Glossary of Wine Terminology

Wine production - glossary of wine terminology - wine at home

Without getting too technical, we thought you might like a quick and easy glossary of wine terminology to explain some of the terms you may see on our site, on wine labels or in wine reviews and guides.

There are literally thousands to choose from, so we’ve focussed on the ones we get asked the most often.

With this glossary of wine terminology you'll be able to navigate your way around any wine conversation with confidence!

ABV

Abbreviation of alcohol by volume – sometimes seen on a wine label. The higher the number, the more alcohol present in the bottle. In the UK for a wine to be called a still wine, it has to contain less than 15% ABV.

AOC

Abbreviation for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée which is the French legal term for the geographical region from where a wine is made. There are also specific rules about the way in which the wine is made and in what quantities as a way of maintaining quality control. It is not necessary to be familiar with any of these to enjoy a bottle of wine – think of it as a legal necessity unless you are studying for a wine certificate.

Adega

The Portuguese term for a winery or wine cellar.

Annata

Italian term for a vintage

Appellation

The French word for a geographically delineated wine region. So, for example, Bordeaux is a region containing several appellations including Bordeaux, Bordeaux Superieur and Crémant de Bordeaux.

These appellations must be stated on the wine label and adhere to the winemaking rules governing that appellation. The rules are usually about which grape varieties can be used, how much of it can be grown and harvested and how long it needs to be aged etc. See AOC Appellation d’Origine Controlee.

Acetic Acid

This is the acid found in vinegar and that should never appear in wine – although it certainly will if you leave the bottle open for too long when it will become overtaken by the Acetobacter bacteria that will turn the wine into actual vinegar.

Acidic

Acidity in wine is extremely important. It ensures that white wines have plenty of structure and balance and that red wines keep their colour. It is also important if the wine is to have character, personality and to pair well with different sorts of food. However, as in all things, it’s about balance.

Too much acidity in wine will make it eye wateringly hard to drink – but not enough will make the wine feel ‘flabby’ and lacking in structure. The amount of acidity in wine comes down largely to the grape variety and the ripeness of the grapes. Grapes that are picked too young, before they reach full maturity, will be too high in acidity and make sour wine. Grapes that have gone over the top or are from very hot countries may lack enough acidity to give the wine body.

Getting this right is what distinguishes a well-made, well-balanced wine from one that relies on additives to counteract under ripe or over ripe grapes.

Ageing

The age of a wine is marked on the bottle for good reason. Some wines improve with age, and some don’t. Some are aged in the winemaker’s cellar – perhaps in oak barrels or vats, or in the bottle – some are not.

As a basic rule of thumb, unless you have a temperature-controlled cellar and are buying with a view to ageing it yourself, buy wine that you want to drink within a month or two of purchase and enjoy.

All the wines on our list, whatever their bottle age, are ready to drink now.

Alcohol

By law winemakers must measure and mark the quantity of alcohol by volume in their wines. Drinking too much alcohol will lead to headaches and hangovers, both by the side effects of dehydration but also by the progressive oxidation of alcohol to acetaldehyde in the body.

The amount of alcohol in wine varies from somewhere between about 11% to no more than 15% which is the maximum allowed in the UK for the wine to be sold as a still wine. Higher than that it attracts higher customs and excise duty tariffs.

Balanced

We use this word an awful lot at Wine at Home. For us, balance is everything – it refers to the way in which all the components of the wine such as tannin, fruit, acidity and sweetness or wood (eg oak) work in harmony with each other to create a wine that tastes complete, harmonious and delicious without any of these elements standing out over and above the others.

Barrel fermentation

There are various ways of fermenting grape juice into alcohol – depending on the wine, the grape, the grower, and a variety of other factors. Barrel fermentation is when the wine is fermented in oak barrels that add flavour to the wine – particularly if the barrels are new.

You will often see a reference to the style of oak – French, American for example or the age – used, new – because these things have an influence on the flavour of the wine. This technique is most commonly used in the more expensive white wines such as white Burgundies made with the Chardonnay grape such as Pouilly Fuisse, Rully, or Chablis.

Barrique

A 225-litre small oak barrel of the type originally found in Bordeaux, but now used throughout the world. When barriques are new they add a pronounced flavour to the wine, and even old barrels will have an effect on the wine through exposing it to small quantities of oxygen.

