A lot of work and energy went into compiling this page (which incidentally is the “sister page” to the wine glossary that is available on Flora’s Table, the Fine Cooking and Wine blog), with a view to offering our readers a wine glossary that is as comprehensive as possible, with over 110 wine-related terms defined. This glossary is not intended to encompass each conceivable “wine word” nor is it meant to provide an exhaustive explanation of each defined term, but hopefully you will find it useful to get a grasp of the most important or common wine terminology and a whole bunch of French and Italian wine words or, if you are a wine expert already, to test your knowledge!
This glossary is based in the first place on the one and half years of study and hands-on experience that I immensely enjoyed going through to complete the entire sommelier certification course offered by the Milan chapter of the Italian Sommelier Association: we studied a lot, we learned a lot and… we drank (er… actually tasted!) a lot, making good friends in the process and meeting some remarkable people, among whom I would like to acknowledge the man who I think was the best teacher in the entire course, knowledgeable and entertaining Guido Invernizzi. Beside what I learned during the ISA course, this glossary also relies on extensive personal research and experience.
Clearly, any comments are welcome, as are any suggestions, requests that a specific term be added or corrections of any inaccuracy. Oh, and by the way, you are welcome to link to this page, but please refrain from copying or utilizing our work without first asking for our consent. Thank you!
C&C WINE GLOSSARY
Acids (in grapes): These are the acids that are naturally present in grapes, which are tartaric, malic and citric acids.
Acids (in wine): These are the grape acids plus other acids that may occur as a result of the malolactic fermentation process (e.g., lactic acid) or acids that may occur as a result of excessive oxidation in the aging process (e.g., acetic acid).
Aging: It is the evolutionary process that wine undergoes after fermentation, which makes wine mature. There are generally two phases of aging: (i) the Oxidative Phase, which is that part of aging which takes place after fermentation, for those wines that undergo a phase of aging in wood barrels, which (because of their inherent micro-porosity) expose the wine to small quantities of oxygen that react with the wine and make it evolve, developing tertiary aromas; and (ii) the Reductive Phase, which is that part of aging which takes place in the absence of oxygen, in airtight steel tanks and/or in the bottle. Certain white wines only age in steel vessels and then in the bottle and therefore are not exposed to any oxidative phase of their aging process.
Alcohol: In wine we only refer to ethanol, which is the result of the fermentation process of grape sugars (glucose and fructose) by selected yeast. Ethanol is a determining factor, together with dry extract, of the body of a wine. Alcohol in wine can be categorized as Actual Alcohol (i.e., the alcohol that has actually been produced by the fermentation process, which is indicated on the label and expressed as alcohol by volume “% VOL” or “ABV”); Potential Alcohol (i.e., the residual, unfermented sugars that are still present in wine after fermentation); and Total Alcohol (i.e., the sum of Actual Alcohol and Potential Alcohol in a given wine).
Anthocyanins: A kind of polyphenols contained in black-berried grape skins which are the natural pigments responsible for the color of red wines.
Arches: see the definition of “Tears“.
Aromas: There are three families of aromas in wine: (i) Primary (or Varietal) Aromas, which are those aromas that are typical of the various grape varieties and are caused by terpene compounds that are mostly contained in the grape skins; (ii) Secondary Aromas, which are given to wine as a result of the fermentation process and are caused by higher alcohols; and (iii) Tertiary Aromas, which are given to wine as a result of the oxidative phase of its aging process and are caused by esters. The entire set of aromas of a wine is that wine’s bouquet.
Aromatic Grapes: These are grapes with pronounced primary (or varietal) aromas. In Italy, these are Brachetto, Malvasia, Moscato and Traminer.
Asti Spumante: The name of an Italian Method sparkling wine made in the Piemonte region exclusively out of Moscato Bianco grapes. Asti Spumate is a sweet sparkling wine and is also the name of the homonymous DOCG appellation encompassing an area near the towns of Asti, Alessandria and Cuneo.
Barrique: A 225 lt (about 60 US gal) oak barrel used for wine aging. Because of its smaller size compared to other wood barrels traditionally used for wine aging, it enriches wine with more defined tertiary aromas. Barrique barrels get generally used more than once: the more times a barrique is used, the lesser the strength of the tertiary aromas it confers to wine.
Bidule: In the production process of Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wine, it is a small receptacle that is connected to the inside of the crown cap that seals the bottles during the refermentation and remuage phases. The purpose of the bidule is to capture the yeast sediment that is moved toward it as a result of the remuage process in view of its removal through the dégorgement process.
Blanc de Blancs: A Champagne or other sparkling wine that is made exclusively from permitted white-berried grapes, such as Chardonnay.
