Wine Terms, Tips & Trivia
A glossary of various winemaking and wine-tasting terms, plus tips on cellaring and serving wine… About what’s in the glass, bottle sizes, storage temperatures and grape varieties… And about sugar levels, VA and brett… A mini wine encyclopedia:
ABV… See ‘alcohol by volume’.
accessible… Ready to drink. Applied to early-drinking styles of wine, or matured wine that has opened up or lost the aggressive edges evident in its youth.
acetic… All wines contain acetic acid to some degree. At low levels it can enhance the character of a wine, but in excess (over 0,1%) it can give the wine a vinegary smell and sour taste. Acetic (flawed) wine, also described as volatile.
acetone… See ‘ethyl acetate’.
acid… Seldom a negative in wine, unless excessive. Acids occurring naturally in grapes include: tartaric, citric, acetic (like vinegar), ascorbic (vitamin C), malic, lactic. A preservative, preventing bacterial contamination in wine, essential for shaping its flavours, contributing to its length.
acidic… Acidity contributes to the freshness, the liveliness of a wine, but in excess it can interfere adversely with a wine’s flavours and texture, in which case the wine is termed acidic, or flawed: sharp edges, tart, sour.
acidify… The acid content of a balanced, dry table wine can be as high as 0,8%. Acidifying (adding acid) to correct deficient acidity is legal in most wine-producing countries, but in some regions may not be practiced in conjunction with the addition of sugar (see ‘chaptalize’). Deacidifying refers to reducing the acidity of the wine or must by adding water, or using chalk.
acidity… See ‘acid’.
acrid… Pungent smell or harsh, bitter taste due to excess sulphur.
adega… Cellar. Portuguese.
aeration… Allowing a wine to ‘breathe’, by exposing it to air after opening the bottle, is a mild form of oxidation that can help soften young tannic wines – simply taking the cork out and leaving the bottle open for an hour or two before dinner is not enough; the process can be accelerated by swirling the wine in the glass, but most effective is to pour the wine from its bottle into a ‘decanter’.
aerobic… Happening in the presence of air.
aftertaste… See ‘length’. Usually the finer the quality of the wine, the longer and more complex the aftertaste.
aged… See ‘maturation’.
aggressive… Used to describe very tannic or high-acid wines. Not soft or smooth. Unpleasant. The aggressiveness of certain young wines may mellow over time.
Agiorgitiko… Red grape variety. Greek.
Albalonga… White grape variety. German cross between Rieslander and Sylvaner.
albumen… See ‘egg white’.
Alc… Abbreviation for ‘alcohol’.
alcohol… Ethyl alcohol is a chemical compound, a colourless, flammable liquid produced when natural or added yeast consumes sugar in the grape juice during fermentation. The word ‘alcohol’ is derived from Arabic.
alcohol by volume… It is a legal requirement in most countries that the alcohol strength of a wine must be stated on the label of the bottle – expressed as a percentage of the contents, with the figure referred to as the ‘alcohol by volume’ (ABV). For table wine, the law allows for a 1,5% variation.
alcoholic… See ‘hot’.
aldehyde… Volatile fluid formed during the oxidation of alcohol.
aldehydic… Volatile aromas on the nose, arising from volatile fluid formed during oxidation. Can be unpleasant, as in vinegary or burny.
Alicante… See ‘Grenache’.
Alicante Bouschet… Red grape variety. Cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache.
Aligoté… White grape variety. French (Burgundy) and Bulgarian.
Altesse… White grape variety. French (Savoie). Synonyms include Mâconnais, Roussette.
Alvarinho… White (vinho verde) grape variety. Portuguese.
Amarone… Wine made from dried grapes.
American oak… Contrasts with French and other oak by way of the marked vanilla, dill and cedar notes that American oak barrels impart to a wine.
amontillado… A style of wine obtained when fino Sherry is aged for a long time in wood.
amoroso… Sweet Sherry, light in colour.
ampelography… The comparative study of grape varieties.
anaerobic… Happening in the absence of air.
analysis… Of a wine, measured as Alc (alcohol strength expressed as a percentage), TA (total acid), pH (measure of active acidity, or alkalinity), TS (total sugar content, expressed as grams per litre).
antioxidant… That which prevents grapes, must or wine from oxidising (e.g. ascorbic acid or sulphur dioxide).
AOC… The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée is the name of the French system of appellations dating back to the 1930s. It requires that wines must comply with rules relating to the area that the grapes are sourced from, the varieties used, ripeness of the grapes, alcoholic strength, vineyard yields as well as prescribed viticultural and winemaking procedures in order to carry the name of a particular appellation on its label.
aperitif… An appetiser; a beverage drunk before meals to stimulate the appetite. Traditional examples: dry Sherry, dry white wine, dry sparkling wine, dry vermouth – all chilled. ‘Wine aperitif’ pertains to a wine-based drink to which flavour has been added.
appellation… A defined, controlled grape-growing area.
Aramon… Red grape variety.
Arbois… White grape variety. French (Loire).
Arinto… White grape variety. Portuguese.
aroma… More to do with grape and fermentation smells than that of a developed wine – not the same as nuances referred to as the ‘bouquet’ of a wine.
aromatic varieties… Generally regarded as including Bukettraube, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat varieties. Very obvious aromas.
aromatised wine… Wines to which various aromatic ingredients are added; usually fortified. Vermouth being the most famous example, retsina another.
ascorbic acid… Vitamin C, an anti-oxidant and preservative, often used in conjunction with sulphur dioxide in white wine making.
aseptic… Descriptive of substances such as sorbic acid or sulphur dioxide that can kill bacteria.
aspect… The general topography of a vineyard – the direction the vines face, the angle and height of the slope – and how it relates to the climate.
assemblage… French term for the blend of base wines that make up the final cuvée.
Assyrtiko… White grape variety. Greek.
astringent… Harsh in taste, either due to the youthfully high tannin or very high acidity of a wine, which will recede over time in the case of a good wine.
atmospheres… Measure of atmospheric pressure, e.g. that inside a bottle of sparkling wine is six atmospheres (the same as that inside the tyre of a large truck or double-decker bus).
attack… First impression of a wine on the nose, measured from overpowering to shy.
Auslese… Sweet German wine made from very ripe bunches of grapes – picked late; may include some botrytised grapes. Superior to Spätlese, second to Beerenauslese.
austere… Sometimes used to describe wine with a shy nose and/or restrained palate, but can also intimate hard, dry characteristics; ungiving. Such wines can sometimes become more generous as they develop.
autolysis… The breakdown of yeast cells, which can increase the risk of bacterial spoilage – the autolytic effect of maturing wine on the lees is undesirable in most wines, except in the case of sur lie and sparkling wines.
Auxerrois… White grape variety. French (Alsace).
Bacchus… Roman god of wine. White grape variety: German cross between Sylvaner, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau.
backbone… Referring to the structure of a wine, such as firm or flabby, around which the flesh or body of the wine is built.
bacterial spoilage… Microbial spoilage can happen when, for example, not all the yeasts have been removed or killed after fermentation or if the wine hasn’t undergone malolactic fermentation (before bottling), which can lead to secondary fermentation (which can result in excessive carbon dioxide or alcohol in the wine, sediment and a mouldy characteristic). Often detectable by a fizziness, or cloudiness.
Baga… Red grape variety. Portuguese.
balance… The relationship between fruit, tannins and acidity.
balling… The sugar concentration in grapes, must and wine, used to indicate the level of grape ripeness and expressed in degrees. Generally, the degree of grape sugar at the time of harvest is between 21 and 25 balling. (Multiply by 0,55 to convert balling to the percentage alcohol that the wine is likely to have: e.g. 23º to 24º balling should result in 13% alcohol by volume).
balthazar… 12-litre bottle, equivalent in volume to 16 standard bottles.
Barbera… Red grape variety. Italian.
barnyard… See ‘farmyard’.
barrel… Most red wines and certain whites are contained in oak barrels before bottling – sometimes during the fermentation process, mainly during the ageing process – to impart various wood characteristics. See also ‘oak’ and ‘cooper’.
barrel-fermented… Fermenting wine in small barrels instead of large steel tanks can sometimes contribute to the harmony of the oak characteristics of a wine, increasing the body and adding complexity, texture and flavour.
barrique… French for small oak barrel (±225 litres). ‘Barrique’ on the label tends to imply the use of new wood in the fermentation and/or maturation process. Volume equivalent of 24 cases of 12 × 750ml bottles.
bars… Measure of pressure, e.g. that inside a bottle of sparkling wine is six or seven bars, versus two bars inside many car tyres.
base wine… Main ingredient(s) in a blend.
Bastardo… Red grape variety. Portuguese.
bâtonnage… Stirring wine on the lees in barrel, to enhance colour and flavour extraction. Bâton (French) refers to a stick.
bead… See ‘mousse’.
Beaujolais… District in France noted for its ‘Nouveau’ wines.
Beerenauslese… Sweet German wine made from very ripe bunches of grapes, picked late, including botrytised grapes. (Superior to Auslese, second to Trockenbeerenauslese).
bentonite… Fine clay containing ash which activates precipitation when used as a fining agent in wine.
bianco… Italian for ‘white’
big… A big wine tastes intense, concentrated, full-bodied.
bin… Storage place for bottled wine. Also used in reference to a particular bottling.
bin end… Referring to the last bottles of a particular wine or vintage.
binned… Term used for bottles stored in tiers.
biodynamic wine… Similar to organic wine but also involving practices based on the ecological and spiritual in nature. Bearing in mind astrological influences and lunar cycles. Involving use in the vineyard of biodynamic preparations made from cow manure, quartz/silica that has been buried in cow horn, as well as various medicinal plants.
bite… Descriptive of a tannic, high-alcohol or high-acid mouthfeel – usually tolerated only in a rich, full-bodied wine.
bitter… In small concentrations, bitterness can complement the flavours of a wine, particularly in ‘aromatic varieties’, but it is usually indicative of a fault.
black grapes… Red grapes – the skins of which are so dark red in colour as to be commonly referred to as black grapes.
blanc… Or ‘blanche’: French for ‘white’.
blanc de blancs… ‘White of whites’; a white wine made only from white grapes, often referring to sparkling wine made from Chardonnay.
Blanc de Noir… Usually a pinkish wine (sometimes white, sometimes darker) made from red grapes by means of removing the juice from the skins immediately/soon after the crush or pressing – reducing the amount of skin contact limits the amount of colour and tannin that it imparts to the wine. Synonyms include ‘blush’.