Bâtonnage

This is the French term for the stirring of the sediment (known as lie in French or lees in English) back into the wine. This sediment is usually made up of bits of grape seed, dead yeast etc and by stirring into the wine it can add flavour, texture and aromas. Also known as lees stirring in English. (See Lees.)

Biodynamism

Biodynamic wine has become a buzz word of the industry over recent years, although it is hard to explain exactly what it is or how it works! It comes from a base of organic agriculture, with a healthy dose of spiritual philosophy thrown in and based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner (of schools and education fame).

Vineyards who practice this make their own homeopathic tinctures to treat the vines and carry out the various vineyard functions at specific times of the day or night according to the position of the planets and the cycle of the moon.

In any event, these winegrowers work in close harmony with nature and with their vines, which might explain why they often produce such excellent wine.

Biologique

French term for organic.

Bin

A collection of wine bottles stacked on top of each other. A ‘bin end’ sale is when the merchant wants to get rid of the few remaining bottles in a consignment.

Blind tasting

Often considered the proof of someone’s wine knowledge – this refers to tasting a wine without seeing the bottle – in order to assess its qualities.

Being able to identify a wine without seeing the label is sometimes considered a badge of honour. However, in the wine trade, there is sometimes a value in having a certain amount of information about the wine in order to judge it in context.

A single-blind tasting is when the taster knows which wines are in the mix, but not which is which. A double-blind tasting is when the taster has no information about the wines they are tasting. Both can be a useful practice in comparing, for example, two similar wines, in order to decide on which one to buy – or sell!

Bodega

A Spanish wine cellar or wine shop.

Body

Quite a useful term in describing how heavy or light the wine feels in the mouth.

Many people enjoy red wines that they consider to be full bodied – which are more concentrated and usually contain more alcohol than a medium or light bodied red. However, it’s a good idea to think about where and how a wine is to be drunk before selecting a bottle.

A full-bodied red might work wonderfully with a steak where the tannins of the wine interact with the protein of the meat – but a roast chicken or a more delicate dish would work better with a more subtle, lighter red.

It’s definitely not a question of one size fits all.

Botrytis

Botrytis is a fungus that has both good and bad qualities. In general, if it attacks young grapes, it is a disaster for the harvest – but correctly harnessed, this same fungus is what gives us some of the world’s greatest sweet wines such as Sauternes and Coteaux du Layon. This is known as Noble Rot in English.

This works by allowing the botrytis or noble rot to attack ripe white grapes, causing them to shrivel. While they look awful – they produce small amounts of exceptionally sweet, concentrated grape juice which is used to make many high-end dessert wines. The process is complicated and very small amounts produced, making this wine generally more expensive than normal white wine.

Bouquet

Needs no real explanation – it’s the smell or aroma that you get from a wine – whether or not it contains floral aromas.

Breathing

Leaving a wine to ‘breathe’ after opening is considered by many to be a good way to open the flavours and aromas of the wine – particularly if they are quite tannic. (See Tannin)

The best way to do this is to gently pour the wine into a wide bottomed decanter to allow the air to combine with the wine. Just pouring it into a suitable glass – leaving plenty of space above the wine – will also have the same effect.

You sometimes see people frantically swirling their wine glass to achieve this – something that is not generally useful or necessary. Just a gentle swirl and sniff before tasting is enough.

Older fine wines may benefit from gentle treatment and longer in a decanter before drinking but cheaper everyday wines will not alter significantly.

Brut

Brut means dry and is used primarily in Champagne to denote a dry style containing no more than 12 grams of residual sugar per litre. You may also see Ultra Brut, Extra Brut or Brut Zero on a bottle to denote the driest style of sparkling wines with less than 6 grams of residual sugar per litre. See Extra Dry.

Buttery

Most commonly found in descriptions of wine that has gone through malolactic fermentation (see malolactic fermentation) which provides a white wine, usually Chardonnay, with a rich, buttery flavour.

CV

French abbreviation for Cooperative de Vignerons that you may see on a wine label to show that it has been made by a local cooperative. A cooperative will group together several very small growers and share resources to make more affordable wines to the mutual benefit of all.

Carbonic maceration

The best example of this technique is in Beaujolais where the winegrower seals all the grapes in a vat filled with C02.

