Acidity - The essential natural component
which gives wine freshness and zing and prevents it cloying.
Aftertaste - The taste that lingers after
the wine has been tasted.
Aroma - The particular smell of a grape
Artificial - Used to describe wines, part
of whose taste appears to have been created chemically. Also contrived,
Astringent - A characteristic mostly found
in young, red wine. Creates a tactile sensation on the palate.
Attack - An immediate effect which makes
you sit up and take notice.
Austere - A wine which seems difficult to
approach, whose fruit isn't immediately apparent.
Balance - A balanced wine has its
fruitiness, acidity, alcohol and tannin (for reds) in pleasant harmony.
An unbalanced wine has too much of one or more of these. Balance may
develop with age.
Barrel / Bottle age - The length of time a
wine has spent in barrel / bottle.
Blanc de blancs - White wine, particularly
Champagne, made only from white grapes.
Blending - Mixing together different
Body - A full-bodied wine fills the mouth
with flavor. Can also be described as being full, or having weight.
Botrytis - The 'noble rot' of great sweet
white wines. A welcome mould which can creep over ripe grapes at the end
of the summer, enabling winemakers to produce the finest sweet white
wines in the world, most notably Sauternes and Trockenbeerenauslese.
Bouquet - The overall smell of a wine,
often made up of several separate aromas.
Buttery - The rich smell - literally the
smell of fresh butter - often found in good Chardonnay wines and
sometimes associated with wine which has been left on its lees.
Cabernet Sauvignon - The great Bordeaux
Left Bank grape.
Chaptalisation - The process of adding
sugar to must to increase the alcoholic degree of the finished wine.
Chardonnay - The great white Burgundy and
Chenin Blanc - The leading white grape of
Claret - English term for red wine from
Clean - A wine which smells and tastes of
Clos - A wall-enclosed vineyard.
Cloying - The characteristics of poor
sweet wines. A sickly flavor.
Coarse - Probably badly made,
Complex - Some wines have interesting and
complex mixtures of smells and flavors. Multidimensional.
Corked - The unpleasant, musty smell and
flavor caused by an affected cork.
Crisp - Fresh wine, with good acidity.
Cuve close - Sparkling wine created by
re-fermenting the wine in closed tanks rather than in bottles.
Demi Sec - medium to sweet
Domaine - Estate
Dumb - As in 'Dumb Nose' - meaning no
Finish - Wine can taste very different
when you first put it in to your mouth from the way it does just before
you spit it out or swallow it. The finish is the aftertaste.
Flabby - Lacking balancing acidity.
Flor - Yeast that grows on the surface of
some wines, protecting the wine from the air.
Fortified Wine - Wine which has grape
spirit added before fermentation is complete.
Gamay - The only grape for red Beaujolais.
Gamey - A meaty smell, reminiscent of hung
Gewürztraminer - Aromatic, spicy white
Grenache - Peppery flavored Rhône grape
Hot - Highly alcoholic wine can be 'hot',
either because of high natural sugar in the harvested grapes (e.g. from
a hot climate), or poor winemaking.
Late harvest - Late-harvested grapes
contain more sugar and concentrated flavors.
Lie (or lees) - The solid matter (yeast
etc.) which drops to the bottom of casks or vats of newly-made wine.
Length - The length of time bouquet and
flavor linger after swallowing.
Macération Carbonique (or whole berry
fermentation) - The method of winemaking used for Beaujolais and some
other young-drinking wines by which the grapes begin to ferment,
uncrushed and oxygen-free, beneath a layer of carbon dioxide.
Merlot - The soft Bordeaux grape (Right
Methode Champenoise - The method of
sparkling wine production used in Champagne.
Mousse - The sparkle in fizzy wine.
Müller-Thurgau - Early ripening,
high-yielding white grape variety.
Muscat - Perfumed grape variety. Generally
for sweet wines.
Must - Unfermented grape juice.
Négociant - Merchant who buys in wine from
growers and bottles it for sale.
Nose - Smell or aroma
Oaky - The flavor imparted by oak casks.
Oxidized - Wine the air has 'got at' and
Palate - The taste, and what you taste
Petrol - A not unpleasant overtone often
found in maturing Riesling.
Phylloxera - Bug which attacks vine roots.
Pinot Noir - The great grape of red
Burgundy and Champagne.
Racy - Crisp, lively wine
Riesling - Noblest of the German grapes.
Sauvignon Blanc - The great grape of the
upper Loire and New Zealand. Called Fumé Blanc in America.
Sec - Dry
Sémillon - The luscious grape of great
Soft - Smooth, mellow, easy-to-drink, not
Spritz - Slight sparkle, or faint fizz,
also called Pétillant.
Stalky (or Stemmy) - The flavor of the
stem rather than the juice.
Steely - Firm, characterful wine with good
Structure - Wine with good structure is
like a well-designed building: all parts fit together harmoniously. Wine
with poor structure is probably falling apart.
Sulphur dioxide - Bacteria-killing
chemical used in winemaking. Over-sulphured wines can smell of bad eggs
and may irritate the back of the throat when sniffed.
Sur lie 'On the lees' - Wine bottled
straight from the fermentation vat or cask to impart extra taste.
Shiraz (Syrah) - Deep colored,
smoky-flavored Rhône grape.
Tannin - The substance in red wine which
comes from the grape skins, stems, and pips and gives the mouth-drying
sensation. Necessary for red wine to age.
Tart - Generally over-acid.
Terroir - The term used to describe the
growing conditions of the grape, such as the soil, drainage,
microclimate, and exposure to the sun.
Tired (or tiring) - Wine which has seen
Tröcken - Dry
Varietal - Used to describe wines made
from specific grape varieties, sold under the name of those grapes e.g.
Vielles vignes - Wines from mature vines.
Vin de pays - The lowest category of
French wine - 'country wine'.
Vinification - Turning grapes into wine.
Vintage - A single year's grape harvest;
the wine of a single year.
Yeast - Organism that causes grape juice