (Italian) - the name given to wine made from grapes that have gone through the Passito process. See above for Passito. Remuage (French) - the process where bottles Champagne are 'riddled' to move sediment through the bottle in a clump. The yeast is Remuage - Wine Glossaryleft in the bottle whilst Champagne matures and must be removed before finishing. The lees, as the dead yeast is called, settles at the bottom of the bottle. If one were to just turn the bottle upside-down you would achieve a snow-globe effect. To prevent this the bottles are placed in pupitres, as seen in the picture, and very gradually turned and tilted until they are upright, albeit upside-down. The bottles are then passed through brine, freezing the neck of the bottle producing an ice plug of wine with the sediment captured therein. The bottle is turned back the right way up, the top removed and the pressure pops the plug out before the bottle is topped up with dosage  and resealed. Reserva (Spanish) -  meaning the wine must have been aged for a minimum of three years, some of which must have been in a barrel. Ripasso (Italian) - When Amarone della Valpolicella is produced using the Passito method, see above, it matures in barrels and the wine then removed for filtration. The bits that are left over, yeast, skins etc. remain in the barrel and a good quality Valpolicella wine is   put into the barrel to mature and it picks up a bit of the sweetness, richness and alcohol that has been left by the Amarone. The result is a richer wine than an average Valpolicella but lighter than a full Amarone.


Saignée (French) - this is the method by which most rosé wine is made. The colour for red wine comes from the skins, the juice is white, so by only leaving the skins in contact with the juice for a short time a paler hue develops. Some wineries make a rosé because once this wine is drawn off it increases the ratio of skins to wine, therefore producing a denser red wine. In Champagne it is allowed to make rosé by adding red wine to white wine. Sec (French)  - dry. Sulphur/Sulphites - used for myriad purposes from vineyard to winery. Rather than explain here, take a look at our blogs on sulphites that explain this subject in greater detail. Sur Lie (French) - leaving the wine to rest on it's lees to produce greater texture and flavour. Usually associated with Muscadet, the best ones are Sur Lie.


Tannin - compound found in all natural things. In grapes it is in the skins and because the skins are more commonly used during the red wine making process they contain more tannin than white wine. In the mouth tannin manifests itself as a drying sensation, often around the gums and teeth. It is the same effect that occurs if you leave a teabag the cup for too long. If a wine has been fermented in oak barrels this can also add tannins. Tannin is essential to red wine designed for ageing, without it the wine will have no structure and feel flabby in the mouth. Tartrate Crystals - tartaric acid is naturally occurring in grape juice and therefore wine. If left to it's own devices the acid will Tartrate Crystals - Wine Glossaryprecipitate into crystals over time that fall to the bottom of the bottle as sediment. They are totally harmless but consumers don't like the idea of bits in their wine, especially when they can look a little bit like glass. Most commercially produced wine, therefore, undergoes cold stabilisation which forces the crystals to form and can then be filtered out. Many winemakers nowadays have the philosophy that if the acidity is intrinsic to the wine, why remove it? Leave it in and let's educate consumers as to what it is instead. Sometimes you can find them stuck to the bottom of the cork. We like to call them wine diamonds. TCA - Trichloranisole - see Corked above Terroir (French) - there is no direct translation into English but it refers to the effects of external influences on the grapes and therefore the wine. It includes, but is not exclusive to, soil type, bedrock, wind, aspect to the sun, altitude and rainfall. It is the relationship between the grape, the microclimate and it's surroundings in a particular year. Certain grape varieties thrive in specific terroirs and so can't be grown just anywhere.


Vendange (French) - harvest. Vendange Tardive (French) - late harvest. Produces sweeter wines due to increased sugars caused by leaving the grapes on the vine for longer. Vielles Vignes (French) - old vines. Usually produce fewer bunches of smaller berries which have more concentration and therefore produce wines with more complexity and depth. Vigne (French) - vine. Vigneron (French) - winegrower. Vignoble (French) - vineyard. (There's a pattern here somewhere....) Vintage - for other products such as cars, records or clothes, vintage refers to something old and classic. In terms of wine it is simply the product of a single year. The grapes must be grown, harvested and made into wine in the space of 12 months. The harvest in the Southern Hemisphere occurs in our springtime so their vintage is always about 6 months ahead of that in the Northern Hemisphere. If a year is mentioned on the label, the wine is vintage. Whether it was a good vintage or not depends on the growing conditions. The Old World is prone to fluctuations in weather conditions, hence, when the season has been perfect, it will be considered a great year. If the weather is not so good it will be a bad vintage. Remember though, someone will still make bad wine in a good year and vice versa. It's really only when we get into the top echelons of wine society that vintage make a big difference. For more everyday wines you are better off going with a winemaker you 'know' rather than the vintage. In the New World they do not have the worry that the grapes won't ripen properly so they tend to embrace the fact that this year's wine may have subtly different nuances than last year's. Vitis Vinifera - the European species of grape that all wine as we know must be produced from. All the grapes you recognise, and those you don't, belong to this species.  

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