The grapes are left whole so that they start fermenting inside their skins. The juice can then be made into the earliest wine of the harvest. These wines will be light bodied reds, easy to drink, fruity and won’t have much tannin and the process has become more common in the production of cheaper, everyday reds.

Cellaring

When you receive a case of wine it is not necessary to put it in a cellar unless you want to keep it for many months or years and the wine itself lends itself to this.

However, a wine kept in cellar conditions will certainly be less likely to come to harm. A perfect cellar should be dark and be kept at around 12 Deg C. Bottles should be kept horizontally so that the cork does not dry out.

A proper cellar either underground or manufactured will also maintain a certain level of humidity to stop the cork drying out. You can replicate this environment in the short term by keeping your wine dark, cool and horizontal. While it may not be possible to keep it at such a low temperature, it is important that the temperature should remain as constant as possible – so a shed for example is not a good place to keep wine. An understairs cupboard or other cool, dark place is a good solution.

Never ever keep your wine on a wine rack in the kitchen. The heat, change of temperature and light will quickly damage the wine, particularly if it is a naturally made wine that contains very low levels of sulphur or preserving chemicals.

Cépage

French term for grape variety. (See Grape Variety.)

Claret

Claret is the now protected although rather old-fashioned term for any red wine from the Bordeaux region in France.

No one knows for sure where the term came from, but it is first recorded when Henry 11 married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1151. It may have come from the French term ‘Clairette’ used to describe a light red wine originally – although wines have become stronger over time.

There is still an idea of quality or style in the term claret – although the word guarantees neither. A ‘good’ claret, according to the late, great wine enthusiast and writer Steven Spurrier, was identified by its ‘elegance, fragrance of bouquet and lift’.

Clarification

Filtering the wine in some way to remove any unwanted particles.

Crianza

The Spanish term for red wine that is aged for at least 1 year in oak and 1 year in the bottle or white wine that is aged for at least 6 months in oak and 1 year in the bottle. (See Reserva.)

Cru

Cru is the French term for a high-quality vineyard or group of vineyards – from the French word for growth.

Cru Classé

In an attempt to hone down the different Bordeaux wines and appellations in 1855, the French came up with a system of classification that is still in use today. It relates to the very best wines of the region, known as the Grand Cru, and are divided in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Cru Classés. A wine with Premier cru or Premier cru classé on the label is the highest level of the five.

Clean

A controversial word in the wine world currently after a certain celebrity used it to describe her own label wine in a move that some feel casts aspersions on other wines and their relative ‘cleanliness’.

However, there is a place for the word when it is used to identify either wines that are free from chemical pesticides and fertilizers or that have a clean untainted palate. It should not be confused with the use of sulphites in wine. (See Sulphites.)

Closed

Sometimes an older wine may be opened to find that it smells of very little – and might be described as closed. Sometimes the wine will ‘open up’ after contact with the air. At other times the wine may be evolving in the bottle and will need more time to reach their next peak.

Corked Wine

In a nutshell a wine is corked when the natural cork has been contaminated by a chemical called trichloroanisole (TCA) which was present in the cork oak tree.

It happens in about 3-4% of wines using these corks and the wine will smell mouldy or like a damp dog. Highly unpleasant and even the tiniest amount is detectable by the human nose. It is completely harmless but the wine not good to drink. Apart from the noticeable smell, it will likely lack body and appear watery and acidic to drink.

Côte

A French term for 'slope'. Slopes are very important in the growing of grapes as they alter the exposition of the vineyard and control the amount of sunlight, shelter and wind the vines receive. Some areas are also called after these slopes such as the Cotes du Rhone. (Slopes adjacent to the Rhone river.)

Cru

French term for vineyard, often translated as growth.

Decanting

Apart from allowing the wine to breathe (see breathing), it can be a good idea to decant a bottle aged wine that contains a lot of sediment. If poured gently and carefully into a decanter you can drink it down to the last drop without having a nasty surprise in the last gulp.

Demi-sec

French term for medium dry. On a Champagne or sparkling wine this would mean it had between 32 and 50 grams of residual sugar per litre, making it quite a sweet wine for the UK taste.

