​Les Kincaid's

Lifestyles

 

Vocabulary

Acetic
An acid that, combined with ethyl acetate, gives the vinegary smell that a spoiled wine emits.  It is not to be confused with vinegar.

Acid
Acid contributes to the crispness and longevity of wine, particularly white wine. A wine that has too much acidity will taste sharp or tart.

Acidity 
The tartness of a wine. Wines that make your mouth water or your cheeks suck in; have a high level of acidity. Acidity is a necessary component for matching with fatty and acidic foods.

Aeration
Letting a wine "breathe" by swirling it in a glass or letting an open bottle sit. Aeration can soften young, tannic wines; it can also fatigue older ones.

Aftertaste
The taste that stays in the mouth after swallowing wine. Also known as finish, this flavor can be buttery, oaky, spicy, tart, or bitter.

Aging
Wine can age in bottles, barrels, vats, or stainless steel tanks. Many wines improve during the aging process, a process that may take anywhere from five months to five years before the wine is ready to be sold.

Albumena
Egg white. Sometimes used in fining.

Alcohol
The sine qua non of wine, its affects run from the obvious to the not so obvious. Alcohol doesn’t just provide the kick: it gives texture ("body"), flavor (roundness and sweetness) and vinosity (makes it smell and taste like wine) as well as providing balance and a certain chemical and physical stability to wines. The primary alcohol is known as ethyl alcohol or ethanol, but there are dozens of other so-called "higher" alcohols which though in minute quantities provide hundreds of flavors.

Alcohol By Volume
As required by law, wineries must state the alcohol level of a wine on its label. This is usually expressed as a numerical percentage of the volume. For table wines the law allows a 1.5 percent variation above or below the stated percentage as long as the alcohol does not exceed 14 percent. Thus, wineries may legally avoid revealing the actual alcohol content of their wines by labeling them as "table wine."

American Oak
Increasingly popular as an alternative to French oak for making barrels in which to age wine as quality improves and vintners learn how to treat the wood to meet their needs. Marked by strong vanilla, dill and cedar notes, it is used primarily for aging Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel, for which it is the preferred oak. It's less desirable, although used occasionally, for Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Many California and Australia wineries use American oak, yet claim to use French oak because of its more prestigious image. American oak barrels sell in the $250 range, compared to more than $500 for the French ones.

American Viticultural Area (AVA)
A geographical grape-growing area that has officially been given appellation status by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). Examples are Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.  

Aoc 
Appellation d Origine Controlee. A system used to regulate the quality of the best French wines (and which is used for certain foods as well). The regulations cover yield, location, grape varieties, and alcohol content, and even if all these conditions are met a particular wine may still be rejected by the AOC committee as not being up to standard.

Appellation 
Defines the area where a wine's grapes were grown, such as Bordeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin, Alexander Valley or Russian River Valley. Regulations vary widely from country to country. In order to use an appellation on a California wine label, for example, 85 percent of the grapes used to make the wine must be grown in the specified district.

Appellation D'Origine Controlee (AOC)
The French system of appellations, begun in the 1930s and considered the wine world's prototype. To carry an appellation in this system, a wine must follow rules describing the area the grapes are grown in, the varieties used, the ripeness, the alcoholic strength, the vineyard yields and the methods used in growing the grapes and making the wine.

Apples
Some German Rieslings, some Chardonnays, and some Chenin Blanc wines smell and/or taste of apples as part of their varietal character. Often, an oxidized wine will smell of apples, generally less acidic or over-ripe apples.

Apricots
Sémillons, Muscats (Moscatos), and some sweet Rieslings recall apricots: wines affected by Botrytis Cinerea, or noble rot, may often recall apricots or peaches.

Aroma 
Traditionally defined as the smell that wine acquires from the grapes and from fermentation.  Now it more commonly means the wine's total smell, including changes that resulted from oak aging or that occurred in the bottle--good or bad. "Bouquet" has a similar meaning.

Aromatica
A term for wines with pronounced aroma, particularly those fragrant of herbs or spices.

Asparagus
Sauvignon Blanc based wines, especially Pouilly-Fumés, Sancerres or those of New Zealand will often recall asparagus.

Asti Spumante 
A semi dry sparkling wine produced from the Moscato di Canelli grape in the village of Asti, in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Astringent
Describes a rough, harsh, pucker feel in the mouth, usually from tannin or high acidity, which red wines (and a few whites) have. When the harshness stands out, the wine is astringent.

Austere
A major geek term that the snobs love to throw around to sound smart. Austere is a vague definition of a wine that has a high level of acid and/or tannin, but is expected to soften with age. "Hard" is a synonym for austere.

Bacchus 
The god of wine (from Greek mythology); also known as Dionysus. There is also a white grape called Bacchus that is often used in blending in German wines.

Backbone 
Used to denote those wines that are full-bodied, well-structured and balanced by a desirable level of acidity.

Backward

Used to describe a young wine that is less developed than others of its type and class from the same vintage.

Balance 
A balanced wine is one whose constituents--sugar, acids, tannins, alcohols, etc.--are evident but do not mask one another. A young red wine--tannic and acidic-- is not considered balanced because these two characteristics mask the other flavor elements of the wine, which, given time, may display themselves.

Balthazar
An oversized bottle which holds the equivalent of 12 to 16 standard bottles.

Bananas
Very young wines--tank samples, wines which have undergone a very cold fermentation or freshly bottled wines--will often smell like bananas. The component responsible for this is iso-amyl acetate, which diminishes with age. Some nouveaux Beaujolais display this in spades.

Barrel Fermented
Denotes wine that has been fermented in small casks (usually 55-gallon oak barrels) instead of larger tanks. Advocates believe that barrel fermentation contributes greater harmony between the oak and the wine, increases body and adds complexity, texture and flavor to certain wine types. Its liabilities are that more labor is required and greater risks are involved.  It is mainly used for whites.

Batonnage
The term for stirring of the lees (dead yeasts), which is employed to impart body and flavor to the wine.

Berries
Berry-like is a nebulous, fruity characteristic of young red wines, notably Zinfandels or Bacos.

Big
A wine of more flavor, alcohol, etc. than others. A Barolo, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, late-harvest Zinfandel or the like is considered a big wine.

Bitter
Describes one of the four basic tastes (along with sour, salty and sweet). Some grapes--notably Gewürztraminer and Muscat--often have a noticeable bitter edge to their flavors.  Another source of bitterness is tannin or stems. If the bitter quality dominates the wine's flavor or aftertaste, it is considered a fault. In sweet wines a trace of bitterness may complement the flavors. In young red wines it can be a warning signal, as bitterness doesn't always dissipate with age. Normally, a fine, mature wine should not be bitter on the palate.

Bitterness
Bitterness comes from excess tannin and can be caused by poor winemaking or an extremely dry season.

Bite 
A marked degree of acidity or tannin. An acid grip in the finish should be more like a zestful tang and is tolerable only in a rich, full-bodied wine.

