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Bottle Notes - Wine tasting glossary
Category: Food and Drink > Wine Tasting
Date & country: 28/10/2013, USA
Words: 95

A term with a negative connotation in wine referring to a sharp vinegary taste and smell. This occurs as a result of the presence of acetobacter, a bacteria that naturally converts wine to vinegar in the presence of oxygen.

Acetic Acid
The chief volatile acid in wine. The flavor of wine is improved by small amounts but vinegary flavors are the result of larger quantities.

A process practiced in warm areas whereby a winemaker adds acid to grape must before fermentation to counteract naturally low acid levels.

A white-surfaced chalky-looking soil found in the Sherry-producing region in southern Spain. Contains large amounts of limestone mixed with clay and sand.

A colorless, volatile, flammable liquid that is the intoxicating constituent of wine, beer, spirits, and other drinks. Alcohol is also used as an industrial solvent and as fuel.

The most famous dried grape wine in Italy that is produced from the same grape varieties and in the same zones as Valpolicella. High quality grape bunches are dried, or raisined, often allowing Botrytis to form on the grapes. The grapes are then pressed and fermented to dryness, resulting in an intense, highly alcoholic wine with somewhat oxidative qualities that vary depending on the presence of noble rot.

A term literally meaning improvement, it is a euphemism for chemical intervention in winemaking. This refers to techniques used in areas where nature is deficient. This includes chaptalization, the addition of sugar for the purpose of raising the alcohol level, and acidification.

American Viticultural Area (AVA)
The American Viticultural Area is the American controlled appellation system. Defined as a specified grape-growing region, distinguished by geographical features, the boundaries of which have been recognized and defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). For example, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, and Santa Ynez Valley are all AVAs.

The term for appellation or wine region in Germany. Each anbaugebiet is divided into Bereiche, or districts. Bereiche are then broken up into Grosslagen.

An official geographically-based designation for a wine.

Appellation d
The French appellation system that controls and designates wines, spirits, cheeses, and other foods of distinct geographic regions in France.

A broad term describing the smell of a wine, or the smell that is derived from grapes.

Aromatized Wine
A wine that has been flavored by one or more aromatic substances such as anise, strawberries, orange peel, elderflowers, wormwood, quinine, and pine resin. These wines are usually fortified. Vermouth, Retsina, and Lillet are examples.

The blending of base wines to create a final cuve

A sensation of puckering or drying of the mouth

A reference to the harmonious relationship between the acids, alcohol, tannins and other compounds in wine.

French word for barrel. Used worldwide to describe any small oak cask.

A type of clay that is used in the process of fining. Clay is mixed into wine to clarify it. As it settles to the bottom, the clay absorbs and carries with it suspended particles.

Blanc de Noirs
White of blacks, describing a white wine made from black grapes, usually sparkling and often with a pinkish tint.

The impression of weight or fullness on the palate; usually the result of a combination of glycerin, alcohol and sugar. Commonly expressed as full-bodied, medium-bodied, medium-weight, or light-bodied.

Bottle Sickness
A temporary condition characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors that often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile wines) are shaken in travel. Also called bottle shock. (A few days of rest is the cure)

A term used when evaluating the smell of an aged wine. Similar to aroma, but referring to characteristics developed during the aging process.

Brix (baume, oechsle)
A measurement of the sugar content in grapes, must or wine. The level of brix indicates the degree of the grapes' ripeness (sugar level) at harvest. Most table-wine grapes are harvested at between 21 and 25 Brix. In general, to convert brix into the level of alcohol, multiply the stated Brix by .55.

A general term used to designate a relatively dry (low sugar content) Champagne or sparkling wine.

Carbonic maceration
A type of fermentation in which whole bunches of uncrushed grapes are placed in a closed tank. The weight of the grapes on top crushes those on bottom, releasing juice that ferments naturally. The juice in the uncrushed grapes ferments within the grape. The result is an extremely fresh and juicy style of wine. This process is used extensively in Beaujolais.

The addition of sugar to juice before and/or during fermentation, used to boost alcohol levels in wines made from under-ripe grapes. Adding sugar prior to fermentation doesn

Charmat Method
An inexpensive, quick method of making sparkling wine. Yeast and sugar are added to bulk base wines which are held in a pressurized tank; this addition triggers a second fermentation that is halted by cooling the tank. Once the secondary fermentation is finished, the wine is filtered and a dosage is added prior to bottling.