Blanc de Noirs: A Champagne or other sparkling wine that is made entirely, or prevalently, from permitted black-berried grapes, such as Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. A Blanc de Noir is still a white sparkling wine, because the black-berried grapes are soft-pressed the same way white-berried grapes are in the white winemaking process and do not undergo any maceration phase, so their juice remains yellow, with virtually no extraction of anthocyanins from the grape skins.
Blend: A wine that is made by mixing two or more varietal base wines (so-called “taglio“) or by mixing the juice of grapes of two or more varieties before fermentation (so-called “uvaggio“).
Body: A quality of wine that is determined by, and assessed based on, its dry extract and alcohol by volume. Body is also referred to as structure of a wine.
Bordeaux Blend: A proprietary blend of two or more varietal base wines (whose grapes are harvested and fermented separately) that is traditional to the Bordeaux region in France. Grape varieties that are common in a red Bordeaux blend are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and/or Petit Verdot.
Botrytis Cinerea: Also known as “noble rot” or “grey mold”, it is a fungus that affects grapes before they get harvested in areas (notably, the French region of Graves in the estuary of the Garonne river, near Bordeaux, where Sauternes, the king of botrytized wines, is made) having certain climatic characteristics, including humidity and significant temperature changes. By sticking to the grapes, Botrytis causes the grapes to dehydrate, thus concentrating the sugars, increases their glycerol contents and contributes to forming those saffron, honey and apricot aromas that are typical of botrytized wines by causing the fermenting yeast to produce volatile thiols (organic compounds containing sulfur) that are responsible for such aromas.
Botrytized Wine: A sweet raisin wine made in whole or in part of grapes that were affected by Botrytis Cinerea. Notable examples include France’s Sauternes (made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes), Hungary’s Tokaji (made from Furmint grapes) and Germany’s TrockenBeerenAuslese (for short, “TBA” – made from Riesling or Gewurztraminer grapes).
Bouquet: The entire set of the aromas of a wine.
Cap: the grape skins, seeds and pulp that are present in the must and that the carbon dioxide produced by fermentation pushes to the surface of the fermenting must.
Carbonic Maceration: A type of early maceration phase that is only used in the “new wine” (e.g., Beaujolais Nouveau or Novello) making process. It requires that the whole grape clusters, before being destemmed, crushed and fermented, undergo a preliminary phase of maceration in steel vessels saturated with Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) at about 30 C/86 F for a period of about 5-10 days in order to stimulate the production of aromas and glycerol, as well as facilitate the extraction of pigments (anthocyanins) from the grape skins. The ensuing fermentation phase will be shorter than usual (about 2-4 days).
Champagne: The king of wines and the wine of kings. It is the epitome of sparkling wine, it has been around since the XVII century, when it started being served at the crowning ceremonies of the Kings of France in Reims, therefore gaining worldwide popularity and repute. It is the wine for which the Méthode Champenoise (or Classic Method) refermentation process was invented. This magical name, which is the same as the homonymous AOC appellation created in 1927 (although an area had already been defined in 1908 as “Région de la Champagne délimitée viticole”), is reserved to sparkling wine that is made exclusively from all or some of the following grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grown in the Champagne region of France.
Château: French word for an estate in France (especially in the Bordeaux region) that makes wine by using grapes from vineyards owned by such estate.
Clarification: An enological treatment of must and sometimes wine that is aimed at clarifying it and removing all insoluble particles by means of (i) the addition of clarifying (or fining) agents such as bentonite, egg whites or gelatine and/or (ii) filtration.
Classic Method: see the definition of Méthode Champenoise.
Clos: French word for a vineyard enclosed by a stone wall.
Corked Wine: It is a flaw of wine caused by a cork contaminated with Trichloroanisole (“TCA”) that gives wine an unpleasant moldy odor. Estimates indicate that TCA affects about 5% of the cork used in the wine industry and it is caused by the agents that are used to bleach cork. Other kinds of stoppers that are used in the wine industry, such as silicone or glass stoppers or twist caps, are not affected by TCA and therefore will not contaminate the wine.
Corrections: Certain manipulations of the must as permitted by the laws or local regulations of the country of production of a wine that are aimed at correcting imbalances, especially in sugar contents (in which case certain countries, among which Italy, are very restrictive and only permit the addition of Rectified Concentrated Grape Must, while others are more relaxed permitting the addition of non-grape sugars, such as beet or cane sugar) or in acidity levels (which may be corrected through the addition of tartaric acid, one of the acids that are naturally present in grapes).
