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The Wine Doctor - Vintner terms
Category: Food and Drink > Wine terms
Date & country: 01/02/2011, USA
Words: 146

(Germany) Means 'bottled by', and will be followed on the label by information regarding the bottler. Related terms include erzeugerabfüllung and gutsabfüllung.

(France) Often abbreviated to AC or AOC, this is the highest legal classification for French wine, above Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure, Vin de Pays and Vin de Table. In order to qualify for the AC, wines must be produced from grapes grown within a geographically defined area, and conform to regulations concerning grape varieties, yields, alcoh...

This volatile acid is one that contributes to the acidity of a wine. In small amounts it can also 'lift' the palate and accentuate aroma and flavour. In excess it produces a vinegary taste. It may also be the product of bacterial spoilage, which is how wine turns to vinegar if left unprotected from such bacteria.

A wine's acidity should be detectable as a sharpness in the mouth, particularly around the front sides of the tongue. It should be neither too obvious nor absent. It provides a refreshing sensation in white wines, and balance in reds. Its absence makes a wine dull and 'flabby' - a defect in any wine, but a disaster in sweet wines which to me becom...

The taste left on the palate after the wine has been swallowed. The persistence of the aftertaste - the length - may be used as an indicator of the quality of the wine.

There are many different compounds that may be described as 'alcohol'. Here we are referring to ethyl alcohol, the product of alcoholic fermentation of sugar by yeast. It's presence is measured in percent volume (or "proof").

The action of yeast upon sugar results in its conversion to ethyl alcohol, 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...

(Spain) A true Amontillado Sherry is a matured Fino. When the flor dies and sinks to the bottom of the butt the wine loses its protection from oxidation conferred by the coating of yeast, and it begins to deepen and develop a rich, nutty flavour. Cheaper Amontillado is made by fortifying the wine, killing the yeast.

(Germany) The Amtliche Prüfnummer (or AP number) is a unique code assigned to each individual bottling of quality wine produced by every winemaker in Germany. For more information see my German wine guide.

(Hungary) The aszú are the grapes collected in 25kg lots in baskets known as puttonyos in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region of Hungary. The grapes have undergone noble rot and are thus very sweet. Once crushed the pulp is added to a gönc of the normal wine - the more that are added, the sweeter the wine.

(Hungary) This is a rare wine, made only from the free-run juice of the nobly rotten grapes in the puttonyos baskets.

(Austria) A Prädikat category for sweet wines from Rust in Austria. The grapes have undergone noble rot and have a must weight of more than 27 KMW.

(Germany, Austria) A Prädikat category for sweet wines. The Auslese designation is conferred if the must weight, measured prior to the wine being made and bottled, reaches a certain level. The legally required value differs from region to region and also between countries. For example, Mosel Auslese begins at 83 Oechsle whereas Austrian Auslese is ...

A term used to describe a wine that is unforthcoming - often they are young, tannic wines. They give little pleasure at the time, but it is likely that they will improve with age.

(USA) Abbreviated to AVA, this term describes a geographically defined region for growing grapes.

A tasting term. Wines described as backward are undeveloped and not ready to drink. They are often young and tannic, and may also be described as austere. The opposite, unsurprisingly, of forward!

A tasting term. Wines said to have balance have a harmonious combination of tannin, acidity, texture and flavour. This is a vital attribute.

(France) The barrique is a wooden barrel, the design of which originated in Bordeaux, France. It has a capacity of 225 litres. 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 flavour it will take on. Strong fl...

(France) A scale for must weight. This is a hydrometric method - meaning that the sugar concentration (and therefore potential alcohol) is calculated from measuring the density of the must. Other scales include Brix, Oechsle and KMW. My article on must weight in my Sweet Wine series gives more information.

(Germany, Austria) A Prädikat category for sweet wines. A Beerenauslese is made from individually harvested nobly rotten grapes. See also Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein.

A clay that can be used as a fining agent.

An extension of organic viticulture, taking into account the effect of the moon and planets on the health of the vines. Based on the principles of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Read more about biodynamics in my profile of one of it's most ardent exponents Nicolas Joly at Clos de la Coulée de Serrant.

A tasting term. A wine with plenty of flavour, alcohol, extract and tannin may be described as full bodied. It is a less specific term than texture.

A vine treatment, comprising copper sulphate, slaked lime and water. The mixture is sprayed onto the vines to treat downy mildew. It is permitted for use in organic and biodynamic vineyards.

The cause of Noble Rot, Botrytis cinerea is a fungus which, under suitable conditions, attacks grapes on the vines, leaving them shrivelled and dehydrated. For many grapes this can be a disaster, but the process is also invaluable in the production of sweet wines in Bordeaux, Austria, Germany and Tokaji. In unfavourable conditions the fungus is the...

