It is difficult to become knowledgeable
about wine without becoming a wine snob. Something you do NOT want
to do under any circumstances. But, believe it or not, my favorite
wine in the whole world is not listed in this section. It is good old
fashioned home madewine.
of natural acids from the grapes during fermentation process. A
great example of something very acidic (an extreme example) is vinegar (which
is what happens when good wine turns bad). You obviously do not want
your wine to be too acidic, as it makes the wine almost a bit
Aftertaste: The taste that stays
in your mouth after swallowing it. Some also refer to this as
a wine's finish, which can be buttery, oaky, spicy, tart, or even
Age: The period of time that a wine
spends maturing to achieve its best flavor and aroma. Wines are aged in a
variety of ways from large casks (such as oak or stainless steel) to bottles.
Complex wines tend to benefit from aging, whereas simple wines should be
drunk when they are young.
Alcohol: Alcohol is the result of
fermentation of the grapes. While most bottles of wine contain 12.5%
alcohol (25 proof), some are a little more, some are a little less. There
is in fact a way to regulate how much alcohol content the wine will
Almondy: Refers to the taste of
Amarone: A dry but strong red wine
from the Veneto region in Northern Italy. It is made from a blend of
partially dried red grapes.
Amber: A shade of color some white
wines turn after oxidation.
Aperitif: Any alcoholic beverage
such as Champagne, Vermouth, or white wine that is taken before a meal as
an "appetizer". Appellation Controlee (AC): Apellation Controlee is a guarantee
that a wine was produced in a specific location by a particular method with
approved grape varieties and in controlled quantities. Quality is not guaranteed,
but wines designated with the AC are usually of higher quality than those
that are not.
Aroma: The smell of a young wine
which may later develop into a mature bouquet in fine wines.
Astringency: Sensation caused by
excess tannins, which may disappear as the wine ages.
Bacchus: Another name for Dionysus,
the Greek and Roman God of Wine.
Balance: The relationship among
alcohol, sweetness. fruitness. acidity, and tannin food in a wine. Well-balanced
wines have a pleasant proportion of all these elements. A wine's balance
may only be realized after some aging.
Barbaresco: Red wine from the Northern
region of Piedmont, Italy. It is lighter than a Barolo and made from
Bardolino: A light, red wine which
is slightly sweet and produced in the Veneto region of Northern Italy.
Best when young.
Barolo: One of the most highly regarded
Italian reds, made from Nebbiolo grapes grown in Piedmont. The wine is dark,
full-bodied and high in tannin and alcohol; it can improve over decades of
Barrel: Generally made from
wood and hold approximately 55 gallons. Oak barrels are the
most common to age wines and adds to the taste of the final
Blending: The primary task of the
wine maker where different lots or barrels are blended together to produce
the final product for bottling.
Blush Wine: A pink wine produced
from grape juice or must from which the grape skins have been removed before
fermentation is complete.
Bocoy: A wooden container larger
than casks with a capacity of 700 liters.
Body: Generally used to describe
the "weight" of a wine in the mouth. Wines can be categorized as light-,
meidum-, and full-bodied. A Cabernet Sauvignon is an example of a full-bodied
wine; a Sauvignon Blanc is a light- or medium-bodied wine.
Bottle: Glass bottles are the best
way to store wine for long periods of time because it does not affect the
taste of the wine in any way. I doubt you will ever see wine come in
plastic bottles, and those that come in "boxes" that actually have plastic
liners are to be avoided, even for use in sangria.
Bottle Aging: Wine consumes only
the oxygen contained in the bottle very slowly and helps refine the
Bottle Sickness: Wines which start
to go bad during poor shipment, the condition can disappear in 2-3 weeks
if the wine is stored properly.
Bouquet: Various fragrances
noted in a glass of wine.
Breathing: Allowing a wine
to be exposed in the air by uncorking the bottle before serving. Generally,
red wines require more breathing time than whites, and naturally too much
oxygen is no good either (if you leave it out for days). Sparkling wines
do not need to breathe.