Blanc Fumé… Dry white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc, generally wooded.
blanco… Spanish for ‘white’
Blaufränkisch… Red grape variety. Austrian.
blind tasting… Where the identity of the wines being assessed is withheld from the tasters until after the scores and notes have been submitted.
blush … See ‘Blanc de Noir’.
bodega… Wine cellar. Spanish.
body… The fullness of a wine, the weight, extract.
bonded… Wines and spirits put into a store under excise supervision until the duty is paid.
booze… Alcoholic beverage (noun). To drink alcohol, usually in excess (verb).
Bordelais… Resident in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux… Famous wine region in France. Synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and blends of these varieties.
botrytis cinerea… ‘Noble rot’, a particular mould or fungus that grows on grape skins under certain climatic or weather conditions, such as alternating wet and sunny periods. Essential for ‘Noble Late Harvest’ dessert wines, imparting a particular characteristic.
bottle… In wine terms, a standard 750ml glass vessel with neck and mouth sealed with a cork or screw-top.
bottle fermented… Sparkling wines produced by the traditional method – méthode champenoise – undergo a second fermentation, whereby sugar and yeast is added to bottles of wine that are then sealed. Carbon dioxide, a by-product of fermentation, is trapped inside the wine under pressure and is eventually released as bubbles (the ‘mousse’) when the sparkling wine is served. At the end of the second fermentation, the bottles are stacked in racks and ‘riddled’ by hand over a period of weeks – or over several days using a gyro pallet – to move the sediment onto the crown caps (remuage), after which the wine in the bottle-necks is frozen and removed under pressure (dégorgement), whereupon corks are inserted and wired down. Winemaking process made famous in Champagne, France, also used for Cap Classique in South Africa, Cava in Spain and bottle-fermented wines elsewhere in the world.
bottle shock… A temporary condition of the wine immediately after bottling, characterised by muted or disjointed fruit flavours.
bottle sizes… For most wines:
half = 375ml
standard = 750ml
magnum = 1,5 litres
jeroboam = 3 litres
rehoboam = 4,5 litres
methuselah = 6 litres
salmanazar = 9 litres
balthazar = 12 litres
melchior = 18 litres
nebuchadnezzar = 15 litres.
In Champagne, the following can sometimes apply:
quarter = 200ml
half = 400ml
imperial pint = 600ml
bottle = 800ml
magnum = 1,6 litres
jeroboam = 3,2 litres
rehoboam = 4,8 litres
methuselah = 6,4 litres
salmanazar = 9,6 litres
balthazar = 12,8 litres
nebuchadnezzar = 16 litres.
bottle stink… Off-putting nose (a ‘reductive’ aroma) sometimes evident on opening a bottle of wine, which will usually dissipate after allowing the wine to breathe for a few minutes. Most likely to occur in bottles of older wine.
bouquet… Traditionally, the smell of a developed or developing wine – more to do with the evolving wine than the ‘aroma’ of the grape.
boutique… Small, in wine cellar terms.
Bouvier… White grape variety. Austrian.
bouzy… The famous still red wine of Champagne, made from Pinot Noir.
box… See ‘case’. Box-wine refers to wine sold in a foil or plastic bag enclosed in a cardboard box with a valve (tap) from which to draw the wine.
brandy… Distilled natural wine. ‘Burnt wine’, stemming from the Dutch word ‘branden’ (to burn). Stills are used in the process of indirectly steam-heating wine to boiling point, whereupon the alcohol evaporates, condenses, and is boiled a second time – the middle run, or heart, is then bottled as brandy.
breaking back… See ‘broken back’.
breathe… See ‘aeration’ and ‘bottle stink’.
brett… Short for brettanomyces, a type of yeast or mould that spoils a wine when its smell and taste become too obvious. Sensory descriptions range from ‘earthy’ and ‘leathery’ to ‘Band-Aid’ or ‘Elastoplast’, ‘burnt plastic’ and ‘dirty mouse-cage’. Brett can also contribute to the complexity of a wine when present in small amounts. It is believed to be harboured in or on wooden barrels and becomes problematic in unhygienic cellar conditions.
brettanomyces… See ‘brett’.
briary… Wines with an earthy or wild berry characteristic.
bright… Used to describe fresh, ripe, lively young wines with focused flavours.
brilliant… Relating to the colour of a wine – clear, bright, no haziness, no suspended matter. Not always a plus, as very clear wines might have been highly filtered.
brix… See ‘balling’.
broken back… Also referred to as ‘humidification’ and ‘dilution’ – the process of adding water to wine to reduce the alcohol strength and to make it taste better. ‘Breaking back’ can happen either at the ‘crush’ or ‘must’ stages, usually with wine made from very ripe grapes. Often strictly controlled, and illegal in some wine-producing areas.
browning… The colour associated with ageing, matured red wine. A sign of oxidation; bad in young wine.
Brunello… See ‘Sangiovese’.
brut… Used to describe a sparkling wine that is dry or dryish in taste. See also ‘sugar levels’.
Bual… White grape variety. Portuguese (Madeira).
bubbles… Apart from sparkling wine, a small amount of tiny bubbles can be acceptable in ‘sur lie’ wines that retain more carbon dioxide from fermentation than most still wines – otherwise they warn of instability, ‘bacterial spoilage’.
bubbly… See ‘sparkling wine’.
Bukettraube… White grape variety. Thought to have originated in either Germany or Alsace, France.
bung… Used to seal the small round opening in a wine barrel.
Burgundy… Famous wine region in France. Synonymous with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
bush vine… As opposed to ‘trellised’.
butt… A large cask: 1500 litres.
buttery… On the nose: the smell of melted butter or toasty oak. On the palate: rich in texture, such as a rich, buttery Chardonnay.
BYO… The option to ‘bring your own’ wine into a restaurant to consume with a meal, instead of buying from what the eatery has on offer, is granted (or refused) at the discretion of the management and usually involves a ‘corkage’ fee.
Cabernet Franc… Red grape variety. French (Bordeaux).
Cabernet Sauvignon… Red grape variety. French (Bordeaux).
Camina… Red grape variety. German cross between Portugieser and Pinot Noir.
Campbell’s Early… Red grape variety. American hybrid.
Canaiolo Nero… Red grape variety. Italian.
canopy… The leaves and shoots (foliage) of a vine, also affecting the degree of sunlight or shade to which the grapes are exposed.
cantina… Cellar, winery. Italian.
cap… Can refer to the matter (grape skins etc) that floats to/on the top of wine in tank during the fermentation process. See also ‘punching down’.
Cape Blend… Increasingly used to describe a red blend that includes Pinotage (at least 30%) in the varietal mix, though on certain labels the term merely implies a ‘Cape’ character.
Cap Classique… ‘Bottle-fermented’ sparkling wines from the Cape, South Africa.
Cape Riesling… See ‘Crouchen Blanc’.
Cape Wine Master… Qualification involving the study and tasting experience of the world of wine, specialising in South African wine, conferred by the Cape Wine Academy in association with the Institute of Cape Wine Masters and under the auspices of the Cape Wine and Spirit Education Trust.
capsule… Foil, plastic or other type of synthetic covering of the neck and around the mouth and seal of a bottle, usually bearing a brand identity.
carbonated… Beverages impregnated with gas (CO2), under pressure.
carbon dioxide… As a by-product of fermentation, CO2 gives sparkle to wine if trapped inside the bottle under pressure.
carbonic acid… Term for carbon dioxide when dissolved in water.
carbonic gas… Synonym for ‘carbon dioxide’.
carbonic maceration… A method used to produce softer, more accessible wine in which the fruit is emphasised – involving grapes being put into a tank filled with carbon dioxide (no oxygen), when wine is fermented under pressure without first crushing the grapes. Technique also used to produce ‘Nouveau’ wines for which the Be
Carignan… Red grape variety. Spanish.
Carmenère… Red grape variety. French (Bordeaux).
carton… See ‘case’.
case… In wine terms, traditionally referring to a box/carton of 12 standard (750ml) bottles or six magnums (6×1,5l). In recent times often referring to what was previously regarded as a half-case (6×750ml).
casein… Milk protein sometimes used for fining wine.
cask… Wooden barrel.
cat’s pee… A particular type of ‘aroma’ sometimes associated with an acidic Sauvignon Blanc.
Cava… Spanish sparkling wine produced by the traditional, ‘bottle-fermented’ method.
cave… A ‘cellar’, in French.
cellar… Where wine is made or stored.
cellar door… The place at a wine farm the product of the winery is sold to the public – the point of purchase, usually doubling as a tasting room.
cellaring… Optimal storage conditions for wine include: darkness or low lighting; stillness (no vibrations, avoiding regular movement of the bottles); clean air (odour-free); humidity level of around 70%; temperature of between 12º and 16º C. See also ‘temperature’.
celsius… See ‘centigrade’.
centigrade… To gauge temperature, measured in degrees. To convert from centigrade (C) to fahrenheit (F), multiply by 1.8 and add 32.
certification… A guarantee that the information stated on the label is correct. See also ‘Wine of Origin’. In South Africa, certification is indicated by means of a seal issued by the Wine & Spirit Board that is attached to the neck or capsule of a bottle.
César… Red grape variety. French.
Chablis… Fine white wine made from Chardonnay (French), sometimes referring to a style of Chardonnay.
chai… Wine store, or maturation cellar. French.
Champagne… ‘Bottle-fermented’ sparkling wine from the French district of Champagne. Made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir or a blend of these varieties, often with the addition of Pinot Meunier. Believed to have been developed in the mid-17th century by Bénédictine monk Dom Pérignon.
Champenois… Resident in Champagne.
chaptalize… The addition of sugar to the grape must, either to compensate for under-ripe grapes or to facilitate higher alcohol levels in the end product. Chaptalization is illegal in South Africa and certain other countries, but is commonly used in parts of France and elsewhere. (In Bordeaux and Burgundy, it is illegal to both chaptalize and ‘acidify’ the same wine).
Chardonnay… White grape variety. French.
charmat… A method of producing sparkling wine whereby a second fermentation takes place in large stainless steel tanks, from which the wine is drawn off and bottled under pressure, with the bottles then sealed by means of corks held in place with wire.
charring… See ‘toasting’.
Chasselas… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Fendant (Switzerland).
château… Plural: châteaux. French for ‘estate’ – literally meaning castle, or stately home, but there are many exceptions. Generally pertaining to the entire wine estate, including vineyards, cellar and buildings.
