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GLOSSARY of WINE TERMS, A-C

 
 
           
 

Bunch of grapes

AC - Appellation Contrôlée: (see AOC, below).

Acidity: A naturally occurring component of every wine; the level of perceived sharpness; a key element to a wine's longevity; a leading determinant of balance.

Alcohol: The end product of fermentation; technically ethyl alcohol resulting from the interaction of natural grape sugars and yeast; generally above 12.5% in dry table wines.

"Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried with fewer tensions and more tolerance."

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790),
American publisher and diplomat.


"A bottle of wine begs to be shared; I have never met a miserly wine lover."

Clifton Paul Fadiman (1902-1999),
intellectual, author, and radio personality.

Alsace: A highly regarded wine region in eastern France renowned for dry and sweet wines made from Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and others.

Amarone: A succulent higher-alcohol red wine hailing from the Veneto region in northern Italy; made primarily from Corvina grapes dried on racks before pressing.

AOC: Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (see Classifications), a French term for a denominated, governed wine region such as Margaux or Nuits-St.-Georges.

Apéritif: An alcoholic beverage consumed before a meal to stimulate the appetite, such as sparkling and fortified wines.

Aroma: A scent that's a component of the bouquet or nose; i.e. cherry is an aromatic component of a fruity bouquet.

Astringent: The tannins, or acid, or combination that leaves a mouth-drying feeling. Tannin will usually decrease with age. A little bit of astringency is to be expected in robust, rich, full-bodied red wines.

AVA: American Viticultural Area; a denominated American wine region approved by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Bacchus: The Roman god of wine, known as Dionysus in ancient Greece; a hybrid white grape from Germany.

   
 
 

Balance: The level of harmony between acidity, tannins, fruit, oak, and other elements in a wine; a perceived quality that is more individual than scientific.

Balthazar: Champagne or wine bottle with a 12-liter capacity.

Barrel aged: Wines that are fermented in containers such as stainless steel, and then placed into wooden barrels for maturation. It may also refer to wines that are both fermented and aged in the barrel.

Barrel fermented: A process by which wine (usually white) is fermented in oak barrels rather than in stainless steel tanks; a richer, creamier, oakier style of wine.

Barrique: French for "barrel," generally with a capacity of 225 liters (equal to 300 bottles).

Batonnage: Stirring the lees with a stick to increase flavor extraction.

Beaujolais: A juicy, flavorful red wine made from Gamay grapes grown in the region of the same name.

Beaujolais Nouveau: The first Beaujolais wine of the harvest; its annual release date is the third Thursday in November.

Big: Used to describe wines that are very full or very intense.

Blanc de Blancs: The name for Champagne made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.

Blanc de Noirs: The name for Champagne made entirely from red grapes, either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or both.

Blend: The process whereby two or more grape varieties are combined after separate fermentation; common blends include Côtes du Rhône and red and white Bordeaux.

Blush: A wine made from red grapes but which appears pink or salmon in color because the grape skins were removed from the fermenting juice before more color could be imparted; more commonly referred to as rosé.

Bodega: Spanish for winery; literally the "room where barrels are stored."

Body: The impression of weight on one's palate; light, medium and full are common body qualifiers.

Bordeaux: A city on the Garonne River in southwest France; a large wine-producing region with more than a dozen subregions; a red wine made mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc; a white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.

Botrytis cinerea: [boh-TRI-tihs sihn-EHR-ee-uh] A beneficial mold that causes grapes to shrivel and sugars to concentrate, resulting in sweet, unctuous wines; common botrytis wines include French Sauternes, Hungarian Tokay, and German beerenauslese. (see Botrytis cinerea)

Bouquet: The sum of a wine's aromas; how a wine smells as a whole; a key determinant of quality.

Breathe: The process of letting a wine open up via the introduction of air. (see also Decant)

"My manner of living is plain and I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready."

George Washington (1732-1799),
first President of the United States.


"In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary."

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961),
American author, from A Moveable Feast.

Bright: A wine can be visually bright, have bright aromas, or flavors. In each instance the wine is perceived vividly.

Brix: A scale used to measure the level of sugar in unfermented grapes. Multiplying brix by .55 will yield a wine's future alcohol level.

Brut: A French term ("very dry") used to describe the driest champagnes, ciders, or sparkling wines — with less than 15 grams of sugar content per liter.

Brut nature: Totally dry, i.e.: 0 grams of sugar content per liter. (see Extra Brut)

Burgundy: A prominent French wine region stretching from Chablis in the north to Lyons in the south; Pinot Noir is the grape for red Burgundy, Chardonnay for white.