Domaine

Is one of the French terms for a wine estate. It stems from use in the Burgundy region, whereas Chateau is more usually used in the Bordeaux region. Other regions also use one or the other according to historical practice. There are some complicated and subtle differences between the two which would take up too much space here! (See Chateau)

The term on a label ‘Mise en bouteille au domaine or au chateau or a la propréité’ (See propriété) means that the wine was put into the bottle at the vineyard.

Dosage

The term used to describe the mixture of wine and sugar syrup added to the wine to make Champagne and other sparkling wines made in the same way as Champagne.

The sweetness of the finished Champagne is determined by the dosage.

Eiswein

An expensive German dessert wine made by leaving the grapes on the vine until winter until they freeze then crushing them. The juice from these grapes is extremely concentrated and makes exceptional sweet wine.

It is a phenomenally complex and time-consuming process which explains why the wine is so expensive. Although these are dessert wines, the grapes are not affected by Botrytis or Noble Rot as so many other dessert wines are. (See Botrytis.)

En primeur

Well known Bordeaux vineyards where demand for their wines far outweighs its supply, offer their wines for sale before they have been bottled, in the summer after the harvest. You pay upfront and receive the wine roughly two years later.

Extra Dry

Extra Dry sparkling wines are not as dry as any containing the word Brut. They usually contain between 12 and 17 grams of residual sugar per litre so you may detect a little more sweetness on the finish although this is not a sweet wine.

Fermentation

In order to make wine alcoholic and turn it from grape juice into a much more exciting product, it has to undergo fermentation by adding yeast to the mix.

Filtration

Many wines are filtered to remove any remaining particles of dead yeast, bits of grape seed or other clutter. The result will be bright, clear wines that are pleasing to the eye.

However, the current trend for unfiltered wines argues that by filtering the wine you may strip out some of the natural flavour and prefer to leave the wine as it is. There is definitely place for both of these styles in the view of many people – as so much depends on the style of wine and the required end result.

Fining

Some wines go through a process to remove any unwanted particles by filtering it through a ‘fining agent’. The most well-known fining agent is egg white, but clay, casein and dried blood can also be used.

While none of these materials stay in the finished product, wine that has used animal-based products as a fining agent cannot be labelled vegan or vegetarian. A vegan wine will use a non animal-based fining agent.

Finish

We always add a note about the finish (or length) of a wine on our tasting notes.

This is an important concept in the wine world and self-explanatory. As the wine evolves in your mouth and is swallowed, it will leave a vestige of flavour and form. The finish describes the taste and feel of this.

It is desirable to have wines that have a long finish, where some of its positive attributes can still be tasted or felt. It’s interesting too if the finish brings something new to the table (or the mouth!). For example, a dessert wine that is sweet but leaves a freshness on the finish, rather than a lot of residual sugar.

Flabby

When a wine lacks sufficient acidity to balance the alcohol and other factors, it can taste ‘flabby’ and lacking in structure and freshness.

Fresh

Wines that are clean, light, easy to drink with good acidity and that are refreshing to drink.

Fresh grapes being harvested - wine at home

Fruity

Common term to describe a wine that has a pleasing balance and where the aromas of various fruits are present. A fruity wine should be pleasant to drink but not necessarily as challenging on the palate as a wine that is more multi-layered and has a mixture of fruity flavours alongside other notes.

Tasting notes help to identify some of these aromas but as with everything, the actual smells and flavours of any wine are highly subjective.

Glasses

We have all drunk wine from a toothmug, enamel cup or an array of other vessels including from the bottle itself – shhhh!

However, to get the most out of your wine drinking, we recommend investing in a few tulip-shaped glasses which provide plenty of room above the wine for the aromas to develop and remain. The rim of the glass should be smaller than the widest part of the bowl. As with teacups – the thinner the rim, the better!

Long considered the very best glasses for wine drinking, the Austrian firm Riedel has a fine range at a variety of prices – their base level glasses are more than adequate – but if you’re on a budget, IKEA does a very decent range of tulip-shaped wine glasses at a fraction of the price. There are many options in between these two, but if you are thinking of buying new glasses, do take your time to find the right shape – it makes a huge difference to the wine drinking experience. See our blog post on glasses for all occasions!

Grape Variety

This seems obvious but it can be a complicated subject. A grape variety is the name for the type of grape used in making the wine. Common white grape varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Chenin Blanc. Common red grape varieties are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. But there are many thousands of different varieties across the world.

