Wine Terms & Knowledge

For those that seek knowledge

  • Acids
    Acids give wine tartness. Several acids are in the grape before fermentation, and others arise afterward. Acids often make a wine seem “crisp” or “refreshing.”
  • Aeration
    The process of “opening up” the wine by increasing its exposure to oxygen. This is what happens whenever you see someone swirling their wine glass. By splashing wine up against the sides of the glass, it maximizes the wine’s surface area that is exposed to the air. This oxidation process enables the wine to “breathe” by releasing aromas and flavors that may have gone undetected otherwise. Decanters and wine aerators provide enhanced methods to achieve this.
  • Aftertaste
    The taste left on the palate after wine has been swallowed. Also known as a wine’s “finish.”
  • Aging Barrel
    A barrel, most often made of American Oak or French Oak, used to age wine or distilled spirits.
  • Alcohol
    Generally refers to ethanol, a chemical compound found in alcoholic beverages. It is also commonly used to refer to alcoholic beverages in general.
  • A.O.C.
    Abbreviation for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, (English: Appellation of controlled origin), as specified under French law. The AOC laws specify and delimit the geography from which a particular wine (or other food product) may originate and methods by which it may be made. The regulations are administered by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO).
  • Appellation
    You might see this phrase on a wine label. It denotes the place where most of the grapes used in the wine were grown. An appellation of origin can be the name of a country, state, county or geographic region. Federal regulations require that at least 75 percent of the grapes must be grown in the named appellation of origin.
  • Aroma
    The smell of a wine. The term is generally applied to younger wines, while the term Bouquet is reserved for more aged wines.
  • Astringency
    The degree of astringency (how much a wine makes your mouth pucker) depends upon the amount of tannin a wine has absorbed from the skins and seeds of the grapes. A moderate amount of astringency is desirable-it creates a lovely flavor-in many red wine types.
    Abbreviation for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a United States government agency which is primarily responsible for the regulation of wines sold and produced in the United States. Because that is quite a mouthful, they also just use TTB to represent their agency.
  • AVA
    This stands for American Viticultural Area which is a designated wine grape-growing area in the United States. An area must meet certain qualifications such as distinguishable geographic features in order to be designated by the TTB.
  • Balance
    A wine has balance when its elements are harmonious; when no one part dominates. Acid should balance against sweetness; fruit should balance against oak and tannin; alcohol balances against acid and flavor.
  • Balthazar
    A large bottle containing 12 litres, the equivalent of 16 regular wine bottles.
  • Barrel
    Hollow containers generally made from oak, used for fermenting and aging wine. Aging in oak typically imparts desirable flavors such as vanilla, butter and spice into the wine. They are also sometimes called a cask.
  • Baumé
    A measure of the sugar concentration in the juice or wine.
  • Bentonite
    A type of clay used in wine clarification. It removes excessive amounts of proteins and helps induce more rapid clarification in both red and white wines.
  • Blanc
    A French word meaning "white".
  • Blanc de Blancs
    A white wine, usually sparkling, made exclusively from white grapes, often Chardonnay.
  • Blatina
    A red wine grape of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Blending
    The mixing of two or more different parcels of wine together by winemakers to produce a consistent finished wine that is ready for bottling. Laws generally dictate what wines can be blended together, and what is subsequently printed on the wine label.
  • Blind Wine Tasting
    Tasting and evaluating wine without knowing what it is.
  • Blush
    The term blush is generally associated with sweeter white wines that have had either had brief contact (hours) with grape skins, or have been blended with red wine after being fermented to attain their light pink color (See rose). Blush wines are generally produced in North America and Australia and haven't quite caught on in other parts of the world.
  • Bottle
    A bottle is a small container with a neck that is narrower than the body and an opening at the end called a “mouth.” Modern wine bottles are nearly always made of glass because it is nonporous, strong, and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Bottle Shock
    Also known as bottle-sickness, a temporary condition of wine characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile wines) are shaken in travel. After several days the condition usually disappears.
  • Body
    It’s all about how thin or thick the wine feels in your mouth. “Light body” connotes a thin feeling in your mouth. “Medium body” means that a wine is full-flavored, without being too heavy. “Heavy body” means the wine has a robust, round, and very rich feel.
  • Bouquet
    Smells that result from a wine’s aging process. Bouquet can also describe a wine’s overall smell.
  • Brandy
    The term brandy is derived from the Dutch word brandewijn which means burnt wine. It is a spirit that is produced from distilling wine, which means the alcohol content is much higher than traditional wines, generally between 35-60% alcohol by volume. These are traditionally consumed as after dinner drinks. Some brandies get their amber color from aging in wooden casks (barrels), and others are colored with caramel coloring in order to have the "aged look".
    See also burnt wine
  • Bright
    Describes a wine that has high clarity, very low levels of suspended solids.
  • Brix
    A standardized scale to measure the sugar content in grapes before fermentation. Most table wines are harvested between 19 degrees and 25 degrees Brix.
  • Brunello
    Short for Brunello di Montalcino which is a red wine produced in the Italian town of Montalcino. The name was created from the name Bruno, a male given name that means brown, which was assigned to the local grape variety grown in the region. It was later determined that Brunello was not an independent variety but indeed identical to Sangiovese. However, in 1980 Brunello di Montalcino was awarded the first Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation and has over 200 producers in the region producing
  • Brut
    A French term for a very dry champagne or sparkling wine. Drier than extra dry.