Chenel… White grape variety: South African cross between Chenin Blanc and Trebbiano.
Chenin Blanc… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Steen (South Africa).
chevaliers… Literally meaning knights (French), often pertaining to members of a wine society.
chewy… Dense, full-bodied wine with a viscous texture – often resulting from high extraction, and usually of above-average alcohol strength.
Chianti… Best known red wine from Tuscany, Italy: usually of moderate alcohol strength, medium dry, light.
chips… Oak chips are a less expensive means – relative to barrels – of wooding or adding oak character to a wine, imparted by suspending bags of oak chips (even sawdust) in the wine. See also ‘staves’.
Cinsaut… Red grape variety. French. Synonyms include Cinsault, Hermitage.
Clairette… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Clairette Blanche, Blanquette.
claret… British term for Bordeaux-style red wine.
clean… Fresh on the palate, free of any ‘off’ smells or tastes.
climat… Individual vineyard or appellation. French.
climate… The prevailing conditions of temperature, humidity and wind pertaining to a region or area, in general (on an annual or seasonal basis).
clone… Vines propagated from a single, individual plant, selected for its unique qualities in terms of the type of grapes and wines it yields, its specific productivity and its adaptability to certain growing conditions – either developed naturally by a process of selection, or asexually by man.
clos… French for a plot of land, typically enclosed or once enclosed by a wall or fence.
closed… A wine not showing much in terms of aroma, bouquet or taste.
cloudy… A lack of clarity in the wine. Acceptable for certain older wines that contain a sediment, but can point to unstable, faulty wine.
cloying… Very sweet or sugary wines lacking in balance.
coarse… Rough, out of harmony. Usually referring to excessive tannin or oak. Also used to describe large bubbles in sparkling wines.
cold fermentation… Temperature-controlled fermentation, at between 13º and 16º C – used mainly for certain types of white wine production. Results tend to be fresher, lighter, more aromatic.
cold maceration… When the juice is left on the skins in red wine making to extract colour and flavour – temperature-controlled to prevent premature fermentation.
cold soak… See ‘cold maceration’.
cold stabilisation… A clarification technique whereby the wine’s temperature is lowered to the point at which tartrates and other insoluble solids separate out. The technique used to remove tartaric acid in red wine.
Colombar… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Blanquette, Colombard.
complex… A subjective term used to describe interesting, multi-dimensional wine. Synonyms include ‘dense’.
concentrated… A richness and depth in fruit that is appealing. Often associated with blockbuster, show-stopping wines. Can also refer to a winemaking process whereby water is removed from the must before fermentation.
Concord… Red grape variety. American.
confected… Over-constructed, artificial (could imply the addition of flavourants).
cool fermentation… See ‘cold-fermentation’.
cooper… Supplier of oak staves and maker of barrels for winemaking. Also responsible for overseeing the drying of the wood outdoors or in kilns (most oak for barrel making is weather-dried for several years, rather than force-dried in a much shorter time, to extract the sap), and for how the planks of wood are turned into staves (usually by splitting, sometimes by sawing). The cooperage is where the barrels are assembled.
copper sulphate… Copper salt used for treating vines against fungus.
cork… The bark of cork-oak trees from which bottle closures are made, with Portugal by far the largest cork-producing country in the world. Alternatives to natural cork include synthetic closures (e.g. plastic corks) and screw-tops.
corkscrew… Device to help remove the cork seal from inside the neck of a wine bottle.
corkage… The fee levied (to provide glasses, waiter service, etc) when diners choose to bring their own wine into a restaurant to enjoy with their meal, rather than purchasing from the selection offered by the eatery. Usually expressed as an amount of money per bottle. Permission to ‘bring your own’ (BYO) is granted or refused at the discretion of the management.
corked… Used (often wrongly) by many to describe any wine that smells or tastes bad or unpleasant – faultiness or flaws in a wine can be due to a number of reasons. A ‘corked’ wine smells musty, mouldy or ‘off’ and, while it can be the result of unclean or tainted cork, is sometimes due to faulty winemaking or poor storage. Unacceptable when extreme, but most problematic when mild, transforming good wine into what’s perceived as ordinary by consumers unaware of the fault. See also ‘TCA’ and ‘PCA’.
Corvina… Red grape variety. Italian.
Côte d’Or… Literally, golden slope or escarpment. Area in Burgundy, France, between Dijon and Santenay.
coupage… French term for mixing different wines to obtain the desired blend.
creamy… A buttery mouthfeel associated with certain white wines – sometimes imparted by wood contact, often from extended lees contact.
cremant… French term for slightly sparkling.
criadera… Spanish for wine ‘nursery’.
crianza… Spanish term for wine aged for at least two years after the harvest (including at least six months in barrel).
crisp… Denoting freshness, indicative of the acid level. Usually associated with certain young white wine styles.
cross… Originating from grape varieties of the same species – whereas a ‘hybrid’ is a cross involving different species.
Crouchen Blanc… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Cruchen Blanc and, in South Africa, Cape Riesling and Paarl Riesling.
cru… French for ‘growth’, a particular vineyard or product of that vineyard.
cru classé… An officially classified vineyard; classed growth. French.
Cruchen Blanc… See ‘Crouchen Blanc’.
crush… When the grape skins are split under pressure during the process of destemming and extracting the juice. Sometimes used as a collective term for the harvest and winemaking process.
crystals… See ‘tartrates’.
cultivar… Cultivated variety of grape. See ‘variety’.
cuvée… A particular lot or barrel selection, or wine from a specific grape variety or blend that’s been kept separate from the bulk of what’s produced.
dealcoholise… See ‘broken back’.
decadent… A big bouquet. Synonyms include opulent, rich, luxurious.
decanter… A vessel into which wine is poured and served from.
decanting… Slowly, carefully pouring the wine from its bottle into another container such as a glass jug or decanter – either to aerate the wine, or to remove sediment from a wine.
Deckrot… Red grape variety. German cross between Pinot Gris and Teinturier Färbertraube.
dégorgement… French for ‘disgorgement’.
dégustation… Tasting. French.
Delaware… White grape variety. American hybrid.
delicate… Subtle wine that is understated, where shyness is an attribute rather than a negative. Light- to medium-bodied.
demijohn… From the French word ‘Dame-Jeanne’, a glass vessel with a large body and small neck, usually enclosed in wickerwork.
demi-sec… A level of sweetness in sparkling wine. Although French for half-dry, demi-sec bubblies are often semi- to medium-sweet. See also ‘sugar levels’.
dense… See ‘complex’.
deposits… See ‘sediment’.
depth… Level of complexity and flavour concentration in a wine.
dessert wine… Collective term for sweet wine styles typically served with dessert after a meal, though sometimes prior to a meal (e.g. together with foie gras). Inclusive of Noble Late Harvest (botrytis) wines, certain Late Harvest and Special Late Harvest wines, Straw Wine (Vin de Paille) and certain fortified wines. See also ‘sugar levels’.
dilution… See ‘broken back’.
dirty… Referring to off-putting smells, such as those caused by bad barrels or corks.
disgorge… Removal of the deposit (yeast sediment or lees) from ‘bottle-fermented’ sparkling wines prior to sealing the bottle with a cork.
distillation… Application of heat to a liquid (or to a solid) to produce vapor, which is then condensed and collected.
district… Geographical demarcation of an area.
Dolcetto… Red grape variety. Italian.
domaine… Wine-producing property.
Domina… Red grape variety. German cross between Portugieser and Pinot Noir.
dosage… The ‘liqueur’ (syrup) made from sugar and wine that is added to dry sparkling after fermentation, before sealing the bottle with a cork – sweet, sometimes including older wine than that to which it is added, sometimes in the process of maintaining the house style.
doux… Usually relating to sweet sparkling wine. See ‘sugar levels’.
dried-out… Tired, lacking in the fruit character or sweetness.
drip irrigation… System whereby the vines are fed water by means of pipes and meters.
dry… Describing wine with no perceptible taste of sugar. See also ‘sugar levels’.
dumb… See ‘closed’ – though usually used in a more negative sense, denoting wines with less development potential.
earthy… Generally a soil aroma – fairly intense. Ranging from contributing to the aroma and flavour complexity of a wine, to a dirty farmyard character. Can indicate ‘brett’ in a wine.
easy… Easy-drinking wine is enjoyable but tending to simple, usually soft and inexpensive in style.
eau-de-vie… French for ‘water of life’, a term for any distilled spirit beverage.
egg white… A fining agent in winemaking terms.
Ehrenfelser… White grape variety. German cross between Riesling and Sylvaner.
eiswein… See ‘ice wine’.
Elbling… White grape variety. German.
elegant… Graceful wines with good balance.
Emerald Riesling… White grape variety. American cross between Muscadelle and Riesling.
enology… American for ‘oenology’
en primeur… French term for ‘futures’.
Ermitage Blanc… See ‘Marsanne’.
estate… The smallest wine production unit (apart from ‘single vineyard’), farmed as a unit and with its own production cellar. In South Africa, as registered with the Wine & Spirit Board, ‘estate’ on the label implies that the wine was produced on that estate from grapes grown on that estate.
esters… Organic, chemical compounds resulting from the union of alcohol and acids, contributing to the nose of a wine.
ethanol… Synonym for ethyl alcohol.
ethyl acetate… A substance related to ‘acetic acid’ that can contribute a nail polish-like (acetone) smell in a wine if present in a large amount relative to what’s found in all wine.
ethyl alcohol… The main type of alcohol in wine. See ‘alcohol’.
extract… The main attributes of a wine, the dominant smell and taste characteristics of the fruit.
extroverted… See ‘exuberant’.
exuberant… Gushing with fruit, vigorous, showy.
