The acidity level in a wine is critical to its enjoyment and livelihood. The natural acids that appear in wine are citric, tartaric, malic, and lactic. Wines from hot years tend to be lower in acidity, whereas wines from cool, rainy years tend to be high in acidity. Acidity in a wine can preserve the wine’s freshness and keep the wine lively, but too much acidity, which masks the wines flavors and compresses its texture, is a flaw.


As the term suggests, the taste left in the mouth when one swallows is the aftertaste. This word is a synonym for length or finish. The longer the aftertaste lingers in the mouth (assuming it is a pleasant taste), the finer the quality of the wine.
acidic: Wines need natural acidity to taste fresh and lively, but an excess of acidity results in an acidic wine that is tart and sour.


The aging of wine, and its ability to potentially improve wine quality, distinguishes wine from most other consumable goods. While wine is perishable and capable of deteriorating, complex chemical reactions involving a wine’s sugars, acids and phenolic compounds (such as tannins) can alter the aroma, color, mouthfeel and taste of the wine in a way that may be more pleasing to the taster. The ability of a wine to age is influenced by many factors including grape variety, vintage, viticultural practices, wine region and winemaking style. The condition that the wine is kept in after bottling can also influence how well a wine ages and may require significant time and financial investment.


associazione italiana sommeliers (Italian sommelier association)

Alcoholic fermentation

The action of yeast uponsugar results in its conversion to ethylalcohol, with carbon dioxide as a by-product. Fermentation will often start naturally with yeasts on the grapes, but cultured yeasts may be added. The process generates much heat, and temperature control during alcoholic fermentation can have a significant effect on the style of wine produced. The process will cease either when all the sugar has been consumed, or more likely when the increasing alcohol content of the fermenting solution kills the yeast, or when the external temperature drops too low. It may also be arrested by adding sulphur or byfortification with spirit.


This adjective describes the bouquet of a wine obtained from aromatic grapes (muscats, malvasie, brachetti and gewürztraminer). This is the first term considered since it identifies the vine of origin as well as the type of wine.


Refers to a wine which gives a strong and prevalent unpleasant sensation of roughness and dryness in the mouth. It usually occurs in wines too rich in tannins, which consequently present flaws in taste.


Means that a wine is strictly from the wine zone or geographical definition attached to it.


Barrique is a wooden barrel, the design of which originated in Bordeaux, France. It has a capacity of 225 liters. It can now be found in the cellars of winemakers worldwide, especially those involved in producing Bordeaux-style blends of quality. The longer a wine spends in barrel the more of the oak flavor it will take on. Strong flavors also result when the alcoholic fermentation takes place en barrique.


The term for stirring of the lees which is employed to impart body and flavor to the wine.


Body is the weight and fullness of a wine that can be sensed as it crosses the palate. full-bodied wines tend to have a lot of alcohol, concentration, and glycerin.

Botrytis cinerea

Latin name for one of many molds which attacks grapes on the vine. Under the proper conditions and at the proper time, this mold will often have a beneficial affect upon the resulting wine’s quality. Grapes affected beneficially by the mold, called noble rot, may smelI more or less like saffron, peaches or apricots.


A term used to describe a dry wine (usually Champagne or other sparkling wine done with champenoise method), although even dry wines are not generally devoid of sugar, and there may be up to 15 g/l of sugar added as dosage before final bottling. The term for one of the driest types of sparkling wine in a company’s line. Only Brut de brut (or zero, or dosage zero or pas dosé) is drier, because is without liqueur d’expedition.


The mass of skins, pips and other solid matter that rises to the surface of the wine during alcoholic fermentation. Crushing helps to keep the solid matter mixed in with the wine, imparting colour, flavour and tannin.

Cold fermentation

A method of fermenting grape juice into wine at lowered (c. 55 degrees F.) temperatures in order to conserve as much primary and secondary fruit character as possible. This method produces many of the world’s most approachable wines.


Specifically means growth, but is applied to French wines that meet a certain standard of terroir and winemaking practices.


Denominazione di origine controllata (e garantita). The Italian quality designation based on grape variety and origin. Garantita implies better quality.

Double decanting

This is done by first decanting the wine into a decanter and then rinsing the original bottle out with non-chlorinated water and then immediately repouring the wine from the decanter back into the bottle. It varies with the wine as to how long you cork it.