  • Bung
    A stopper used to seal a bottle or barrel. Commonly used term for corks.
  • Burnt Wine
    Another name for Brandy, a liquor made from distilled wine. It is often the source of additional alcohol in fortified wines.
  • Butt
    An old English unit of wine casks, equivalent to about 477 litres (126 US gallons/105 imperial gallons).
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
    Cabernet Sauvignon is a variety of red grape mainly used for wine production, and is, along with Chardonnay, one of the most widely-planted of the world's noble grape varieties.
  • Canopy
    The parts of the grape vine above ground, in particular the shoots and leaves.
  • Capsule
    The plastic or foil that covers the cork and part of the neck of a wine bottle.
  • Carbonic Maceration
    The winemaking process that ferments whole grapes that have not been crushed
  • Cellar
    A dark and climate-controlled storage room for wine bottles and barrels in order to protect them from exposure to heat, light, vibrations, and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Wine is susceptible to spoilage if not cared for otherwise.
  • Cellaring
    To age wine for the purpose of improvement or storage. Cellaring may occur in any area which is cool (12-15°C), dark, free from drastic temperature change, and free from vibrations. Bottled wines are typically cellared on their sides.
  • Champagne
    The term reserved for sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. There are a variety of rules that must be followed in order to earn the term, most notably that secondary fermentation inside of the bottle to create carbonation. The primary varieties used in the production of Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier.
  • Champagne Flute
    A piece of stemware with a tall, narrow bowl which may resemble a narrow wine glass. The stem, like other stemware, is designed to enable the drinker to hold the glass without affecting the temperature of the wine. The narrow bowl at the top reduces the surface area of the wine to preserve carbonation of the wine.
  • Chaptalization
    A winemaking process that adds sugar to the must to enable the yeast to produce more alcohol in the fermented wine. It is traditionally done when grapes have not ripened adequately, or in cooler regions where grapes aren't able to produce enough sugar themselves.
  • Chardonnay
    A green-skinned variety used to produce one of the most popular white wines. It originated in the Burgundy region of France, but is now grown all over the world. The Chardonnay grape is known to be very neutral, incorporating much of its flavor from the environment it’s grown in (terroir and the type of oak used, if any). It is also one of the most popular varieties used to make sparkling wine, including Champagne.
  • Charmat Process
    A technique used in making sparkling wine where wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in stainless steel tanks, rather than in individual bottles, and is then bottled under pressure. This is a slightly cheaper way to create sparkling wines than the méthode champenoise process. It is also known as Metodo Charmat-Martinotti (or Metodo Italiano) in Italy, where it was invented and widely used.
  • Château
    A term used for a manor house or country house of nobility or gentry. The word château also means castle in French so when clarification is needed, you may see it as château fort to represent castle.
  • Chianti
    A Chianti wine is not a variety of grape, rather a term used for wines produced in the Chianti region of Italy with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. Historically it has been associated with a squat bottle enclosed within a straw basket, however it is mostly bottled in more standard bottles now. Aged Chianti that has been aged at least 38 months may be labeled as Riserva, and Chianti that meets even stricter requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content, dry extract, and not from the "Classico" sub-area) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore.
  • Claret
    The British name for red Bordeaux wine. It was derived from the French word clairet which was a dark rosé that was the most popular wine exported from Bordeaux until the 18th century. The name was anglicized to claret as a result from its widespread consumption in England during the 12th-15th centuries. The term is not used in France, except for export purposes.
  • Clarification
    Sediments are naturally produced in the winemaking process. Clarification is the process of fining and filtering the wine to remove the unwanted solids which are created from dead yeast cells (lees), bacteria, tartrates, proteins, pectins, tannins, grape skins, stems, and other phenolic compounds. This is generally achieved by using fining agents, filtration and racking the wine off of the solids that naturally fall to the bottom of the wine.
  • Cold Stabilization
    A winemaking process where wine is chilled to near freezing temperatures to encourage the precipitation of tartrate crystals.
  • Cork
    An impermeable material used as a stopper in wine bottles. Traditionally it has been harvested from Quercus suber (Cork Oak), which grows in southwest Europe and northwest Africa. Because of the limited availability and potential problems associated with natural cork, many "new technology" corks have been created over the years. Most notably the synthetic cork, which contains no natural cork materials, but provides the necessary interaction with oxygen to enable wines to age properly.
  • Corked
    A general term used to describe cork taint (a wine fault) characterized by undesirable smells or tastes. Many factors can be responsible for the spoilage, but the cork stopper is generally to blame, hence the name "corked" or "corky".
  • Corkscrew
    A tool used for drawing corks from wine bottles. It is generally constructed from a pointed metallic helix, also called a worm, attached to a handle. The helix is screwed into the cork with the handle and then extracted once it is firmly embedded. There are three popular variations of this:
    • Wing corkscrew which is also called a butterfly or angel corkscrew, has two levers on each side of the helix. A handle at the top is used to screw the worm down into the cork, which raises the levers on each side of the opener. Pushing the levers down raises the worm with the cork attached.
    • Sommelier knife is also known as a wine key or waiter's friend. It is a corkscrew with a foldable body that resembles a pocket knife. They generally have a small collapsible blade used to cut the capsule on one side. A worm can then be folded out and screwed into the cork. An arm extends out to brace against the lip of the bottle. These generally have either one or two notches to aid the operator in extracting the cork. These take a bit more skill to operate and are traditionally used to provide more of a "show" when opening bottles of wine.