Black Currant
Bordeaux wines with a high percentage of Cabernet-Sauvignon, and similarly-based California wines may recall black currant or cassis flavor as do some Syrahs.

Blanc De Blancs 
A white wine, especially champagne, made from only white grapes.

Blanc De Noirs 
A white or blush wine made from dark grapes.

Blending

The primary task of a wine maker. Wines from different lots or barrels are blended together to produce the final product. Tradition and regional laws dictate what grape varieties may be blended together to make a certain wine. The wine maker selects the percentages of each type of grape for the final blend.

Blunt 
Strong in flavor and often alcoholic, but lacking in aromatic interest and development on the palate.

Body
English wine authority Michael Broadbent puts it well in his Wine Tasting: "the weight of the wine in the mouth due to its alcoholic content and to its other physical components. These in turn are due to the quality of the wine, to the vintage, its geographical origin, and general style. Wines from hotter climates tend to have more body than those from the north (compare the Rhône with the Mosel, for example)."

Botrytis Cinerea (noble rot)
A mold that is responsible for the character of dessert wines from Sauternes (France) and much of Germany. A naturally occurring mold that extracts water from the grapes, leaving the juice that remains sweet and highly concentrated, with a honeyed character. The climatic conditions necessary to produce botrytis are unpredictable and cannot be reproduced artificially.

Bottle Shock
A condition that can affect wines immediately after bottling or shipment. The wine can be flat or off, or smell of sulfur dioxide. Stored properly this condition will disappear in two or three weeks.

Bottle Stink
Ever open a bottle of wine which, at first, smells wretched, but with Decantation, or a moment’s aeration, loses the odors? Bottle stink, folks: like morning mouth.

Bottled By 
Means the wine could have been purchased ready-made and simply bottled by the brand owner, or made under contract by another winery. When the label reads "produced and bottled by" or "made and bottled by" it means the winery produced the wine from start to finish.

Bottle Sizes
Magnum=2 bottles
Jeroboam=4 bottles
Rehoboam=6 bottles (no longer made) 
Methuselah= 8 bottles
Salmanazar=12 bottles
Balthazar=16 bottles 
Nebuchadnezzar=20 bottles

Bouquet
As opposed to aroma, bouquet is more encompassing. It is the odor which derives from the fermentation process, from the aging in wood and bottle process, and other changes independent of the grape variety used.

Breathing
To allow a wine to mix with the air. Aeration occurs by decanting the wine is a large container or large wineglass. Breathing can be beneficial for many wines especially reds. Breathing enables oxygen to mix with the wine, which speeds the aging process. To let a wine breathe or not before serving depends on the wine. It is not always beneficial to let older wines breathe prior to drinking.

Brawny 
Used to describe wines that are hard, intense, tannic and that have raw, woody flavors. The opposite of elegant.

Breed
A according to Michael Broadbent, English wine authority, breed is "a distinctive and distinguished quality stemming from the combination of fine site soil, cépage (grape type), and the skill of the vignernon (winemaker)’.

Briary 
Describes young wines with an earthy or stemmy wild berry character.

Bricking 
Refers to a tawny, brick red color, which implies age in a red wine.

Bright 
Used for fresh, ripe, zesty, lively young wines with vivid, focused flavors.

Brilliant
A clear and bright appearance. 

Brix
A measurement of the sugar content of grapes, must and wine, indicating the degree of the grapes' ripeness (meaning sugar level) at harvest. Most table-wine grapes are harvested at between 21 and 25 Brix. To get an alcohol conversion level, multiply the stated Brix by .55.

Browning 
Describes a wine's color, and is a sign that a wine is mature and may be faded. A bad sign in young red (or white) wines, but less significant in older wines. Wines 20 to 30 years old may have a brownish edge yet still be enjoyable.

Brut
A general term used to designate a relatively dry-finished Champagne or sparkling wine, often the driest wine made by the producer.

Bunch
The term to describe a full cluster of grape berries; also used to describe any non-Muscadine grape, most often employed by winegrowers in the American southeast.

Burnt 
Describes wines that have an overdone, smoky, toasty or singed edge. Also used to describe overripe grapes.

Buttery
Often said of Chardonnay-based wines that have undergone a malolactic conversion/fermentation.

Candy 

The odor and flavor of young Blanc de noirs often have a candy-like character; it is sometimes indicative of a heavy dose of Pinot noir in the blend.

Capsule 
The protective sheath over the cork and neck of a wine bottle. This keeps the cork from drying out and letting air into the bottle.

Carafe
A simple glass container with a large wide mouth, often used by restaurants for serving the “house” wine. Some wines are actually sold in carafes; Inglenook and Taylor California Cellars come to mind. The container looks kind of like an old glass milk bottle except it has a wide mouth at the top. I often use a carafe for decanting wine.

Carbonic Maceration 

Fermentation of whole, uncrushed grapes in a carbon dioxide atmosphere. In practice, the weight of the upper layers of grapes in a vat will break the skins of the lowest layer; the resultant wine is partly a product of carbonic maceration and partly of traditional fermentation of juice.

Casky
The odor or, less often, the flavor a wine has either from its having rested too long in wood or the latter’s being contaminated. Often confused with corky.

Cedary 
Denotes the smell of cedar wood associated with mature Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends aged in French or American oak.

Cellar 
Refers to any area for the storage of wine, not necessarily underground. Ideally conditions are dark, with a controlled, cool temperature, and high humidity. Wine bottles should be stored on their sides to keep the corks from drying out.

Chablis
An area of northern Burgundy famous for its dry, full-flavored whites. Chablis Grand Cru and Chablis Premier Cru are among Burgundy's finest white wines.

Character
The distinctive, obvious feature of a particular wine. Specific types of wines and varietals will have a “character” that differentiates it from others.

Chai
French term for an aboveground structure used for wine storage and aging.

Champagne 
Champagne isn't a style of wine, it's actually a region in Northeast France where this famous sparkling wine comes from. Only 75 miles northeast of Paris, the region has over 300 villages and produces the best-known sparkling wines in the world. Only wines produced here can legally be called champagne.

Capitalization
Adding sugar to fermenting wine to raise the alcohol level. Used in France to raise low alcohol levels by 1 to 2 percent. The sugar is converted to alcohol, and does not add sweetness to the wine. Illegal in California, Italy, and Germany.

Character
The things that make a wine distinctive. A region's tradition, soils, and grapes combine to produce a wine's character.

Chardonnay 
The world's most popular dry white; it's medium-to full-bodied, with rich apple and citrus flavors and sometimes a buttery tone from fermentation and aging in oak barrels; a good choice for simply prepared seafood and poultry dishes.

Charmat Process
Producing sparkling wines in tanks rather than bottles. Used to mass-produce inexpensive sparkling wines.

Chateau Bottled 
A wine that is bottled at the chateau whose name is on the label. Chateau-bottled wines are not necessarily superior to other wines.