May be used in both a negative and a positive sense; however, I prefer to use earthy to denote a positivearoma of fresh, rich, clean soil. Earthy is a more intense smell thanwoody or truffle scents.


An ultra-concentrated sweet wine made from grapes that have been allowed to linger on the vine until the first frost freezes the grapes. This is a rare and natural occurrence and does not include artificially frozen grapes.


This adjective indicates the bouquet traceable to wax scent, sealing wax, iodine, medicines, plastic, soap, enamel and many more, caused by the formation of acetals, ethers and ethers, deriving respectively from various combinations of alcohols with aldehydes, other alcohols and acids.


A finishing process, performed before bottling. The wine is filtered in order to remove solid impurities, such as dead yeast cells. Although it may help to clarify the wine, it is also accused of stripping wine of flavour and character, and there is a vogue towards very light filtration or even no filtration at all. It differs from fining which removes soluble materials.


Freshness in both young and old wines is a welcome and pleasing component. A wine is said to be fresh when it is lively and cleanly made. The opposite of fresh is stale. fruity: A very good wine should have enough concentration of fruit so that it can be said to be fruity. Fortunately, the best wines will have more than just a fruity personality.

Full bodied

A wine with significant weight in the mouth. This is related to the alcohol content, the residual sugar as well as other factors.


A large format bottle, equivalent to two standard bottles. See my advisory page on wine bottle sizes for more information.

Malolactic fermentation

This is completely separate from the alcoholic fermentation, which results from the action of yeast uponsugar, producing alcohol. The malolactic fermentation, which is a bacterial process, results in conversion of the sharp tasting malic acid to the softer lactic acid. Whether a winemaker permits or blocks the malolactic depends on the style of wine he/she aims to make. Most red wines, and some whites depending on the style, undergo malolactic fermentation.


A large format Champagne bottle, equivalent to twenty standard bottles (15 liters).


Term used to indicate a wine that has been made to capture the ultimate in freshness and fruit character but which seldom has any aging potential. Nouveaux are usually made by carbonic maceration and are usually released for sale earlier than other wines.


A vine louse which devastated the vineyards of Europe in the late 18th Century. The cause of the disease was initially uncertain, but eventually the Phylloxera vastatrix louse was identified on the roots of the affected vines. It was imported from North America, where the indigenous American Vitis labrusca vines are resistant to the effects of the louse. The solution: graft the European Vitis vinifera vines onto Americanrootstock. Now, save for a tiny proportion of vineyards, all vines are grafted onto such rootstock before planting. This caused many difficulties – no longer could cash-strapped vignerons propagate vines by pushing a runner into the soil – they had to purchase more expensive grafted vines from the nursery. Some vignerons today continue to plant ungrafted material, because of heritage (such as the vines for Bollinger’s Vieilles Vignes Française Champagne), expense, because of a belief that ungrafted vines make better wine, or because they have suitable soils – Phylloxera dislikes sandy soils.


A winemaking technique of punching down the cap of grape skins that forms during the beginning of the wine’s fermentation. This is done several times a day, occasionally more frequently, to extract color, flavor, and tannin from the fermenting juice.g it using boards laid across the top of the vat.


A wine rack which holds bottles in a suitable position for remuage. Only for Champagne or Champenoise methods.


The process of draining wine from a holding tank in order to separate it from the sediment that has collected at the bottom. This also serves to aerate the wine.


The new alternative to sealing a wine with cork which, in case you hadn’t realised, is tree bark. Another alternative is to use a synthetic cork. Why? Because cork, being a biological material, cannot be sterilised, and the fungal infections it harbours result in tainted (‘corked’) aromas which ruin about (figures vary) 5% of all bottles.

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.


The tannins of a wine, which are extracted from the grape skins and stems, are, along with a wine’s acidity and alcohol, its lifeline. Tannins give a wine firmness and some roughness when young, but gradually fall away and dissipate. A tannic wine is one that is young and unready to drink.

Vitis Vinifera

This is the one. The vinifera species includes all our favourites – Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Mourvèdre, Gewurztraminer, and so on. The species from which all the world’s fine wines are made – even if they have to be grafted onto other rootstock in order to survive.