Faber… White grape variety. German cross between Weissburgunder and Müller-Thurgau.
fading… A wine that is losing colour, fruit or flavour, having passed its peak.
fahrenheit… To gauge temperature, measured in degrees. To convert from fahrenheit (F) to centigrade (C), subtract 32 and divide by 1.8.
farmyard… A characteristic highly desirable for some, but generally indicative of unclean aromas. See also ‘earthy’.
fat… Rich and concentrated, low to average acidity. Sometimes associated with good wines from a hot climate; a flaw if excessive, becoming flabby.
faulty… Flaw pertaining to bad winemaking, be it due to the condition of the grapes, cellar practices, dirty winemaking equipment, or tainted bottles, corks, etc.
fermentation… The conversion of sugar (in the grape) into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the addition of yeast (natural or cultivated), which feeds on the sugar, excreting enzymes that convert grape juice into wine. Fermentation stops when the sugar is exhausted, or when the alcohol level becomes toxic for the yeast enzymes (normally about 17% alcohol by volume), or when the carbon dioxide level becomes high, or when the wine is stabilised by dosing with substances such as sulphur dioxide or sorbic acid that kill off the yeast.
fermented… A wine that is fully fermented will be totally dry in taste; when all the sugar is converted…
Fernão Pires… White grape variety. Portuguese.
filter… See ‘filtration’.
filtration… The removal of deposits such as yeast cells from the wine after fermentation, prior to bottling, for purposes of clarity and stability – either by pouring the wine through a medium or membrane that prevents unwanted matter from passing through, or by centrifugal action.
fine wine… Category of highest quality of wine.
finesse… Subjective term for that indescribable quality that separates fine and great wines from slightly lesser wines.
fining… Clarifying the wine by adding albumen (egg white) or other substances – such as bentonite (powdered clay), gelatine, tannin, diatomaceous earth, isinglass (made from the swim-bladders of certain fresh-water fish) or casein – which binds to unwanted particles in the wine and settles to the bottom of a tank for removal prior to bottling of the wine.
finish… See ‘length’.
fino… Dry, light-coloured Sherry.
first growth… An area, or wine from that area, regarded as among the finest of a particular district or region.
fixed acidity… The total acidity less the volatile acidity.
fixed sulphur… As opposed to ‘free sulphur’
flabby… Structure found wanting; usually implying insufficient acid.
flat… Low acidity; worse than ‘flabby’. Also describing sparkling wine that has lost its bubbles.
flaw… See ‘faulty’.
fleshy… See ‘chewy’.
flight… Group of wines in a tasting.
flinty… A term for very dry white wines, usually Sauvignon Blanc, whose smell is like that of flint struck against steel.
flor… A film of yeast cells growing on the surface of certain classes of Sherry during the production thereof.
floral… A flowery component, usually associated with scent and with white wine.
focused… Indicative of clearly defined aroma and taste. The hallmark of a fine wine.
foil… See ‘capsule’.
Folle Blanche… White grape variety. French.
Forta… White grape variety. German cross between Madeleine Angevine and Sylvaner.
fortified… A wine with its alcohol strength imparted or increased by the addition of brandy, grape spirit, or neutral spirit. 15% to 24% alcohol by volume. See also ‘Port’, ‘Sherry’, ‘Muscadel’, ‘Jerepigo’.
forward… Not shy or closed, obvious on the nose and palate.
Fransdruif… See ‘Palomino’.
free run… Grape juice drained off after crushing the grapes, without pressing, prior to fermentation – the better quality juice.
free sulphur… When added to wine, some sulphur dioxide combines with oxygen and some of the sugars and acids. The remaining SO2 is termed free sulphur, which can combine with oxygen at a later stage and be detected on the nose.
Freisamer… White grape variety. German cross between Sylvaner and Pinot Gris.
French oak… The type of wood traditionally used to make wine barrels.
fresh… A welcome characteristic that can be evident in both young and old wines. Clean, lively, fruity.
frizzante… Italian for semi-sparkling.
Frontignac… See ‘Muscat à Petits Grains’.
fruit… Though wine is made from fruit, it will only taste of fruit if the ripeness and acidity are in balance.
full-bodied… Wines tending to richness in extract and alcohol.
Fumé Blanc… See ‘Blanc Fumé’.
fungus… In wine terms, pertaining to fungal disease affecting grapes.
Furmint… White grape variety. Hungarian.
futures… ‘En primeur’ in French. Wines usually offered within a year of the harvest, before the final blending and bottling, at prices lower than what will be asked when they are released onto the market by conventional means.
Gamay… Red grape variety: French (Beaujolais). Synonyms include Gamay Noir.
garagiste… Micro winery (very small).
Garganega Bianco… White grape variety. Italian.
gelatine… Positively charged fining agent used to remove negatively charge matter (such as excess tannin) from wine.
generic… Wine that is typical of a region or style of wine – distinct from a specific house style, usually average to good quality rather than top class.
Gewürztraminer… White grape variety: associated with Germany and France (Alsace), though precise origin uncertain.
Gloria… White grape variety. German cross between Sylvaner and Müller-Thurgau.
gluhwein… See ‘mulled wine’.
glycerol… A by-product of alcoholic fermentation, giving an apparent sweetness – even in dry wines – and a certain oiliness.
Graciano… Red grape variety. Spanish.
graft… The joint between the root system and the producing vine – most vines are grafted onto phylloxera-resistant rootstock.
grand cru… French for ‘great growth’ – a specific area, or wine from that area. In South Africa, the term can infer simply dry white wine. See also ‘premier grand cru’.
grand cru classé… Highest classified growth (French)
grand vin… Leading growth or wine of a district or type. French. Referring to a specific area or wine from that area.
gran reserva… Spanish term for wine aged for at least five years after the harvest (including at least two years in barrel).
grapey… Simple flavours and aromas – distinct from the more complex fruit characteristics of fine wines.
grassy… A typical descriptor for Sauvignon Blanc. Almost always pleasant.
green… Under-ripe fruit, lacking in richness.
Grenache… Red grape variety. Spanish. Synonyms include Alicante.
Grenache Blanc… White grape variety. Spanish.
Grenache Noir… Red grape variety. Spanish.
grip… The acid/tannin/alcohol sensation in the mouth – a positive, firm texture. Good grip often associated with fine Port.
Groendruif… See ‘Semillon’.
Grolleaux… Red grape variety. French.
Grüner Veltliner… White grape variety. Austrian.
Gutenborner… White grape variety. German.
gyro pallet… Mechanised alternative to the hand-riddling of bottle-fermented sparkling wines during remuage, prior to dégorgement. A large basket or crate of inverted bottles of wine mounted on a machine that can change the angle of and vibrate the bottles in the process of moving the lees (yeast sediment) inside the wine into the neck of the bottles.
half bottle… 375ml in volume.
Hanepoot… See ‘Muscat d’Alexandrie’.
hang time… How long the grapes are allowed to stay on the vine – usually pertaining to the degree of ripeness.
hard… Astringent tannins, or high acidity. Sometimes used to describe young red wines.
harmonious… Well ‘balanced’.
harsh… Used to describe a wine that is too ‘hard’. Usually a flaw.
Hárslevelü… White grape variety. Hungarian.
haute… High in a geographical sense. French. Usually denotes better quality.
hazy… Could be used to describe a good quality wine that is unfined or unfiltered, but usually pertains to unsightly matter suspended in the wine.
heady… High alcohol.
herbaceous… Herbal, mainly on the nose. Between grassy and flowery. A plus in Sauvignon Blanc and certain other wines.
Hermitage… See ‘Cinsaut’.
Hermitage Blanc… See ‘Marsanne’.
Heroldrebe… Red grape variety. German cross between Portugieser and Limberger.
high tone… Aromas or bouquet verging on elegant, but which can sometimes be excessive.
Hock… See ‘Hockheimer’.
Hockheimer… Abbreviated as ‘Hock’, generic term for the white wines of Germany.
hogshead… A cask of approximately 236 litres.
hollow… Dilute, lacking in concentration. Flat. Usually goes hand-in-hand with a short finish.
horizontal tasting… Tasting different wines of the same variety and vintage. Different to ‘vertical tasting’.
Hospices de Beaune… The hospital in Beaune, Bordeaux (France), founded in 1443 and funded by the sale of wines from the area that have been donated by vineyard owners over the centuries – the Hospices de Beaune wine auction in November every year is considered an indicator of Bordeaux wine prices for the vintage.
hot… A taste descriptor denoting excessive alcohol on the palate, out of balance with the fruit. Can be ‘alcoholic’, a burning sensation.
humidification… See ‘broken back’.
humidity… The degree of moisture in the atmosphere. Ideal cellaring conditions involve a humidity level of around 70%. Too high and mildew can develop on the labels and corks; too low and the cork can dry out, shrink, allow oxygen into the bottles and result in spoilage of the wine.
Huxelrebe… White grape variety. German cross between Chasselas and Muscat Courtillier.
hybrid… Originating from grape varieties of different species – not the same as a ‘cross’ between grape varieties of the same species.
hydrometer… The Sikes hydrometer is an instrument designed for ascertaining alcohol strength.
ice wine… ‘Eiswein’ is a German term for botrytis wine (Noble Late Harvest) made from frozen grapes, usually as a result of snow or frost. After the crush or pressing, the frozen water content of the grape rises to the surface of the vat, leaving a concentrated juice that makes for a wine with unique character. Ice wines also made in Canada and elsewhere.
imperial… A volume measure, describing a bottle that holds four to six litres.
intensity… Often associated with high quality, balanced wine – lively, vibrant, layered, textured. Good concentration of flavour.
isinglass… Fining agent made from the swim bladders of certain fresh-water fish.
Jacquère… White grape variety. French (Savoie).
jammy… Very flavourful, good ripeness, high extract – though can be excessive, even undesirable in certain types of wine.
Jerepigo… Very sweet fortified wine that involves stopping fermentation in the very early stages – or preventing fermentation altogether – by adding grape spirit to the grape juice or must. Synonyms include Jerepiko or Jerepico (South Africa), and Jeropiga. Portuguese.
jeroboam… 3-litre bottle, holding the equivalent of six standard bottles.
Kadarka… Red grape variety. Hungarian.
Kanzler… White grape variety. German cross between Müller-Thurgau and Sylvaner.
Kerner… White grape variety: German cross between Trollinger and Riesling.
ketones… Chemical compounds related to aldehydes that contribute to the flavour of alcoholic beverages.
Kolor… Red grape variety. German cross between Pinot Noir and Teinturier Färbertraube.
kosher wine… Certified as suitable for consumption by religious Jews, conforming to strict rabbinical production criteria – from the time the grapes come into the cellar, the wine may only be made and handled by orthodox Jews using kosher ingredients and equipment. Involves pasteurisation of the must or wine.
Lambrusco… Red grape variety. Italian.
Late Bottled Vintage… LBV Port is made from the fruit of a single year, matured in barrel for two years (sometimes for as long as four or five years) and vintage dated.
Late Harvest… Points to a sweeter style of wine from grapes picked later than most. See ‘sugar levels’.
lay down… For bottle maturation, ageing.