Crémant: Any Classic Method sparkling wine that is made in France outside of the Champagne region or in Luxembourg. Crémant wines may also be made from grapes other than the three varieties that are permitted for Champagne (i.e., Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and may have a lower pressure than Champagne.
Cru: French word indicating a specific vineyard, especially in the Burgundy region of France. The term may also refer to the quality classification systems of the wines of the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions of France.
Crushing: The process of crushing black-berried grape clusters to extract the juice – it is normally coupled with a destemming procedure to remove the stems from grape clusters: as a result, the juice along with the skins and seeds form the must that will go through the fermentation and maceration phases of the red winemaking process.
Cryomaceration: An optional step in the white (and sometimes red) winemaking process whereby the grapes undergo a short (generally, one or two days maximum) maceration phase at low temperature (about 5 C/41 F, obtained by using CO2 in liquid or gas form or other cooling agents) before being soft pressed (or crushed) in order to extract the aromas that reside in the grape skins and therefore enhance the bouquet of the wine. Cryomaceration also determines a precipitation of tartaric acid and therefore lowers the acidity of the wine.
Cuvée: The proprietary blend of the three varietal base wines that make Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Decanter: A special type of glass vessel that is used in the service of an old and valuable wine so that, while this gets gently poured into the decanter, any sediment is left in the bottle and the wine can “breathe” after being in an anaerobic environment for many years, thus revealing its complex bouquet to the fullest.
Dégorgement: French word to indicate the removal process of the yeast sediment from Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wine bottles after the remuage step is completed. Dégorgement was once performed manually by removing the crown cap so that the top portion of the wine (which, as a result of the remuage contains the yeast sediment) would be ejected from the bottle. Nowadays it is a mechanical process that entails, after the remuage phase is completed, partially submerging the neck of the bottle (which is kept upside down) in an ice-cold solution (-25 C/-13 F) which freezes the portion of wine next to the crown cap and therefore also the yeast sediment contained in the bidule so that the crown cap and the iced bidule containing the sediment can be removed. The wine is then finished off by the addition of the liqueur d’expédition (so-called “dosage”).
Disgorgement: Same as dégorgement.
Domaine: French word for an estate in the Burgundy region of France that makes wine by using grapes from vineyards owned by such estate.
Dosage: In the production process of Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wine, it is the phase following the degorgement, when the liqueur d’expédition is generally added to finish off the wine.
Dosage Zéro: A Champagne or Classic Method sparkling wine to which the winemaker decides not to add any liqueur d’expédition. As a result, dosage zéro wines have extremely low residual sugar levels (around 0.5 gr/lt).
Dry Extract: In wine, “total dry extract” refers to all of the non-volatile substances and mineral compounds present in wine that would remain once water and alcohol were removed (e.g., glycerol, non-volatile acids, polyphenols, proteins, salts, minerals). The so-called “non-reducing extract” is obtained by subtracting total sugars from total dry extract. Dry extract is a determining factor, together with alcohol (ethanol) content, of the body of a wine: the greater the dry extract and the alcohol content, the more viscous, or the thicker the wine. Generally, red wines have a dry extract of about 18-30 gr/lt, while white wines have a dry extract of about 15-18 gr/lt.
Eiswein: An extremely late harvest type of raisin wine where grapes are harvested generally in January (in the Northern hemisphere) after they have dried and frozen on the vine. The grapes so harvested then undergo low temperature pressing (so as to avoid as much as possible any defrosting of the ice coating of the grapes, which would dilute the must) and a partial fermentation process (as low temperatures inhibit yeast fermenting activity) to produce a very sweet wine with low alcohol by volume. Canada, China and Germany are among the largest producers of Eiswein and Riesling is a grape variety that is commonly used to make Eiswein.
Fermentation: The core step in the winemaking process: it is the chemical process whereby selected yeast (generally of the Saccharomyces Cerevisiae strain), that is added to the must in steel vessels at controlled temperatures (about 18-22 C/64-72 F for white wines, 25-30 C/77-86 F for red wines), converts a molecule of grape sugar (i.e., glucose or fructose) into two molecules of alcohol (ethanol), two molecules of carbon dioxide (CO2) and residual heat.
Filtration: One of the permitted enological treatments of must and sometimes wine, aimed at clarifying it and removing all insoluble particles.
Fining: One of the permitted enological treatments of must and sometimes wine, aimed at stabilizingit, clarifying it and removing all insoluble particles by means of the addition of clarifying (or fining) agents such as bentonite (for white wines), egg whites (for red wines) or gelatine (for white or red wines). Fining agents also have the effect of reducing astringency in red wines.