Chenin Blanc 
A very versatile white wine grape known in many areas of the world and called Steen in South Africa. It is the most famous white wine made in the Loire Valley of France. The grape is known for its high acidity and can be fermented dry or medium-sweet. The finest French Chenin Blancs can age for many years.

Chewy 
A high, but balanced, acid wine with greater than average tannin content is considered chewy. Some Bordeaux reds, especially St. Estèphes, California coastal mountain Cabernets or Shiraz wines are so described.

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 grapes.

Cigar Box 
Another descriptor for a cedar aroma.

Citrus
Burnt orange or, simply nebulous citrusy flavors are often evident in many Chiantis and Barolos.

Claret
Not sure why, but the English refer to Bordeaux wine as Claret. Some other red wines are labeled as “claret” for marketing purposes, but the name really doesn’t signify anything.

Clean
Having no off-odors or off-tastes.

Clone
A vine so produced to better adapt to climatic or geologic conditions. You will often hear in discussion of the grape of "the Romanée-Conti clone of Pinot noir as opposed to the "Volnay" clone. It is a biologically exact replica of the mother material it was, well, cloned from.

Closed
When a wine (especially the nose) is not showing its full potential, it is often described as “closed”. This means that the fruit of the wine is being overpowered by the tannins, acidity, and other preservative components. High quality (i.e., expensive) wines are often closed during their youth, and will “open up” as they mature.

Cloudy
Opposite of clear or brilliant. May be the result of sediment being stirred up during shipping.

Cloying 
Overly sweet, lacking the proper amount of acidity to give the wine balance.

Coarse
Rude or harsh in flavor; clumsy or crude.

Cold
The meaning is obvious. Too often, wines are served so cold that their odors and flavors are stunted, unable to show themselves. 

Colheita 
A vintage-dated Tawny Port, which has been aged for at least seven years in wood.

Color
The skins of the grapes give a wine its color. The longer the juice is in contact with the skins, the more color will be imparted to the wine. Pink or rosé wines are made from red grapes that are only allowed brief contact with the skins.

Cold Fermentation
A method of fermenting grape juice into wine at lowered (55 degrees F.) temperatures in order to conserve as much fruit/varietal character as possible.

Cold Stabilization 

A clarification technique in which a wine's temperature is lowered to 32° F, causing the tartrates and other insoluble solids to precipitate.

Complete
Mature, with good follow-through on the palate, satisfying mouth-feel and firm aftertaste.

Complexity 
An element in all great wines and many very good ones; a combination of richness, depth, flavor intensity, focus, balance, harmony and finesse.

Cooked
A smell, hot or burnt, often found in overly capitalized French Burgundies and Beaujolais.

Cork
Produced from the bark of cork trees, mainly grown in Spain and Portugal. Corks are airtight and have for years been the best way to seal bottles. Cork should not let air into a wine bottle over time. It is intended to create an airtight seal. However any closure that seals airtight is a perfect one for wine. Recently many new closures have been tested, but the use of non-cork has been resisted by traditionalists.

Corked
Term meaning the wine has gone bad. An unpleasant, musty, moldy smell imparted by a flawed cork. Cork may contain bacteria that will cause odd flavors in the wine. Almost one out of twelve bottles will have some corky flavors.

Creamy
Wines that have the soft, tactile impression of cream are often described as creamy. It’s also usually the adjective used to express Champagne’s frothy bubbles.

Crisp
Wine with a lively acidity level.

Cross
A breeding of one variety of grape with another to obtain a more desirable offspring. The "noble" Cabernet-Sauvignon was crossed with the "common" Carignane to arrive at the Ruby Cabernet grape, a cross intended to produce a variety capable of surviving the hot climates of the Central Valley well enough to produce a decent wine.

Crush
Harvest season when the grapes are picked and crushed.

Crust
A synonym for the sediment that an older red wine “throws” or leaves as a result of aging.  This term is usually used only when talking about Port. 

Cuvee
French term meaning a vat or tank. Used to refer to the best wine by a producer.

Decant
To pour wine from its bottle into a larger container to leaving any sediment behind, also to allow a wine to breathe.

Decanter
A glass container that is used for decanting, or pouring wine from the bottle. Though a decanter can be as simple as a cheap wine carafe, there are some exotic decanters made from crystal that are both functional and beautiful.

Decanting 

A process for separating the sediment from a wine before drinking. Accomplished by slowly and carefully pouring the wine from its bottle into another container.

Deep
Having layers of persistent flavor that gradually unfold with aeration.

Delicate 
Used to describe light- to medium-weight wines with good flavors. A desirable quality in wines such as Pinot Noir or Riesling.

Demi-Sec 
In the language of Champagne, a term relating to sweetness. It can be misleading; although demi-sec means half-dry, demi-sec sparkling wines are usually slightly sweet to medium sweet.

Dense 
Describes a wine that has concentrated aromas on the nose and palate. A good sign in young wines.

Depth 
Describes the complexity and concentration of flavors in a wine, as in a wine with excellent or uncommon depth. Opposite of shallow.

Dirty 
Covers any and all foul, rank, off-putting smells that can occur in a wine, including those caused by bad barrels or corks. A sign of poor winemaking.

Disgorgement
A step in the traditional process of sparkling wine production wherein frozen sediment is removed from the neck of the bottle.

Distinctive
Elegant, refined character that sets the wine apart on its own.

Dosage 
In bottle-fermented sparkling wines, a small amount of wine (usually sweet) that is added back to the bottle once the yeast sediment that collects in the neck of the bottle is removed.

Doux
A French term used to describe a sweet wine, usually seen written as 'vin doux'.

Dry
Dryness is determined by the residual sugar in a wine, the drier the wine, the less sugar it contains.  Most table wines are dry.

Dull

Lacking liveliness and proper acidity; uninteresting.

Dumb 
Usually refers to the odor, or lack thereof, in a wine of some future. Many young clarets or Cabernet Sauvignons are considered dumb.

Earthy
Wines described as "earthy" will have aromas and flavors of soil, minerals, leather, and/or wet leaves. Believe it or not, many people find earthiness to be a positive element to find in a wine. Usually, Cabernet Sauvignon and similarly "big" red wines will exhibit earthy character.

Elegant 
High quality wines that are light yet graceful and have finesse and complexity are often described as “elegant”.

Empty 

Similar to hollow; devoid of flavor and interest.

Enology (Oenology)
The study of wine and wine making.

Enophile (also spelled "oenophile"
)
The technical term for a wine geek or connoisseur; a true student of wine.

Estate-Bottled

A term once used by producers for those wines made from vineyards that they owned and that were contiguous to the winery "estate." Today it indicates the winery either owns the vineyard or has a long-term lease to purchase the grapes.

Ethyl Acetate 
A sweet, vinegary smell that often accompanies acetic acid. It exists to some extent in all wines and in small doses can be a plus. When it is strong and smells like nail polish, it's a defect.

Extra-Dry 
A common Champagne term not to be taken literally. Most Champagnes so labeled are sweet.