LBV… See ‘Late Bottled Vintage’.
leaf roll… Referring to a type of fungal disease affecting grape vines.
leafy… Too leafy implies vegetal or green wine, but in moderation can be a positive synonym for ‘slightly herbaceous’.
leaguer… Old-fashioned unit of measuring the quantity of wine.
lean… Could mean lacking in fruit or concentration, but not necessarily a negative – sometimes used to describe austere wine.
lees… Dead yeast cells that drop out of the wine during fermentation.
leesy… Creamy richness imparted to a wine from time spent on the lees. Most obvious in bottle-fermented sparkling wines and certain ‘still’ white wines.
legs… Used to describe how wine clings to the glass after swirling – the greater the alcohol by volume, the more viscous the wine and the longer the ‘legs’.
Len De L’Elh… White grape variety. French.
length… The amount of time the taste of a wine lingers in the mouth after swallowing (or spitting). Generally, the longer the finish (length) of a wine, the better the wine – great length can last from 20 seconds to several minutes.
light… Bright light, particularly sunlight, can change the character of a wine over time – even to the point of spoiling it. Which is why for centuries wine has been stored in dark places and in green or brown bottles, which filter out some of the harmful rays.
lively… Exuberant; usually referring to good acidity. Fresh, up-front fruit or crisp acid.
long… Lingering aftertaste. See ‘length’.
low wine… The first product in the distillation of brandy, whisky, rum. Spirit of low strength prior to second (re)distillation.
lush… Used to describe wines high in sugar and which taste soft or viscous.
Macabéo… White grape variety. Spanish.
maceration… Extraction of colour, tannin and aroma from the grape skins by the alcohol during fermentation.
maceration carbonique… See ‘carbonic maceration’.
Mâconnais… See ‘Altesse’.
macroclimate… Climate of a district or region.
Madeira… A type of fortified wines from the Portuguese island of Madeira, usually made from a blend of wines (primarily Malvasia, Sercial, Bual).
Madeleine Angevine… White grape variety. Cross between Précoce de Malingre and Madeleine Royale.
maderised… Used to describe the browning colour and somewhat caramelised, often nutty character evident in older wines. Oxidised.
magnum… 1,5-litre bottle size, equivalent to two standard bottles in volume.
maison du vin… See ‘négociant’.
Malbec… Red grape variety. French (Bordeaux).
malic… Malic acid has a green apple-like flavour in young grapes, which recedes during the ripening cycle.
Malmsey… White grape variety. Portuguese.
malolactic fermentation… Occurs after alcoholic fermentation: a second fermentation whereby malic acid is converted into softer lactic acid. It adds complexity to the wine and reduces the risk of ‘malo’ taking place later in the bottle.
Malvasia… White grape variety. Portuguese.
Manseng… White grape variety. French.
marc… Brandy made from the residue of grape skins, pips and stalks after pressing (sometimes referring to the residue itself).
Mariensteiner… White grape variety. German cross between Sylvaner and Rieslaner.
marque… The brand name.
Marsala… Italian term for a sweet wine made by mixing must evaporated over a flame with fresh must and alcohol.
Marsanne… White grape variety. French (Rhône). Synonyms include Ermitage Blanc and Hermitage Blanc.
Master of Wine… A qualification involving the study and tasting experience of the world of wine, conferred by the Institute of Masters of Wine in the United Kingdom.
Mataro… See ‘Mourvèdre’.
maturation… The ageing or development of a wine to the desired or peak condition for optimal drinking pleasure.
mature… Ready to drink.
matured… Meaning ‘aged’ or to do with oaking when referring to barrel maturation. Allowed to develop or attain peak condition when referring to bottle maturation.
Mauzac… White grape variety. French.
Mavroud… Red grape variety. Bulgarian.
Mazuelo… Red grape variety. Spanish.
MCC… Method ‘Cap Classique’. See ‘bottle fermented’ and ‘Cap Classique’.
meaty… See ‘chewy’.
Melon de Bourgogne… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Gamay Blanc, Pinot Blanc. American.
mercaptans… Can be formed when alcohol reacts with hydrogen sulphide – the ‘rubbery’, ‘old sulphur’ or ‘bad eggs’ smells encountered in over-reduced (very de-oxygenated) wines or very old white wines that are past their best. Also described as smelling of garlic, onion, stale cabbage.
Meritage… Used by certain American wineries to describe blended wines in which the varietal components can vary from year to year without any of them dominating.
Merlot Blanc… White grape variety. French.
Merlot… Red grape variety. French (Bordeaux).
mesoclimate… Climate pertaining to a small area or vineyard.
Méthode Champenoise… See ‘bottle fermented’ and ‘Champagne’.
methuselah… 6-litre bottle size, equivalent in volume to eight standard bottles.
microclimate… Of a specific vineyard or vine in respect of unique topographical features.
microbial spoilage… See ‘bacterial spoilage’.
micro-oxygenation… Technique involving the controlled addition of oxygen to the must or wine to soften the tannins.
mildew… Fungal vineyard disease.
Monastrell… Red grape variety. Spanish.
Mondeuse… Red grape variety. Italian. Synonyms include Refosco, Terrano.
monopole… French term for ‘proprietary brand’
Morio-Muskat… White grape variety. German cross between Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc.
Moscatel… Sweet wine made from Moscatel or Muscat grapes. French. Synonyms include Muscadel (South Africa).
mould… See ‘fungus’.
Mourvèdre… Red grape variety. French. Synonyms include Mataro.
mousse… The fine bubbles that characterise a sparkling wine once it is no longer under pressure, after the cork of its bottle has been removed. Often, the smaller and more persistent the string or bead of bubbles, the finer the quality of the sparkling wine.
mousseux… French term for fully sparkling.
mouthfeel… The most dominant taste of a wine. See ‘texture’.
mouth-filling… Wine that is big, rich, high in fruit extract and usually high in alcohol on the palate. See also ‘chewy’.
mulled wine… Heated wine that is spiced and served as a punch. Of German/Austrian origin. Typically served on cold nights.
Müller-Thurgau… White grape variety. German.
Multaner… White grape variety. German cross between Riesling and Sylvaner.
Muscadel… South African term for sweet wine made from Muscat grape varieties, usually fortified. Moscatel in France.
Muscadelle… White grape variety. French. Not related to Muscat family. Synonyms include Tokay (Australia).
Muscat à Petits Grains… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Frontignac, Moscatel, Moscato, Muscat de Frontignan.
Muscat d’Alexandrie… White grape variety (Egyptian). Synonyms include Hanepoot (South Africa), Moscatel.
Muscat de Frontignan… See ‘Muscat à Petits Grains’.
Muscat Ottonel… White grape variety. East European.
museletts… The wire that holds a sparkling wine cork in place in the mouth of the bottle, preventing it from popping out.
must… The pulpy juice from freshly crushed or pressed grapes at the onset of fermentation, before being converted into wine.
musty… A flaw in wines that have been in dirty barrels or cellars, or exposed to tainted cork.
mutage… The addition of alcohol to fresh grape juice, preventing fermentation and producing a type of fortified wine known as vins de liqueurs (French) such as Pineau and Ratafia.
nail polish… See ‘ethyl acetate’.
Natural Sweet… Dessert wine, sweeter than Late Harvest, sometimes as sweet as Noble Late Harvest (but usually without the influence of botrytis). See also ‘sugar levels.’
natural wine… Unfortified wine; fermented grape juice. Still or sparkling, dry to sweet. Nothing that could inhibit the normal processes of nature is added during fermentation. Ranging between 6% and 18% alcohol by volume; normally between 11% and 13% ABV.
Nebbiolo… Red grape variety. Italian.
nebuchadnezzar… 15-litre bottle, equivalent in volume to 20 standard bottles.
négociant… Somebody who buys grapes and vinifies them, or buys wines and blends them, to bottle under his/her own labels. Applicable to most wholesalers with their own labels.
Noble Late Harvest… Sweet wine produced from very ripe, shriveled white grapes that have been affected by botrytis cinerea, a mould or fungus. Such grapes have a high sugar concentration due to dehydration caused by the botrytis. See also ‘sugar levels’.
noble rot… See ‘botrytis cinerea’.
Noblessa… White grape variety. German cross between Madeleine Angevine and Sylvaner.
Nobling… White grape variety. German cross between Sylvaner and Chasselas.
non vintage… Blended from more than one vintage, allowing the vintner to maintain a house style regardless of the year of production – though could be vintage-specific and simply not certified or labeled as such. Fine wines that are non-vintage (NV) include numerous sparkling wines, as well as Sherry and the non-vintage Ports (tawnies, rubies).
nose… The smell of a wine – the aroma and bouquet. Verb or noun.
Nouveau… A style of light, fruity young wine (usually red) made mostly from Gamay grapes that is bottled and sold as soon as possible after the harvest – popular in Beaujolais, France. See ‘carbonic maceration’.
nursery… Where grape vines and rootstocks are propagated under controlled conditions before being transferred to vineyards.
nutty… Can be a positive, describing a certain oaky flavour, but also used to describe oxidised wines.
NV… See ‘non vintage’.
oak… Primarily French and American oaks are used for winemaking, with the majority of barrels made from trees grown in the oak forests of France. Factors contributing to the aromatics, flavours and tannins imparted by the oak to the wine include the origin and cooperage, as well as the size of the barrel and the grain of the wood, the amount of time the wine spends in barrel, whether the barrel is new or in use for the second or third time, and to what extent the wood has been charred (toasted). See also ‘cooper’, ‘staves’, ‘chips’.
oaky… When the toasty or vanillin smell or the taste of tannin imparted by new wood during maturation (or fermentation) dominates the character of a wine. Desirable qualities include: toasty, vanilla, smoky, cedary. Negatives include: burnt, green, plywood.
oenology… The science and art of winemaking.
oenophile… Connoisseur of wine; a wine aficionado.
off… Flawed or spoilt wine. Abnormal taste or odour in wine. See also ‘faulty’.
off-dry… Slightly sweet wine – less sweet than ‘semi-sweet’. See also ‘sugar levels’.
oidium… Fungal disease of grapes, also known as powdery mildew.
oloroso… Sweetish Sherry, fairly dark in colour.
Ondenc… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Sercial (Australia)
Optima… White grape variety. German cross between Sylvaner, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau.
opulent… See ‘decadent’.
organic wine… Produced using the minimum of sulphur dioxide from grapes that have been grown without chemical fertilisers, pesticides, etc.
organoleptic… Affecting an organ or sense, such as taste and smell.