Fortified Wines: Wines that are made from a high sugar content must which undergoes a partial fermentation that is interrupted by the addition of ethanol, mistelle or a spirit (which inhibit the yeast fermentation activity). Alcohol by volume in fortified wines is generally between 15 and 22% VOL. Marsala, Sherry, Porto, Madeira and Vins Doux Naturels are among the best known fortified wines.
Frizzante: Italian word for a slightly sparkling wine (for instance, a Lambrusco or a Barbera frizzante).
Glass: For proper wine tasting or even for pure enjoyment of wine, the glass needs to have a stem and needs to be clear – ideally, it should also be a crystal glass. Different shapes of wine glasses are suitable for different types of wines.
Glycerol: It is a non-volatile higher alcohol (trihydric alcohol) which comes in the form of a viscous liquid. In wine, it is a byproduct of must fermentation that is synthesized by fermenting yeast, roughly in the amount of 7-10 gr glycerol per 100 gr ethanol (i.e., glycerol levels in wine are about 7 to 10% of the ethanol levels). The amount of glycerol found in wine generally varies from about 4 to 15 gr/lt. It is generally present to a greater extent in red wines than white wines: this is partly due to the fact that higher fermentation temperatures result in greater glycerol production in must, and red wine fermentation is performed at higher temperatures than white wine’s. Glycerol is responsible for the sensory feel of “smoothness” of certain wines.
Grapes: The fruit of the Vitis vinifera vine (or other grapevines, such as Vitis Labrusca) which are used to make wine. Grapes are generally subdivided by color into black-berried grapes, white-berried grapes and grey-berried grapes (this last group encompassing only Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, Malavasia Rosa and Moscato Rosa grapes).
Harvest: Depending on the objectives of the winemaker and the type of grapes, harvest may be scheduled to coincide with (i) the peak in the production of varietal aromas for aromatic grapes – this will result in an early harvest (so-called “Aromatic Ripeness“) or (ii) the best balance among sugars, acids and aromas – this is the most common harvest timing for most wines (so-called “Technological Ripeness“) or (iii) the peak in the production of anthocyanins, in the case of certain black-berried grapes (so-called “Phenolic Ripeness“) or (iv) the maximization of sugars and polyphenols (anthocyanins and tannins), in the case of full-bodied wines which will undergo a substantial aging period, such as Barolo or Amarone della Valpolicella, or raisin wines – this will result in a late harvest (so-called “Over-Ripeness“).
Horizontal Wine Tasting: An opportunity to taste several different wines of the same type (e.g., several Barolo’s) or based on the same grape variety/ies (e.g., several Barolo’s, Barbaresco’s and Valtellina Superiore’s) that come from one and the same vintage but are made by different wineries so as to illistrate the differences between terroirs and/or winemaking styles.
Ice: Being ice frozen water, please refer to the definition of water!
Icewine: Same as Eiswein.
ISA: The Italian Sommelier Association, the Italian representative of the Worldwide Sommelier Association.
Italian Method: see the definition of Méthode Charmat.
Jeroboam: A 3 lt size wine bottle.
Liqueur d’Expédition: A proprietary mix of wine and sugar that winemakers generally add to a Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wine after the dégorgement to restore the desired amount of residual sugar in the finished wine.
Liqueur de Tirage: A mix of wine, sugar and selected yeast that winemakers generally add to a Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wine when this gets bottled after its first fermentation so that it starts the in-bottle refermentation process. Generally, the liqueur de tirage contains 24 gr/lt of sugar, which after the refermentation results in a 6 atm wine.
Maceration: The fermentation of must in the red winemaking process, which requires that the must not only contain the grape juice, but also the grape skins and seeds. By leaving the grape juice in contact with the grape skins and seeds, maceration permits the extraction of anthocyanins and terpenes from the skins and tannins from the skins and seeds, which are responsible for the red wine’s color, varietal aromas and astringent character, respectively.
Magnum: A 1.5 lt size wine bottle.
Malolactic Fermentation: An optional secondary fermentation phase of wine (which is more common in red wine than white wine) caused by lactic acid bacteria which convert the tart malic acid that is present in grape juice into sweeter lactic acid and carbon dioxide (CO2), thus making the wine “rounder”, smoother and generally more pleasant in the mouth.
Mathusalem: A 6 lt size wine bottle.
Méthode Champenoise or Metodo Classico: A sparkling wine that is made pursuant to the same refermentation process that is used to make Champagne. Franciacorta DOCG, Trento DOC and Alta Langa DOCG are all examples of Italian Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines.