A measure of sugar content in grape juice, used particularly in the New World. My article on must weight in my Sweet Wine series gives more information.

This term describes the processes used in the care of the leaf canopy, such as pruning, trimming and leaf thinning. There can be a number of benefits in altering the microclimate in this way, such as increased exposure of foliage to the sun which improves photosynthesis, and reduced moisture within the canopy, therefore protecting against rot.

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

A centrifuge is a rapidly spinning device for the purpose of separating out mixed materials. It has found in use in the winery as it may be used to clarify the must. It may also be used to separate out fractions of the liquid must, which has led to its use as a dealcoholisation tool. Also known as a spinning cone.

A winery run and owned by a group of local winemakers. Quality varies - some can turn out high quality wines, others produce little of interest.

This process merely involves chilling wine prior to bottling. This causes tartaric acid to crystallise out, thereby avoiding the formation of tartrate crystals, specifically potassium hydrogen tartrate, when the wine is in the bottle.

(Portugal) An aged tawny Port from a single vintage which will be declared on the label.

(France) Refers to a village and the surrounding vineyards, for example, the communes of the left bank of Bordeaux include Pauillac, St Julien, St Estèphe and so on.

A tasting term used to describe wines contaminated by trichloroanisole (a corked wine is not one with bits of cork floating in it). This chemical compound is the product of mould infection in the cork. Said to affect 5% of bottles (some say more, some less) it is one of the main reasons behind the drive towards the increasing use of screwcaps and s...

(France) Once the vine has flowered, there should develop a small fruit (the grape) in place of each flower. Failure of the fruit to set in this way is coulure. It is often worst when the weather is particularly cold or wet. Some coulure is beneficial as a vine would have difficulty in ripening a full crop, resulting in a reduction in quality - al...

(Spain) A term describing the ageing that a wine has undergone. This is the youngest category, which is aged for two years, with at least six months in barrel. Related terms include Reserva and Gran Reserva.

A crossing is the result of breeding two Vitis vinifera plants. This is distinct from a hybrid which involves using American vines.

(France) The upper classification for the châteaux of the Médoc, laid down in 1855. It is divided into five tiers, from Premier Cru Classé to Cinquieme Cru Classé. More details may be found here: Bordeaux classifications.

(France) The period of time when the solid matter such as pips, skin, stalks and so on is left to macerate in the wine during alcoholic fermentation in order to extract colour, flavour and tannin.

(France) Part of the process of making sparkling wine. At this stage the bottle is opened after the neck has been frozen. Out flies a plug of frozen wine, containing the dead yeast from the second fermentation which occurs in bottle. The wine is then topped up - dosage - and resealed. The entire process is explained here: Méthode Champenoise.

(France) Medium-dry.

The process of removing the stems/stalks from the grape bunches before fermentation. Unripe stems will result in a green, unripe taste in the wine.

(Italy) A high quality level for Italian wine. Often abbreviated to DOC. The equivalent of the French appellation contrôlée.

(France) When making a sparkling wine, after dégorgement the wine can be topped up with sugar and wine to reach the desired level of sweetness and flavour. This is dosage. The entire process is documented here: Methode Champenoise.

(Spain) A high quality level for Spanish wine. Often abbreviated to DO. The equivalent of the French appellation contrôlée.

A large format Bordeaux bottle, equivalent to four standard bottles. In Burgundy and Champagne this size is called a Jeroboam. See my advisory page on wine bottle sizes for more information.

(Germany, Austria) An expensive, labour intensive sweet wine made from frozen grapes, principally in Germany and Austria, but also in Canada where it is called Icewine. The grapes are harvested during the cold of winter, facilitating the removal of much of the water as ice, intensifying the remaining sugar and flavour. The must weight is generally...

A method of purchasing wine before it has been bottled. Payment (not including duty or VAT) is made generally a year or so before bottling (the exact time depends on the region. The wines most common offered en primeur are from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and Port, although many other regions, including some New World wineries, are followi...

A tasting term. Describing the wine on 'entry' is to describe your impression of the wine as it lands in your mouth. Followed by midpalate, finish and length.

(Germany) Means bottled by the producer. Related terms include abfüllung and gutsabfüllung.

(Portugal) The estufa are the hothouses where Madiera is made. The heating of the wine is an essential part in the development of the character and flavour of Madeira wine.

This refers to the solid compounds in wine, such as tannins. Increasing the level of extract results in more colour and body. It may be increased by leaving the wine in contact with the skins for longer during cuvaison, although too long will result in an unbalanced wine that seems 'over-extracted'.