Extract 
Richness and depth of concentration of fruit in a wine. Usually a positive quality, although high extract wine can also be highly tannic.

Fading 
Describes a wine that is losing color, fruit or flavor, usually as a result of age.

Fat
This has nothing to do with your waistline. A wine that has a lot of fruit concentration but low acidity is often defined as being “fat”. If the acidity is so low it is displeasing, the wine will be called “flabby” or “insipid”.

Fermentation
The action of yeast by which the transformation of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas takes place.

Field Blend 
When a vineyard is planted to several different varieties and the grapes are harvested together to produce a single wine, the wine is called a field blend.

Figs
Wines from the Semillon grape variety are often redolent of figs.

Filtering
The process of removing particles from wine after fermentation. Most wines unless otherwise labeled are filtered for both clarity and stability

Finesse
The complexity and elegance, subtlety and delicacy of a wine.

Fining
Process of clarifying wine by the introduction of additives that cling to the suspended particles and fall to the bottom. Egg whites are commonly used.

Finish
See Aftertaste.

Flabby
A wine that has a lot of ripe fruit but little acidity is considered "fat" or "flabby".

Flat 
Having low acidity; the next stage after flabby. Can also refer to a sparkling wine that has lost its bubbles.

Flavor
How the wine tastes.

Fleshy 
Soft and smooth in texture, with very little tannin.

Flinty
Tastes reminiscent of gunflint. Wines from Chablis and Sancerre are associated with a flinty smell and taste from the calcareous soil. These wines are generally dry and austere.

Floral (or Flowery)
Literally, having the characteristic aromas of flowers. Mostly associated with white wines.

Fortified

Wines to which a neutral spirit has been added. Examples of fortified wines are Port, Sherry, Marsala and Madeira.

Forward
Wine that has accelerated its maturity more quickly than expected is described as “forward” (as opposed to backward). Also, in tasting notes, “forward fruit” indicates that there is a high concentration of fruit tasted in the wine.

Foxy
The odors and tastes of wines made from many of the American species of grape (i.e. vitis labrusca). A flavor substance called methyl anthranilate is partially responsible for this characteristic. A foxy wine smells and tastes like Concord grape juice.

Fragrant 
Wine that is aromatic and flowery. Common fragrances are floral, spice, and fruit such as pineapple, blackberry, peach, apricot and apple. The grape variety is primarily responsible for a wine's fruit fragrances.

Frascati 
A fruity, golden white wine from the hills around Rome; can be dry to sweet.

Free-Run Juice 
The juice that escapes after the grape skins are crushed or squeezed prior to fermentation.

French Wine Classifications
ALSACE 
Dry, white and fruity, the wines of Alsace are ideal for a wide variety of foods and go wonderfully with exotic, spicy cuisines. These are the only French AOC wines named for grape type.
BEAUJOLAIS 
Beaujolais Nouveau, basic Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages and the 10 Beaujolais crus are all best served when slightly chilled. Beaujolais is "the red that drinks like a white."
BORDEAUX 
Since the first century AD, Bordeaux has been creating wines that have earned their reputation as the epitome of the winemaker's art.
BOURGOGNE 
For centuries, Burgundy has produced wondrous whites from the Chardonnay grape and remarkable reds from the Pinot Noir grape.
CHAMPAGNE 
If it's not from France, it's not Champagne. Individual houses create and maintain bubbly of remarkable consistency from year to year with their delicious blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes. Each house has its own special proportion, which imparts the signature style/taste of the house.
CORSICA
Off the southern coast of France, the island of Corsica is known as the birthplace of Napoleon. Wine is an integral part of life on this sun-soaked Mediterranean isle.
LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON 
The vineyards of this southern French region represent the world's most extensive wine-growing area. In the past ten years, it has emerged powerfully, burgeoning with new vines, new wines and a new sense of importance.
LOIRE VALLEY
Historically known as the playground of the French kings, the Loire extends the entire length of France's longest river, for which it is named. Most of its wines are fruity, crisp whites with a good level of acidity.
PROVENCE
The home of bouillabaisse (one of my personal favorites), salad niçoise, and hearty stews, Provence is also home to strong and aromatic red, white and rosé wines.
RHONE VALLEY
The Rhône is known for spicy reds grown in vineyards dating back to pre-roman times.
THE SOUTHWEST
Next to Bordeaux, the Southwest is an enormous wine-producing region, especially noted for Bergerac and Cahors. Amazingly, its vineyards, which were blighted in the 19th century, bloom again with rediscovered local varietals.

In France, wines are divided into table wines ("Vins de Table"), country wines ("Vins de Pays") and Appellation Controlled Wines (AOC - which stands for "Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée").
Table wine (Vin de Table) is the everyday drinking wine of the French. It is a blend of grapes from various wine-producing regions, and is ready to be consumed when purchased.  Identified by a brand name, a Vin de Table is blended carefully to maintain a consistent quality from year to year.
Country wine (Vin de Pays) more sophisticated than table wine, Country wine brings the scenic delights, full flavors and romance of the French countryside to your table. Country wines are produced from the grapes of one region only, and are governed by regulations that control production and accreditation.
Appellation Controlled Wines (AOC) Considered to be the highest quality wine, AOC wine is subject to rigorous controls governing every aspect of winemaking, including the size of the vineyard, production levels and where grapes may be grown. Most appellations are named for the place where they are grown, which may be a region (like Bordeaux or Burgundy), a district within the region, or even a single château. The more specific the appellation, the more restrictive the controls - and the more prestigious the wine.

French Oak 
The traditional wood for wine barrels, which supplies vanilla, cedar and sometimes butterscotch flavors. Used for red and white wines. Much more expensive than American oak, it can cost more than $500 per barrel, as opposed to $250 for American.

Fresh 
Applied generally to younger whites or lighter reds to denote a pleasant, youthful sensation.  Beaujolais, for instance, are fresh when consumed young, as are many Zinfandels, Bardolinos, Maréchal Fochs and Bacos.

Fruity
A wine in which fruit flavors dominate the aroma and taste. These wines are usually easy-drinking and light.

Full-Bodied
Full proportion of flavor and alcohol; big, fat.

Fume Blanc 
The two names are used interchangeably. The term "Fumé" has come into use because of the grape's distinctively aromatic, sometimes smoky character.

Generic 
A wine that takes its name from a European district that has garnered some fame. American "Chablis" are meant to recall the French product, but usually don’t. The original intent of such rip-offs was pure and natural: to sell that which is recognizable (to an immigrant population that was familiar with the terms). Nowadays, such names are giving way to more accurate, if less colorful, appellations.

Gewurztraminer 
Another aromatic variety of German origin with aromas of rose petals, peaches, grapefruit, lychee, and allspice, and full, fruity, spicy flavors ideal with Asian food, ham, pork and grilled sausages.

Gout De Terroir
The smell and taste derived from a combo nation of the soil, macro/meso/micro climate, aspect, etc. of the vineyard; the "Taste of the Ecosystem".