Méthode Charmat or Metodo Martinotti: A shorter and cheaper process to make a sparkling wine than Méthode Champenoise. It replaces the in-bottle refermentation and the lengthy in-bottle aging phases with a refermentation and short aging phase in a steel pressurized and refrigerated tank. Prosecco and Asti Spumante are examples of Italian Méthode Charmat sparkling wines.
Micro-Oxygenation: A technique developed in the early Nineties in France that essentially aims at considerably shortening the time to smoothen harsh tannins in red wine compared to the regular aging process. Particularly, this technique entails injecting controlled oxygen flows into the fermenting must and then the aging wine at regular intervals, causing a controlled oxidation. This process causes tannin astringency to subside much faster (by accelerating the polymerization of tannins) and also affects the wine color and bouquet.
Millésimé or Millesimato: Indicates a vintage Champagne or other vintage Classic Method sparkling wine.
Mistelle: Must that is made non-fermentative by means of the addition of ethanol or spirits instead of undergoing alcoholic fermentation, which makes mistelle very sweet (because the grape sugars that are present in the must do not ferment). Mistelle is especially used to make the French Vins de Liqueur (i.e., Pineau des Charentes, with the addition of Cognac, and Floc de Gascogne, with the addition of Armagnac). It is also used for making certain fortified wines, such as certain varieties of Marsala.
Muffato: Italian word that indicates a botrytized raisin wine.
Must: The juice resulting from the crushing (in the red winemaking process) or pressing (in the white winemaking process) of grapes to be fermented, which in the red winemaking process also includes the grape skins, seeds and pulp, while in the white winemaking process is purely liquid and does not contain skins, seeds or stems.
N.V.: Indicates a non-vintage Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wine (same as “S.A.”).
Mutage: French word to indicate the process by which either (i) must is made non-fermentative by means of the addition of ethanol or spirits instead of undergoing alcoholic fermentation (thus creating mistelle) or (ii) must fermentation is prematurely interrupted by the addition of ethanol, mistelle or a spirit (which inhibit the yeast fermentation activity).
Nabuchodonosor: A 15 lt size wine bottle.
Oxidation: It is a chemical reaction deriving from the interaction between oxygen and other substances. In wine, it is the result of the first of the two phases of aging (the oxidative phase), which is the part of aging that takes place after fermentation, for those wines that undergo a phase of aging in wood barrels. These, because of their inherent micro-porosity, expose the wine to small quantities of oxygen that react with the wine and make it evolve, developing tertiary aromas. While controlled oxidation of wine in its aging process enhances its bouquet, excessive oxidation, whether during aging or later on (e.g., whenever a bottle of wine is left open for one/two days), is deleterious as it leads to the so-called “maderization”, that is a flaw that gives wine a Madera-like or Sherry-like off-odor and gives wine color an unattractive brownish tint (for red wines) or tawny tint (for white wines).
Partly Aromatic Grapes: These are grapes which are neither neutral nor do they possess very pronounced primary (or varietal) aromas. These include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Glera, Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pas Dosé: Same as Dosage Zéro.
Passito: Italian term for raisin wine.
Perlage: In a glass of sparkling wine, it indicates the chains of bubbles that ascend from the bottom of the glass to the surface of the wine. Perlage is an important quality indicator for a sparkling wine: the more numerous, the finer and the longer lasting the bubbles, the better and the more refined the wine.
Phylloxera or Grape Phylloxera: It is an aphid that in the mid 19th century was accidentally brought to Europe from North America by sea and that destroyed almost the entirety of the Vitis vinifera grapevines in Europe by infesting their roots. European grapevines were saved by the intuition to graft Vitis vinifera vines with phylloxera-resistant American vine roots, which is still nowadays the way the vast majority of European grapevines are grown.
Pied de Cuve: The selected yeast that causes the first fermentation of the base wines that will be used to create the cuvée of a Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wine.
Polyphenols: these are chemical compounds that are naturally present in grapes (mostly in their skin and seeds) and that primarily comprise natural pigments contained in the grape skin (such as anthocyanins for black-berried grapes) and tannins.
Pressing or Soft Pressing: The process whereby white-berried grape clusters are softly pressed to extract exclusively their juice, getting rid of the stems, the skins and the seeds. The grape juice so extracted will go through the fermentation phase of the white winemaking process.
Prosecco: The name of an Italian Method sparkling wine (although there are a few producers who also make a Classic Method Prosecco) made in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions of Italy exclusively or mainly out of Glera grapes, which are also known as Prosecco grapes. Prosecco is generally a dry sparkling wine. Prosecco wines may be produced in the larger territory encompassed by the Prosecco DOC appellation or in the smaller territories, both near the town of Treviso, Veneto, that are encompassed by the two DOCG appellations, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG and Prosecco di Asolo DOCG.
