Acidity - A general term for the fresh, tart or sour taste produced by the concentration of acids found in wine. The multitude of natural acids found in wine make it refreshing and help fend off unwanted bacteria - preventing spoilage and preserving the life of the wine. 

Ageing - Older is not necessarily better! Most wines are usually aged in steel tanks or oak prior to bottling, but are not always suited to a further ageing process. Ageing potential is dependent on several different factors including storage, bottle size and the wine’s intrinsic capability to mature well.

Appellation - In wine terms, an appellation is a legally defined, protected area or region where grapes are grown. Sometimes, a wine is not allowed to state an appellation on the label, unless all the regulations of that area are met. Some appellations are fairly large regions, while others may only cover single towns or villages.


Balanced - In tasting terms, a ‘well balanced’ wine is one where the tannins, sugars, alcoholic strength and acidity all complement each other on the palate, with no element becoming overpowering. It is not related to the flavours of the wine.

In vine terms, balance refers to the leaf to fruit ratio - wine makers strive for the perfect balance between the two in order to produce the finest vines and therefore, the finest wines.

Bouquet - A tasting term for a wine’s smell, aroma, or perfume - it is often used in reference to more mature wines. Rather than suggesting that the smell is flowery, the term is instead used to describe the general pleasant aroma of a wine (much like a bouquet of flowers is a composition of several different flowers).

Breathing - In wine terms, ‘letting the wine breathe’ refers to pulling the cork and letting the open bottle stand for some time before consumption. Experts dispute the efficacy of this practice, as the bottle opening is so small that oxygen intake would be minimal. Decanting would be seen as a more effective means of aeration.


Cask & Cask Ageing- A wooden container for wine, small enough to be rolled - often used interchangeably with the word barrel.

Cask ageing is a practice of ageing the wine in cask after fermentation, imparting some wood influence and achieving natural clarification and stabilisation.

Clos - A French word meaning ‘enclosed’. In wine terms, it refers to a vineyard that is enclosed, generally by a wall. A very common term in Burgundy.

Corked - This term refers to a wine fault where the wine has been tainted by a faulty cork. For the most part, this fault irrevocably effects the experience of tasting a wine - giving it an unpleasant ‘off’ smell that often becomes stronger once the wine has been exposed to the air. A corked wine is sometimes also referred to as ‘corky’ or having a ‘corkiness’ about it. Wine that has small pieces of cork in it are not corked. Though the cork may have been damaged as it was being removed, this is not a wine fault and will not have an impact on the profile.


Decanting - The process of pouring a wine out of its bottle and into another receptacle (a decanter). Decanting is usually done to separate wines from any sediment that may have formed in the bottle (and is not very nice to drink!). It is also argued that decanting allows a wine to aerate as it is exposed to oxygen, which is said to help develop the ‘bouquet’ or profile. However, some believe this can lead to the breakdown of a wine’s profile (oxidation), as many wines cannot withstand much oxygen exposure.

Demi-Sec - A French term meaning medium dry, but actually refers to wine that is medium-sweet.

AppellDOmaineation - A French word for an estate or territory that typically grows vines and/or makes wine - a term often used in Burgundy. 


Effervescence - A term used to describe small bubbles in wine, caused by carbon dioxide. It is sometimes found in still wine - though many consider this a fault, with white wine it is often a deliberate choice on the part of the wine-maker to make it more refreshing.

However bubbles in older wine, particularly red wine, is usually a sign of fermentation in the bottle and is considered to be a fault.

Egg White - Used as a fining agent in the production of red wines. Egg whites are high in the protein albumin and make for a gentle fining agent, absorbing harsh and bitter tannins so that the softer, more pleasant tannins can remain.


Faults - Faults in wine can very enormously and the personal tastes of the consumer can impact their perception of a faulty wine - some characteristics deemed unpleasant to a consumer may not be actual faults. To wine-makers, a fault consists of a specific departure from the acceptable norm that typically falls into the category of a visible, smellable or tastable fault.

Visible faults are generally a hazy or cloudy appearance in the bottle.

Smellable faults consist of unclean, mouldy, stagnant or stale odours - which often indicate some form of microbiological fault or a contaminant of some kind.

Tastable faults are usually confirmations of what you’ve already smelt, with the exception of metal contaminations which can only be detected when tasted.

Field Blend - A mixture of different vine varieties, all planted in the same vineyard. A rare practice these days.

Filtration - A somewhat controversial wine-making process that involves straining out the solid materials left in wine - a physical alternative to the natural process of settling, that speeds up wine-making.