Some wines are made with a single grape variety – others are made with a blend. Each wine region will have its own blends. In some countries the grape varieties used in each wine are highly regulated – so for example – in France, for a wine to be called Chablis, it must be made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. For a wine to be labelled Chateauneuf du Pape, it must be made from a blend of 13 grape varieties, but the exact grapes and quantities are left to the wine grower’s discretion within certain parameters.

When the New World wines from initially America, then Australia, New Zealand and beyond began to take an important role on the world wine stage, they frequently used the name of these grape varieties to label their wine. Unhampered by the rules and regulations of the Old World (France, Italy, Germany, Spain etc), they created a new, more accessible way for consumers to identify what was in the bottle. For the first time we started to see wines labelled Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec – grapes that existed everywhere but whose identity was hidden behind traditional wine labels.

You will not typically find the name of the grape variety on a bottle of Old-World wine – although it is easy enough to find out what it contains with a quick internet search.

The point is, however, to decide how important the grape variety is in the overall enjoyment of the wine and to remain open to trying wines based on other factors.

Lactic acid

Possibly a bit technical – but you may see that some wines undergo ‘malolactic fermentation’ so for kindred wine geeks – here’s what happens.

Lactic acid is the acid found in yoghurt – and in various quantities in wine. It is softer than both tartaric and malic acid which are also present. The first fermentation of grape juice will convert the sugars to alcohol.

In many red wines and some white wines - there is a second fermentation that turns the malic acid into lactic acid – making the wine less acidic to taste. (See malolactic fermentation)

Late harvest

Certain wines benefit from grapes left later the wines – exactly as it says. They will usually be a lot sweeter than grapes picked earlier. As there is more sugar in these grapes – more of this turns to alcohol in fermentation. They don’t necessarily make a sweet wine – but one that is higher in alcohol.

Lees

Also referred to as ‘lie’ in French – as in Muscadet sur lie – on the lees in English. The lees is the sediment that falls to the bottom of the tank or barrel and is made up of all the particles that are left after pressing and fermenting.

Bits of grape skin and pips and dead yeast cells are the main component. Some wines are kept for a short while on this lees to encourage malolactic fermentation (see lactic acid and malolactic fermentation) to soften the acids.

Some wines will then be removed from this sediment and put into a fresh container (racking) and only the finest sediment will then sink to the bottom of this container. Some wines are stirred at this point to provide more flavour and structure to the wine. (See Batonnage).

Maceration

It is the contact with the red grape skins that gives red and most rosé wines their colour. This is known as maceration as the wine is left with the skins for enough time to obtain the desired colour. (See Carbonic Maceration)

Machine harvesting

Most of our vineyards prefer to pick by hand which is considered preferable as you can select the grapes alone, without too much leaf and stalk matter, and you can select only those that are at optimum ripeness.

There is, however, a place for machine harvesting in certain areas where there are simply not enough workers to carry out the task, or in very hot climes where the harvest has to be done at night in the coolest temperatures.

Malic acid

One of the acids found naturally in grapes. It is much sharper and more acidic than lactic acid and is found in the highest quantities in grapes that are not at optimum ripeness. (See malolactic fermentation.)

Malolactic fermentation

If the presence of malic acid is too sharp in a wine, the winemaker may decide to let it go through a second fermentation to convert the malic acid into the softer lactic acid. The extent of the conversion is what decides whether the wine is then more or less soft and buttery, or fresher and more crisp.

Marc

The French term for all the solids that are left after grape pressing. Some growers also distil this to make a very strong, clear alcohol that you may be offered after a meal at a vineyard! Beware!

Must

Sometimes this is the name for the first pressing of the grape juice, but also for the mixture of the juice with all the solid bits of stem, skins and pips that come out of the crusher.

Nose

We use this on our tasting notes to mean the aroma or smell of the wine – when you stick your nose in the glass!

Oak

You will often see reference to oak barrels on tasting notes – because the style and type of oak used in the production of the wine can make a significant difference to its taste and complexity. The first thing to know is that red wines are not generally fermented in barrels – but after fermentation they may spend some time in one. Many white wines, and in particular Chardonnay, are fermented in oak barrels (see barriques.)

