The glossary of wine terms lists the definitions of many general terms used within the wine industry. For terms specific to viticulture, winemaking, grape varieties, and wine tasting, see the topic specific list in the "See also" section below.
Best described as a matured Fino. After the flor dies, the yeast sinks to the bottom of the wine and is no longer able to protect the Sherry from oxidation. The now unprotected Sherry begins to take on a rich and deep nutty flavor, and can now be described as Amontillado.
Like biodynamic agriculture in general, biodynamic grape-growing stems from the ideas and suggestions of Rudolf Steiner (1861.1925), which predate most of the organic movement. The principles and practices of biodynamics are based on his spiritual/practical philosophy which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.
Whole, uncrushed grapes are fermented in a sealed vat containing a layer of carbon dioxide. This results in fruity, soft and distinct red wines. These wines have little tannin and are immediately drinkable. This is the method used throughout France's Beaujolais region.
Italian term for a farmhouse or wine estate
A wood barrel or storage vessel, often made from oak, that is used in winemaking for fermentation and/or aging
Portuguese term for a grape variety
Spanish term for a sparkling wine made according to the traditional method
A wine shed, or other storage place above ground, used for storing casks, common in Bordeaux. Usually different types of wine are kept in separate sheds. The person in charge of vinification and ageing of all wine made at an estate, or the chais of a négociant, is titled a Maître de Chai. The New World counterpart to the chai may be called the barrel hall.
French term for what was historically a vineyard whose boundaries were delineated by a walled enclosure. Commonly associated with vineyards in the Burgundy wine region such as the Grand Cru vineyard Clos de Vougeot.
A principle relating to the aging ability of wine that states that a wine will remain at its peak (or optimal) drinking quality for as long as it took to reach the point of maturity. For example, if a wine is drinking at its peak at 1 year of age, it will continue drinking at its peak for another year.
Portuguese term for a harvest
A mass-produced wine aimed for a wide market of consumers made according to a set formula, year after year. These wines tend to emphasis broad appeal and easy drink-ability rather than terroir or craftsmanship.
A small wine-growing region that surrounds a village
Classification system used in the Armagnac and Cognac region based on the age of the spirit ranging from 00 for a newly distilled spirit to 2 for a VS ("Very Special"), 4 for a VSOP Reserve, 6 for a Napoleon XO (extra old) and 10 for a the longest aged XO.
Italian term for a trade organization of wine producers. Often members of individual consorzio will have their wines packaged with a specific neck label that identifies their membership in the consorzio.
A method of vine training. Unlike cane pruning where the trunk itself is the only permanent, inflexible piece of the vine, cordon trained vines have one or two woody arms extending from the top of the trunk. These are then spur pruned.
French sparkling wine not made in Champagne region.
Spanish aging designation. For red wines a wine needs to be aged at least 6 months in oak (in Rioja and Ribera del Duero it is 12 months in oak) and a total of 24 months before release. For Spanish whites there is no minimum oak aging but a Crianza designated wines needs to be kept at the winery for at least 18 months after harvest before being released to the market
The French term for the period of time during alcoholic fermentation when the wine is in contact with the solid matter such as skin, pips, stalks, in order to extract colour, flavour and tannin. See also maceration.
French term, meaning vat or tank. On wine labels it is used to denote wine of a specific blend or batch.
French term, along with cuvier that refers to the building or room where fermentation takes place. Essentially, the room, building, grange, barn, garage or shed, or other building, used for "making wine." When the grapes are first picked, they arrive at the cuverie.
Abbreviation for the French term Coopérative de Vignerons that may appear on wine labels to denote that the wine has been made by a local cooperative.
Varies by region. In the UK, a very sweet, low alcohol wine. In the US by law, any wine containing over 15% alcohol.
1. The abbreviation for Denominación de Origen, or "place name". This is Spain's designation for wines whose name, origin of grapes, grape varieties and other important factors are regulated by law.
2. The abbreviation for dissolved oxygen, the degree of oxygen saturation in a wine, which strongly affects oxidation of the wine and its ageing properties.
The abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or "controlled place name." This is Italy's designation for wine whose name, origin of grapes, grape varieties and other important factors are regulated by law. It is also the abbreviation for Portugal's highest wine category, which has the same meaning in that country.