Garnacha - The Spanish name for the grape known everywhere else as Grenache. The most common form is Garnacha Tinta (or Tinto), known as Grenache Noir in French - a dark-skinned berry with light flesh. Garnacha Blanca is a light-berried variety, know as Grenache Blanc in French. 

Gewürztraminer - A distinctive pink-skinned grape variety - heady with the floral scent of roses and exotic lychee flavours. Abundantly aromatic and perfumed, it is easily recognisable and often has a slightly higher alcohol level than other white wines. Complements Asian flavours and spicy food very well. Also known as Traminer.

Grape Must - The name used by wine-makers for a thick liquid that is neither grape juice nor wine - it is a product made up of grape juice, stem fragments, grape skins, seeds and pulp - that comes out of the cursher-destemmer process and then undergoes the fermentation process.


Harvest - The term used to refer to the process of picking ripe grapes from the vine, transporting them to the winery and to the entire duration of time during which this occurs.

Herbaceous - A tasting term for the leafy, grassy or herby aromas that can accompany some wines. Only considered to be a defect if excessively abundant. 

Hermitage - The most famous, yet very small, appellation in northern Rhône. Known for creating limited quantities of long-lasting reds & full-bodied whites.


Irrigation - The man-made process of simulating rainfall in order to water growing vines, most often employed in dry and arid regions. The use of irrigation is much disputed as a vineyard practice, with many believing that over-irrigation results in a reduction of quality. However, irrigation is one of the oldest agricultural techniques and allows growing to take place in regions where vines would be under great water stress due to extreme changes in climate.

Iron - A mineral element essential to the healthy development of vines. If there is not enough iron in the soil available to the vine naturally, they become iron deficient and steps must be taken to introduce more in order to prevent problems such as chlorosis (yellowing of the leaf).

Ice Wine - A sweet wine made from ripe grapes which have been picked from the vine while frozen. The grapes are pressed while water crystals are still present and the sugar content of the wine in increased.


Jerez - A city in south west Spain and the original home of the sherry industry. Jerez is what sherry is known as in Spain (‘sherry’ is an English corruption of the word ‘jerez’).


Keller - A German term for cellar (as in wine cellar!). A keller-meister is the German term for cellar master - which is a similar position to a ‘maître-de-chai’ in France.

Kosher - In relation to wine, ‘kosher’ means the wine has been made exclusively by strictly orthodox Jewish people at every stage of the wine making process.


Languedoc - Sometimes referred to as France’s ‘New World’, as there are less constraints from the vinous regulations experienced by the rest of the country. The Languedoc is responsible for producing over 80% of France’s intermediate ‘vin de pays’ (country wine) - this is often labelled regionally as ‘Vin de Pays d’Oc’.

Lees - Wine lees are made up of dead yeast cells, skin fragments and other dregs that are  deposited as sediment in the bottom of a fermentation vessel. During wine production, clear wine juice is separated from the lees after fermentation and before clarification and stabilisation. Sometimes wine is left ‘on fine lees’ for a time to gain more complexity of flavour.

Label - A relatively modern invention which is the primary way in which a wine producer/bottler can convey important information to the consumer - such as vintage, ABV & country of origin.


Macroclimate - Also known as the regional climate, it refers to the climate of a particular region or area.

Mesoclimate - Refers to the specific and particular climate of a vineyard site, hillside or valley. Often mistakenly called the microclimate.

Microclimate - Refers to specific climates within a strictly defined space or position, such as the gaps between rows of vines or the microclimate around a specific bunch of grapes. 


Necrosis - The death of tissue. In wine terms, it is used to describe unhealthy vines that develop necrotic black spots upon the leaves, often caused by mildew. With many vine diseases, leaf yellowing (chlorosis) precedes necrosis.

Nose - An intrinsic part of the tasting experience - if the nose is blocked, the ability to taste food or drink is completely impaired. Wine characteristics are first experienced visually, then as aromas ‘on the nose’, before finishing as flavours on the palate.


Oak Ageing - The process of ageing wine in contact with oak, usually inside a barrel or cask, although sometimes with the use of oak chips. Also known as barrel ageing or cask ageing. If a wine is said to taste ‘oaky’, it usually means it has been too heavily influenced by the wood flavour, which has overpowered the smell or taste of the fruit.

Oenology - The knowledge and study of wine. The term was previously used in reference to wine-making alone, as opposed to viticulture - though it now tends to include both, as people generally agree that wines are made as much in the vineyard as they are in the winery.