    • Two prong cork puller is, as the name suggests, two prongs attached to a handle used to remove a cork from the bottle without damaging it. Two prongs are inserted between the cork and the neck of the bottle and then twisted up and out of the bottle. The reverse process can be used to reinsert the cork into the bottle.
  • Crémant
    Similar to Champagne, Crémant is a designation used for mostly French sparkling wines (there is one designation outside of France, Crémant de Luxembourg). French appellation laws dictate that wines bearing its designation must be harvested by hand with yields that do not exceed its set amount for their AOC and aged for a minimum of one year. Crémant translates to "creamy," which was used to describe their creamy, rather than fizzy, texture.
  • Crust
    Sediment, generally potassium bitartrate, which adheres to the inside of a wine bottle.
  • Cuvaison
    The French term for the period of time during alcoholic fermentation when the wine is in contact with the solid matter such as skin, pips, and stalks, in order to extract color, flavor and tannin. See also maceration.
  • Cuve
    A large vat or tank.
  • Cuvée
    The French term derived from cuve, which means vat or tank. The actual term is used with various meanings all based around the concept of a tank of wine put to some purpose. These range from special blends, to selected vats of wine, the best grape juice, or a batch of wine that has been blended to a specific taste. In Champagne it is used to refer to the first 2,050 liters (541.5 gallons) of grape juice from 4,000 kg (8,818.5lbs) of grapes.
  • Decanter/Decanting
    Decanting mimics the effects of swirling wine around in a glass, allowing it to aerate, or breathe, which releases its aroma compounds. It does not benefit all wines equally however. Darker more tannic wines will benefit more, becoming a bit smoother, but lighter wines such as Chianti or Pinot Noir could actually be harmed by decanting.
  • Disgorging
    This is the process of removing the sediment after riddling. Traditionally this is done by freezing the small plug of sediment in the neck of the bottle and skillfully removing it and topping it up.
  • Dessert Wines
    Although the name may seem simple, the dessert wine label varies from region to region. In the United States, any wine over 14% ABV is considered a "dessert wine." In the UK, any sweet wine that is consumed with a meal takes this designation.
  • D.O.
    Abbreviation for Denominación de Origen, or "place name." This is Spain's designation for wines whose name, origin of grapes, grape varieties and other important factors are regulated by law. Also, it is the abbreviation for dissolved oxygen, the degree of oxygen saturation in a wine, which strongly affects oxidation of the wine and its aging properties.
  • D.O.C.
    Abbreviation for the Italian “Denominazione di Origine Controllata.” This name on a label means the wine was grown and produced within a certain limited area in a regulated way (specific grape varieties used, growing method, winemaking method, aging, etc.). Various regulations and standards for each Italian D.O.C. are determined by producers within that zone, with oversight from Italy’s national wine committee.
  • D.O.C.G.
    Similar to D.O.C., with the “G” standing for “Garantita” or Guaranteed. This certification is also administered by the local producers, but is even stricter than the D.O.C. Traditionally considered the best of the best, the D.O.C.G. classification is reserved for a small portion of all wines from Italy.
  • Dry
    A wine descriptor used to describe wines with very low residual sugars.
  • Eiswein
    A German word meaning ice wine, a dessert wine made from frozen grapes.
  • Enology
    The American English spelling for oenology which is the study of wine.
  • Estate Winery
    A type of winery license which enables the licensed farm the ability to grow, produce and sell their wines on-site. It is also known as a farm winery.
  • Extract
    Everything in a wine aside from water, alcohol, sugar and acidity. The term generally refers to the solid compounds such as tannins which are responsible for the color and body. These can be maximized by prolonging contact with skins and even stems during maceration.
  • Extra Dry
    Commonly used to describe champagne or sparkling wines that have a small amount of residual sugar, making them slightly sweet, but not as dry as Brut.
  • Fault
    An unpleasant characteristic of wine resulting from either the winemaking process or improper storage. Many of the components that cause wine faults are naturally present in wine, but at levels that humans are unable to detect.
  • Fermentation
    The process of turning grape juice into wine. Yeast interacts with sugars in the grape juice to create ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide as a by-product. This process can take anywhere from 5 to 14 days for primary fermentation, and another 5 to 10 days for secondary fermentation.
  • Fining
    This process is generally when a winemaker will add a substance (fining agent), which is generally either an organic compound or solid/mineral material, in order to bond with the suspended particles. This removes soluble substances such as polymerized tannins or proteins which can cause haziness in wine.
  • Flabby
    A general wine term used to describe a wine that is lacking in structure.
  • Flor
    The term Flor is Spanish and Portuguese for flower. It is a film of yeast on the surface of wine which is critical in making specific types of sherry. Sherry is generally produced with airspace left in the barrel, allowing this film of yeast to produce a cap on top of the wine. This gives the sherry its fresh taste with flavors of fresh bread.
  • Fortified Wine
    Wine that has had a distilled beverage added to it (usually brandy) in order to increase the alcohol level. Port and sherry are common wines that are fortified.
  • Free Run
    The juice obtained from grapes that have not been pressed which generally makes up about 60-70% of the juice from the grape. This is generally seen as the higher quality juice.
  • Fruit Wine
    These are fermented alcoholic beverages that are made from any fruit but grapes. The process is very similar, the fruit is juiced and yeast is added to ferment the juice into alcohol. Since the term wine is reserved for alcoholic beverages made from grapes, fruit wines refer to fermented alcoholic beverages made from just about everything else, except beer, mead, cider and perry.