Portuguese, Italian, French and Spanish terms for a sweet wine
Trademarked name for a cover that slips over the neck of a wine bottle and absorbs any drips that may run down the bottle after pouring, preventing stains to table cloths, counter tops or other surfaces. The generic term is drip cloth.
The French term for destemming. Destemming is removing stems prior to pressing and fermenting the grapes and their juice. Stems have a significant amount of coarse and often green tannin undesirable in the finished wine.
French phrase that may appear on wine labels to denote that the wine has been aged in oak barrels.
Spanish wine label term meaning "bottled by"
French term for the historical role that negociants play in the winemaking process-roughly translating as "bringing up" or "raising" the wine. Traditionally negociants would buy ready made wines after fermentation, blend and then store the wine before bringing them to the market.
A European Union directive initiated in 1992 that mandates every bottle of wine produced or sold in the European Union to include a designated lot number. This allows identified defective or fraudulent wine to be tracked and removed from circulation more efficiently.
Refers to the extra cost associated with buying wines en primeur that may include the cost of shipping to the importer's cellars as well applicable duties and taxes.
In the Austrian wine region Wachau, a classification of wine with a harvest must weight of at least 17°KMW and a finished alcohol level between 11–12.5% with no more than 4 g/l residual sugar. This classification is between the levels of Steinfeder and Smaragd.
An unregulated German wine term used to describe an off-dry (or halbtrocken) wine
An Italian term for a "naturally sparkling" wine. This usually refers to a wine, such as Asti, that has been bottled before fermentation is completed so that a natural sparkle of CO2 can be achieved in the bottle
A winemaker who travels extensively across the globe, sharing techniques and technology from one region of the world to another. The term originated with Australian winemakers who would fly to Northern Hemisphere wine regions in Europe and the United States during the August–October harvest time when viticulture in the Southern Hemisphere is relatively quiet.
An 1991 episode of the American news program 60 Minutes that documented the low mortality rate from cardiovascular disease among the French who had a high-alcohol, high-cholesterol and low exercise lifestyle in contrast to the high mortality rate among Americans with a relatively lower cholesterol, low alcohol and more exercise lifestyle.
A fermented alcoholic beverage made from non-grape fruit juice which may or may not include the addition of sugar or honey. Fruit wines are always called "something" wines (e.g., plum wine), since the word wine alone is often legally defined as a beverage made only from grapes.
French term most often associated with Bordeaux where it denotes a Chateau's premier wine, or "first wine". On a wine label, the word's Grand vin may appear to help distinguish the wine from an estate's second or third wine.
Spanish aging designation that for red wine stipulates that it has been aged for a total of 5 years after harvest with at least 18 months in oak (in Rioja and Ribera del Duero the minimum is 24 months). For Spanish white wines the requirement is 4 years of total aging with at least 6 months in oak (increased to 12 months in Rioja and Ribera del Duero)
Spanish term for a sparkling wine that has been tank fermented as opposed to going through secondary fermentation in the bottle according to the Traditional Method used for Cava production
A tasting of a group of wines from the same vintage or representing the same style of wine (such as all Pinot noirs from different wineries in a region), as opposed to a vertical tasting which involves of the same wine through different vintages. In a horizontal tasting, keeping wine variety or type and wine region the same helps emphasize differences in winery styles.
French term for a grape grower who makes their own wine. Often associated with the Champagne wine region where producers of Grower Champagnes are identified by the initials RM (for Récoltant-Manipulant) on wine labels
Originally created in California, these blended wines can be summed up as the "American Bordeaux". The term is a blend of the words "merit" and "heritage" and pronounced the same. The Red blend is made from at least 2 of the 5 Bordeaux grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The White Meritage is a blend at least 2 of Sauvignon blanc, Sauvignon vert, and Semillon.
Italian term for a sparkling wine that has gone through secondary fermentation in a tank (Charmat method) as opposed to the traditional method of fermentation in the bottle that consumers will eventually purchase.
Metodo classico/Metodo tradizionale
Italian terms for a sparkling wine that has gone through secondary fermentation according to the traditional method
The balance of weight, acidity and fruit flavors that are perceived while the wine is still in the tasters mouth and before swallowing
French term for a vintage date that can appear on a wine label
Mis en bouteille au château
French for "bottled at the winery", usually in Bordeaux.
