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Acid One of the four tastes of wine; a sour or tart sensation on the sides of the tongue and mouth.
Aftertaste The flavor or flavors left after the wine is swallowed.
Astringent Critical term usually used to describe a relatively tannic white wine.
B.A.T.F. Abbreviation for Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the government agency that controls wine production in the United States.
Balanced A wine in which all aspects -- acidity, sweetness, tannins, alcohol -- make a harmonious whole.
Barrel Fermentation Imparts flavors and characteristics of the wood to wine. Used often for full-bodied white wines to impart creamy vanilla flavors and aromas as well as spice.
Bouquet The smell of the wine.
Brix A scale that measures the sugar level of the unfermented grape juice (must).
Buttery A smell, especially in oak-aged Chardonnay; not a tactile sensation.
Clean Wine with a simple, direct flavor; no bacterial or chemical taste.
Complex A wine that reveals a variety of aromas and flavor characteristics.
Corked Wine that smells moldy because the cork is tainted.
Crisp Fresh and clean with a generous amount of acidity.
D.O.C. An abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, the government agency that controls wine production in Italy.
D.O.C.G. An abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, a designation used in Italy on only the finest wines.
Decanting The process of pouring wine from its bottle into a carafe to separate the sediment from the wine.
Degorgement A step in the Methode Champenoise process in champagne production which expels sediment from the bottle.
Dosage A combination of wine and cane sugar that is used in making champagne.
Dry No residual sugar taste or sense of sweetness.
Fermentation The process by which grape juice is made into wine.
Filtration Controversial clarification process of pumping wine through various different sorts of filters to remove suspended solids. If overdone, it may also strip out flavor.
Finish Flavors and feel of the wine on the back of your tongue and after you swallow.
Flabby Too low in acid.
Fortified Wine A wine that has additional grape brandy added to raise the alcohol content.
Fresh Attractively acid.
Fruit Literal term for a fruit element, not necessarily grape. Black currant, pear, citrus, pineapple are a few of the fruit flavors inherent in wines.
Fruity Terms used to describe wines with good fruit; also used to describe white wine that is slightly sweet.
Fullness The feel or weight of wine in the mouth.
Grand Cru The highest classification for wines of Burgundy.
Green Too acid.
Legs Colorless streams left on the inside of a glass after a relatively alcoholic wine has been swirled.
Malolactic Fermentation The conversion of malic acid (green apple) to the lactic acid (milk acid) by special bacteria. This fermentation process is a tool selected by the wine maker to reduce acidity and soften the wine. Depending on the strain of bacteria used, flavors and aromas of the wine can also be changed. Use of malolactic fermentation is something that the wine maker determines on a per-lot basis. Vintage variances and variations from terroir will determine whether malolactic fermentation is utilized and which culture is used.
Mature Wine that is aged to its full potential .
Methode Champenoise The traditional process by which champagne is made.
Must Unfermented grape juice.
Nose The aroma and bouquet of wine.
Oaky A slightly sweet vanilla flavor imparted to wine when aged in oak casks.
Oxidized Harmfully exposed to oxygen.
Phylloxera A root-feeding aphid that has probably had a more damaging impact on wine production than any other vine pest or disease. It attacks only grape vines and kills by attacking the roots.
Pressing Important winemaking operation involving literally pressing the juice (for white wines) or the astringent pressing of wine out of the skins (for red wines). The quality of the resulting juice depends on how hard the grapes are pressed.
Reserve A term sometimes found on labels of American wines to indicate a better quality wine. The term has no legal significance.
Residual Sugar The amount of unfermented sugar left in a wine after fermentation is complete, usually measured in grams per liter. A residual sugar of 2 g/l is imperceptible to most palates whereas a wine with residual sugar of 25 g/l, even though it is balanced by acidity, is distinctly sweet.
Riddling A step in champagne production where bottles are continually turned to bring sediment to the necks.
Round Good body, not too much tannin.
Soft Mellow, well-rounded quality to wine.
Spicy Exotic spice and fruit flavors in whites, especially Gewurztraminer; pepper or cinnamon/clove in some reds.
Sur-lie Aging Process where wine is left on yeast lees; creates soft, rich, spicy character.
Tannin A natural compound that comes from skins, pits and stems of grapes as well as the wood in which the wine is aged. Generally, red wines have a higher level of tannin than whites because red grapes are usually left to ferment on their skins.
Tart Green, unripe, overly acidic. Can be desirable in light, dry whites; pleasant acidity.
Terroir The French word to describe particular characteristics of a vineyard or even part of a vineyard. These characteristics are the microclimate, soil, topography and the effects each of these elements have on each other.
Varietal The dominating grape in a given wine. In the U.S., wines must be at least 75% of the varietal that appears on the label.
Vintage The year grapes are harvested. If a wine shows a vintage date, 95% of the grapes must have been harvested that year.