  • Gewürztraminer
    A grape variety used for white wines and known for its aromatic qualities of lychees (a tropical and subtropical fruit tree), passion fruit and floral notes. It has high natural sugar levels and thrives in cooler climates. Because it has a tendency to be sweeter, it offsets spicy foods nicely.
  • Grape Juice
    The juice obtained by crushing grapes. In wine, the unfermented juice is referred to as must.
  • Grenache
    Pronounced gruh-NAHSH
    Although not as popular in the United States, Grenache is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world. It thrives in hot and dry regions such as Spain, Sardinia, South France, and the warm regions of California. Spicy and berry flavors are the general characteristics of Grenache.
  • Green Harvest
    Refers to the harvesting of unripe green grapes, a technique used to try and increase the yield of quality grapes.
  • Hard
    A wine adjective used to describe a wine with overpowering tannins. This is common in young wines as the tannins need time to smooth out in order to become pleasant.
  • Hectacre
    A metric term that represents an area of 10,000 square meters (2.471 acres).
  • Hogshead
    A large barrel that holds 63 gallons (238.47 liters) of liquid, usually wine, ale or cider. With ale, it has been known to hold 54 gallons (204.41 liters).
  • Horizontal Wine Tasting
    A horizontal wine tasting involves tasting a single vintage from various wineries. It's beneficial to limit the type of wine, as well as the region, you are sampling in order to really see the variations in winemaking from the various wineries. Also check out vertical wine tasting.
  • Ice Wine
    A sweet wine that is made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine. The sugars in the grape do not freeze, but the water in the grape does which produces a more concentrated must when pressed. This results in a refreshingly sweet wine that is balanced by high acidity. In Germany it is known as Eiswein.
  • IGT
    Abbreviation for "Indicazione Geografica Tipica", the lowest-ranking of the three categories of Italian wine regulated by Italian law.
  • Jeroboam
    A large bottle which holds 3-5 liters, the equivalent of 4-6 regular (750mL) wine bottles.
  • Jug Wine
    A term used in the United States which refers to inexpensive table wine which has been bottled in a glass jug.
  • Kosher Wine
    A term used to represent wine that has been produced according to Judaism's religious law, specifically Jewish dietary laws (kashrut).
  • Legs
    Also known as tears of wine, legs are one of the most common wine descriptors that you hear. This is the clear liquid near the top of a glass of wine which droplets form and drop back into the wine. Contrary to popular belief, the legs only reflect the alcohol content of the wine, not the quality. To geek out, continue reading:

    Alcohol has a lower surface tension than water. Since wine is essentially a mixture of alcohol and water with dissolved sugars, acids, etc., the regions with a lower concentration of alcohol will pull on the surrounding liquid stronger than the regions with higher alcohol concentrations. In a wine glass where the surface of the wine meets the glass, capillary action (a physical phenomenon where a liquid can flow in narrow spaces due to surface tension. Think of a paint brush that sucks up paint because of the narrow spaces between the hairs in the brush) causes the wine to flow up the glass. As it does, both alcohol and water evaporate, but the alcohol evaporates faster, which causes a decrease in the alcohol concentration. Since alcohol has a lower surface tension, more liquid is drawn up to the higher surface tension areas of the slower water evaporating sides of the glass, resulting in what we perceive as legs. Never thought that high school physics class would come in handy huh?
  • Lightstruck
    A wine term that refers to wines that have had excessive exposure to ultraviolet light. Delicate wines such as Champagne are particularly susceptible to this. The result causes a fault that manifests as a wet cardboard or wet wool flavor and aroma.
  • Litre
    Known in the United States as liter, it is a metric measure of volume equal to 33.8 fluid ounces or 35.2 imperial fluid ounces.
  • Maceration
    One of the first stages in red winemaking where the must is in contact with the grape skins during fermentation. This is the process where the wine extracts the tannins, flavors and coloring agents from the grape skins, seeds and stems. It is during this process where red wine acquires its color. Naturally, this step is actively avoided during production of white wines, unless a blush is being produced, in which case there will be a brief period of contact with skins to obtain the proper color and flavor.
  • Magnum
    A large bottle that holds 1.5 liters, the equivalent of 2 standard 750mL wine bottles.
  • Malolactic Fermentation
    Also known as malolactic conversion or secondary fermentation, this process converts the naturally occurring malic acid, which tastes tart, into softer tasting lactic acid. This generally happens just after primary fermentation, but can also run concurrently with it. Green apples are a good example of the taste of malic acid, while lactic acid has a richer, buttery taste to it.
  • Mead
    Also known as honey wine, mead is a wine-like beverage that is produced from fermenting a solution of water and honey, or brewing the honey and water with grain mash. Additional flavors such as spices, fruit or hops may be added depending on the recipe. The alcohol content of mead generally ranges from 8%-18%. It is commonly believed to be the first type of fermented beverage, dating back to before 2,000 BCE.
  • Merlot
    A very popular wine variety that is grown in just about every wine region of the world. It is the most widely grown variety in the Bordeaux wine regions. The grapes have a dark blue color to them which is where it is widely thought to have originated its name from merle, the French word for blackbird. Merlot based wines generally have a medium body with hints of berries and plum. It also has lighter tannins when compared to other red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Meritage
    A term used to describe wine blends made from at least two of these five red varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. For the whites at least two of these three varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Vert, and Semillon. The Meritage name originated from a contest created to give a brand name to high quality blends, originally from Napa Valley, which failed to have at least 75% of a particular varietal which is required by the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau to use the varietal name on the label. The winning submission, Meritage, is itself a blend of merit and heritage.