Brilliant: Wine that isshining,
clean in appearance and has luminous reflections.
Broad: A full-bodied, complex wine
with plenty of subtleties.
Brunello Montalcino: The Brunello
grape is grown in the town of Montaleino in southern Tuscany.
It produces a full-bodied, rich, powerful, long-lived wines. By
DOCG law, the wines must be aged in wood for three and a half years and be
released not before their fourth year. Rosso di Montalcino, also produced
from the Brunello grape, can be released after one year with no wood aging
Capsule: The protective metal or
plastic sheath over the cork and neck of a wine bottle. The capsule keeps
the cork from drying out and admitting air into the bottle.
Carafe: A glass container frequently
used to serve house wine in restaurants.
Caramely: Wines that have been aged
for a long time (reserva and gran reserva) and have a rich, burnt sugary
Carbonated Maceration: Special technique
for fermenting red wines in which the whole grape undergoes enzymatic
Carbonated Wine: Wine that is
artificially injected with carbon dioxide to make it sparkling, obviously
this happens in lower qualit wines and should be avoided.
Cask: Wooden cask used to age the
Cellar: In the old days, it was
a dark, cool basement, and often the underground part of a house, as it still
is for homemade wines. But now, due to modern technology, we have
temperature and humidity controlled rooms which are perfect for aging wines.
You will often see bottles of wine resting on their sides so that the
corks do not dry out.
Chacoli: A light, acidic wine made
from grapes that were never fully ripened, usually 9% alcohol
Chaptalisation: Addition of sugar
to increase the alcohol content of wine.
Character: The combination of a
Chianti: A fruity, light
ruby-to-garnet-colored red from Tuscany (Italy), formerly bottled in a
characteristic straw-covered flask. When aged three years or more, it can
be called Chianti
Riserva: Made from a blend of
Chianti Classico: A DOC red from
a designated inner portion of the Chianti wine district. TO be labeled Chianti
Classico, both the vineyards and the winery must be within the delimited
Claret: Fruity, light red wine whose
fermentation process includes very slight maceration of the grape skins,
best to drink young.
Clean: A wine with no offensive
odors or tastes.
Cloudy: A dull, hazy color in wine,
more often common in homemade wines once they start to go
Cloying: Overly sweet, and lacking
the correct amount of acidity to give the wine balance.
Coarse: As the word might suggest,
a rough, and/or unpleasant texture.
Complex/Complexity: Describes the
rich variety of bouquet and flavors in one of your finer
Color: While color can simply refer
to an attractive wine and how it looks in the glass, it also plays an important
role to the variety of wine itself. Obviously if a chianti is very
very light red, almost pink, something is wrong, or if a pinot grigio is
more of a brownish color, again, something is wrong.
Cork: The protector or guardian
of a bottle of wine, it is a hard sponge-like insertion which is actually
from the bark of the cork tree. Today, you will see synthetic corks
whic some prefer because they are easier to remove and re-insert to a bottle
of unfinished wine. Many are purists and feel that only natural cork
should be put in bottles, but there is now a cork shortage. Additionally,
sometimes there is a fungus on the cork which can ruin a bottle of wine (some
refer to this as the wine being "corked or corky" as in bad, and/or a person
who has had too much wine to drink and is drunk). While it is very
rare corks go bad, (perhaps 1/1000), I personally have never encountered
Sometimes, (and I imagine a deterrent to stop people from bringing their
own bottles of wine into a restaurant that sells wine) a price is charged
($5-25) to "open" a bottle of wine. However, once I was in a cigar lounge
(which will remain unnamed) and this place served platters of cheese, fruits,
and bar food like individual pizzas, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc., and they
wanted $15 to uncork a bottle of wine. I find this absurd for many
reasons. Their liquor store was attached to this lounge, and right
next to their cigar warehouse. Plus, most sensible people do not spend
more than $15 on a bottle of wine (I personally never try to spend more than
$10, although it is getting harder, $12 if its a really good, proven bottle
of wine in my book).
