Glossary of Wine Terms

The world of wine can certainly be a wonderful, exciting experience. It can also be a confusing and intimidating challenge! This glossary of terms to help you make sense of the language of wine. As you explore the delicious wines available, you can use this Glossary to help focus on the characteristics you are looking for in a wine.


Taste:

  • DRY:

    Technically speaking, a "dry" wine is one in which there is no perceptible taste of sweetness (most wine tasters begin to perceive sugar at levels of 0.5 % to 0.7 %). However, a well made wine can have sweet aromas, but still taste "dry." In a Red Wine, "dry" generally reflects the influence of tannin, which can leave one with a slight "pucker" and sensation of dryness on the tongue after tasting. Most of the "classic" or traditional Red Wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Bordeaux, Burgundy) are dry wines. For White Wines, "dry" is a more difficult taste to describe, but many of the most popular white wines (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio) are dry wines - again containing no residual sugar.

  • SEMI-DRY / SEMI-FRUITY:

    Sometimes known as "off dry" or "blush" wines. Refers primarily to wines with just a touch of sweetness. Both Reds and Whites often have more of a flowery, fruity aroma, and they have a tendency to be lighter-drinking than a "dry" wine. As the name suggests, these are wines that have a level of residual sugar which gives them a sweeter or "fruity" taste, without being absolutely sweet like a Dessert wine, for example.

  • FRUITY:

    The term "fruity" is used to describe wines with a high sugar content. In technical terms, it refers to one of the four basic tastes detected by the sensory nerves of the human tongue. Characteristics are generally deeply concentrated flavors, sugar and acidity which together provide a good balance. There are various kinds of fruity wines. They range from some of the world's most famous "dessert" wines from Sauternes (Chateau d'YQuem), Germany and Tokay to the sweet "ethnic" wines that have been in common use for generations.


Varietal:

  • Auslese

    German wines are categorized according to ripeness at picking. The minimum levels of ripeness for each category vary by region, but the basic categories are Tafelwein (table wine), Qualitatswein (Quality wine or QbA) and Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (Quality wine with added distinction or QmP). Within the latter category the distinctions are (in ascending order of ripeness) kabinett, spatlese, auslese, beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) and eiswein. Under certain climatic conditions, the grapes may be affected by Botrytis cinerea, a desirable fungus that enhances flavor, and is known in Germany as Edelfaule. Although they may contain residual sugar, German wines tend to be richer as one tastes through the categories of distinction and not until Beerenauslese is sweetness enough of a dominant factor for a wine to be considered a dessert wine. At all levels German wines are balanced by high acidity, so they do not necessarily taste sweet.

  • Bordeaux

    Premier French growing region. Primary varietals: Red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) and White (Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc).

  • Cabernet Sauvignon

    The undisputed king of red wines, Cabernet is a remarkably steady and consistent performer. It grows well in many regions, and is capable of rendering wines of uncommon depth, richness, concentration and longevity. Cabernet has an affinity for oak and usually spends 15 to 30 months in new or used French or American barrels, a process that, when properly executed imparts a woody, toasty cedar or vanilla flavor to the wine while slowly oxidizing it and softening the tannins. Microclimates are a major factor in the weight and intensity of the Cabernets. Winemakers also influence the style as they can extract high levels of tannin and heavily oak their wines.

  • Cabernet-Merlot

    A common "Bordeaux-blend" becoming more popular in wines produced worldwide. The Merlot adds a softer, more supple texture to the bold Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • Chablis

    Authentic Chablis is made in France from pure Chardonnay. However, many wineries market a "Chablis" which can be any semi-dry blend of white wines.

  • Champagne

    Only sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of Northeastern France can boast this name. Champagne can be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. Similar wines that come from anywhere else in the world are known as "Sparkling Wines."

  • Chardonnay

    The "king of white wines." Chardonnay is the single most popular wine in the world (if you judge by sales). It makes consistently excellent, rich and complex whites. This is an amazingly versatile grape that grows well in a variety of locations throughout the world. In Burgundy, it is used for the exQuisite whites, such as Montrachet, Meursault and Pouilly-Fuisse, and true Chablis; in Champagne it turns into Blanc de Blancs. Chardonnay has reached superb maturity in many California regios as well. Among the many other countries that have caught Chardonnay fever, Australia is especially strong.

  • Cotes du Rhone

    (Also Cotes du Rhone-Village). Blended wines , not only of the 14 grape allowed grape varieties, Grenache being chief among them, but blended from village to village as well. Of varying Quality, they are best when made by the traditional barrel fermented techniQues and not the newer carbonic maceration techniQue (which is how Beaujolais is made, and why everything made this way tastes like Beaujolais).