Pump-over: During red wine fermentation/maceration, it is the process of pumping fermenting must from the bottom of the fermentation vat and releasing it on the surface of the must in order to submerge and “break” the cap (i.e., the grape skins, seeds and pulp that the carbon dioxide produced by fermentation pushes to the surface of the fermenting must) so that it does not dry out and block the maceration process. Pump-overs are done to enhance the extraction of color and tannins in the maceration phase.
Punch-down: During red wine fermentation/maceration, it is the process of “breaking” the cap (i.e., the grape skins, seeds and pulp that the carbon dioxide produced by fermentation pushes to the surface of the fermenting must) by pushing it down into the juice using a manually or mechanically operated punch down tool. This is done to avoid that the cap dries out and blocks the maceration process, which would hamper the extraction of color and tannins in the maceration phase.
Pupitre: In the production process of Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wines, it is the traditional wine rack that, after the refermentation phase and at the end of the aging on the lees phase, holds the bottles bottoms up at an angle to be manually or mechanically rotated at regular time intervals along their axis during the remuage phase.
Racking: The process of transferring the wine (once or more, after fermentation) into a different vat in order to separate the must from the lees (dead yeast cells) that precipitate at the bottom of the original fermentation vat in the form of sediment. Then the original vat gets gently washed and reutilized. This is done to clarify the wine, to allow some controlled aeration and to avoid that contact with the lees gives undesired “off flavors” to the wine.
Raisin Wine: A sweet or dry wine that is made from dried grapes so as to maximize sugar concentration in spite of a reduction in acidity. Grape drying can occur either naturally, by late harvesting overripe grapes, or artificially, by harvesting the grapes when they reach the desired degree of ripeness and then making them dry in the sun on straw mats or in trays or by hanging them in a ventilated room. Malvasia, Moscato, Riesling, Traminer and Sauvignon Blanc are among the grape varieties that are best suited for the natural drying method.
Refermentation: In the process to make Champagne or another Classic Method sparkling wine, it is the step of the second fermentation of the base wines (now blended together in the cuvée) that takes place in a bottle sealed with a crown cap by means of the addition of the liqueur de tirage and that makes the wine bubbly because the carbon dioxide (CO2) created by the yeast remains trapped inside the bottle (every 4 gr of sugar present in the liqueur de tirage create 1 atm of additional pressure).
Rectified Concentrated Grape Must (or “RCGM”): This is the non-caramelized liquid product obtained by means of partial dehydration of the grape must so that it only contains natural grape sugars and water. It is used as an enological correction of low-sugar musts which, with the addition of RCGM, increase their sugar levels without altering any other characteristic of theirs. It can also be used to increase the sweetness of a wine.
Remuage: In the production process of Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wines, it is the phase when each of the bottles, after the refermentation and aging on the lees steps, is placed in a pupitre and is then manually or mechanically rotated at regular time intervals along its axis so as to cause the lees to deposit in the bidule attached to the temporary crown cap of the bottle in view of their subsequent removal through the dégorgement process.
Residual Sugar: Those grape sugars that have not been fermented and remain in the wine at the end of its fermentation phase.
Rosé: As opposed to other countries, Italian legislation as to how to make rosé or pink wine is particularly strict. With the only exception of sparkling rosé wines, still rosé wines may not be made by blending red and white base wines. Still rosé wines may only be made either (i) by following the usual steps of the red winemaking process, except that for a rosé wine the maceration phase shall be considerably shortened so as to limit the extraction of red pigments from the grape skins or (ii) by resorting to an uvaggio, that is a way to make must by mixing the juice of grapes of two or more varieties (in this case, both white-berried and black-berried) before fermentation.
S.A. or Sans Année: French for a non-vintage Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wine.
Saccharomyces Cerevisiae: A strain of yeast that is commonly used in winemaking to trigger the fermentation process of must.
Satén: A Blanc de Blancs type of Classic Method sparkling wine that may only be produced within the area of the Franciacorta DOCG appellation in Italy from white-berried grapes that must prevalently be Chardonnay and, up to 50% maximum, Pinot Blanc. Franciacorta Satén wines, at 5 or less atm, have lower pressure than Champagne or other Classic Method sparkling wines (which generally have a 6 atm pressure) because of the smaller quantity of sugar used in the Satén’s liqueur de tirage (a maximum of 20 gr/lt instead of the regular 24 gr/lt that are used for “regular” Classic Method sparkling wines), which makes it particularly “creamy” and with finer bubbles.