Old Worlds - This term is used in direct contrast to the New World, referring to wine-making countries in Europe and areas of the Mediterranean basin such as the Near East & North Africa.


Palate - The term used to describe the process and ability of tasting food and drink in the mouth. Closely linked to sense of smell. 

Pasteurisation - The process of heating wines (and other foods) to a temperature that is high enough to kill all micro-organisms, such as yeast or bacteria, in order to prevent spoilage.

Phylloxera - A small yellow aphid that kills grapevines by attacking their roots. A catastrophic Phylloxera epidemic scourged European vineyards during the 1800s, destroying huge swathes of vines. Recovery was only slowly possible with the introduction of grafting hardier rootstock cuttings from other countries onto the devastated vines.


Quality Control - A series of ‘tests’ that analyse every point in the process of wine-making to insure high quality and regulation compliance at every stage.

Quinta - The Portuguese word for farm, which also refers to a vineyard or wine-producing estate. Often seen on port labels, ‘single-quinta’ means the port was produced from a single year and from a single estate.


Reserva - A Spanish and Portuguese term that distinguishes a wine from a good year.  Both Spain and Portugal have rigorous controls on which wines can qualify as a Reserva, including minimum cask ageing times. The English term ‘Reserve’ has no such controls upon its use. 

Racking - A wine-making process that refers to removing clear wine from the sediment or lees that has settled in the tank.

Ripasso - An Italian term for the technique of adding extra flavour & alcohol to Valpolicella. This is done by adding the unpressed skins of Amarone wines after they have finished their fermentation.


Salinity - The concentration of salt in vineyard soils or irrigation water which must be managed - a higher level of salinity can lead to vine damage and occasionally produce wines with a higher salt level.

Structure - In wine terms structure is related to the concept of balance, in that it refers to the relationship between the elements of acidity, sweetness, body, alcohol and tannins experienced when tasting a wine. Though the structure of a wine is not the same as the flavour of a wine, both are important to your experience of that wine.

Settling - A wine-making process where must or wine is held in a vessel until the suspended solids fall to the bottom. It occurs prior to the clarification process.


Tannin - Tannins are natural chemical compounds found in tree bark and fruit. In wine terms, tannins are mostly located in the skins, seeds and stems of each grape. The more these elements are involved in the wine-making process, the higher the level of tannin in the final wine will be (red wine generally has a higher tannin level). Any oak ageing taking place will also have an impact on the wine’s tannin level. Tannins cannot be smelt or tasted, but are often described in terms of ‘mouthfeel’ sensations.

Terroir - A French term and concept for the natural environment of a viticultural site, including soil, topography and microclimates, to name a few. The interaction between all these elements gives each site a unique terroir, which will be reflected in the wines produced.

Traditional Method - The official EU term for the most painstaking way to make wine sparkle - once known as the ‘champagne method’.


Ugni Blanc - A French white grape variety that is copiously used in the stills of the Cognac and Armagnac regions. Also referred to as Trebbiano in Italy.


Vintage - Most commonly a term referring to the year that a particular wine was made from the produce harvested in a single year. Often, the term ’vintage wine’ is used to describe a wine that encapsulates characteristics of the year it was made. There is a general expectation that a vintage-dated wine will be superior to a non-vintage wine.  

Vin de Pays - A French term for ‘country wine’ that was coined in the 1970s to distinguish wines from different regions as superior to generic table wine. To qualify as a vin de pays, a wine must be produced in certain quantities using certain grape varieties, be made to a certain strength and cannot be blended.

Viticulture - The science and practice of grape culture. Viticulturists make conscious decisions throughout the grape-growing process regarding vineyard site selection, vine variety, soil preparation, treatment of pests and diseases and vine planting, to name but a few.


Wild Vines - Vine plants that are growing in their natural state, without any cultivation or intervention by man.

Winery - A modern term for the premises where wine is made - it can either refer to an entire business or to a specific building in which wine is made. 


Xarel-lo - A Catalonian white grape variety used to make still and sparkling wines. Often used in the region’s famous Cavas. 


Yeast - A vital element in the fermentation process that, when starved of oxygen, turns grape juice into wine. The yeast uses up the sugars present in grapes, after which it slowly dies, falling to the bottom of the fermentation vessel and forming a sediment known as gross lees. 


Zinfandel - A black grape variety predominately cultivated in California. In the 90s it was discovered to be the same variety as the Primitivo in southern Italy.