  • Dornfelder

    Germany. The most successful new grape is making a wonderful career for itself. It came originally from a crossing of the negligible Helfensteiner and Herold grapes and was supposed to improve the color of bright red burgundy. But Dornfelder came through as a robust, strong red wine in its own right - due especially to barriQue casking. It is grown mostly in the Palatinate, and is known in the region as an excellent Pfalzwein.

  • Eiswein

    German wines are categorized according to ripeness at picking. The minimum levels of ripeness for each category vary by region, but the basic categories are Tafelwein (table wine), Qualitatswein (Quality wine or QbA) and Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (Quality wine with added distinction or QmP). Within the latter category the distinctions are (in ascending order of ripeness) kabinett, spatlese, auslese, beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) and eiswein. Under certain climatic conditions, the grapes may be affected by Botrytis cinerea, a desirable fungus that enhances flavor, and is known in Germany as Edelfaule. Although they may contain residual sugar, German wines tend to be richer as one tastes through the categories of distinction and not until Beerenauslese is sweetness enough of a dominant factor for a wine to be considered a dessert wine. At all levels German wines are balanced by high acidity, so they do not necessarily taste sweet.

  • Gewurztraminer

    Gewurztraminer can yield magnificent wines, as is best demonstrated in Alsace, France, where it is made in to a variety of styles from dry to off-dry to sweet. The grape needs a cool climate that allows it to get ripe. It's a temperamental grape to grow and vinify, as its potent spiciness can be overbearing when unchecked. At its best, it produces a floral and refreshing wine with crisp acidity that pairs well with spicy dishes. When left for late harvest, it's uncommonly rich and complex, a tremendous dessert wine.

  • Graves

    Rich, lush Whites and Reds from one of the most prestigious regions of Bordeaux. Not to be missed!

  • Huxelrebe

    A blended German white wine, it offers a penetrating bouQuet, and fantastic sweet fruit flavors.

  • Kabinett

    A semi-fruity German white wine. Big and generous, with a nice balance between ripe green apple and apricot. Loaded with bright juicy flavors of fresh flowers, lemon and red apple. An excellent summertime wine.

  • Late-Harvest Cabernet

    Late-Harvest wines are made from grapes left on the vine after traditional harvest. These grapes (both Red and White) begin to achieve very high levels of sugar, and eventually develop "botrytis" (the noble rot) producing intense, thick, concentrated wines that are often the most sought-after wines made.

  • Merlot

    Merlot is the red-wine success of the 1990s: its popularity has soared along with its acreage, and it seems wine lovers can't drink enough of it. It dominates Bordeaux, except for the Medoc and Graves. Though it is mainly used for the Bordeaux blend, it can stand alone. In St.-Emilion and Pomerol, especially, it produces noteworthy wines, culminating in Chateau Petrus. In Italy it's everywhere, though most of the Merlot is lighter in style. Several styles have emerged. One is a Cabernet-style Merlot, which includes a high percentage (up to 25 percent) of Cabernet, similar currant and cherry flavors and firm tannins. A second style is less reliant on Cabernet, softer, more supple, medium-weight, less tannic and features more herb, cherry and chocolate flavors. A third style is a very light and simple wine; this type's sales are fueling Merlot's overall growth. Like Cabernet, Merlot can benefit from some blending, as Cabernet can give it backbone, color and tannic strength. It also marries well with oak. Merlot's aging potential is fair to good, but may become softer with age.

  • Montepulciano

    Popular Italian red wine. The most ancient document concerning the wine of Montepulciano dates back to 789: the minor clerck Arnipert gave the church of St. Silvester or St. Salvador in Montepulciano on Amiata Mount a strip of land where vineyard was grown in the castle of Policiano. The wine of Montepulciano became very important in 1685, when Francesco Redi ends lines dedicated to the wine in his dithyramb "Bacchus in Tuscany" with: "Montepulciano is the king of all wines". Very dark, almost inky garnet in color, with black fruit aromas and an odd but appetizing whiff of coffee. Full and ripe black-fruit flavors are backed by bright acidity, with good fruit and pleasant spice continuing in a long finish.

  • Montrachet

    ExQuisite white Burgundy (France). Powerful bouQuet of apples, minerals and spices. Immensely satisfying aroma. Very elegant yet full of flavors. Not somber or reserved, yet not as "fat" and viscous as Meursault. Steely tones combine with richness to make this wine extremely tasty.

  • Nebbiolo

    The great grape of Northern Italy, which excels there in Barolo and Barbaresco, strong, ageable wines. Mainly unsuccessful elsewhere, Nebbiolo also now has a small foothold in California. So far the wines are lighter and less complicated than their Italian counterparts.

  • Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris

    Known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, where it is mainly found in the northeast, producing Quite a lot of undistinguished dry white wine and Collio's excellent whites. As Pinot Gris, it used to be grown in France's Burgundy and the Loire, though it has been supplanted, but it comes into its own in Alsace--where it's known as Tokay. Southern Germany plants it as Rulander. When good, this varietal is soft, gently perfumed and has more color than most whites.

  • Riesling

    Undoubtedly the best German wines are made from Riesling. This white grape is capable of developing intense flavors at lower ripeness levels, making it an ideal cultivar for Germany's northern climate. Under the right weather conditions, Riesling will ripen late into autumn, rendering late-harvest styles. When combined with an attack of Edelfaule, these late-harvest grapes produce some of the most stunning and longest-lived wines around. Rieslings are distinguished their floral perfume, but after that they vary widely. In Germany's Mosel-Saar-Ruwer area, the wines are delicate and subtle, with very low alcohol, while in the Pfalz they become spicy, exuberant and full-bodied. In Alsace the result is bone-dry. Because Riesling is one of the grapes susceptible to Botrytis cinerea, it also produces luscious late-harvest dessert wines. Riesling was Australia's most-planted white until Chardonnay surpassed it. In California this grape is known occasionally as White Riesling. It has been declining in acreage the past few years and Quality rarely rises above the good category. As a dessert wine, though, it can be exceptional. Grows best in cool areas that allow the grapes to ripen slowly, so it is also found in Canada--where it is being used to produce eiswein--and Oregon and Washington state.

  • Riesling Spaetlese

    German white wine teeming with bright citrus flavors yet soft in texture. Strikes a perfect balance between acidity and sweetness. Like biting into the most perfectly ripened, crisp, fresh green apple. A very refreshing wine and a real favorite in the summer months.

  • Scheurebe

    A relatively newer German white wine blend of Sylvaner and Riesling. Lively acidity; bouQuet and taste reminiscent of black currants. A lightly dusty hint in aroma and lots of spice in taste are typical.

  • Semillion-Chardonnay

    Semillion is traditionally a white French blending grape blended with Sauvignon Blanc to create the foundation for the classic Sauternes and most of the great dry whites found in Graves and Pessac-Leognan. Blending Semillion with Chardonnay is gaining increasing popularity in California and Australia, producing smoother, floral whites slightly softer and lighter than pure Chardonnays.

  • Siegerrebe

    Siegerrebe is a hybrid of the classic German/European Gewurztraminer. It offers a penetrating bouQuet, with very forward fruit flavors. It is often blended with other German whites such as Huxelrebe and Spaetlese.

  • Spaetlese

    Delightfully rich German white wine that full, honeyed peach flavor with tons of residual sweetness that is so very popular. As an evening cocktail with fruit and cheese it would serve you very well.

  • Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)

    German wines are categorized according to ripeness at picking. The minimum levels of ripeness for each category vary by region, but the basic categories are Tafelwein (table wine), Qualitatswein (Quality wine or QbA) and Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (Quality wine with added distinction or QmP). Within the latter category the distinctions are (in ascending order of ripeness) kabinett, spatlese, auslese, beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese and eiswein. Harvested of individually-selected berries which are overripe and dried up almost to raisins. Produces rich, sweet, luscious, honey-like wines.

  • Verdicchio

    Verdicchio is cultivated and produced in the area of Italy known as "The Marches," situated just in the center of Italy, between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea. Although the Marches are not a large region (less than 10.000 Km2 roughly), visitors can admire an outstanding range of landscapes: from the sea to the hills, from the valleys crossed by several rivers to the tops of the highest mountains. Thanks to this variety, this region differs considerably from all the other Italian regions. Verdicchio is a very clear and intense wine, of a pale yellow with greenish tones, with a rich and delicate bouQuet, full-bodied and savory, with the typical slightly bitter aftertaste.

  • Zinfandel

    The origins of this tremendously versatile and popular grape are not known for certain, although it is thought to have come from Southern Italy as a cousin of Primitivo. It is the most widely planted red grape in California (though Australia has also played around with the grape). Much of it is vinified into white Zinfandel, a blush-colored, slightly sweet wine. Real Zinfandel, the red wine, is the Quintessential California wine. It has been used for blending with other grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. It has been made in a claret style, with berry and cherry flavors, mild tannins and pretty oak shadings. It has been made into a full-bodied, ultra-ripe, intensely flavored and firmly tannic wine designed to age. And it has been made into late-harvest and Port-style wines that feature very ripe, raisiny flavors, alcohol above 15 percent and chewy tannins. Styles aimed more for the mainstream and less for extremes, emphasizing the grape's zesty, spicy pepper, raspberry, cherry, wild berry and plum flavors, and its complex range of tar, earth and leather flavors.

Source: HungryMonster.com Staff Writers