  • Micro-oxygenation
    A process which introduces a controlled amount of oxygen into the wine. It aims to mimic the longer natural process of aeration that occurs during barrel maturation. The right amount of oxygen can help to soften the wine and smooth out the sharp tannin flavors.
  • Midpalate
    A wine tasting term used to describe the feel and flavors perceived while wine is still in the taster’s mouth before swallowing.
  • Mouthfeel
    Mouthfeel refers to, as you may guess, the way a wine feels in your mouth. It is usually accompanied by descriptors such as thick or thin, sweet, tannic, chewy, etc. The amount of water contributes greatly to this; hard or crisp wines having lower water levels, while softer wines having higher water levels.
  • Mulled Wine
    A beverage that is usually made from red wine that has been spiced and served hot or warm. It comes in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions.
  • Must
    This comes from the Latin term vinum mustum which translates to "young wine." The term must is used to describe freshly crushed grape juice that still has the skins, seeds and stems in the juice.
  • Négociant
    This is a French word that describes a wine merchant who purchases the produce of other growers and winemakers to sell under their own name.
  • New World Wines
    A term used to describe wines that are produced outside of the traditional Old World wine-growing regions of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. These New World wines include, but are not limited to: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, South Africa and the US.
  • Noble Rot
    A benevolent (good) form of a grey fungus Botrytis cinerea that can infect mostly ripe grapes in moist conditions. If the conditions remain wet, the malevolent (bad) form of the fungus grey rot can destroy the fruit. If conditions dry out and the grapes are picked at the right time, the partially dehydrated grapes can product a very fine and more concentrated sweet wine.
  • Nose
    A term used by those who would describe themselves as wine aficionados to describe the smell or aroma of a wine. The human tongue is very limited in its ability to "taste," only able to perceive acidity, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness and savoriness. All of those other descriptors such as fruity, earthy, bacony (yes, it's actually a word) are perceived through the aroma of the wine in your nose.
  • Oak Chips
    Small pieces of oak wood used in lieu of oak barrels. This method has gained momentum in the recent years and is one we employ here at Abnormal Wine. These can be added at just about any point during the winemaking process and enables the winemaker to greater manipulate the wine by adding a specific amount of oak or even mixing various oaks to add particular tastes to the wine.
  • Oenology
    The term used to describe the science of wine and winemaking.
  • Off-dry
    A term used to describe a wine that has a slight hint of sweetness to it.
  • Old Vine
    A term commonly used to indicate that a wine was produced from grape vines that are notably old. How old is "notably old" you ask? Well, most countries have yet to agree on a legal definition, so any age. Grape vines can grow for over 120 years but start to produce smaller crops after 20 years or so. The most popular usage in the US has been for California's Zinfandels, which a handful are still producing on vines that are 125 years old.
  • Old World Wine
    The exact opposite of New World Wines, in that they are produced within the traditional wine growing areas of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
  • Palate
    A tasting term used to describe the feel and taste of wine to the drinker. Although no actual taste is perceived in the palate, it is common to hear it used for the sense of taste. An example being "a wine having an oaky palate."
  • Petite Sirah
    Also known as Durif, Petite Sirah/Durif is a red wine grape that produces very tannic wines with spicy plum flavor. It was the result of a Syrah plant germinating a Peloursin plant back in the 1860's. It has been a popular variety in Australia, California, France, and Israel.
  • pH
    A measure of the acidity of a water based solution such as wine. A pH level less than 7 is considered to be acidic, while those with a pH greater than 7 are considered to be basic or alkaline. Pure water has a pH level extremely close to 7.
  • Phylloxera
    These are tiny, pale yellow insects related to aphids that feed on the roots and leaves of grapevines. Although they are almost microscopic, these little pests have caused quite a bit of chaos through recent history through the "phylloxera plague." They originally were native to North America but hitched a ride to Europe when botanists in the 19th century imported them for study across the Atlantic. Grapevines in the states had become at least partially immune to the insect, but the European vines were decimated by this little bugger. Estimates put the total loss of vines between two thirds and nine tenths of all European vineyards. The phylloxera were only defeated when European vines were grafted to North American rootstock.
  • Plonk
    A British and Australian English derogatory slang word to represent an inexpensive or poor quality wine. It is believed to have originated from the French word blanc (white). It has evolved from that term to encompass any wine.
  • Pomace
    Also known as marc, this term is used to represent the solid remains of grapes, olives or other fruit left over after pressing. It contains the skins, seeds, pulp and stems of the fruit.
  • Port
    A style of wine that is typically a sweet red wine often served as a dessert drink. It also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties as well. Over 100 different grape varieties are sanctioned for port production, but only five are generally cultivated and used. Port originated in the Douro region of Portugal back in the 1700's. While England was at war with France, wines originating from there were cut off causing wine shipments from Portugal to increase, but spoilage during shipment was a common problem. In order to combat this and improve the shipping and shelf life of wine, they began fortifying it which helps prevent oxidation and spoilage. The average alcohol content of port wines range from 17 to 20%.
  • Porto
    The legal name for port wines that originate from Portugal. Also known as Oporto.
  • Potassium Sorbate
    Potassium sorbate is a white salt that is very soluble in water. Its primary use in wine is to stabilize the wine by killing off yeast and additionally acts as a preservative.