Cabernet Franc: A red grape common to Bordeaux; characteristics include an herbal, leafy flavor and a soft, fleshy texture.

Cabernet Sauvignon: A powerful, tannic red grape of noble heritage; the base grape for many red Bordeaux and most of the best red wines from California, Washington, Chile and South Africa; capable of aging for decades.

Cap: Grape solids like pits, skins and stems that rise to the top of a tank during fermentation; what gives red wines color, tannins and weight.

Carbonic maceration: A process commonly used with young fruity wines such as Beaujolais Nouveau, where grapes at the bottom of the vat are gradually crushed under pressure from the top grapes, releasing CO2 to ferment the top grapes in their skins.

Cava: Spanish for "cellar," but also a Spanish sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style from Xarello, Macabeo and Parellada grapes.

Cave: Basement, cellar, wine cellar.

Caveau: A wine-tasting cellar.

Cave à vin: Wine cellar, wine storage cabinet.

Cépage: Variety of vine. Some well-known varieties include: Cabernet-Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay, Grenache, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Syrah, etc. (see list)

Chablis: A town and wine region in the northernmost sector of Burgundy (east of Paris) known for steely, minerally Chardonnay. The name "Chablis" has also been used on bottles of generic-quality American-grown white wine with no connection to the French region (see foreign branding).

Champagne: A denominated region northeast of Paris in which Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes are made into sparkling wine. Also the name of sparkling wine which is made by the méthode champenoise.

Chaptalization: The process of adding sugar to fermenting grapes in order to increase alcohol.

Character: A description when the wine is perceived as being solid and having substance.

Chardonnay: Dry white table wine resembling Chablis but made from Chardonnay grapes. Arguably the best and most widely planted white wine grape in the world.

Château: French for "castle"; an estate with its own vineyards. However, not all wine producers using Château on their wine labels actually have a castle.

Chenin Blanc: A white grape common in the Loire Valley of France.

"He talked with more claret than clarity."

Susan Ertz (1894 - 1985),
English (American-born) short story writer and novelist.


"I feast on wine and bread, and feasts they are."

Michelangelo (1475-1564),
Renaissance sculptor,
architect, painter, and poet.


"Hide our ignorance as we will, an evening of wine soon reveals it."

Heraclitus of Ephesus (ca. 535-475 B.C.),
Greek philosopher.

Chianti: A scenic, hilly section of Tuscany known for fruity red wines made mostly from Sangiovese grapes.

Clairet: n.m. — A light red or deep rosé wine. adj. Ruby-red (color of clairet wine).

Claret: An English name for dry red Bordeaux or Bordeaux-like wine.

Clarity: Refers to the cloudiness or sediment in a wine.

Classification of 1855: A system of classifying the quality of France's best Bordeaux wines, requested from wine industry merchants by Napoleon III for the benefit of visitors to the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris. The result was the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

Clos: Pronounced "cloh," this French word once applied only to vineyards or orchards surrounded by walls, but now can connote any wine brand, vintner, or estate — as in Clos Pitois, Clos Saint Martin, etc.

Color: A key determinant of a wine's age and quality; white wines grow darker in color as they age while red wines turn brownish orange.

Compact: Used when a wine is intense, but not full.

Complex: Describes a wine with multiple layers of flavors and bouquet that are well balanced. A common attribute of a classic wine.

Cooperative: A winery owned jointly by multiple grape growers.

Corked wine: A wine with musty, mushroomy aromas and flavors resulting from a cork tainted by TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole).

Cork taint: (see Corked wine) The presence of TCA can be caused by the cork tree's exposure to pesticides, or by the chlorine bleaching process used to sterilize corks. The latter cause has led to the increasing adoption of methods such as peroxide bleaching.

Crianza: A Spanish term for a red wine that has been aged in oak barrels for at least one year.

Crisp: The acidity gives the wine a clean feel in your mouth. Often crisp wines are light in body.

Cru: A French term for ranking a wine's inherent quality, i.e. cru bourgeois, cru classé, premier cru and grand cru.

Cuvaison: Maceration of the grape skins during fermentation of red wine in order to transfer aroma, color, and tannin to the wine.

Cuve: A vat or tub used for winemaking.

Cuvée: A specific vat of wine selected for its quality.

Cuver: v. To ferment wine in a vat. Also: expr. To sleep off (~ son vin / one's drunkenness).

Cuvier: The building within a château where the wine is made.

NEXT PAGE » Wine Dictionary D-H

 
 

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