Sediment: Sediment, which is mostly found in aged red wines, is for the most part the result of the polymerization process of tannins. In other words, during the aging process, the molecular size of tannins naturally increases by their binding with other compounds (including anthocyanins, another type of polyphenols that are responsible for the color of red wine): this makes them get bigger and heavier and as a result they eventually precipitate, forming a visible deposit in the bottle – the sediment. Other causes of sediment may be leftovers of the alcoholic fermentation phase, such as residues of lees (dead yeast cells) and tartrates (compounds derived from tartaric acid, one of the acids that are naturally present in grapes): these are generally removed from wines through clarification treatments involving the use of fining agents (such as bentonite) and filtration, so they are more likely to be found in unfiltered and/or unfined wines.
Service Temperature: Each type of wine has its own appropriate service temperature. In a nutshell and without getting too much into detail, serve sparkling wines at about 6-8 C/43-46 F; most white wines (except the most structured ones) at 8-10 C/46-50 F; and most red wines at 17-20 C/63-68 F.
Spumante: Italian for sparkling wine.
Structure: see the definition of “Body“.
Sugars (in grapes): The sugars that are naturally present in grapes, i.e., mostly glucose and fructose. These are both 6-carbon sugars, as such capable of fermenting. Grapes may also contain 5-carbon sugars (such as xylose) which are however incapable of fermenting.
Sulfites: Chemical compounds (anions) formed by the reaction of a sulfur dioxide molecule (SO2, which is acidic) with basic oxides or an aqueous base.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2): A gas that is the product of the burning of sulfur. It is broadly used in winemaking and is applied as one of the main treatments of must in order to act as an antiseptic and antioxidant and to facilitate the dissolution of anthocyanins in the maceration phase of the red winemaking process.
Super Tuscan: A term indicating certain Bordeaux-style red wines that have been made in Tuscany, Italy, since the early Seventies by winemakers who wanted to experiment and veer off traditional Tuscan winemaking styles, often utilizing international grape varieties (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah) as opposed to traditional local ones (such as Sangiovese). In order to enjoy such freedom to experiment, those winemakers produced their Super Tuscans outside the strict rules of the most prestigious Italian appellations (DOC and, more recently, DOCG), which resulted in those premium wines to be initially labeled as “table wines” and more recently as IGT wines (a more loosely regulated Italian appellation) in spite of their quality and substantial price tags. The “grandfather” of the Super Tuscans is the Sassicaia, whose notoriety and quality led to the creation in 1994 of the DOC Bolgheri which includes a Sassicaia sub-zone, thus making Sassicaia the first Super Tuscan to enjoy DOC appellation status.
Sur lie: French for “on the lees”. It refers to the period of time (generally, 12 months to several years) that a Champagne (in which regard the legal minimum aging period is 15 months for non-vintage wine and 36 months for vintage wine) or other Classic Method sparkling wine spends aging in the bottle after the refermentation phase together with the dead yeast cells (lees) that caused it.
Taglio: A type of blend in which a wine is made by mixing two or more varietal base wines together. Typical examples of “taglio” are Champagne or Bordeaux wines.
Tannins: A kind of polyphenols that are contained in grape skins, seeds and stem and also in the wood of the barrels that are used for aging red and sometimes white wines. They are responsible for the astringent and sometimes bitter taste in red wine: notably, small tannin molecules are responsible for the bitterness, while bigger tannin molecules are responsible for the astringency. With aging, tannins polymerize, which means that their molecular size increases by their binding with other compounds (including anthocyanins, another type of polyphenols that are responsible for the color of red wine), which makes them get bigger and heavier and as a result they eventually precipitate. This leads to the formation of sediment in the bottle and to the consequence that their bitter feeling subsides, so that in older red wines the tannins’ astringency is perceived more than their bitterness, which makes them known as “gentler tannins”. In a wine tasting, tannins are only assessed for red wines.
Tears: In one of the steps of the Visual Analysis of a wine in a wine tasting context, this term refers to the drops of wine forming the “arches” that generally appear inside the glass after gently swirling the wine a couple of times. Tears vary depending on the ethanol, dry extract and glycerol contents of the wine and are an indicator of the wine structure or body: the narrower the arches and the slower to descend the tears, the more structured the wine.
Terpenes: Chemical compounds that are naturally present in grape skins and are responsible for the so-called primary (or varietal) aromas of wine, which are those aromas that are typical of the different grape varieties.
Terroir: French word that alludes to the overall environmental conditions (such as the geography of the land, the geology of the soil, the climatic conditions) in which a specific grapevine is grown and which all contribute creating the unique qualities of the wine made from the grapes of such vine.