  • Prädikatswein
    Formally Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, this was renamed in 2007 and represents the top level designation of German wines. This term requires indication of which of the 13 accepted wine-growing regions the wine came from on the label.
  • Proof
    Alcohol proof is a measure of alcohol content in a beverage. It was originally used in the United Kingdom back in the 18th century when payments to British sailors involved rations of rum. To "prove" that the rum had not been watered down, they would use it to douse gunpowder and ignite it. If it lit, the rum contained at least 57.15% ABV (alcohol by volume), as that is the lower limit that gunpowder would burn. If it did not ignite, then the rum contained too much water and was considered to be "under proof". This 57.15% is very close to the fraction 4/7 = 0.5714, which was declared to be 100° proof. From here we can convert percentage of alcohol to degrees proof by reversing the fraction, so a 100% alcohol spirit x 7/4 = 175° proof. A spirit containing 25% alcohol x 7/4 = 43.75° proof. 

    This has evolved since the 18th century and adapted in the United States to just be a double value of ABV. So today, a 50% alcohol spirit would be 100 proof. A 100% alcohol spirit would be 200 proof and so on.
  • Punt
    This is the strange indentation on the bottom of a bottle that many people are fascinated with. One of the most mistaken explanations is that it directly correlates to the quality of the wine. This is nonsense, as there is no relation between punt size and quality of wine. Although there is no clear "absolute" explanation for its purpose, some of the many common explanations are: :

    A historical remnant from the time when bottles were free blown using a blowpipe and pontil.

    It makes the bottle less likely to topple over as the surface area is much smaller, enabling the manufacturer to have a larger margin of error in the production.

    It consolidates sediment into a thicker ring at the bottom, reducing the amount of sediment poured into the glass.

    It provides a small grip for a waiter or waitress to rest their thumb while pouring wine.

    The small amount of space enables bottles to be stacked end to end easier.

    It consumes volume of the bottle, thereby increasing the size of the overall bottle, making the bottle more attractive to the consumer.

  • Qualitätswein
    One of the two designations for quality German wines, this being the lower of the two. This designation encompasses 13 different wine-growing regions which must be accompanied on the label. The term is short for Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA).
  • Qualitätswein mit Prädikat
    Renamed August 1, 2007 to Prädikatswein.
  • Quality Price Ratio
    A designation of wine rating based on the price and quality of wine. The higher the quality and lower the price, the higher the ratio.
  • Racking
    The process of removing wine off of its sediment which builds up during various stages of wine production.
  • Reserva
    A Spanish and Portuguese term for a reserve wine.
  • Reserve
    A term traditionally used to represent a "higher quality" wine. It was coined from the way winemakers in the past would "reserve" some of their best wine for aging rather than immediately selling it. Although depending on the region, it may or may not be regulated for its use. Similar to old vines in that many places can use the term without the wine truly being anything special.
  • Residual Sugar
    Just as the name implies, this is the measure of the amount of sugar left over in wine after fermentation. It is generally measured in grams per liter and has a wide range, varying from as low as 1 gram per liter up to over 450 grams per liter.
  • Reverse Osmosis
    A process of removing water from wine at low temperatures rather than exposing the wine to high heat.
  • Riddling
    Known as Rémuage in French, it is a process of creating sparkling wines such as Champagne through fermentation in the bottle. After the wine is bottled, they are placed on special racks called pupitres that hold the bottles at a 45° angle with the tops of the bottles pointing down. Every day or two (depending on the type of wine) each bottle is given a slight shake and turn, then dropped back onto the rack with the angle ever increasing. This causes the sediments to fall down towards the neck of the bottle over a period of 10 days to 8 weeks (again depending on the type of wine). At the end of the cycle, the bottles are facing straight down and the sediments have settled in the neck. At this point the wine is ready for disgorging. This is very much an old world technique and has since been replaced with mechanized riddling equipment.
  • Riesling
    A white grape variety that originated from the Rhine region in Germany. They are commonly associated with sweet wines, but can be found in dry and semi-sweet wines as well. It is usually never oaked, leaving the varietal pure. On average, they are very aromatic featuring flowery aromas and generally high in acid as they perform well in cooler regions. Germany is the top producer of Riesling followed by Alsace in France, Austria, Croatia, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Canada.
  • Rosé Wine
    A wine that has a very short contact period with the grape skins during maceration to incorporate a slight hue into the wine, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. The color can range from a pale onion-skin orange hue to a bright almost purple hue depending on both the technique used and the grape variety used.
  • Ruby Port
    After fermentation, the wine is stored in stainless steel or concrete tanks in order to prevent oxidation aging and preserves its rich color. This keeps the ruby port lighter and generally sweeter than what most people think of when considering port, even though it is the most common style of port produced. The other popular style is a tawny port which is generally thicker.
  • Sangiovese
    Pronounced san-jo-VEH-zeh, this is a red Italian wine grape variety that is probably most known for being the main component in the Chianti blend. While young, Sangiovese displays fresh fruity flavors of strawberry with a hint of spice. When aged in barrels it can take on oaky or even tarry flavors.
  • Sangria
    An alcoholic beverage that generally consists of red wine, chopped fruit and a bit of added sugar or sweetener. They can also sometimes be mixed with brandy, Sprite, 7 Up, etc.