Winemakers choose their barrels according to the sort of flavours they want to create. The most common flavour associated with oak is vanilla – but also nutty, spicy or even smoky or toasty. Red wines that are aged in oak will vary according to the age and style of the wood. The most usual sort of oak barrels are made from French or American oak with the newest ones providing the most flavours to the wine as well as plenty of tannin.

This is an expensive process and usually reserved for higher quality wines.

Oaky

If your wine tastes ‘oaky’ it has not been well made or well balanced. It might be as a result of the vineyard attempting to get an oaky flavour to a cheaper wine by adding wood chips to the stainless-steel vat in which the wine is fermented – or it maybe that the oak used was too new for that wine.

A wine that has been properly aged or fermented in an oak barrel will not taste of oak, but of vanilla, or spice, or toastiness that are well integrated with the fruit flavours.

Old Vines

We support many growers who use old vines – which we class as being older than 35 years. You will spot them on a vineyard by their larger, gnarly vines.

They generally produce less fruit but of better quality – so are thought to make better wines in many cases. The French call old vines vieilles vignes – and you will sometimes see this on the label.

Old vines - wine glossary - wine at home

Old World

Old World wines are all the wines produced in the main European wine regions such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Portugal.

Oxidized Wine

There is sometimes some confusion between a wine that is corked and a wine that is oxidized - but neither taste pleasant! You will recognize an oxidized wine by its colour and its smell. A red wine will appear brownish and white wine will go a dark yellow or gold colour. Wines that have been exposed to the air will become oxidized when the alcohol turns into acetic acid, either because there was something wrong with the cork or other closure or because the wine has been in the cellar far too long. (Some may say a little reminiscent of cat’s pee!)

PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)

Wine labelling term introduced by the EU in 2009 to replace the Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWPSR) designation.

PGI (Protected Geographical Indication)

Wine labelling term introduced by the EU in 2009 to replace the term ‘Table Wine’. Some of these wines may be of higher quality than the term ‘table wine’ implies but are not able to use the more prestigious AOC for example as their wine falls outside of the precise geographical region.

Pétillant

French word for a lightly sparkling wine.

Phylloxera

Grape phylloxera is a microscopic louse that destroyed almost all of the vineyards in Europe at the end of the 19th century by eating the roots of the vines.

Families were forced to burn all their old vineyards to try to stop the spread of the disease, which is believed to have travelled on vineyard workers boots. The infestation destroyed over 70% of the vineyards in France and there is still no cure for an infected vineyard.

The only way to develop resistance to this pest is to use vines that have been grafted with resistant rootstock. There is some debate about whether the grapes themselves are the same as they were pre phylloxera, but the fact remains that another outbreak would be catastrophic. Argentina and Chile have not succumbed to phylloxera so still have some ungrafted vineyards. Likewise, Tamania and Western Australia have never been infested.

It is thought that phylloxera comes from North America and may have accidentally spread when the founder of Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery (established in 1857) travelled extensively through Europe collecting cuttings of 350 grape varieties.

In any event, the outbreak across Europe changed the face of winemaking for generations and is still a danger today.

Propriété

Another word for a French vineyard that you may see on labels where the wine has been bottled at the propriété. Mise en bouteille a la propriété. (See Domaine & Chateau)

Racking

The act of removing the clear wine from the sediment that has fallen to the bottom of the vat or barrel where it has been fermenting.

Reserve

No official meaning to this word other than the winemaker’s choice to denote perhaps a special selection of grapes for a particular vintage. Not to be confused with Reserva.

Reserva

The Spanish term for wine made from the best grapes that is aged for 1 year in oak and 2 years in the bottle for red or 6 months in oak plus 2 years in the bottle for white wines.

Residual Sugar

Quite an important concept in the production of wine. Grapes contain natural sugars which are fermented into alcohol. The residual sugar is the amount of sugar left over when fermentation is stopped and is measured in grams per litre.

Rootstock

Since the late 1800s, when the outbreak of phylloxera, destroyed a huge percentage of the vineyards in Europe, most vines in commercial vineyards are now grafted onto American rootstock that are resistant to the pests. Each vineyard will have ideas about the best rootstock to use as they vary.