French term for an appellation, where all the vineyards in the appellation are under single ownership.
The sparkling effervescence of a wine. In the glass it perceived as the bubbling but the surface of the glass can affect this perception. Premium quality sparkling wine has a mousse composed of small, persistent string of bubbles.
A fungal virus brought on by Botrytis cinerea that results in dehydrated and shrivelled grapes that are high in concentrated sugar. Noble Rot grapes are an essential component of many Austrian and German wines.
A winetasting term for anything that affects one of the main senses such as smell. An example would be an affliction of the common cold or being in a room with someone wearing an overwhelming amount of perfume.
French term for a simple, quaffing white wine with pleasing fruit structure and balance of acidity.
Plafond Limité de Classement
An allowance within the French AOC system that allows producers to exceed the official maximum limit on yields by as much as 20% in warm weather years. Critics such as wine writer Tom Stevenson describes this loophole (also known as "PLC") as "legalized cheating"
A sweet fortified wine, which is produced from grapes grown and processed in the Douro region of Portugal. This wine is fortified with the addition of distilled grape spirits in order to boost the alcohol content and stop fermentation thus preserving some of the natural grape sugars. Several imitations are made throughout the world.
French term for a "First growth". Used mostly in conjunction with the wines of Burgundy and Champagne where the term is regulated.
Higher quality classification of wine above every day drinking table wines. While premium wines maybe very expensive there is no set price point that distinguishes when a wine becomes a "premium wine." Premium wines generally have more aging potential than every day quaffing wines.
The aromas in wine derived from the grapes themselves and are considered part of the varietal character or typicity of the grape variety. This is opposed to the secondary aromas which come from the fermentation and maturation process and the tertiary aromas which come from aging process in the bottle.
Wine labeling term introduced to the European Union in 2009 to replace the "Table Wine" designation. Used to denote a wine with lower specification and regulation than that with a PDO or GI designation.
A now-defunct wine classification category in the European Union that was formally abolished, along with the Table Wine designation, in 2009 with the adoption of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system.
French term for a wine producer who grows their own grapes. Often associated with the Champagne wine region where producers of Grower Champagnes are identified by the initials RM (for Récoltant-Manipulant) on wine labels
The reductive-oxidative way that wine ages. As one part gains oxygen and becomes oxidized, another part loses oxygen and becomes reduced. Early in its life, a wine will exhibit oxidative aromas and traits due to the relatively recent influence and exposure of oxygen when the wine was barrel aged and/or bottled. As the wine ages and is shut off from a supply of oxygen in the bottle, a mature wine will develop reductive characteristics.
Spanish aging designation. For red wines this means that a wine has been aged for at least 3 years following harvest with at least 12 months in oak. For Spanish white wines, the designation means that the wine has been aged for at least 18 months with at least 6 of those months in oak.
Terms given to wine to indicate that it is of higher quality than usual sometimes with longer aging and higher alcohol levels. Outside of the use of "Reserva" in Spanish wines, these terms usually have no official standings or requirements.
The unfermented sugar left over in the wine after fermentation. All wines, including those labeled as "dry wines" contain some residual sugars due to the presence of unfermentable sugars in the grape must such as pentoses.
French term for a very sweet wine. Often used as a description for very sweet sparkling wine
A tart punch made from red wine along with orange, lemon and apricot juice with added sugar.
French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese terms for a dry wine. In Champagne production, "Sec" wines are actually medium-dry being sweeter than Brut and Extra Dry with 12-17 grams/liter of sugar added in the dosage.
The aromas in wine that are derived from the winemaking process which includes fermentation as well as potentially malolactic fermentation and oak aging. This is in contrast to the primary aromas which come from the grape variety itself and the tertiary aromas which come from aging process in the bottle.
Wines made in the United States but named after places that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau requires be modified by a US name of geographic origin. Examples would be New York Chablis, Napa Valley Burgundy or California Champagne.
Italian and Spanish designation for a medium-dry wine
In the Austrian wine region Wachau, a classification of wine with a harvest must weight of at least 18.2°KMW and a finished alcohol level of at least 12.5% with no more than 8 g/l residual sugar. These wines are usually the most rich and full-bodied wines from the Wachau that are often made from late-harvest grapes.