Corkscrew: A device used for removing
the cork from glass bottles.
Crisp: Refers to a white wine with
good acid balance that is fresh and lively.
Crown: The shape made by the bubbles
of a good sparkling wine or cava when they reach the top of the
Cryomaceration: A procedure in the
production of white wine that holds the skins and the crushed grapes at extremely
low temperature prior to fermentation in order to enhance the fruit and other
Decant: To gently pour and serve
a wine in order to not disturb the sediment and qualities of the
Delicate: A wine that has light
flavor, fragrance and body.
Dessert Wine: Wine that is generally
sweeter, with several layers of flavor.
Developed: Wine that has undergone
modifications over a period of time.
DOC (short for Denominazione Di
Origine Controllata) Italy's regulatory wine system set up in 1963. The
laws protect the quality of the wines by specifying geographical limits,
grape varieties, alcohol levels, top yields per acre, and aging requirements
for particular wines.
DOCG (short for Denominazione Di
Origine Controllata E Garantita) A step above DOC in Italy's regulatory wine
system. Represents the highest level of quality among Italian
Dry: Wines are usually noted as
dry, or sweet, with varieties in between. Dryness is a function of the residual
sugar in the finished wine and the more dry the wine, the less sugar it has.
Most of your table wines are dry.
Earthy: The taste that soil imparts
to grapes and is passed on to the wine.
Elegant: A distinguished wine with
good lineage, harmonious in color and aroma, balanced on the palate, with
a good bouquet and the right period of aging.(Tasting term)
Enology: The study of wine and wine
making. Also spelled Oenology.
Envero: Time of the year when grapes
Fermentation: The process whic occurs
when yeast changes the sugar in grapes into alcohol and carbon
Finish: The flavor left in the mouth
while a wine is being swallowed. Finish can often be harsh, hot, acidic,
smooth, soft, or elegant.
Fleshy: Full, oily, rich wines which
produce a sensation of thick body on the palate.
Flinty: A stony taste in
Floral/Flowery: Wines pleasant in
aroma, reminiscent of the perfume of some flowers.
Fortified: Wines that are made stronger
by adding brandy.
Fragrant: Wine that is very aromatic
and flowery, full of scent & smell.
Frascati: A fruity, golden white
wine from the hills around Rome, it can be dry or sweet.
Fresh: A white or rose wine with
a good balance between alcohol and acidity.
Fruit Wines: Made by the fermentation
of fruits other than grapes, include cider and perry, best consumed within
a year of bottling.
Fruity: Wines with fruit
Full-bodied: A robust, intensively
flavored with which is usually high in sugar and/or alcohol
Generic Wines Wines made from a
variety of grapes but do not use the varietal grape names, most common are
your jug wines (Gallo, Livingston Cellars, Carlo Rossi, etc).
Generoso: Special wine with an alcoholic
content between 17-23%.
Gran Reserva: Name given to wines
which have been aged for a long time in oak barrels and the bottle, at least
3 years of aging.
Grass/Grassy: A term used more for
white wines, and as the term might indicate, a subtle taste of grass or greens,
and is nice and refreshing
Green: A young wine that has not
developed enough to balance out the acidity.
Hard: A wine that has not aged enough
to achieve a proper balance.
Hectare: A metric unit of measure
equivalent to 2.471 acres.
Hectoliter: 100 liters or
26.4 US gallons.
Herbaceous: Wine with the flavor
and aroma of herbs.
Hybrid: Grapes that are bred from
more than one grape variety to improve the flavor or hardiness of the
Iodized: Aroma and taste of iodine
found in some of the wines produced near the sea. e.g. at Jerez or
Jug Wine: Called "jugs" because
of the larger shape/size of the bottle. They are simple, economic wines
favored by the old times/old school Italians, but not of very high quality
or taste. A "Chianti" from a jug can often taste more like a rose wine.