  • Screw Cap
    A relatively new way to seal wine bottles with a metal cap that screws onto threads of bottleneck. This is most popular in Australia and New Zealand where it has overtaken cork to become the most common method of sealing bottles. Screw caps prevent any oxidation by locking out oxygen completely. This is great for many wines that would otherwise degrade over time with exposure to small amounts of oxygen, but may be counterproductive for wines that require a bit of micro oxidation in order to age properly.
  • Secondary Fermentation
    While the name implies a different fermentation, most of the time it's actually just a continuation of the initial fermentation in another container. For example, most primary fermentations begin in a large vat before they are transferred off of the initial sediment into another tank or barrel where they continue to ferment out. The term can also refer to an actual independent fermentation. An example of this would be if a winemaker wanted to boost the alcohol level in a wine without fortifying it. They could add sugar and yeast to wine which would produce another period of fermentation that produces additional alcohol.
  • Sherry
    Sherry is a fortified wine generally produced from the Palomino grape variety and has been well established in the Sherry Triangle, an area located in the Spanish province of Cádiz between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. Sweet Sherries are made from Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes, but can be blended with those made from Palomino grapes. They is generally broken down into three different types of Sherry: Fino, Amontillado, and Oloroso. Fino being the lightest and driest, Amontillado being darker than Fino but lighter than Oloroso, and Oloroso being the darkest. Its golden color is achieved through controlled oxidation during aging. They generally range from 15.5% alcohol to over 17% and have a nutty flavor.
  • Shiraz
    This name has greatly risen in popularity in Australia for the Syrah grape variety. Shiraz and Syrah are indeed the same, but should not confused with Petite Sirah. Syrah/Shiraz is a dark skinned grape that is grown all over the world, and was ranked 7th most planted grape back in 2004. They generally feature concentrated bold flavors and high tannin content. This makes them prime candidates for long aging in order to mellow those out.
  • Sommelier
    Pronounced sum-uhl-YAY

    A person who is trained and knowledgeable in all things wine including but not limited to: wine procurement, development of wine lists, wine storage, food and wine pairings, wine cellar rotation, and proper wine service.
  • Sparkling Wine
    Sparkling wine is simply a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide. Many people call any sparkling wine Champagne, but that term is reserved for only the sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. The carbon dioxide is a result of either natural fermentation in the bottle or tank or from carbon dioxide injection.
  • Spumante
    This is the generic Italian term for sparkling wine.
  • Still Wine
    Still wines are simply any wines that are not sparkling. Easy peasy.
  • Stoving
    This is a method of artificially mellowing wine by exposing it to heat.
  • Sulfites
    That little phrase on wine labels that everyone wrongly blames for their hangover refers to typically two compounds: potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. Sulfites occur naturally in all wines (in small amounts). By adding additional sulfites, winemakers are able to stop fermentation by killing off the yeast, preserve the wine for aging, and protect it from not only oxidation, but also bacteria. Without sulfites, grape juice would turn to vinegar very quickly. Many people think that if it doesn't say "contains sulfites" on the label then there are no sulfites. This is common in organic wines, but unfortunately is not true. The label is simply required for wines that contain more than 10 parts per million.
  • Sweetness of Wine
    The level of sweetness of wine is determined by a few factors: the amount of residual sugar in the wine, alcohol level, acidity and tannins. Residual sugar and alcohol help to enhance a wine's sweetness while acids (sour) and tannins (bitter), counteract it.
  • Table Wine
    A classification of wine that is not sparkling and, here in the US, also falls between 7% and 14% alcohol by volume.
  • Tannins
    These are responsible for that mouth-puckering bitter taste in red wines. They are found mostly in grape skins, seeds and stems and are acquired by the wine during the period of maceration when the juice is in contact with the skins, seeds and stems.
  • Tart
    A wine tasting term that describes a wine with high levels of acidity.
  • Tartaric Acid
    This is one of the main acids found in wine. If you have ever seen wine diamonds, those little crystals that sometimes form on the bottom of a cork, you've seen tartaric acid. This acid helps lower the pH in fermenting must to a level that prevents unwanted spoilage bacteria from growing. It is generally removed from most wines through a process called cold stabilization, which drops wine close to its freezing point in order to cause the crystals to precipitate out of the wine before bottling.
  • Tasting Flight
    This refers to a small sampling, usually between three and eight samples, that are presented to enable people to sample and compare various wines.
  • Tawny Port
    A popular style of port that is made from red grapes aged in wooden barrels which enables the wine to slowly oxidize and evaporate. This turns them from the young rich red color to a golden brown hue. The exposure to oxygen generally adds a nutty flavor to the wine. In general, a tawny port has had at least 2 years in barrels.
  • Terroir
    French for land, it is a culmination of how special characteristics which include, but are not limited to, the geography, geology, and climate of a particular place interact with a plant's genetics, such as a grape vine. In short, it can be described as "a sense of place" embodied in specific characteristics which make up the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production of a particular product.
  • Texture
    This is a wine tasting term used to describe the mouthfeel of wine on the taster’s palate.
  • Toast
    Aside from the obvious use of the word to describe the salute or wishing of good health or fortune while drinking an alcoholic drink, toast refers to the charcoal that is burned into the inside of wine barrels. There are generally three levels of toast: light, medium and heavy which as they sound, relate to the amount of burning that was done on the wood.
  • Transparency
    Contrary to what you may be thinking, this does not refer to how see-through a wine is, but rather the ability of a wine to clearly portray all of the unique aspects of its flavor: fruit, floral and mineral notes.
  • TTB
    A recently shortened acronym for Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Previously ATTTB.