Ortega… White grape variety. German cross between Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe.
overripe… Wine made from grapes left on the vine too long – to the point where they lose their acidity. A common problem in hot wine-growing areas where farmers wrestle with rapid ripening during the harvest season.
oxidation… The effect on wine of exposure to air – a chemical reaction between the oxygen and the wine that changes the colour, smell and taste of the wine.
oxidised… Excessive exposure to air causes a wine to lose freshness and fruit character and to become stale. Very oxidised wines take on an amber or brownish colour, sometimes tasting Sherry-like. All wines are oxidised to some extent: the level of oxidation must be controlled to produce a good wine; the rate of oxidation must be controlled for good maturation.
Paarl Riesling… See ‘Crouchen Blanc’.
palate… Flavour, taste, texture in the mouth.
pallet… Large wooden platform/base on which a number of cartons of wine are stored or transported.
Palomino… White (Sherry) grape variety. Spanish. Synonyms include White French or Fransdruif (South Africa).
Pamid… Red grape variety. Bulgarian.
Parellada… White grape variety. Spanish.
passé… Old, past its best.
pasteurisation… The exposure of liquid to a high temperature (±60º C) to kill unwanted micro-organisms – occasionally used for lower-priced wines, and for kosher wines. Flash-pasteurisation involves exposing the must or wine to about 80º C for a matter of seconds.
PCA… Pentachloroanisole (PCA), related to TCA, is a chemical compound associated with wood that has been treated with pentachlorophenol-based preservatives – an airborne contaminant that can affect cork, barrels, filtration mediums, even glass bottles. Like TCA, it causes musty aromas and flavours, but can go undetected at much higher levels than TCA.
peak… When a wine is at its best.
perfumed… A smell associated mostly with fragrant, aromatic white wines, though sometimes applicable to certain dry and sweet white wines, too.
Perle… White grape variety. German cross between Gewürztraminer and Müller-Thurgau.
perlé… Wines with light bubbles, slightly carbonated.
pétillance… French word: a pétillant wine has a light, natural sparkle, due to residual carbonic gas. Synonyms include spritz or spritziger. German.
Petit Verdot… Red grape variety. French (Bordeaux).
pH… Abbreviation for ‘potential hydrogen-ion concentration’. The perceived acidity tasted in a wine, a measure of active acidity or alkalinity – the lower the pH the stronger the acid, with such wines tasting tart, crisp. Thought to influence the ability of a wine to age. (Water has a pH of about 7, compared with about 3,5 for most wines).
phenolics… Natural colour pigments, tannins and flavour compounds present in grapes, particularly in the grape skins. Potentially astringent.
phylloxera… A root louse (tiny aphid) originating in North America, which devastated vineyards in most wine-producing countries around the world during the late 19th century, necessitating the grafting of vines onto American rootstock resistant to phylloxera.
physiological ripeness… Just before the grape starts to shrivel, when the stem is brown and the grapes can be easily removed from the vine.
pièce… See ‘barrel’. French. Traditionally holding 228 litres.
Pierce’s disease… Fatal vine disease spread by insects, notably in America.
Pineau d’Aunis… Red grape variety. French.
pinking… When white wines turn light pink after bottling, it’s usually indicative of a very ‘reductive’ style of winemaking – overdone, faulty. Could also be a sign of oxidation.
pink wine… See ‘Rosé’ and ‘Blanc de Noir’.
Pinot Blanc… White grape variety. French.
Pinot Gris… White grape variety. French.
Pinot Meunier… Red grape variety. French (Champagne).
Pinot Noir… Red grape variety. French. Used for making red Burgundy, and one of the three major grape varieties used in the production of bottle-fermented sparkling wine for which Champagne is famous.
Pinotage… Red grape variety. South African cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (Hermitage).
plonk… Inexpensive/cheap wine that is very ordinary or of low quality.
Port… A type of fortified wine made famous in the Douro region of Portugal. Also made in South Africa and certain other wine-producing countries, often using the same grape varieties that typify Portuguese Ports. The five different styles: Ruby, Tawny, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), Vintage (also Vintage Reserve, in South Africa), and white port. See separate listings for each type of Port.
Portugieser… Red grape variety. Austrian.
porty… Over-ripe when describing unfortified wine. Stewed, heavy.
Poulsard… White grape variety. French.
powdery mildew… See ‘oidium’.
premier cru… A ‘first growth’, relevant where the term is controlled (such as in Burgundy and Champagne). Pertaining to a specific area, or wine from that area.
premier grand cru… South African term for austere dry white wine. See also ‘grand cru’.
press wine… The ‘pressing’ is the juice extracted from the grapes under pressure. It has more flavour, a stronger smell, deeper colour and more tannins than free-run juice.
pricked… Unpleasant sharpness resulting from excessive volatile acidity.
Primitivo… Red grape variety. Italian. Synonyms include Zinfandel.
proof… A standard for calculating alcohol strength, the term being derived from the gunpowder test.
Prosecco… White grape variety. Italian.
prune… A characteristic usually associated with wine made from overripe grapes and regarded as a flaw. Can add complexity, but usually a sign of dried-out grapes.
punching down… To punch down the cap is a means of breaking up the grape skins etc floating at the top of the tank during the winemaking process to enable aeration/oxidation, so that fermentation can continue unhindered and to maximise flavour and colour extraction.
pungent… Powerful, assertive smell associated with high VA (volatile acidity).
punt… Indentation in the base of a bottle – sometimes associated with making for a more solid, sturdy bottle and better quality wine. Mainly for stacking and pouring purposes.
pyrozines… Aroma and flavour compounds present in grapes.
quaffable… Easy-drinking, accessible, undemanding wines.
quinta… Portuguese for wine estate.
Rabaner… White grape variety. German cross of Riesling clones.
Rabigato… White (Port) grape variety. Portuguese.
racking… A means of clarifying wine by drawing it off its lees after fermentation – or to stop fermentation, a process involving the transfer of wine from one barrel to another, leaving the sediment or yeast behind.
raisin… Dried grape.
raisiny… A flaw in most table wines, but can be desirable in Noble Late Harvest dessert wines as well as some Ports and Sherries. Usually due to very ripe or overripe grapes.
ratafia… Liqueur made by combining marc brandy with grape juice.
rebate brandy… Pot still brandy matured in wood, often older than three years.
recorked… When bottles are recorked during the process of wine maturation in bottle.
reduced… Deoxygenated wine – sometimes smelling of mercaptans.
reductive… Reductive winemaking (optional) occurs in an oxygen-free environment, in part at least, which can involve the addition of sulphur dioxide as an anti-oxidant. Practiced as a means to maintain or enhance the grape flavour profile of a wine, albeit at the risk of deoxygenation, off-putting odours and ‘pinking’.
refractometer… Optical instrument that measures the sugar content of grapes.
region… A combination of districts or parts of districts, or a separate area.
Regner… White grape variety. German cross of Luglienca Bianca and Gamay.
rehoboam… 4½-litre bottle size, equivalent in volume to six standard bottles.
Reichensteiner… White grape variety. German cross between Müller-Thurgau, Madeleine Angevine and Calabreser-Fröhlich.
remuage… See ‘riddling’.
reserva… Spanish term for wine matured for at least three years (including at least one year in barrel).
reserve… Depending on the producer, it can signify the winery’s best wines. Sometimes meaningless.
residual sugar… Measure of unfermented grape sugar in the finished wine.
retsina… Resinated Greek wine.
reverse osmosis… In winemaking, a technique used to remove water to increase the concentration of the wine or must.
Rhoditis… White grape variety. Greek.
Rhône… Famous wine region in France. Synonymous with Shiraz/Syrah, Grenache, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier.
rich… High in extract, flavour and fruit intensity.
riddling… Remuage: the process of gradually inverting and shaking bottles of wine made in the Champagne style, i.e. after fermentation, to get the lees (yeast sediment) from the sides of the bottle into the bottlenecks prior to dégorgement (removal of the sediment). See ‘bottle fermented’.
Rieslaner… White grape variety. German cross between Sylvaner and Riesling.
Riesling… White grape variety. German. Synonyms include Rhine Riesling and Weisser Riesling. In South Africa, ‘Riesling’ on the label, without the descriptor Rhine or Weisser, can refer to the variety Crouchen Blanc.
ripe… Used to describe the optimum level of grape maturity.
riserva… Special, aged wine. Italian.
Rkatsiteli… White grape variety. Russian.
Robola… White grape variety. Greek.
Romorantin… White grape variety. French.
Rondinella… Red grape variety. Italian.
Roobernet… Red grape variety: a South African cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Pontac.
rootstock… Vine root, selected for one or more special attributes (typically resistant to phylloxera and invariably suited to a particular soil type), onto which a vine plant is grafted.
Rosé… Pink in colour. Can be made by blending red and white grapes, but mostly made from red grapes whose skins are left on the must during fermentation – the juice is run off the skins and treated the same way as white wine, and can be dry to semi-sweet. Also used as a collective term for both Rosé and Blanc de Noir wines.
Rotberger… Red grape variety.
rouge… French for ‘red’.
round… Mature wines that have lost their youthful astringency, or young wines with soft tannins and low acidity, are described as ‘rounded’. Smooth, not coarse or tannic.
Roussan… See ‘Ugni Blanc’.
Roussanne… White grape variety. French (Rhône).
Roussette… See ‘Altesse’.
Ruby Cabernet… Red grape variety: American (California) cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan.
Ruby Port… Fruity, similar to young Vintage Port, aged in wood for at least six months, usually not vintage dated. Ruby in colour.
saccharometer… An instrument for ascertaining the sugar content of must, or grape juice, measured in terms of degrees balling (or brix).
saccharomyces… The generic name for different yeasts, such as saccharomyces apiculatus and saccharomyces ellipsoideus (wine yeasts).
sack… Old English term for Sherry.
Sacy… White grape variety. French.
saignee… A term describing how juice is ‘bled’ off (removed) after limited skin-contact in the process of making Rosé wine as a by-product of red wine making. French for ‘bleeding’.
salmanazar… 9-litre bottle size, equivalent in volume to 12 standard bottles.
Sangiovese… Red grape variety. Italian. Synonyms include Brunello (Montalcino).
sangria… Punch made using red wine, fruit juice (orange, lemon, apricot) and sugar.