Again, for with simple meals at home, not to impress dinner guests
or a date.
Kosher Wine: A wine traditionally
made from Concord grapes and under the supervision of a Rabbi, as it is the
Lacrima Christi: Literally
translates to "Tears of Christ", it is a pleaseant white wine which comes
from grapes grown on the fertile volcanic slopes of Mount Vesuvius, an active
volcano in Southwest Italy near Naples.
Lambrusco: A very lightly
naturally carbonated dry to sweet red wine from northern Italy by grapes
of the same name.
Late Harvest: Wine made from grapes
that are picked very ripe. Late harvest wines are very sweet and are
usually served as dessert wines.
Leather: The aroma of some red wines
thanks to their reducing aging in the bottle.
Lees: dregs or sediments that settles
at the bottom of a bottle or container
Legs: The streams that run down
the sides of a glass when swirled, it indicates a rich, full-bodied
Lively: Winehigh in acidity
with a crisp, fresh flavor. Also used for sparkling wines with a pleasant
Maceration: Soaking of the grape
skins in the must which is fermenting.
Macroclimate: Climate scale, also
called Regional Climate
Madeira: The process which white
wine becomes flat and dark due to excessive aging or poor storage.
Madre: Sediment left at the bottom
of a barrel.
Magnum: A larger bottle of wine
containing double the amount.
Marc: Residue left after the pressing
of the grapes.
Marrying: The blending of two or
more wines in a cask to yield a wine with better
Marsala: Italy's most famous fortified
wine produced in Sicily. It usually contains 17-20% alcohol and often
Maturity: The stage in the aging
of wine that has developed all of its characteristic qualities to
Mead: A wine common in medieval
Europe which is made by fermenting honey and water.
Medium-Bodied: A wine with weight
and texture on the tongue.
Mesoclimate: A term of climate scale
that is intermediate between regional climate (Macroclimate) and the very
small scale (Microclimate).
Microclimate: The climate within
a small, defined area which can dramatically affect the character of the
wine produced there.
Minty: A nice aroma in some aged
Mistella: Mixture of wine alcohol
Must: Mixture of grape juice, stem
fragments, grape skins, seeds and pulp prior to fermentation
Negociant: A shipper or wine
Nose: Term used by wine enthusiasts
to describe the smell of a wine.
Oak: Wood used for the construction
of barrels, it imparts flavors and tannin to wines during the barrel aging
Oenology/Oenophile The science,
study or love of wine.
Organic Wine: Wine processed from
grapes free of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
Oxidation: Generally occurs in young
and fruity white wine and turns them flat and brown in color, common in homemade
Pale: Describes wine of low
Palo Cortado: Scarce wine which
is a cross between an the perfum of amontillado and the taste of
Piguant: The sharp taste found in
a light wine.
Pinot Nero/Pinot Noir: Dark red
Promace: The skins, seeds, pulp,
and stems left in the fermenting vat or cask after wine making, often used
to make Italian grappa, and is served after dinner as a
Prickle: Presence of tiny bubbles
in some young wines.
Proprietary/Proprietaire: Wine with
a name originating by a specific winery or proprietor.
Raisiny: Wines made from overripe
grapes, similar to smell/aroma of raisins (raisins are made from dried
Red: Basic wine category for those
wines made with black grapes and fermented with the grape skins ranging in
color from bright cherry to bluish-black.
Reserva: Wine aged 3 years or
Resinous: Resin aroma, generally
Rich: Full-bodied wine with good
flavor and bouquet.
Robust: A strong, powerful wine
Rose: A pink wine produced
from grape juice or must from which the grape skins have been removed before
fermentation is complete.
Rough: An immature wine which is
not smooth in taste.
Round: Mature, full-bodied wine
which is smooth, graceful.