A group of vines originating from a single, individual plant. Clones are selected for the unique qualities of the grapes and wines they yield such as flavor, productivity, and adaptability to growing conditions.

Cold Stabilization
A clarification technique in which a wine's temperature is lowered to 32

Microscopic particles including solids, liquids and gases. Colloids most often refer to large organic molecules, but sometimes refer to smaller molecules such as phenolics, pigmented tannins, and tannins. Colloids contribute to a wine

Describes a wine with a musty or moldy odor and taste. Usually caused by a chemical called Trichloroanisole, or TCA which may be formed by the interaction of chlorine to corks, especially in warm, moist conditions.

A blend or special lot of wine.

A term for the pouring of wine out of its bottle into a vessel (or decanter), usually made of glass or crystal, for the purpose of aeration and removal of sediment.

A vessel, usually glass or crystal, into which wine is poured. The most obvious reason for decanting is to remove sediment that has formed in a bottle. Another main reason for decanting is to promote aeration and encourage the development of the wine

A term relating to sweetness. In the language of Champagne, it can be misleading; although demi-sec means half-dry, demi-sec sparkling wines are usually slightly sweet to medium sweet.



The highest rank in Spanish wine categorization. An extension of the DO system, designating regions that maintain high standards of production and above average grape prices.

A broad term referring to aged wine or the aroma of wine that has been aged. Developed aromas differ from primary fruit aromas in that they tend to consist of savory, earthy notes rather than young fruity notes.

Disgorging (d
The process of removing yeasty sediment after the second fermentation. Disgorging, which involves the freezing and ejection of yeasty sediment that has settled gradually into the neck of a bottle, is part of the traditional method used in all Champagne production.

In bottle-fermented sparkling wines, a small amount of wine (usually sweet) that is added back to the bottle once the yeast sediment that collects in the neck of the bottle is removed. Also applies to sparkling wines made in the tank, or Charmat method.

Having little or no perceptible taste of sugar. Most wine tasters begin to perceive sugar at levels of 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent.

Describes a phase young wines undergo when their flavors and aromas are muted and undeveloped.

The fifth level of the German QmP rating system, Eiswein differs from the other wines of these designations as Eiswein grapes get their concentrated sweetness from the process of freezing on the vine rather than the effects of Botrytis.

The science and study of winemaking. Also called viniculture or oenology.

Ethyl Acetate
A sweet, vinegary smell that often accompanies acetic acid. It exists to some extent in all wines and in small doses can be a plus. When it is strong and smells like nail polish, it's a defect.

Richness and depth of concentration of fruit in a wine. Usually a positive quality, although high extract wine can also be highly tannic and can be undesirable in certain styles of wine.

In winemaking, the process of converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide effected by the oxygen free metabolism of yeast.Field Blend

The winemaking process of straining out solid particles in wine with various types of filters. It is an alternative to natural settling and speeds up the winemaking process allowing for better control. It is argued, however, that filtration strips a fine wine of some of its complexity and capacity for aging.

(also collage, or sticking in French) The process of adding a clarifying agent to coagulate or absorb and quickly precipitate the colloids in a wine for efficient precipitation. This process results in clarification and stabilization. Commonly used fining agents include egg whites, fish bladders (isinglass), and bentonite.

Denotes a wine whose alcohol content has been increased by the addition of brandy or other neutral spirits.

Gemischter Satz
Some vineyards in Austria cultivate a variety of different grapes, which are gathered, crushed, processed, and bottled together to create a field blend. The term gemischter Satz refers to both this style of vineyard and the wines produced therein.

Green Harvest
The trimming of unripe grapes to decrease crop yields, thereby increasing the concentration of flavors in the remaining bunches.

Well balanced, with no component obtrusive or lacking.

A gelatinous material from the air bladders of sturgeons and other fish used in fining.

An oversized bottle holding the equivalent of six bottles. In Champagne, a jeroboam holds four bottles.

The first level of the German QmP rating system, indicating wine made from ripe berries that are not purposefully harvested late. This is the driest of all of the designations.

Late Harvest
On labels, indicates that a wine was made from grapes picked later than normal and at a higher sugar level than normal. Often associated with botrytized and dessert-style wines.

Spent yeasty sediment remaining in a barrel or tank during and after fermentation.