  • Typicity
    This is a wine tasting term that is used to describe how well a wine demonstrates the typical characteristics for that particular varietal.
  • Ullage
    A term that means headspace or the unfilled space in a container. For wine this refers to the headspace of air between the wine and the top of the container it's in. Most of this space will be filled with water vapor and alcohol, but there are instances in non-airtight containers such as barrels, where oxygen can seep into this space. It is this reason that wine barrels need to be topped off in order to manage the oxidation process and prevent spoilage.
  • Unoaked
    As the name implies, this refers to wines that have not had contact with oak. This is more common in white wines.
  • Varietal
    A varietal describes a wine that is primarily made from a single grape variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, etc. In the US this requires at least 75% of the wine to be from that particular grape variety. The remaining 25% can be a blend of others.
  • Vermouth
    Vermouth is a fortified wine that is flavored with various botanicals: roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs and spices. Traditionally there have been two types of vermouth: sweet and dry, but recent winemakers have created new types including white, amber and rose. The process of making vermouth starts with a neutral grape wine. Additional alcohol, along with a special blend of dry ingredients such as herbs, roots, and barks, is then added to the wine. After, it is then sweetened with either cane sugar or caramel.
  • Vertical Wine Tasting
    A vertical wine tasting involves tasting various vintages of the same wine from the same winery. This enables drinkers to experience the variations in the vintages presented. Also see horizontal wine tasting to compare the two.
  • Vigneron
    This is a French word for vine grower.
  • Vin
    This is the French word for wine.
  • Viña
    This is a Spanish word for vines.
  • Viñedo
    This is the Spanish word for vineyard.
  • Vineyard
    A particular site where grape vines are grown for making wine.
  • Vinho
    The Portuguese word for wine.
  • Viniculture
    The branch of horticulture that represents the science, production, and study of wine grapes.
  • Vinification
    This is the process of turning grapes into a finished wine product. This begins with grape selection and ends with a finished wine.
  • Vino
    This is Italian and Spanish for wine.
  • Vintage
    This refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. In the US at least 85% of the wine in the bottle must have been created from grapes harvested from the listed year. If the bottle features an AVA such as Napa Valley, then that minimum goes up to 95%.
  • Vintner
    A person who is involved in winemaking. They can also be referred to as oenologists when they study oenology (the science of wine).
  • Viticulture
    Derived from the Latin word for vine, this refers to the science, production, and study of grapes in general.
  • Vitis Labrusca
    A species of grapevines that are native to the eastern United States. It's also known as the Fox grape, which received its name from the foxy musk which exhibits earthy, redolent aromas, rather from the fox animal. One of the more distinguishing characteristics of this grape is its "slip-skin" that enables the skin to slide off easily when squeezed.
  • Vitis Vinifera
    A species of grapevines that are native to the Mediterranean region, central Europe, and Southwestern Asia. A large majority of the familiar wine varieties belong to this species which grows on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Waiter's Friend
    A type of corkscrew with a foldable body that resembles a pocket knife. They generally have a small collapsible blade used to cut the capsule on one side. A worm can then be folded out and screwed into the cork. An arm extends out to brace against the lip of the bottle. These generally have either one or two notches to aid the operator in extracting the cork. These take a bit more skill to operate and are traditionally used to provide more of a "show" when opening bottles of wine.
  • Wine
    A fermented beverage that is traditionally made from fermented grapes, but also includes other fruits as well.
  • Wine Cave
    A subterranean structure built to store and age wine. Underground storage has many benefits including, but not limited to: energy efficiency, cool temperatures and high humidity.
  • Wine Cellar
    This is a storage room that has been fitted to store wine. Some sort of climate control system is utilized to ensure a cool, dark and humid area to ensure proper storage and aging of wine.
  • Wine Fault
    Also known as a defect or simply a fault, this is a particular characteristic of a wine that can be the result of a mistake during the winemaking process or storage conditions which resulted in some sort of spoilage.
  • Wine Label
    This is the sticker or signage that is on the side of a wine bottle. Since this is generally the only way the consumer is able to get information on the bottle it is a very important resource to convey information such as: type of wine, origin, quality, alcohol content, producer, bottler, or importer.
  • Winemaker
    Also known as a vintner, it is a person who is involved in winemaking.
  • Wine Press
    A piece of winemaking equipment that is used to extract juice from crushed grapes. These generally fall under either a basket type, horizontal screw, bladder, or continuous screw.
  • Winery
    This can be a building, property, or business involved in the production of wine. Just like us, Abnormal Wine Company :)
  • Wine Tasting
    The sensory examination and evaluation of wine. It has greatly expanded into a more informal, recreational activity which may involve a wide variety of terminology to describe the range of perceived flavors, aromas, and general characteristics of a particular wine.
  • Wine Thief
    This is a pipette device used by winemakers to remove small amounts of wine from a barrel, carboy, or tank for testing.
  • Xylem
    One of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants, xylem is the woody tissue of a vine that is responsible for transporting water as well as some nutrients from the roots up towards the leaves.
  • Yeast
    These are the wonderful microscopic unicellular fungi that are responsible for turning grape juice into wine. They convert the sugars found in grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the process of fermentation. The more sugar there is, the higher the potential alcohol level can be, assuming that the yeast are allowed to ferment to dryness.
  • Zymology
    The study of the science of fermentation. It delves into the biochemical processes involved in fermentation, including, but not limited to, yeast and bacteria selection and physiology for fermenting wine or other fermented goods.