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Glossary of Wine Terms

Acidity

Acidity in wine is the word normally used to indicate the quality of tartness or sharpness to the taste, the presence of agreeable fruit acids, an important favorable element in wine quality. Not to be confused with sourness (see “sour”) or with dryness or astringency.

Aperitif Wine

Aperitif is a French word for an appetizer, a drink taken before meals to stimulate the appetite, but in the United States the term “aperitif wine”, as distinguished from “appetizer wine”, usually refers to Vermouths and other wines of the appetizer class which are especially flavored with herbs and other aromatic substances.

Aroma

That part of the fragrance of wine which originates from the grapes used, as distinguished from “bouquet”.

Astringency

The quality of causing the mouth to pucker. Moderate astringency is a desirable quality in many wine types, demanded by many consumers. Not to be confused with dryness. Never call an astringent wine “sour”.

Body

Consistency, thickness or substance of a wine, as opposed to the lack of body in a thin wine.

Bouquet

That part of the fragrance of the wine which originated from fermentation and aging, as distinguished from “aroma”, the fragrance of the grapes.

Brut

Driest of the dry in sparkling wine. No sugar is left after fermentation and no sugar is added.

Cave (or Cellar)

A storage place for wine, which must have an even temperature, a fairly constant coolness, humidity, and ventilation.

Chateau Bottled

Wine that has been made and bottled on the estate where it was grown.

Clos

A vineyard.

Cru

A vineyard or growth.

Cuvee

Usually refers to an especially prepared blend of wines, such as a blend of still wines before secondary fermentation to produce champagne.

Decant

To pour wine gently from the bottle in which crust or sediment has deposited, for the purpose of obtaining clear wine for serving.

Demi-Sec — Semi-Dry

In the United States, this term is used to describe a fairly sweet sparkling wine.

Dry

The opposite of sweet: free of sugar. Dryness should not be confused with astringency, acidity, tartness or sourness. It simply means lacking in sweetness. The wines which uninformed individuals are apt to call “sour” are dry or tart, made with these flavor characteristics especially to blend with the flavors of main course foods. (A Champagne or Sherry labeled “dry” is actually semi-dry, and even an “extra dry” Champagne still may be slightly sweet. Really dry Champagne is labeled “brut” or “nature”; the driest Sherries are labeled “extra dry”).

Extra Dry

In Champagne, slightly less than brut.

Fruity

Having the fragrance and flavor of a familiar fruit, e.g. melon of blackberry.

Mellow

Soft in taste.

Negociant

A shipper of wine. French wine labels usually carry a shipper’s name and his geographical location.

Nutty

English term denoting the characteristic pungent flavor of Sherry. The result of oxidation in wine.

Proprietaire

An owner of a vineyard.

Sec

In other wines than Champagne, denotes a dry wine.

Sour

Disagreeably acid, usually with vinegar (acetic acid). A sour wine is a spoiled wine. Never call a dry, astrigient, or tart wine “sour”.

Table or Dinner Wine

The correct name for all still wines with not over 14% alcohol content by volume. Most dinner (or table) wines are dry, but some, like sweet Sauterne, are actually semi-sweet, while some wines of the dessert or appetizer class, like Sherry, are nearly dry. The class includes the wines sometimes referred to as “light wines”, “dry wines”, or “natural wines”.

Tart

Possessing agreeable acidity; in wine, tartness reflects the content of agreeable fruit acids.

Tawny

Brownish colored. Term applied to Ports which have a brownish or golden tinge instead of the ruby, resulting from the casting of pigment during long aging, filtering or fining, or from the use of grapes not heavy in color.

Varietal

The variety of grape from which the wine is made.

Vin Blanc

White wine.

Vin Rosé

Rose wine.

Vin Rouge

Red wine.

Vintage

The gathering of grapes and their fermentation into wine; also the crop of grapes or wine of one season.

Vintner

One who makes wine.

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