Grapey 
Characterized by simple flavors and aromas associated with fresh table grapes; distinct from the more complex fruit flavors (currant, black cherry, fig or apricot) found in fine wines.

Grappa 
An Italian spirit distilled from pomace. Dry and high in alcohol, it is typically consumed after dinner.

Grassy 
A signature descriptor for Sauvignon Blanc and a pleasant one unless overbearing and pungent.

Green
Tasting of unripe fruit. Wines made from unripe grapes will often possess this quality.  Pleasant in Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

Green Harvest 
The trimming of unripe grapes to decrease crop yields, thereby improving the concentration of the remaining bunches.

Green Olives
I have had very few wines that smelled of green olives, but those few have been Cabernets.

Grip 
A welcome firmness of texture, usually from tannin, which helps give definition to wines such as Cabernet and Port.

Grown, Produced & Bottled 
Means the winery handled each aspect of wine growing.

Half-Bottle 
Holds 375 millimeters or 3/8 liter.

Hard 
Firm; a quality that usually results from high acidity or tannins. Often a descriptor for young red wines.

Harmonious
When a wine is perfectly balanced and ready to drink, it is often called “harmonious”.

Harsh 
Used to describe astringent wines that are tannic or high in alcohol.

Hazy 
Used to describe a wine that has small amounts of visible matter. A good quality if a wine is unfined and unfiltered.

Hearty
Used to describe the full, warm, sometimes rustic qualities found in red wines with high alcohol.

Heady 
Used to describe high-alcohol wines.

Herbaceous
Wine that smells or tastes grassy or green. A characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes. Also found in young wines that will change flavor as they age. A function of grape variety, not soil or climate.

Hollow 
Lacking in flavor. Describes a wine that has a first taste and a short finish, and lacks depth at mid-palate.

Hot
A burning, prickly sensation that occurs in the mouth when a wine has an overabundance of alcohol. Many fortified wines (such as Port) have hotness in the finish, but it is generally unacceptable for most wines.

Hybrid
Grape varieties produced by hybridizers in the lab, usually involving more than one species, are called hybrids. The great Midwestern and Eastern sections of this country are planted to the so-called "French-American" hybrids, vines that are part vinifera and part Native American species (aestivalis, labrusca, etc.). They were produced in an effort to arrive at vine plants better suited to particular climates than pure vinifera; there are also "natural" hybrids, varieties that evolved by a haphazard crossing of two varieties or species.

Hydrogen Sulfide
The smell of rotten eggs or like substances often found in wines; may dissipate with aeration.

Imperial 
An oversized bottle holding 4 to 6 liters; the equivalent of eight standard bottles.

In Bond
This term describes wine which is held in a bonded warehouse, which has not passed through customs in order to officially enter the UK and consequently has not been subject to duty or value added tax (VAT). Once purchased (case quantities only), wine may be held 'in bond' for a fee, and this is useful if you plan to export the wine, or sell to a foreign buyer, at a later date.  If you're like me and tend to drink it rather than sell it, however, in order to get your hands on your wine you will have to pay duty (about £14 per case for still wine, more for sparkling or fortified wine) and then VAT (17.5% on top of the full amount, including duty - which means that you pay tax on the duty as well as the wine) which often significantly increases the amount you have to pay. Always take this into account when buying in bond or en primeur, and don't forget that shipping charges may also be incurred.

Integrated 
Describes whether or not the various flavor components of the wine are acting in harmony or not. A young wine often seems to be poorly integrated (or 'disjointed'), but this will often change with time. A term often used with regard to oak.

Jammy 
This is a term used to describe intensely ripe, concentrated fruit in the nose and/or palate of a wine.

Jeroboam 
An oversized bottle holding the equivalent of six bottles. In Champagne, a jeroboam holds four bottles.

Kelvin 
A temperature scale used for measuring fermentation temperatures under certain circumstances.

Kraut 
Perceived in many wines from the Merlot variety.

Lambrusco
Species of grape whose descendants are widely distributed in America’s Midwest and Northeast.

Late Harvest
Wines made from grapes picked very ripe and affected by Botrytis Cinerea. Often very sweet and served as dessert wines.

Leafy 
Describes the slightly herbaceous, vegetal quality reminiscent of leaves. Can be a positive or a negative, depending on whether it adds to or detracts from a wine's flavor.

Lean 
A not necessarily critical term used to describe wines made in an austere style. When used as a term of criticism, it indicates a wine is lacking in fruit.

Lees
Term used for the sediment that settles to the bottom of tanks and vats after the fermentation process. It is made up of grape seeds, pulp, stems, and skins, and is not transferred when the wine is moved to a different container.

Legs
A tear-like coating that is left on the inside of a glass after a wine is swirled. Many people believe that thick “legs” indicate a quality wine; in fact, all the legs are telling you are that the wine is high in glycerol content. But, don’t be a snob---let people admire the legs and pronounce “wow, what great legs” if they wish.

Length
This is the lingering of the wine’s fruit and aroma after you have swallowed or spit out the wine; also referred to as the finish. A wine with great length is an indication of quality.

Liebfraumilch
A blended German white, semisweet and fairly neutral, which accounts for up to 50 percent of all German wine exports.

Light
Term used to describe the body or color of a wine. Usually easy to drink and not high in alcohol.

Limousin 
A type of oak cask from Limoges, France. See also French Oak.

Lingering
Used to describe the flavor and persistence of flavor in a wine after tasting. When the aftertaste remains on the palate for several seconds, it is said to be lingering.

Liqueur (cordial)
Sweet, alcoholic after-dinner drink.  

Limousina 
Province and a large forest in France near Limoges. The major source of French oak for barrels.

Long
A wine that is long usually means it has a long, persistent finish. Some people also use this term to describe the nose of a wine, should it be very abundant.

Lush
A quick way of saying “luscious”, it’s a tasting term used to describe delicious wines that are rich, velvety, soft, and sweet.

Lively 
Describes wine that is fresh and fruity, bright and vivacious.

Maceration
During fermentation, the steeping of the grape skins and solids in the wine, where alcohol acts as a solvent to extract color, tannin and aroma from the skins.

Made & Bottled By 
Indicates only that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled a minimum of 10 percent of the wine in the bottle. Very misleading.

Maderized 
Describes the brownish color and slightly sweet, somewhat caramelized and often nutty character found in mature dessert-style wines.

Magnum
An oversized bottle that holds 1.5 liters.

Malic 
Describes the green apple-like flavor found in young grapes which diminishes as they ripen and mature.

Malolactic Fermentation 
A secondary fermentation occurring in most wines, this natural process converts malic acid into softer lactic acid and carbon dioxide, thus reducing the wine's total acidity. Adds complexity to whites such as Chardonnay and softens reds such as Cabernet and Merlot.

Marsala 
A Sicilian wine, which may be dry or sweet and is commonly used in cooking. Made from Grillo, Catarratto, or Inzolia grapes.