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 rem...

A finishing process, performed before bottling. A coagulant such as bentonite, isinglass or egg white is added to the wine to collect proteins and other undesirable compounds. As with filtration, a process which removes solid matter from the wine, there is a vogue away from this practice which has been the focus of some controversy, especially when...

A tasting term. The finish is how the wine tastes at the point of, and just after, swallowing. After finish comes the length. See also entry and midpalate.

A style of Sherry. Pale in colour, because it has been protected from oxidation from the thick coating of yeast known as flor. Best consumed as soon as possible after bottling as at this point the protection from oxidation is lost.

The application of a short burst of heat to the wine. The intention is to stabilise the wine, although there are obvious concerns about what effect this might have on the quality of the wine. Employed, controversially, by Louis Latour in Burgundy. See pasteurisation.

A yeast vital for making Sherry. It's presence on the surface of the wine protects it from oxidation, and such a wine may be bottled as a Fino or Manzanilla. When it dies, it sinks to the bottom of the barrel, and the resulting wine is an Amontillado. If no flor develops at all, the resulting wine is an Oloroso. Partial development of flor, which t...

The process of adding spirit to a wine. If this is done before completion of the alcoholic fermentation, as with Port, the unfermented sugars will cause the wine to be sweeter than would otherwise be the case. Added later, as is the case with Sherry, the wine will remain dry. In all cases the final alcohol content receives an obvious boost. The pro...

A tasting term. This denotes a wine which is felt by the taster to be developing quickly, and is ready to drink before it might otherwise be expected. The opposite of backward.

The free-run wine is the juice that runs off the vat without any pressing. The wine released by pressing the cap is known as press wine.

(Hungary) A barrel used for making Tokay.

The process of growing a cutting of Vitis vinifera on American or hybrid, phylloxera-resistant rootstock.

A confusing term. In Burgundy Grand Cru refers to the best vineyard sites, which are on the slopes of the Côte d'Or. In St Emilion, however, the majority of interesting estates are classified as Grand Cru and thus here the term means very little.

(Spain) This is the top category for Spanish wine. Such wines have received a minimum five years ageing, of which at least two are in cask and three in bottle. Related categories include Reserva and Crianza.

The practice of removing unripe bunches of grapes in midsummer in order to reduce the yield per plant and increase the quality. Unlike other plants which will abort excess fruit, such as the peach, the vine will try and ripen the whole crop - which if large will increase the likelihood of producing a dilute wine.

A vine affliction caused by the same fungus, Botrytis cinerea, that is responsible for Noble Rot. Grey Rot is the result of the action of the fungus in persistently damp, humid conditions.

(Germany) Means estate-bottled. Related terms include abfüllung and erzeugerabfüllung.

The most commonly used measurement of area in viticulture, the hectare is 10 000 m2, approximately equivalent to 2.5 acres. Yields may be expressed in hectolitres per hectare.

A measure of volume commonly used when expressing yields; a hectolitre is 100 litres.

In Australia this is a 300 litre barrel. Confusingly the term is also used by some when they are referring to the barrique of Bordeaux, a smaller barrel.

A hybrid grape results from a cross between a Vitis vinifera variety - such as Riesling or Pinot Noir - with an American vine. This is distinct from a crossing.

A large format Bordeaux bottle, equivalent to an impressive eight standard bottles. In Burgundy and Champagne this size is called a Methusaleh. See my advisory page on wine bottle sizes for more information.

This term describes wine which is held in a bonded warehouse, which has not passed through customs in order to officially enter the UK and consequently has not been subject to duty or value added tax (VAT). Once purchased en primeur (usually in case quantities only, although some traders have taken to selling six-packs), wine may be held 'in bond'...

A fining agent comprising protein from fresh-water fish.

A large format bottle, and the most confusing of all, for it means different things to different wines. In Bordeaux it is equivalent to six standard bottles, but in Burgundy and Champagne a Jeroboam contains the equivalent of a mere four bottles (a double magnum in Bordeaux). See my advisory page on wine bottle sizes for more information.

(Germany, Austria) The lowest category of wines in the Prädikat. The minimum required must weight varies from region to region, and when comparing Germany and Austria. In the Mosel, Germany's greatest wine region, the minimum must weight is 70 Oechsle. In Austria it is 17 KMW. The wines, unless from a rich vintage, tend to be dry and low in alcohol...

