Most Commonly Used Wine Terms


Acid
Acid is a major element in wine to enhance its balance.

Alsace
See Alsace guide.

Appellation d’origine contrôlée
AOC represents France’s highest quality classification of wine. Hence, we selected the name AOC Wines to pay homage to the origin of the wines we enjoy and represent. See about AOC Wines.

Balance
Tasting term. Balance is an indicator of quality – where all elements come together

Barrique
Wooden barrel from France with a capacity of 59 gallons/225 liters.

Bâtonnage
French for stirring of the lees.

Biodynamic viticulture
Method of farming which prohibits the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, other synthetic matters and any filtering. Biodynamic winemaking is one step beyond organic viticulture: using strict schedules in accordance with the cycles of the moon, planets and stars.

Blanc de Blancs
Champagne made from entirely white grapes.

Body
Tasting term. The “volume” of a wine from light to full.

Bordeaux
See Bordeaux guide.

Botrytis Cinerea
A fungus, noble rot, is deliberately cultivated to infect the grape with mold.

Brut
Sparkling unsweetened wine, which is very dry.

Burgundy
See Burgundy guide.

Champagne
See Champagne guide.

Chaptalization
Process of adding sugar before or during the fermentation.

Clean
Tasting term. No tasting defects.

Complex
Tasting term. A wine that contains many different elements of wine with i.e., fruit, flowers, minerals, and scents.

Corked
Tasting term. Spoiled wine that smells damp and/or moldy.

Côte
A slope or hillside used in many regions in France.

Cremant
Sparkling wine made by the Méthode Champenoise.

Cru
Vineyard or group of vineyards, one of recognized quality.

Cru Bourgeois
Bordeaux châteaux that are classified below the Cru Classé. See Bordeaux Classifications.

Cru Classé
The upper classification for the châteaux of the Médoc, which is divided into five tiers.

Demi-Sec
Off dry wine.

Domaine
Wine Estate.

Dry
Tasting term. Opposite of sweet.

Filtration
Finishing process performed before bottling which removes dead yeast and bacteria.

Finish
Tasting term. The finish is the aftertaste. After finish comes the length.

Firm
Tasting term. A wine that tannic.

Grand Cru
Refers to the best vineyard sites usually located on the slopes of Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace.

Green Harvest
The practice of removing unripe bunches of grapes in midsummer in order to reduce the yield per plant and increase the quality.

Hectare
Measurement used in viticulture, approximately 2.5 acres.

Lies (French for Lees)
Heavy sediment consisting of dead yeast cells and other solid matter such as grape, pulp, and pips left in the bottom of a vat, tank or barrel.

Left Bank
See Bordeaux guide.

Length
Tasting term. The length is how long the flavor of the wine prolongs on the palate after it has been swallowed.

Lieu-dit
Often used in Burgundy and Alsace. For a specific named plot of land which is in practice used on labels for vineyards below 1er Cru in rank.

Loire
See Loire guide.

Malolactic fermentation
Process used to reduce acid in wine where malic acid (appley) is altered by natural means to softer-tasting lactic (milky) acid.

Méthode Champenoise
Traditional method for making Champagne in which the second fermentation is in the bottle.

Méthode Traditionelle
Winemakers outside the Champagne region using the Méthode Champenoise.

Midpalate
Tasting term. The midpalate is a term for the taste and feel of a wine when held in the mouth.

Mise en bouteille
Bottled.

Moelleux
Sweet or medium sweet wine.

Négociant
Term to describe a wine merchant that buys grapes or juice and bottles the wine under their own name and label.

New World
Wines produced outside Europe.

Noble rot
See Botrytis cinerea. Conditions of foggy damp, misty mornings followed by warm sunny afternoons. The Noble rot leaves the grapes shriveled, dehydrated and thus rich in sugar.

Nose
Tasting term. The nose of the wine describes the “aromas” of a wine.

Oenology
Science behind wine and winemaking.

Organic Viticulture
Winemaking with no fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals.

Pigeage
Method of submerging the cap of skins and grape solids which is kept in contact with the fermenting wine to increase extract during cuvaison.

Pip
Grape seeds.

Pruning
Essential vineyard practice important in canopy management.

Racking
Process involving the transfer of wine from one vessel into another after fermentation.

Remuage
French for “riddling”, which brings the lees into the neck of the bottle prior to their removal. Step in the production of Champagne involving gradual turning and inversion of the bottle.

Residual
Any substance that remains after fermentation.

Right Bank
See Bordeaux guide.

Sec
French for dry except in case of Champagne where it mean sweet.

Structure
Tasting term. Structure is an aspect of taste.

Sugar
Large collection of organic compounds present in grapes as a result of photosynthesis. Sugar is a substrate utilized by yeast in the production of alcohol, a process known as fermentation.

Sulphites
Compounds that are added to wine to prevent spoilage and oxidation.

Sur lie
French term used to describes a wine that has allowed to lie on its lies for some time before being racked off.

Tannin
Polyphenolic compounds found in grape skins, pips and stalks.

Tart
Tasting term. Too much acid.

Terroir
French for “soil”, the physical environment characteristics that give a wine its uniqueness. A group of vineyards from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine making savoir-faire, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine.

Texture
Tasting term. The texture of a wine describes how the wine feels on the palate.

Toasty
Tasting term. Smelling or tasting of toast.

Tertiary notes
Tasting term. Describes aromas such as mushrooms, truffles, baked meats or tobacco usually inherent to older wines.

Vielles vignes
French for old vines, 30 years and older.

Vin
French for wine.

Vintage
The year the grapes were harvested.

Vinification
The process of making grape juice into wine.

Viticulture
The cultivation of grapes.