The viscous droplets that form and ease down the sides of the glass when the wine is swirled. A common misconception is that the formation of legs is due to its viscosity, when in fact it has more to do with a wine

The amount of time the sensations of taste and aroma persist after swallowing. In general, the longer the better.

Liqueur d
Following disgorging in the production of Champagne, this liquid is added to top of the wine in the bottle. It is a mixture of wine and a small amount of sugar to balance out high levels of acidity.

Soil type consisting of sand, silt, and clay.

A sedimentary rock or soil consisting of clay and lime, formerly used typically as fertilizer.

An extra-large bottle holding 6 liters; the equivalent of eight standard bottles.

Mis en Bouteille au Domaine
A phrase simply meaning that the wine was bottled at the domaine or winery rather than by a n

The tasting term used particularly for red wines to describe the texture of a wine within the mouth. This relates to attributes such as smoothness, or grittiness. Among the factors that influence a wine

The unfermented juice of grapes extracted by crushing or pressing; grape juice in the cask or vat before it is converted into wine.

A giant wine bottle holding 15 liters; the equivalent of 20 standard bottles.

Noble Rot
See Botrytis

A style of light, fruity, youthful red wine bottled and sold as soon as possible. Applies mostly to Beaujolais.Non-vintage

A fungal disease affecting vines, caused by a powdery mildew. The fungus is Uncinula Necator.

Describes wine that has been exposed too long to oxygen and taken on a brownish color, losing its freshness and perhaps beginning to smell and taste like Sherry or old apples. Oxidized wines are also called maderized or sherrified.

Phenolics/ Phenols
Chemical compounds derived from skins, seeds, and stems. Phenols include tannin, color, and flavor compounds.

Tiny aphids (root lice) that attack Vitis vinifera roots. The disease was widespread in both Europe and California during the late 19th century, and returned to California in the 1980s. There is no known cure at this time. Vinifera vines are instead grafted onto native American rootstocks.

QbA or Qualit
The largest category of German wine that basically includes the lower quality wines that meet Qualit

QmP or Qualit
Literally, a quality wine with distinction. Germany

The practice of moving wine by hose from one container to another, leaving sediment behind. For aeration or clarification.

In sparkling wine production, a tedious process where each individual bottle is rotated and tilted very slightly over time so that the yeast is loosened and settles into the neck of the bottle. Machines with computerized pallets have been designed to perform in days what takes around 8 weeks to do by hand in the traditional manner.

Rias Baixas
Wine-producing region in Galicia, in northwestern Spain. The language of Galicia is Gallego. Rias refers to the inlets made by the Atlantic into the coastline and Baixas (Bi-shas) is among the rias.

Describes wines made by old-fashioned methods, or tasting like wines made in an earlier era. Can be a positive quality in distinctive wines that require aging. Can also be a negative quality when used to describe a young, earthy wine that should be fresh and fruity.

An oversized bottle holding 9 liters, the equivalent of 12 regular bottles.

Compounds that contribute to a wine

Tartaric Acid
The principal acid in wine.

Transfer Method
In sparkling wine production, a method in which riddling and disgorging are not used. Instead, the sparkling wine is transferred to a pressurized tank where it is filtered, removing the yeasty sediment. Like the traditional method, a dosage is added to the wine, which is then bottled again.

A wine tasting term derived from the French word, typicit

A varietal is a wine named for the dominant grape variety from which it is made although other grape varieties may be present in the wine. The term varietal is often misused to refer to grape or vine variety. For example, Regusci Cabernet Sauvignon is a varietal label. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape variety in the wine.

Refers to a vine

The practical art of transforming grapes into wine. It is synonymous with wine making.


The science of growing grapes.

Vitis Vinifera
Classic European wine-making species of grape. Examples include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. There are many other species of grapes such as Vitis labrusca, a North American grape species such as Concord, used mainly for New York state wines.

Volatile (or volatile acidity)
Describes an excessive and undesirable amount of acidity, which gives a wine a slightly sour, vinegary edge. At very low levels (0.1 percent), it is largely undetectable. At higher levels it is considered a major defect.

Micro-organisms that produce the enzymes which convert sugar to alcohol. Yeast is necessary for the fermentation of grape juice into wine.

French term for merchant, refers to one who purchases grapes, must, or wine from a number of growers within an appellation, then blends the different lots and bottles the wine under their own label. This practice is especially important in Burgundy, where many growers own plots of land too small to support individual labels.