Treatments: These are enological practices that are applied to must and/or wine in order to stabilize it or enhance certain of its organoleptic qualities. The main treatments are clarification and application of sulphur dioxide.
Uvaggio: A type of blend in which a wine is made by mixing the juice of grapes of two or more varieties before fermentation.
Varietal: A wine made from only one grape variety.
Vendemmia Tardiva: Italian for late harvest.
Vertical Wine Tasting: An opportunity to taste several different vintages (which are generally consecutive) of the same wine made by the same winery so as to illustrate the differences between different vintages and between younger versus more aged wine.
Vigna: Italian for vineyard.
Vin de Paille: A French sweet raisin wine made in the Jura region from Savagnin, Chardonnay and Poulsard grapes dried on straw mats or other artificial drying methods so as to maximize sugar concentration.
Vin Jaune: A sought-after French white wine produced in the Jura region from late harvest Savagnin grapes that, after fermentation, undergo an over six year long aging process in oak barrels that are not topped off over time, which results in the creation of an air gap in the barrels and causes a partial oxidation of the wine along with the formation of a Sherry-like superficial “veil” of yeast that limits further oxidation.
Vins de Liqueur (or “VdL”): French sweet wines that are made from mistelle. Among the most renowned VdL’s are Pineau des Charentes, which is made with the addition of Cognac to the must, and Floc de Gascogne, which is made with the addition of Armagnac.
Vins Doux Naturels (or “VDN”): French sweet fortified wines that are made from a high sugar content must (often derived from Grenache Noir or Muscat a Petits Grains grapes) which undergoes a partial fermentation that is interrupted by the addition of ethanol, which inhibits the yeast fermentation activity. Among the most renowned VDN’s are Banyuls AOC and Maury AOC (Roussillon) and Muscat de Mireval AOC (Languedoc).
Vintage wine: A wine that is made entirely or mostly (generally, 85% or more) from grapes harvested in a specific year.
Vitis Labrusca: One of the main North American grapevine species, from certain varieties of whose grapes (e.g., Concord, Catawba, Niagara) wine is made.
Vitis Vinifera: The European grapevine, from the grapes of which over 99% of the wine produced all over the world is made.
Yeast: This is one of the essential requirements, together with grape sugars, to cause the fermentation of must. The strain of selected yeast that is most often used in the winemaking process is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae because it is a yeast that copes fairly well with the three most important inhibiting factors of the yeast fermentative action, namely: (i) excessively frigid or high temperatures; (ii) presence of alcohol exceeding about 16% VOL; and (iii) excessive levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2).
Water: What you should under NO circumstance add to wine! After all, wine is already 80 to 85% made of water: why would you want to add even more?!? 😉
Wine: Depending on where you are, “wine” may have different meanings. Given the long history of wine in Europe, European Union regulations (see, Regulation (EC) 479/2008, Annex IV) are particularly strict and define “wine” as “the product obtained exclusively from the total or partial alcoholic fermentation of fresh grapes, whether or not crushed, or of grape must.” In the U.S., instead, the legal definition of “wine” is much broader and the requirements much more relaxed than in Europe: in particular, wine means (i) “the product of the juice or must of sound, ripe grapes or other sound, ripe fruit, made with such cellar treatment as may be authorized” by law and (ii) “other alcoholic beverages not so defined, but made in the manner of wine, including sparkling and carbonated wine, wine made from condensed grape must, wine made from other agricultural products than the juice of sound, ripe grapes, ” etc. (see, 27 USC §211 and 26 USC §5381).
Wine Tasting: What a proper wine tasting should be (but unfortunately sometimes is not) is a sensory analysis of the organoleptic properties of a wine organized in a sequence of phases and steps and performed using standard terminology. According to the Italian Sommelier Association (“ISA”) rules, a wine tasting goes through three main phases: a Visual Analysis; a Scent Analysis; and a Taste-Scent Analysis, each of which comprises a number of steps and is performed using ISA standard terminology.
Holy smokes. I never saw this list on Flora’s table. I might actually link to it in a future post, if you don’t mind.
Thank you: this was one of my early projects at Flora’s Table, it was announced early on, in a post in early November so you may as well have missed it.
I tell you, a LOT of work went into it and I hope it is kind of useful as a reference for wine neophytes or anyway for whomever wants to find out a little bit about most of the fundamental wine-related terms. Incidentally, you may be happy to notice that in the definition of “botrytized wine” I mentioned TBA among the notable examples 🙂
And of course feel free to link to it: I would only be honored by the mention!
I second that–wow!
Thank you very much, Jeff: much appreciated.
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