Saumer… White growths of the Loire, France – once made only as still wines, now a serious competitor of Champagne, especially in the cheaper sparkling wine markets.
Sauternes… Light golden sweet wines produced in the commune of Sauternes, France.
Sauvignon Blanc… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Blanc Fumé, Fumé Blanc.
Savagnin… White grape variety. French.
Savatlano… White (Retsina) grape variety. Greek.
Scheurebe… White grape variety. German cross between Sylvaner and Riesling.
Schönberger… White grape variety. German cross between Spatburgunder and Chasselas Rosé and Muscat Hamburg.
sec… French for ‘dry’. See ‘sugar levels’.
secco… Italian for ‘dry’.
secondary fermentation… See ‘bacterial spoilage’. Different from second fermentation: see ‘bottle fermented’ and ‘Sherry’.
sediment… In winemaking: the lees (dead yeast cells) and other solids that accumulate at the bottom of the tank or barrel. In finished, bottled wine: the accumulation of harmless tartaric acid crystals and tannins that separate out of the wine – usually due to gentle fining, little filtration or cold stabilisation.
Seibel… White grape variety. French.
Sekt… German term for sparkling wine.
Semillon… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Hunter Riesling (Australia), Groendruif (South Africa).
Septimer… White grape variety. German cross between Gewürztraminer and Müller-Thurgau.
Sercial… White grape variety. Portuguese (Madeira). Also an Australian synonym for ‘Ondenc’.
Seyval Blanc… White grape variety. French Seibel hybrid.
shallow… See ‘hollow’.
sharp… Bitter or acidic. Unpleasant.
Sherry… Fortified wine, traditionally a blend dominated by the Spanish variety Palomino. Sherry grapes (white) are dried in the open before being pressed at low temperature. The product gains its unique characteristics from the addition of flor, a type of wine yeast. A second fermentation takes place in barrels over a period of two years, after which the wine is fortified with alcohol to the desired strength and matured for seven years in a solera cellar, consisting of tiers of casks containing Sherries of graded ages – matured Sherry is drawn from the bottom casks, which are replenished from those above. The term derives from the name of the town Xeres in the Jerez district of Spain (the ‘X’ pronounced ‘Sh’), whose Sherry was the forerunner to other wines of this style now made in various countries. Types: Fino (dry and light in colour), Oloroso (sweet and fairly dark), Amoroso (lighter in colour and sweeter than oloroso), and brown (dark and sweet).
Shiraz… Red grape variety. French. Synonyms include Syrah.
short… Insubstantial. Taste dissipates quickly after swallowing.
shy… see ‘closed’
Siegerrebe… White grape variety. German cross between Madeleine-Angevine and Gewürztraminer.
Sikes… See ‘hydrometer’.
simple… Lacking in complexity.
skin contact… In winemaking, when the grape juice is left in contact with the grape skins for some time after the crush or pressing to facilitate colour and/or flavour extraction.
slick… An oily film on the surface of the wine in a glass is invariably caused when the glass (or the decanter) hasn’t been properly rinsed or dried.
smoky… A characteristic imparted by the type of soil or the smokiness of the barrels in which the wine is aged. Sometimes descriptive of a burnt character.
soft… Round and fruity, low in acidity, no hard tannins. Smooth, well integrated.
solera… Tiers of wine barrels containing Sherries of graded ages – a system of blending Sherry, whereby older wine is constantly refreshed by the addition of younger wine of the same type. (The solera system is also used for the production of certain brandies).
sommelier… French for ‘wine butler’ – senior to and more knowledgeable than a wine steward or waiter, able to advise restaurant customers on food and wine matches, wine descriptions, vintage variations, etc; well versed in wine service etiquette.
sorbic acid… Sometimes added to wine as a preservative, detectable as a faint garlic-like smell when in excess.
Souzão… Red (Port) grape variety. Portuguese.
sparkling wine… Natural wine – white, red, Rosé or Blanc de Noir – that has either undergone a second fermentation in the bottle – see ‘bottle fermented’ – or in pressure tanks (charmat method), or has been carbonated by means of gas impregnation. Sweetness levels: brut (extra dry), sec (dry), demi-sec (semi-sweet), doux (sweet). See also ‘sugar levels’.
Spätlese… Sweet German wine made from very ripe bunches of grapes – picked late; may include some botrytised grapes. (Second to Auslese)
Special Late Harvest… South African term for dessert wine that is sweeter than Late Harvest, less sweet than Noble Late Harvest. Not botrytised. See also ‘sugar levels’.
spittoon… Vessel into which wine is spat after assessing it during tasting.
spoilt… Pertaining to wine that has gone ‘off’ in the bottle due to age, oxidation, poor storage conditions, etc.
spritzig… German for ‘pétillant’
spumante… Italian term for sparkling wine, often sweet.
stabilisation… Bringing the wine fermentation process to a stop, curbing the level of alcohol.
stalky… Sometimes an alternative for ‘vegetal’, but usually denoting wine that has had excessive contact with the grape stems. Can result from excessive pressure during the pressing of the grapes.
standard bottle… 750ml in volume.
staves… Oak planks inserted into wine as a less expensive means of imparting wood tannins, oak character.
Steen… South African term for ‘Chenin Blanc’, sometimes confused with ‘Stein’.
Stein… Used in South Africa to describe a semi-sweet white wine, many examples of which have a high percentage of Steen (Chenin Blanc) in the blend – the words Stein and Steen sometimes being confused with one another.
stewed… Over-ripe, cooked.
still wine… The opposite of sparkling wine – without bubbles – whereby the carbon dioxide generated during fermentation is not retained, the wine being bottled and served in a ‘still’ condition.
Straw Wine… Sweet wine resulting from late-picked grapes being left to dry and shrivel in the sun on straw matting. Synonym for Vin de Paille. French. See also ‘sugar levels’.
structure… The flesh and bones of the wine, the relationship between the various smell and taste components, the texture and mouthfeel.
stuck fermentation… When fermentation stops prematurely – usually due to excessively high temperatures during fermentation, or the death of yeast cells as a result of nutrient deficiency or excess sugar content. Can result in a bitterness in the wine.
St Vincent… The patron saint of French winemakers, whose feast day is celebrated around 24 January.
subtle… See ‘delicate’.
sugar levels… Sweetness levels of bone-dry to very sweet dessert wines are measured according to grams of sugar per litre. In South Africa, the sugar levels are defined as follows for still wines:
Extra-dry = less than 2,5g/litre
Dry = 2,5 to 5g/litre
Semi-dry = 5 to 12g/litre
Semi-sweet = 5 to 30g/litre
Late Harvest = 20 to 30g/litre
Special Late Harvest = up to 50g/litre
Natural Sweet and naturally-dried or Straw Wine = more than 30g/litre
Noble Late Harvest = more than 50g/litre.
For sparkling wine:
Brut, extra-dry = less than 15g/litre
Sec, dry = 15 to 35g/litre
Demi-sec, semi-sweet = 35 to 50g/litre
Doux, sweet = more than 50g/litre.
sulphur… Sulphurous acid, sulphur dioxide (SO2) or sulphites are usually added to the grape juice or wine as a stabiliser or antioxidant (to delay or stop fermentation), or as preservative. Sulphur is also a sterilising agent for casks, barrels, etc, while in the vineyards it is often dusted or sprayed onto the leaves and fruit as a safeguard against many diseases, fungi and pests to which grapes are subject. The smell of over-sulphured wines can be acrid, pungent, powerful and assertive, and ranges from that of a recently struck match to bad eggs.
supple… Harmonious wine; attractively rounded. Relating to tannin, body and oak.
sur lie… When a wine is aged ‘on the lees’, kept in contact with the dead yeast cells without racking or filtering. Done with certain wines to enrich and add complexity – avoiding aeration and retaining more carbonic gas from the fermentation can impart a certain freshness or liveliness.
sweet wine… See ‘dessert wine’ and ‘sugar levels’.
Sylvaner… White grape variety. Austrian.
Syrah… See ‘Shiraz’.
TA… See ‘total acidity’.
table wine… Generally referring to unfortified, non-sparkling, non-dessert wines. Suitable to serve with meals.
Tannat… Red grape variety. Spanish.
tannic… Mostly descriptive of wine that is too young, unready to drink – tannins tend to become increasingly less aggressive during the bottle-ageing process, however, very dominant tannins can be indicative of unbalanced or dried-out wine. Negatives include: ‘burnt’, ‘green’, ‘plywood’.
tannins… Chemical compounds contributing to the colour and taste of a wine that are derived from the grape or the wood of barrels in which the wine is made. Also factors in the maturation potential of a wine.
tart… Sharp, acidic, lean wine – can result from unripe grapes.
tartaric acid… The dominant acid in a wine.
tartrate crystals… Unsightly but don’t affect the quality or character of a wine – sometimes regarded as a positive, in that they are indicative of a less processed wine. Resembling tiny shards of glass. Avoided by some winemakers through ‘cold stabilisation’.
tartrates… Tartaric acid components of a wine that can separate out as ‘tartrate crystals’ – sometimes forming in the barrel, sometimes in the bottle or on the cork. Harmless.
taste… The basics: sweetness on the tip of the tongue, sourness or acidity on the sides, bitterness at the back and top, saltiness on the front and sides.
tastevin… Small silver cup used for sampling wine. French.
Tawny Port… Aged in wood for many years, with typically nutty characteristics. Usually not vintage dated. Tawny in colour.
TCA… Trichloroanisole is a contaminant that taints wine with mouldy, musty and vegetal characteristics, and is generally produced through a chemical reaction between chlorine and wood or cork. It stems from chlorine-based disinfectants used in the preparation process of natural cork stoppers, as well as barrels and cardboard packaging materials.
tears… See ‘legs’.
temperature… The ideal temperature inside a cellar is between 10º and 18º C, bearing in mind that the wine will develop faster at higher temperatures. Excessively hot conditions (over 35º C) can be detrimental to the subtle characteristics of a wine, or even destroy it at while too low a temperature will retard the wine’s development. Consistency of temperature is essential: big seasonal variations should be avoided, while daily variations should not exceed a few degrees.