Matchstick 
Burnt matchstick odor is that derived from an excess of sulfur dioxide which is added to a wine; with time it will usually dissipate. Many contend that the flavor of wooden matchsticks is a tell-tale signal that a wine contains Pinot Noir.

Mature 
Ready to drink.

Meaty 
Describes red wines that show plenty of concentration and a chewy quality. They may even have an aroma of cooked meat.

Mellow
A soft, smooth, often sweet-edged wine a "jug red" and a well-aged Cabernet-Sauvignon or Zinfandel may all be mellow.

Mercaptans 
An unpleasant, rubbery smell of old sulfur; encountered mainly in very old white wines.

Meritage 
An invented term, used by California wineries, for Bordeaux-style red and white blended wines. Combines "merit" with "heritage." The term arose out of the need to name wines that didn't meet minimal labeling requirements for varietals (i.e., 75 percent of the named grape variety). For reds, the grapes allowed are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec; for whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Joseph Phelps Insignia and Flora Springs Trilogy are examples of wines whose blends vary each year, with no one grape dominating.

Methode Champenoise 
French term for the method used to make champagne, which is fermented in the bottle.  Monk Dom Pérignon is credited with inventing this method.  

Methuselah 
An extra-large bottle holding 6 liters; the equivalent of eight standard bottles.

Mint
A term often used to express the flavors of wood aging-specifically French oak aging or specific vineyard characteristics in red wines.

Microclimate 
The climate of a small, defined area. Can dramatically affect the character of the wine produced there. 

Mse En Bouteille Au Domaine 
French term for a wine produced and bottled at the property where the grapes are grown.

Mousse 
How fizzy a sparkling wine seems in the mouth. A soft mousse is not too fizzy. A harsh mousse is too fizzy, like a carbonated soft drink, perhaps.

Mulled Wine
Red wine that has been mixed with sugar, lemon, and spices, usually including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Served hot.

Murky 
More than deeply colored; lacking brightness, turbid and sometimes a bit swampy. Mainly a fault of red wines.

Muscadine
Colloquial name for the sub-genus of the vitis family of plants that thrive in our southeastern regions. Scuppernong is the most well-known variety of Muscadines.

Muscat (Muss-cat) 
A very flowery dessert-style wine, with floral and peach/apricot aromas and flavors; great with desserts of fresh fruit or fruit/nut tarts.  

Mushrooms 
Sometimes smell of fresh-picked, dirt-laden mushrooms.

Must
The mixture of grape juice or crushed grapes that are fermented into wine.

Musty 
Having an off-putting moldy or mildew smell. The result of a wine being made from moldy grapes, stored in improperly cleaned tanks and barrels, or contaminated by a poor cork.

Nebuchadnezzar 
A giant wine bottle holding 15 liters; the equivalent of 20 standard bottles.

Negociant (Negociant-Eleveur) 
A French wine merchant who buys grapes and vinified them, or buys wines and combines them, bottles the result under his own label and ships them. Particularly found in Burgundy.  Two well-known examples are Joseph Drouhin and Louis Jadot.

New Balloons 
Oddly or not, the smell of Chardonnay reminds many of the odor you find on the skins of balloons from a newly-opened pack.

Noble Rot
See Botrytis Cinerea.

Non-Vintage 
Blended from more than one vintage. This allows the vintner to keep a house style from year to year. Many Champagnes and sparkling wines are non-vintage. Also, Sherry and the non-vintage Ports, the tawnies and the rubies.

Nose
A term used to describe the smell of a wine.

Nouveau 
A style of light, fruity, youthful red wine bottled and sold as soon as possible. Applies mostly to Beaujolais.

Nuts
Amontillado Sherries, vins jaunes of the Jura area of France, and even some oak-aged Chardonnays (Meursaults) display various nut-like overtones. Also, General McAuliffe’s reply to the Wehrmacht at Bastogne.

Nutty
Port, Sherry, huge Chardonnays, and a few other wines may have a “nutty” characteristic.  This means that a hazelnut, walnut, or other nut flavor is percept in the wine.

Oak
Popular wood for constructing wine barrels. Oak gives flavors and tannin to wines during aging process.

Oaky
Many wines that are aged for a time in oak barrels have an “oaky” character. The wine will actually smell a bit like oak, and more like toasty vanilla and other spices. Used appropriately, an oaky wine can be very attractive; overdone, it blocks out the other components of a wine and is not enjoyed by everyone.

Oenology
See Enology.

Off-Dry 
Indicates a slightly sweet wine in which the residual sugar is barely perceptible: 0.6 percent to 1.4 percent.

Orange Juice Spoiled

Some wines that have undergone an improper Malolactic fermentation will smell similar to orange juice (from concentrate) that has been kept in the fridge too long.

Oxidized 
White wines that are oxidized turn dark golden in color, lack freshness, and have a Sherried nose and flavor. Usually considered a flaw except in Sherries and Madeira.

Palate 
Describing how a wine tastes in the mouth. May be divided into fore-palate (the initial impression), mid-palate (taking your time over it) and hind or end-palate (how it seems on swallowing).

Peaches 
Sometimes sensed in sweet, late-picked wines affected by Botrytis, or in many Muscat-flavored wines.

Peak
The time when a wine tastes its best--very subjective.

Peppermint

Sometimes sensed in 100 percent, well-made Pinot Noirs.

Perfumed 
Describes the strong, usually sweet and floral aromas of some white wines.

Peppery
Tasting terminology to describe a spicy, black pepper characteristic in a wine’s nose and palate. Many Syrah-based wines, especially those from the Rhone Valley, are considered to be peppery.

Ph 
A chemical measurement of acidity or alkalinity; the higher the pH the weaker the acid. Used by some wineries as a measurement of ripeness in relation to acidity. Low pH wines taste tart and crisp; higher pH wines are more susceptible to bacterial growth. A range of 3.0 to 3.4 is desirable for white wines, while 3.3 to 3.6 is best for reds.

Phenolics 

Compounds derived from grapes (specifically, from skins and pips) which include tannins.

Phylloxera 
Native to the eastern United States, an insect that attacks the roots of grapevines, killing the vine. A vine will die within several years of the attack.

Pinot Blanc
This white wine grape has in the past been mistaken for Chardonnay. The two varieties look very much alike. Grown in a variety of regions - Italy, France, California, Germany, Austria - the Pinot Blanc is a light, smooth, easy-quaffing white. Drink young.

Pinot Gris 
Grown in Alsace, Germany, Italy, and very successfully in Oregon, this grape variety can produce round, flavorful, dry white wines. Known as Tokay in Alsace, Tocai in Italy.

Plums 
Sometimes found in Late Harvest wines of higher than average sugar-at-picking or alcohol contents; also noticed in some Zinfandels, Petite Sirahs, Cabernet-Sauvignons, and older Ports.

Pomace
The mass of skins, seeds, pulp, and stems left in the fermenting vat. Used in the distillation of marc and grappa.

