Glossary of useful wine terms

  • Acidity: An important structural component of wine that contributes to its overall quality.
  • Acids: Found in the grape, they include tartaric, malic (see Malolactic Fermentation) and citric acids. They are essential to the structure of a wine, give it freshness, prevent bacteria and can enhance the potential for bottle ageing.
  • Ageing: All wines are aged to some degree, from Nouveau wines (a few days) to ports (decades). Many wines are aged in oak barrels, which if new will impart flavors and tannins to the wine. Wines can also undergo an ageing process in the bottle.
  • Alcohol: All wines have alcohol, which is produced by the action of yeast on natural sugars present in the grapes.
  • Alcohol Content: The amount of alcohol present in a drink, usually expressed as a percentage of volume. In wine it commonly ranges from eleven to fifteen per cent (Dry Wine) and from fourteen to eighteen per cent (Sweet Wine).
  • Arak: Lebanese eau de vie produced with distilled wine and aniseed.
  • Aroma: Simply, the smell of a wine; but when used as a tasting term it is used to express the flavors given off by the fermented grapes and the ageing.
  • Blanc de Blancs (Fr): Widely used term to describe a white wine made from white grapes.
  • Blend: A combination of grape varieties used in a particular wine.
  • Bottle Ageing: the process by which the tannin molecules in the bottled wine react to create a softening of the wine to create a more balanced taste.
  • Cave (Fr): See Cellar.
  • Cellar: Any room where wine is made or stored.
  • Cepage (Fr): French term for grape variety
  • Château (Fr): French word for castle, although it has come to be used by many wineries who do not own one. It is also often used to describe a winery’s premium wine.
  • Cork: The name given to the stopper used to seal wine in the bottle and keep the air out. Often made from the bark of the cork oak tree, found mainly in Portugal.
  • Corked: A term used to describe a wine that has gone off as a result of a bad or diseased cork.
  • Cuvée (Fr): Vague term used to describe a particular lot or blend.
  • Fermentation (or Alcoholic Fermentation): The process of turning the grape sugar into alcohol through the activity of yeast.
  • Finish: The effect of the wine in the mouth after it has been swallowed or spat.
  • Grape: The only fruit from which real wine can be made.
  • Harvest: The picking of the grapes after they have reached suitable maturity and the transferring of them to the winery, where wine production can begin. In the northern hemisphere this normally takes places between September and October; between March and April in the southern hemisphere..
  • Hectare: Unit of land equivalent to ten thousand square meters and one which is commonly used to express the size of vineyards.
  • Hectoliter: Unit of volume equivalent to one hundred liters and often used to express a vineyard’s output.
  • Maceration: The time, during which the broken skins are in contact with the juice, determing the colour, flavour, tannin content and aroma of the wine.
  • Malolactic Fermentation: A secondary process more common in reds than whites, which may occur after the initial alcoholic fermentation; in it, malic acid is transformed into a softer lactic acid with secondary flavor production.
  • Mistelle: French term for grape juice in which fermentation has been stopped by the addition of alcohol. Mistelle is very sweet as only small amounts of the grape sugars are converted to alcohol.
  • Must: The state of grape juice before the fermentation process
  • Nouveau (Fr): Literally, new wine, made for immediate drinking just days after harvest.
  • Oak: Wood used, either in the form of barrels or chips, to age wine; imparts a vanilla flavor to complement the fruits present in the wine.
  • Oxidation: A chemical reaction that, when controlled (e.g. in the barrel) can promote the maturing process but which can quickly render a wine undrinkable if there is prolonged exposure to oxygen.
  • Pressing: Action to extract the juice before alcoholic fermentation Rosé: A light pink wine made from red grapes.
  • Tannins: The natural chemical substances found in the grape skin that contribute to the structure and ageing potential of a wine.
  • Terroir (Fr): Term used to describe the natural conditions – soil, climate, geography – in which vines grow.
  • Varietal: wine made from one grape, e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Vat: Any tank used to store wine, usually made of stainless steel, concrete, fiberglass or wood.
  • Vinification: The art of turning grapes into wine.
  • Viticulture: The cultivation of vines.
  • Vintage: The year in which the grapes used in a particular wine are harvested.
  • Wine: Fermented grape juice.
  • Yeast: Naturally occurring bacteria that produce the enzymes that promote the fermentation process that turns sugar to alcohol.
  • Yield: The amount of grapes produced in a vineyard, usually expressed in volume per unit area, such as tonnes per hectare.