In terms of wine-serving temperatures: as a rough guide, red wines (including Port) should be served at between 16º and 18º C, with all other wines chilled to between 8º and 10º C. Ideally, though, the following serving/pouring temperatures should apply:
sweet sparkling wine – 5º to 8º C
dry sparkling wine – 8º to 10º C
unwooded white, sweet white and rosé – 8º to 14º C
wooded white wine – 13º to 16º C
light red and nouveau wines – 10º to 14º C
full-bodied red wine – 16º to 18º C
dessert wine and white port – 8º to 10º C
dry sherry – 5º to 8º C
medium and full cream sherry – 8º to 10º C
red port – 16º to 18º C
Tempranillo… Red grape variety. Spanish. Synonyms include Tinta Roriz.
terpenes… Distinctive floral (fuel-like) aroma and taste characteristic found in certain wines, particularly those made in certain styles from Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Muscat grape varieties.
terroir… Derived from the French word ‘terre’ (earth). The overall growing environment of soil, aspect, altitude, climate, etc – all the natural conditions influencing the vine.
tête de cuvée… The first, best quality juice to flow during the pressing.
texture… The character of a wine as influenced by the fruit, acid, tannin and alcohol. The mouthfeel.
thick… Ripe, concentrated wines low in acidity.
thin… An undesirable term for watery, diluted wine lacking in body.
tightly knit… Good acidity and tannin levels in a well-made wine – usually associated with young wine that has development potential. Similar to ‘closed’.
Tinta Amarela… Red (Port) grape variety. Portuguese.
Tinta Barocca… Red grape variety. Portuguese.
Tinta Cão… Red (Port) grape variety. Portuguese.
Tinta Roriz… See ‘Tempranillo’.
tinto… Red (Spanish, Portuguese).
tired… Lacklustre wine: over-aged, or not meant for ageing and kept too long, losing its freshness.
toasting… Firing, mild burning of the inside of a barrel to impart a particular characteristic to a wine – the extent of the charring varies according to the degree of toastiness required.
toasty… Smell associated with wine that has spent time in charred or toasted barrels. Flavour imparted by oak barrels. Also a characteristic sometimes evident in sparkling wine.
Tokaji… Synonym for Tokay (Hungary).
Tokay… Also known as Tokaji, the famous wine of Hungary made in a style similar to Noble Late Harvest – made from the concentrated juice of semi-dried, extremely rich, botrytis-affected grapes. Also an Australian synonym for Muscadelle.
total acidity… The total amount of acidity in a wine, measured in grams per litre, often expressed either as sulphuric or tartaric acid.
Touriga Francesa… Red (Port) grape variety. Portuguese.
Touriga Naçional… Red (Port) grape variety. Portuguese.
transfer… A method of making ‘bottle-fermented’ wine, whereby after the second fermentation the wine is transferred from the bottles to tank for filtration, prior to rebottling – all while still under pressure. The ‘transfer’ method is less labour intensive than the traditional method in that it dispenses with ‘remuage’ and ‘disgorgement’.
Trebbiano… See ‘Ugni Blanc’.
trellis… Wire along which vines are grown, trained.
Trockenbeerenauslese… Sweet German wine made from very ripe bunches of grapes, picked late, including botrytised grapes. (Superior to Beerenauslese)
Trollinger… Red grape variety. German.
Trousseau Gris… White grape variety. French. Synonyms include Grey Riesling (California, New Zealand).
TS… Abbreviation for Total Sugar content, expressed as grams per litre.
typicity… How typical of a variety a wine is in terms of the characteristics on the nose and palate – generically speaking.
Ugni Blanc… White (brandy) grape variety. French. Synonyms include Roussan, Trebbiano, White Hermitage.
ullage… The space/air between the cork or cap and the wine in an unopened bottle of wine (or between barrel and the wine in that barrel). Ullaged refers to the loss of wine from the bottle due to seepage (leaking cork), evaporation, or wine being withdrawn from the bottle. Excessive ullage can be indicative of an oxidised wine inside the bottle.
unctuous… Layered, rich, intense wine – soft fruit. Sometimes used to describe fatness, a type of oiliness.
VA… See ‘volatile acidity’.
vanilla… The most obvious of oak-induced characteristics in a wine – usually more prevalent on the nose than the palate.
vanillin… Aromatic aldehyde in oak.
varietal… See ‘variety’.
varietal wine… Wine sold under the name of a particular grape variety. Single varietal wines as specified on the label must contain a minimum of 85% of wine made from the grape variety specified.
variety… Type of grape or vine plant, such as Shiraz, Riesling, etc. Also referred to as cultivar (cultivated variety).
vat… Large tank or barrel.
VDQS… Vin Délimité de Qualité Supéreure (French), one level better than vin de pays, one level below AOC wine.
vegetal… Usually denoting wine made from unripe fruit – can be pleasant if subtle, even adding complexity, but a flaw if too dominant.
véraison… When the grapes start to take on colour and begin to ripen (French word).
Verdelho… White grape variety. Portuguese (Madeira).
Verdicchio… White grape variety.
vermouth… Aromatised wine made from neutral white varieties blended with an extract of wormwood, vanilla herbs, spices.
vertical tasting… Tasting the same wine across different vintages. Different to ‘horizontal tasting’.
vigneron… Vineyard worker, wine farmer, vine grower, ‘winegrower’. French.
vignoble… Vineyard. French.
vigour… The propensity of a vine to grow – indicative of the rate of foliage/canopy growth.
village… Selected commune with a particular appellation. French.
Villard Blanc… White grape variety. French Seibel hybrid.
vin… Wine. French.
Vin de Paille… French term: see ‘Straw Wine’.
vin de pays… French term for one level better than table wine (vin de table) and one level below VDQS wine.
vin de table… French term for the lowest level of quality – but not necessarily derogatory. Synonyms include vin ordinaire.
vin ordinaire… French term for homely type of table wine; usually simple, but can be quite pleasant.
vinage… The addition of alcohol to wine to raise the strength.
vine… Climbing, woody-stemmed plant bearing grapes.
vine life cycle… After three or four years’ old: weeping (oozing of the sap), spring growth and bud-break, foliage development, flowering, fruit set, ripening of the grapes, autumn, winter dormancy.
vinegar… Sour, acidic liquid derived from wine.
Vinho Verde… Young wine – Portuguese. Famous type of food-wine made from grapes before they are fully ripe.
viniculture… The science of grape production for winemaking.
vinifera… See ‘vitis vinifera’.
vinification… The winemaking process.
vinimatic… A rotating fermenting tank, sometimes used before primary fermentation, in which maceration takes place and by means of which free-run juice is extracted before the pressing – an alternative to more conventional wine presses.
vino… Wine (Italian, Spanish).
vino da tavola… Italian for ‘table wine’.
vino de mesa… Spanish for ‘table wine’.
vinosity… Vinous character.
vinous… ‘Winelike’, but often applied to wines lacking distinct varietal character. Referring to basic qualities; winey smell or taste.
vintage… The year in which the grapes were harvested to make a particular wine. At least 85% of a wine must come from a given vintage for it to be referred to on the label.
Vintage Port… Matured in barrel for about two years prior to being bottle-matured for a number of years. Vintage dated.
vintner… A ‘wine merchant’, but widely used to describe a winemaker or the owner of a winery.
Viognier… White grape variety. French (Rhône).
viscous… High fruit extract, often high in alcohol – good if accompanied by balancing acidity, flabby if lacking in acidity.
viticulture… The science of vine cultivation for winemaking purposes; the study of grapes.
vitis vinifera… Species of grape for winemaking.
volatile… Deteriorating. Becoming acetic, acidic.
volatile acidity… Organic acids (particularly acetic acid) and related substances (such as ethyl acetate) in excessive amounts can impart a vinegary or nail polish-remover (acetone) smell to a wine. Low concentrations can enhance the aroma and complexity of a wine, whereas high VA is indicative of unstable wine (sometimes attributed to poor hygiene in the winery) and is usually pungent.
Vranac… Red grape variety. Yugoslavian.
waiter’s friend… Type of ‘corkscrew’ including a knife or blades to assist with the removal of the closure around the neck of a wine bottle. Also referred to as a sommelier knife.
ward… Small homogenous wine-producing area, normally within the boundaries of a district.
weather… Atmospheric conditions – of air and sky – prevailing at a certain time in a certain place: cold to hot, clear to cloudy, dry to wet, calm to windy, high to low pressure, electrical state.
Welschriesling… White grape variety.
White French… See ‘Palomino’.
whole-bunch pressing… The winemaking technique whereby bunches of grapes are pressed without destemming, which some believe can contribute to the freshness of the wine.
wine… Fermented grape juice. Contents: water (over 85%); alcohol (ethyl); glycerol (1%); organic acids (tartaric, lactic, other); carbohydrates; minerals; tannin and colour pigments – also traces of volatile acids (mainly acetic), nitrogenous matter (amino acids, protein, other), esters (mainly ethyl acetate), aldehydes (mostly acetic, vanillin, other), alcohols other than ethyl, traces of vitamins.
wine aperitif… Pertaining to a wine-based drink to which flavour has been added.
wine bottles… See ‘bottle sizes’.
winemaking… In brief, in general: cultivation of the vines; harvesting the grapes; destemming; light crushing; pressing of the grapes; fermentation of the juice/must (usually with the addition of yeast cultures) in steel tanks or oak barrels (in contact with the grape-skins for some of the time in the case of reds to extract colour and tannin); racking and/or fining to remove unwanted matter from the wine; wooding as required (for most reds and certain whites, in barrel or alternatively with staves or chips); maturation in barrel (mainly for better quality reds); adding brandy or grape spirit (for fortified wines); bottling; maturation in bottle (for wines that will development with benefit).
wine of origin… Originating from a particular area. In South Africa, the Wine of Origin Seal issued by the Wine and Spirit Board and attached to the neck or capsule of a wine bottle certifies that the grapes from which the wine was made were grown in the area as claimed on the label.
wine storage… See ‘cellaring’.
wood… See ‘barrel’, ‘cooper’, ‘oak’.
woody… Excessive oak flavours, (still) out of balance. See ‘oaky’.
Würzer… White grape variety. German.
Xarello… White grape variety. Spanish.
Xynomavro… Red grape variety. Greek.
yeast… Micro-organisms that when added to grape juice convert the sugar into (ethyl) alcohol and carbon dioxide. Natural or cultivated; necessary for fermentation. (Natural/wild yeasts are contained in the waxy bloom or pruina on the grape skins).
yield… Vineyard productivity, measured in tons or hectolitres per hectare.
zesty… Lively. Crisp.
Zinfandel… Red grape variety. American. Synonyms include Primitivo. Italian.
zymase… The enzyme which is the active agent excreted by yeast in converting grape sugar into alcohol.
zymology… The study of fermentation.