Port
A sweet, fortified wine made in Portugal, usually enjoyed as an after-dinner drink.

Potent 
Intense and powerful.

Press Wine (or Pressing) 
The juice extracted under pressure after pressing for white wines and after fermentation for reds. Press wine has more flavor and aroma, deeper color and often more tannins than free-run juice. Wineries often blend a portion of press wine back into the main cuvée for added backbone.

Prickly 

A taste sensation derived from small amounts of residual carbon dioxide in wines. Often a prickly character can be noticed in white wines fermented cold (the lowering of the temperature tends to integrate more carbon dioxide than usual); its appreciation is relative to the individual taster.

Private Reserve
This description, along with Reserve, once stood for the best wines a winery produced, but lacking a legal definition many wineries use it or a spin-off (such as Proprietor's Reserve) for rather ordinary wines. Depending upon the producer, it may still signify excellent quality.

Produced & Bottled By 
Indicates that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled at least 75 percent of the wine in the bottle.

Proprietary
One of the three ways Americans label their wines (see also Generic and Varietal); usually the bottling or producing winery owns the name so that competing wineries are barred from its use. E.g. Gallo’s "Paisano" or Phelps "Insignia".

Pruny 
Having the flavor of overripe, dried-out grapes. Can add complexity in the right dose.

Puckery
Describes highly tannic and very dry wines.

Pungent
Having a powerful, assertive smell linked to a high level of volatile acidity.

Quince (Apple) 
Some northern white Rhônes (from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier grapes) recalls this flavor; however, it has also been noticed in such widely divergent wines such as Napa Sauvignon Blancs and Italian Pinot Grigios.

Quinta 
Though it’s technically translated as “farm” in Portuguese, it is the term meaning “vineyard” when talking about Port wines.

Racking
The practice of moving wine by hose from one container to another, leaving sediment behind.  For aeration or clarification.

Raisiny 
Having the taste of raisins from ultra-ripe or overripe grapes. Can be pleasant in small doses in some wines.

Raspberries
Sensed in many red wines including Zinfandels, Petit Sirahs, and Gamays.

Raw 
Young and undeveloped. A good descriptor of barrel samples of red wine. Raw wines are often tannic and high in alcohol or acidity.

Reduced 
Commonly used to describe a wine that has not been exposed to air.

Rehoboam
Oversized bottle equivalent to 4.5 liters or six regular bottles.

Residual Sugar 
A measure of the sugar left in a wine after the alcoholic fermentation is completed and a key to the sweetness. More and more wineries are listing this on their back or front labels as an aid to the consumer.

Resin
The smell, predominating in Greek Retsinas, caused by the addition of small amounts of resin to the fermentation. Tavel rosés and American Grenache-based rosés display a greater or lesser degree of resinous odors, while not actually having had resin added to them.

Rich
Wine that is full-flavored and has an appropriate balance of intensely concentrated fruit, alcohol, and acidity.

Riesling 
A light-bodied wine of German origin with flowery aromas of honeysuckle, apples, and peaches; Rieslings range from slightly dry to very sweet and can be either table or dessert wines. Drier versions go well with chicken and pork dishes, as well as spicy foods.

Rioja
Region of northern Spain that produces most of the country's best wines.

Robust
Means full-bodied, intense and vigorous, perhaps a bit overblown.

Rotten Eggs 
The odor emitted by a wine rich in hydrogen sulfide; it may dissipate with aeration, but most often not in time for you to enjoy the wine.

Round
Wine that is balanced, mellow, and full-bodied is often described as “round”. Very often this term is used in conjunction with “fat”.

Rustic 
Describes wines made by old-fashioned methods or tasting like wines made in an earlier era.  Can be a positive quality in distinctive wines that require aging. Can also be a negative quality when used to describe a young, earthy wine that should be fresh and fruity.

Salmanazar 
An oversized bottle holding 9 liters, the equivalent of 12 regular bottles.

Salty
Often this term applies to the general mineral content of wines. Wines from many countries of the Southern Hemisphere, including Chile, Argentina, and Australia, seem to have a slightly salty/minerally taste. This taste may also be noticed in the Sherries from Manzanilla, Spain.

Sauternes 
France's most renowned sweet wine, made in one of five specified villages. It is a blend of mostly Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes that have been affected by Botrytis Cinerea, which concentrates the wine's sweetness and alcohol.

Sauvignon Blanc 
Generally lighter than Chardonnay, with bright melon and citrus aromas and a herbal character suggesting bell pepper or freshly mown grass; a versatile food wine for shellfish, lighter fish and chicken dishes, pasta with pesto and Caesar salad

Sec 
French for "dry".

Sediment
A part of the natural aging process of red wines. Sediment is composed of tannins and pigments that precipitate out of solution and is not a flaw in the wine. Decant older wines to separate the wine from its sediment.

Sherry 
Fortified wine from a district in southern Spain, Jerez de la Frontera. Styles, ranging from dry to very sweet, are: Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Pale Cream, Cream, Palo, and Pedro Ximénez. The principal grape variety is Palomino, with a small planting of Pedro Ximénez for the sweet, heavy wines. The drier Sherries are best served chilled; the medium-sweet to sweet are best at room temperature.

Silky

A wine that feels exceptionally smooth in your mouth may be called “silky” or “velvety”. It describes the texture of a wine.

Smooth
The wine’s texture, flavor, body, finish, and just about anything else can be described as smooth. People who are at a loss of words often use this adjective to get through a conversation with a wine geek.

Smoky 
Usually an oak barrel byproduct, a smoky quality can add flavor and aromatic complexity to wines.

Soft
A wine that is not harsh, overly tannic, or acidic.

Solera
A term referring to a method known as "fractional blending" in which older wines are blended with younger wines to arrive at a consistent, similar-tasting product. Authentic Sherries and many other fortified wines are produced using a solera.

Sommelier
In a wine-conscious restaurant, this is the person who knows the most about wine, and has a specialty in matching the right wine with specific dishes. The sommelier is also responsible for the wine being served “correctly”; that is, he ensures that you go through the whole rigmarole of showing you the bottle, presenting the cork, pouring the wine, etc. Many times this person is also the wine buyer, and quite often the restaurant manager; in really high-end restaurants, this is a key occupation, and the sommelier will have formal training and even certification in wine service. There is such a thing as a “Master Sommelier”; this is a person who has passed a variety of tests and earned the title “MS” after his/her name (there are not many who have passed…less than 132 worldwide).

Spatlese
German for "late harvest".

Spicy
A wine tasting term describing a flavor that is, well, spicy. It can refer to “pepper” spicy, or a flavor you’d associate with something from your spice rack, but can’t quite place, such as coriander, rosemary, clove, cinnamon, etc. Some wines that are frequently called “spicy” are Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Syrah/Shiraz, and Zinfandel.

Split
A quarter bottle of champagne (or wine) containing six ounces.

Stale
Wines that have lost their fresh, youthful qualities are called stale. Opposite of fresh.