Sangria: Great in the summer, it
is a cheaper wine flavored with fruit (peaches, oranges,
Sasa: Sweet wine high in
Sediment: Fine deposits which may
develop in some aged wines. May require that the wine be decanted before
Separation: Involves emptying the
cask to separate the wine from the remains of the grapes.
Skin: The outside of the
Smooth: Wine that is silky and rich
Soave: A straw-colored dry white
wine from around Verona in Italy's Veneto region. A semisweet, fruiter version,
Recioto di Soave, is made from partially dried grapes.
Soft: A delicate wine with a slight
fruitiness. It can also refer to a lack of balance in more robust
Solera: The lowest row in the tiers
of barrels where wines are aged, used for the oldest wines. Also a system
of breeding which consists of improving young wine with the addition of older
wine. The aging system used for the generoso wines of Jerez.
Sommelier: Person in a
fancy restaurant who is responsible for serving wine.
Sour: Spoiled wine with a vinegar-like
taste (vinegar happens to be wine that has gone bad).
Sparkling: Wine containing bubbles
of carbon dioxide which is a byproduct of fermentation.
Split: 6-ounce bottle of wine, you
will see them most often on airplanes and/or trains. You can also buy
a 4 or 6 pack of them in liquor stores which are great for picnics, or when
you go to a casual dinner where you can bring your own wine, especially if
the person you are dining with does not drink (rather than open/leave/waste
a whole bottle).
Stained: A white wine that has a
slight pink hue due to being in containers that had previously used for red
Stalk: The green part of the vine
that supports the grapes.
Stave: Worked wood that forms the
structure of the barrel.
Stemmy: Smell and taste of certain
wines, reminiscent of the vine, particularly the green stalks.
Still Wine: Wines without carbon
Straw: Used to describewhite wine
with a color like straw.
Strawberry: Fruity aroma which appears
in certain red or rose wines and some ports.
Stripping: Separating the stalks,
etc., not what happens when you are drinking wine at a bachelor
Structure: The make up of wine,
its acidity, alcohol, tannic content, etc.
Superiore: Wine with a higher content
of alcohol, and sometimes aged longer
Tannic/Tanin: Used to describe wines
which are not balanced and where tannins overpower the fruit and other
Tart: Overly acidic
Tartar/Tartaric Acid: Crystals or
crystallization in some white wines..
Tastevin: A small saucer-shaped
cup used by wine stewards for tasting wine.
Tears: Oiliness left in the glass
by a wine rich in alcohol, sugars and glycerin.
Thief: A syringe used for taking
wine samples from the hole in a barrel.
Thin: A wine that is light-bodied
which lacks flavor and generally light in color..
Tobacco: An aroma which is noticeable
in some mature wines.
TUN: A very large cask for
storing wine, some holding up to 300,000 bottles worth of
Valpolicella: A light, semi-dry
red from near Verona in Italy's Veneto region typically best when you drink
it while young.
Vanilla: Aroma and/or flavor of
vanilla, characteristic of wine aged in oak.
Variety: Type of grape with specific
characteristics -- all grape varieties belong to the same
Varietal Wines: Wines that are named
after the grape from which they are made (Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio). California
law states the varietal grape must be at least 75% of the
Velvety: Smooth, plesant and silky
sensation in the mouth often used to describe red wines.
Vine: The main stem from which the
Vinifera: The family of European
wine grapes from which the world's finest wines are made.
Vinification: The art of transforming
grapes into wine
Vino: Italian for wine (as if you
had to ask!)
Vintage: The year that the grapes
were picked or harvested for the making of wine. Dates are always (or should
be) shown on the label. Often in jug or generic wines omit the date
and we joke and say "ah yes, that was a very good week for
Vintner: A craftsman who makes
Woody: Wine aged too long in a cask
or aged in a cask and/or inferior wood.
Yeast: A single-cell microorganism
on the skin of the grapes that causes fermentation. .
Yema: The juice strained without
pressing or any pressure at all.
Young: Wine that is not sufficiently