(Austria) An abbreviation for Klosterneuburger Mostwaage, a measurement of must weight used in Austria. A more widespread equivalent, which is used in Germany, is the Oechsle scale. Elsewhere you are more likely to hear of Baumé and Brix. 1 KMW is equivalent to approximately 5 Oechsle. It is vital for the winemaker to determine the must weight in G...

One of the many acids that contribute to the overall acidity of a wine. This acid, which is also found in milk, makes a much softer impression on the palate than many others, such as malic acid. As a consequence many winemakers encourage the conversion of the harsh malic acid to lactic acid by the malolactic fermentation.

A heavy sediment consisting of dead yeast cells and other solid matter such as grape pulp, pips and so on. Keeping the wine on the lees, especially if they are stirred from time to time, may be beneficial to the wine, imparting extra flavour and body. Eventually, however, they must be removed. This may be achieved by racking the wine off the lees. ...

A collective term for the communes of the left bank of the Gironde in Bordeaux. For more information, see my guide to Bordeaux wine.

A tasting term, describing how long the flavour of the wine persists on the palate after it has been swallowed. A lengthy persistence of flavour may be taken as a sign of quality, but to time it, as some people do, is going too far.

A term used to describe the climate of a large area, such as a entire wine-producing region. Related terms include mesoclimate and microclimate. The macroclimate has an obvious effect on the grapes.

One of the main contributors to the acidity of a wine. Malic acid has a sharp, green taste - rather like the tangy freshness of a green apple. Whereas this may be desirable in some white wines, in others, and in most reds, it is not. Hence winemakers encourage its conversion to lactic acid with the malolactic fermentation. Other important acids inc...

This is completely separate from the alcoholic fermentation, which results from the action of yeast upon sugar, 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 (or 'malo') depends on the...

(Spain) A dry Sherry, similar in style to Fino, from Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

(France) This term describes the mass of skins, pips and stalks left behind once all the fermented juice - wine - has been taken off. It makes good fertiliser, but can also be distilled to make spirits.

(France) The traditional method for making Champagne, in which the second fermentation occurs within the bottle. A legally protected term - only Champagne may wear this on the label - although the method is used the world over. For more details see my Champagne Guide.

This term describes the climate of a small area, typically an individual vineyard or hillside. Related terms include macroclimate and microclimate.

A large format Burgundy and Champagne bottle, equivalent to eight standard bottles. In Bordeaux this size is known as an Imperiale. See my advisory page on wine bottle sizes for more information.

This term describes the climate immediately around the vine. It is influenced by canopy management. Related terms include mesoclimate and macroclimate.

A tasting term. After taking a mouthful, hold it in the mouth, and see what you get from the wine. Does it have enough flavour and texture? What are the tannins and acidity like? When describing how the wine develops in the mouth, you are describing the midpalate. Describing your immediate impression would be to discuss the wine's entry. Then swall...

(France) This term describes the failure of some grapes in a normal bunch to fully develop. The result is uneven berry size. It is caused by cool weather during flowering.

The must is the mixture of fermenting grape juice, pips, skins, stalks and so on. It is distinct from marc, which is all of these once the grape juice has been removed. An assessment of must weight is vital in guiding the winemaker.

An indicator of the sugar content of the fermenting wine, and therefore an invaluable guide for the winemaker. There are a number of scales used to express must weight, including Baumé, Brix, Oechsle and KMW. My article on must weight in my Sweet Wine series gives more information.

(France) Term to describe a winemaker that buys in grapes or juice (fermented or unfermented) and then completes the winemaking process. The wine will then be bottled under their own label, but may sometimes make reference to the source of the grapes. Many négociants also own some vineyards as another source of grapes. Although the system does not ...

A fungal infection caused by Botrytis cinerea. Under the right conditions - damp, misty mornings followed by warm, sunny afternoons - the result is Noble Rot, which leaves grapes shrivelled, dehydrated, and thus rich in sugar and also unique Botrytis-derived flavours. It is an essential ingredient in Sauternes, Tokay and other sweet wines of German...

The oak tree is an important source of wood for barrels. Although other woods, such as cherry, have been (and still are used), oak is the number one choice for wine barrels. See my article on wine and oak for more information.

(Germany) A scale of must weight based on specific gravity. It is vital to assess the must weight in Germany as it determines the Prädikat classification. An Oechsle unit is equal to one unit of specific gravity above 1000. For example, the must of a Mosel with specific gravity of 1090 has an Oechsle of 90 and therefore qualifies as an Auslese. Oth...

A fungal disease, also known as powdery mildew. Like many vine diseases it thrives in damp conditions. It results in a reduction in quality and yields, but fortunately may be controlled with the application of sulphur, a practice permitted for even organic and biodynamic winemakers.