In the Austrian wine region Wachau, a classification of wine with a harvest must weight be between 15-17°KMW, with no chaptalization permitted, and a finished alcohol level no greater than 11%. These wines usually the lightest in body among the wines of Wachau.
A style of Italian wine that became popular in Tuscany in the late 20th century where premium quality wines were produced outside of DOC regulations and sold for high prices with the low level vino da tavola designation.
French and Italian terms that indicate a wine has a higher alcohol level and may have received more aging prior to release. In France, this term is often seen with Bordeaux wines
French term for a wine that has spent time aging on the lees during which it may have derived some flavors from autolysis. Often associated with the Loire wines of the Muscadet region.
French term for a sparkling wine that has been aged with its neck down following the completion of autolysis but before dégorgement. Wines that are being riddled (remuge) will end up sur pointe with the yeast sediment consolidated in the neck of the bottle.
German term for a sweet wine
Hungarian wine term meaning "as it comes" and used to describe a wine that will have a mixture of healthy and botrytis-infected grapes
Generally any wine that is not sparkling or fortified. In the US these wines must also be between 7% and 14% alcohol by volume. The term table wine also refers to a wine that is considered a good, everyday drinker. In the European Union, the "Table Wine" category (and "Table Wine with a Geographical Indication") was previously the quality category that came below "Quality Wines" or Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWPSR) such as French AOC and Italian DOCG wines until both terms were eliminated in 2009. Now most European wines that were formally labeled as "Table Wines" are just labeled as "Wine" while those that were labeled as "Table Wine with a Geographical Indication" are now Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
In Champagne wine production this is the juice that is retrieved from the second pressing (or "tails") of grapes which is generally considered to be of lower quality than the juice that comes from the first pressing (or "cuvee")
Special characteristics expressed in a wine that result from the interaction of geography, geology, climate, and the plant's genetics.
The aromas in wine that are developed as the wine ages in the bottle. This is in contrast to the primary aromas which come from the grape variety itself and the secondary aromas which come from the winemaking process.
Spanish and Portuguese term for a red wine or grape
French cask capable of holding 900 litres (240 US gal) or the equivalent of 100 cases of twelve standard 750ml (75 cL) bottles of wine. Historically associated with the wine of Bordeaux.
The ability of a wine to clearly portray all unique aspects of its flavor — fruit, floral, and mineral notes.
A French term referring to the selective picking of grapes, instead of machine harvesting.
A German term meaning approximately "A late harvest of selected dry berries". A type of German wine made from grapes affected by noble rot. Such grapes can be so rare that it can take a skilled picker a day to gather enough for just one bottle. A Prädikat in Germany and Austria.
The space between the wine and the top of a wine bottle. As a wine ages, the space of ullage will increase as the wine gradually evaporates and seeps through the cork. The winemaking term of "ullage" refers to the practice of topping off a barrel with extra wine to prevent oxidation.
A tasting descriptor to describe a wine that has layers of soft, concentrated, velvety fruits. Unctuous wines are lush, rich, and intense.
Italian term for a wine grape
An Italian term for a wine that has been blended from several grape varieties-the opposite of a varietal. An example would be a Chianti that is based on Sangiovese but include other grape varieties in the bend.
Italian term for old that may be used as an aging designation that is regulated by some DOC/G wine regions
French term for grape harvest
Vendangé à la main
French term for a wine made from grapes that have been harvested by hand
French term denoting a late harvest wine. Legally this term can only appear on wine labels from the Alsace wine region to denote wines from exceptionally ripe grapes that have reached a certain pre-determined must weight. For Riesling and Muscat the grapes must be harvested with a potential alcohol level of at least 14%. For Pinot gris and Gewürztraminer, the potential alcohol level needs to be at least 15.3% by volume.
In a vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery are tasted, such as a winery's Pinot noir from five different years. This emphasizes differences between various vintages for a specific wine. In a horizontal tasting, the wines are all from the same vintage but are from different wineries or microclimates.
French term for a wine that has been made from dried out grapes such as a straw wine, for example a rare white Vin de paille can be produced in the northern Rhone wine region of the Hermitage AOC from Marsanne.