Sec

The French word for dry which occasionally appears on wine labels – or most frequently on sparkling wines where perversely it is less dry that any sparkling wines labelled as Brut or Extra Dry. On a white wine it means properly dry.

Spätlese

You will find this on German wine labels for wines that have been made from late harvest grapes – and will probably be a little bit sweet.

Structure

A useful term to describe wines that have good acidity and tannin (red wines). Wines with a lot of structure may be destined to last longer than others as the tannins will allow them to age gracefully.

Sur Lie

The French term for on the Lees. You will see this on wine labels to show that the wine was aged on the lees or sediment for some time to give it more complex flavours. The most famous of these is Muscadet where this indicates a higher quality wine. (See Batonnage)

Tannin

Tannin is an essential component of red wines as it gives the wine structure and allows it to age. A high degree of tannin is essential in fine wines that are made to age for several years before drinking. Even in everyday reds, tannin provides good balance with the fruit and alcohol if it is properly integrated – and stops the wine from tasting too flabby.

Tannin in red wine comes from the bitter flavours found in pips, stems and the skin of the grape and also in oak barrels. The newer the barrel, the more tannin it will impart. When you taste a very young red wine at the vineyard – before the tannins have had time to work their magic – you are left with an unpleasant, bitter feeling of dryness in the mouth and on the teeth – but this is the factor that we know will give the wine structure and longevity in the months and years to come.

A wine where the tannins still taste bitter and unpleasant in the bottle means that the tannins have either not been well balanced during the production process, or that the wine needs more time to age in the bottle.

Tartaric Acid

Tartaric Acid is the most important of the grape acids contained in wine as it is responsible for maintaining the colour, the taste and the chemical stability of the wine. Different grape varieties contain varying amounts of these acids which influence the finished product.

If you’ve ever encountered small crystals in your wine – this are the result of the tartaric acid crystallising at some point during the process. Completely harmless and tasteless, they can be filtered out and ignored. To prevent this from happening, some vineyards put the wine through something called cold stabilization where the wine is cooled to very low temperatures to encourage the tartrates to crystallise and precipitate out of the wine.

Terroir

Terroir is one of those words that is bandied about by wine lovers, wine makers and wine writers but that is still misunderstood by many, particularly as it has no clear definition. Essentially it is the French term for the combination of all the factors that make up a vineyard and its surroundings such as location, soil, climate, drainage and exposure to the sun, sea or winds.

If you taste the wine from the same vineyard but grown on a different plot or parcel of land, where some or all of these factors vary from each other, it is clear that the wine will have a different flavour and character, despite being made by the same winemaker. This is what makes the concept of terroir so important in the wine world.

Trocken

The German term for dry.

Varietal

A word that is derived from the American and New World wines who label their wines according to the grape variety. So a wine made entirely from Sauvignon Blanc grapes might be labelled as such – making it a varietal – whereas a Sancerre from the Loire in France would be labelled Sancerre with no reference to the grapes used – even though it is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

Vat

A big container for fermenting, ageing or storing wine in.

Vegan Wine

Wine that has made entirely without the use of animal based products. Animal based products may include shells, egg whites, or bone meal. A vegan wine should also comprise a cork and label that has not been stuck together with a fish based glue. See our blog post on Vegan wines for more details.

Vieilles vignes

The French words for old vines.

Vinification

Vinification is the French word for winemaking although it is useful in describing some of the technical processes that take place.

Vintage

The first meaning of the word vintage is simply the year in which the grapes were picked. However, there are some confusing nuances or exceptions.

It's a huge topic in itself - see our blog explaining Vintage in more detail!

Yeast

Without yeast, there is no fermentation and no wine. They work by munching the sugar in grape juice and converting it to alcohol and CO2 until the level of alcohol reaches about 16% and the yeast dies off.

The type and style of yeast used in winemaking is extremely important in impacting the finished product. Natural yeast is a feature of grape skins so a certain amount will already be present at the start of fermentation, but growers then decide whether to add more, if so, how much and of what style.

Many of our growers use their own natural yeasts that they cultivate from their own grape skins, but there is a plethora of commercially produced alternatives.

 

Have we missed any phrases from our glossary of wine terminology?

Just get in touch to ask us anything about wine, we're happy to share our years of experience to help everyone enjoy our artisan, boutique wines. 

 

Previous Article

Availability