Stalky 
Smells and tastes of grape stem or have leaf or hay like aroma.

Stemmy 
Wines fermented too long with the grape stems may develop this quality: an unpleasant and often dominant stemmy aroma and green astringency.

Structure 
The framework of a wine, encompassing the levels of tannin, acidity, and alcohol. Often called “backbone”.

Subtle 
Describes delicate wines with finesse, or flavors that are understated rather than full-blown and overt. A positive characteristic.

Sulfur Dioxide
A chemical which is added to most wines of the world and which is necessary for the stability of any commercial wine. Wine with an excess of SO 2 will smell and/or taste like fresh-struck matches although advances in modern technology have obviated these problems.

Supple 
Describes texture, mostly with reds, as it relates to tannin, body and oak. A positive characteristic.

Sur Lie 
Wines aged sur lie (French for "on the lees") are kept in contact with the dead yeast cells and are not racked or otherwise filtered. This is mainly done for whites, to enrich them (it is a normal part of fermenting red wine, and so is not noted). Originated in Burgundy, with Chardonnay. Popular in Muscadet, Alsace, Germany (Riesling and Pinot Gris) and California.  Adds complexity to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc; can occasionally be overdone and lead to a leesy flavor that is off-putting.

Sweet
A basic taste sensation dependent mainly upon grape sugars, but also one resulting from alcohol, new oak and to a degree glycerin. A sweet, as opposed to a dry wine is one which retains some sugar after fermentation has ended.

Tanky
Describes dull, dank qualities that show up in wines aged too long in tanks.

Tannic
Term used to describe wine in which the tannins overpower. A tannic wine is not well-balanced.

Tannins
Chemical components of wine that give it an astringent quality. They occur naturally in grapes, black tea, the bark of many trees, and some fruits. They are a natural preservative critical to the wine aging process.

Tart 
See Acidic Tartar 
Harmless substance, tartaric acid, which sometimes precipitates as crystals in some white wines.

Tartaric Acid 
The principal acid in wine.

Tartrates 
Harmless crystals that separate from some wines during fermentation or aging. They result from a high level of tartaric acid, and can be avoided through filtration and stabilization methods.

Tca 
The compound that taints a wine when it is corked, 1-2-4 Trichloroanisole.

Temperature
Wines generally should be served at one of three temperatures: 
40ºF= sparkling wines and light-bodied whites 
50ºF= medium-bodied whites, most dessert wines (except Port), and a few light-bodied reds. 
65ºF= (Room temperature) red wines and port wines.

Terroir
French term that describes the unique personality of a vineyard, encompassing all elements including temperature, soil, atmosphere, wind, and just about everything else present where the grapes are growing. Terroir is the defining component in very expensive, rare wines such as First Growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy.

Texture
The overall feel of a wine in your mouth. Often described as “smooth”, “silky”, or “velvety” in good Pinot Noir, for example. Poor texture can be described as “harsh”.

Thief 
Syringe for taking wine samples through the bunghole of a barrel.

Thin
A wine that is light-bodied and lacks flavor.

Tight
A wine that has many positive elements, yet is not showing its full potential, usually because it is very young. Often a wine that is very complex, has a high concentration of fruit, and is well structured, but is only giving a hint of future greatness, is called "tightly wound".

Tinny 
Metallic tasting.

Tired
Limp, feeble, lackluster

Toasty
A wine tasting description often referring to Chardonnay and Champagne. This is a flavor similar to toasted bread. In Champagne, it is mostly due to the autolysis of the second fermentation. In other wines, it is often due to barrel aging.

Tobacco
An aroma and flavor often found in complex mature Cabernet Sauvignon. It doesn’t mean the wine smells like cigarettes, but probably has hints that remind you of fresh chewing tobacco or an unlit cigar.

Tomatoes (stewed, canned)
Not a sought-after taste or odor, it generally arises from yeast spoilage, such as brettanomyces (dekkera), especially in Pinot Noirs.

Topping Up 
The practice of completely filling casks or tanks with wine to assure that there is no air space in the container.

Transfer Process
Short cut to the Méthode Champenoise which involves a secondary fermentation in a small bottle; here, though, the clearing/separation of the yeasts is handled in a batch-method rather than individually. The end result is that there is usually less of a yeasty character in transfer process sparkling wines than in Méthode Champenoise versions (usually because the yeasts are left in contact longer in the case of the latter than the former).

Tun
Large cask for storing wine. Some may hold enough for 300,000 bottles.  

Ullage
The distance between the cork and the wine as the bottle stands upright. A large ullage in an older wine is normal; a similar level in a younger wine might mean trouble.

Unfiltered
Many wines produced today are filtered to ensure a clear product. Some winemakers also choose to not filter the wine, as they feel filtering may take away from the natural flavor of a wine; thus the wine is “unfiltered”.

Varietal
Any wine that is made from 100% of one grape is called a “varietal” wine. Examples would be Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, or Riesling. If there’s only one grape listed on the label, it likely is a “varietal”.

Vegetal 
Some wines contain elements in their smell and taste which are reminiscent of plants and vegetables. In Cabernet Sauvignon a small amount of this vegetal quality is said to be part of varietal character. But when the vegetal element takes over, or when it shows up in wines in which it does not belong, those wines are considered flawed. Wine scientists have been able to identify the chemical constituent that makes wines smell like asparagus and bell peppers.

Velvety
An adjective describing a wine with REALLY smooth texture. You may also see the term “silky”.

Verdicchio 
An Italian white wine grape that produces a pale, light-bodied, crisp wine.

Vin
French for wine.

Vin De Pays
French term that means "wine of the region or country". Category of ordinary table wines.

Viniculture 
The science or study of grape production for wine and the making of wine.

Vino 
Spanish or Italian for wine.

Vinous 
Literally means "wine like" and is usually applied to dull wines lacking in distinct varietal character.

Vintage
This is the year in which the wine’s grapes were harvested.

Vintage Date 
Indicates the year that a wine was made. In order to carry a vintage date in the United States, for instance, a wine must come from grapes that are at least 95 percent from the stated calendar year. See also non vintage.

Vinted By 
Largely meaningless phrase that means the winery purchased the wine in bulk from another winery and bottled it.

Vin Santo 
An amber-colored Italian white wine, usually sweet and generally consumed with dessert.  Grapes that produce Vin Santo are Trebbiano and Malva.

Vintner 
Translates as wine merchant, but generally indicates a wine producer/or winery proprietor.

Vintner-Grown
Means wine from a winery-owned vineyard situated outside the wineries delimited viticulture area.

Viticultural Area
Defines a legal grape-growing area distinguished by geographical features, climate, soil, elevation, history and other definable boundaries. Rules vary widely from region to region, and change often. Just for one example, in the United States, a wine must be 85 percent from grapes grown within the viticulture area to carry the appellation name. For varietal bottling, a minimum of 75 percent of that wine must be made from the designated grape variety. See also appellation d'origine controls.

Viticulture 
The cultivation of grapes and grape vines.