Wine UThe glossary compiles commonly occurring wine tasting jargon as well as terminology unique to the world of wine. This includes terms relevant to growing and production of wine.

Browsing the glossary can be very informative. At we firmly believe that even casual perusing of the material can be an active learning process.

Where possible, we also provide a guide to pronouncing these names. See our Pronunciation Guide for an explanation of the notation.




Acetic acid

: one of the acids contributing to the acidity of a wine. Others are citric, tartaric, malic, and lactic. Acetic acid is the acid in vinegar and responsible for vinegar's distinct smell and taste. In small amounts it may complement a wine, but in excess it can be unpleasant and usually is regarded as a flaw. The presence of oxygen and the bacteria from the genus Acetobacter in the wine may cause accumulation of this acid. This is not typically a spontaneous conversion in finished, bottled wines.


: (tasting term). An inappropriately or overly sour tasting wine. Acids accentuate the taste of wine and prolong its freshness. When out of proportion to the rest of the wine’s components, acidity results in a flawed taste. One must note that different grape varieties have different inherent levels of acidity and high acidity is sought out and prized in certain wines.


: (tasting term). The tart or sour element of wine's flavors. It is part of the wine’s structure. Both a deficiency and excess are deemed flaws. Acidity gives freshness, vitality and balance to wines and is one of the essentials of longevity and food friendliness. Hot growing seasons ore regions produce wines with lower in acidity than cool ones.


: A unit of agricultural land measurement. This is comparable to three fourths of a football field. 4840 square yards or a square piece of land roughly 70 yards on all sides.


: (tasting term). The taste which lingers in the mouth after the wine is swallowed. The duration of the aftertaste is called a wine's length by some and is assessed when evaluating a wine’s quality. See: 'finish'


: (tasting term). This term typically indicates that a wine is either high in acidity or harsh tannins, or both.


: (winemaking term). The process of letting the wine sit (in oak barrels or in bottles) for extended periods of time and in appropriate conditions in order to allow certain characteristics to develop and evolve. Most red wines are aged in barrels and some even in the bottle before release. Very few wines, owing to their make up, are particularly age worthy. The vast majority of wines are made ready to drink at the time of release. Key to aging, are good cellaring conditions: cool, stable temperatures and appropriate humidity to prevent the cork from drying out.


: In the context of wine, this means ethanol or ethyl alcohol. The intoxicant in wine and other alcoholic beverages, it is a product of the fermentation process where yeast converts sugars into alcohol. It also acts to preserve the wine. It is measured in "proof" or percent volume. This is different from the term “% by volume”. An average wine labeled as “14% alcohol by volume” is 28 proof. Conversely, an 80 proof bottle of whisky is 40% alcohol by volume.

Alcoholic fermentation

: (winemaking term). The action of yeast on sugars converts it to ethyl alcohol. It is sometimes referred to as primary fermentation. In the case of wine, it may start spontaneously since there are yeasts found on grapes naturally. However, winemakers may add cultured yeast. In the process, ethanol, carbon dioxide and heat are generated. Heat needs to be controlled as it may affect the resulting wine. The process stops when either the sugar in the fermenting grape juice is consumed or when alcohol rises to a level toxic to yeast. Other manipulations to arrest fermentation include adding alcohol spirits or sulfur to the fermenting mixture. See also: 'secondary fermentation'.


: [al-SAS] French wine growing region situated in the North East of France, near the German border. Its hallmark wines are dry and sweet white wines. The grapes used for these distinctive wines are grown only in this region.

Alternating Proprietor (alternating proprietorship)

: An arrangement where numerous winemakers share a winemaking facility. This has many forms, including a facility like Fess Parker's Wine Center in Santa Maria, where winemakers making small lots of wine share the facilities in a way similar to anyone who might go into a local Kinko's to use their computers and printers does.

American Viticultural Area

: Abbreviated as AVA. Describes an officially recognized American wine growing region which is very specifically defined in terms of geography. It is less strict than the French system. Established by Congress in 1978 and originally administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the AVA system assures consumers that the wine they are drinking originates from a specific winemaker and growing area. In 2003, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Bureau (TTB) was created as part of the restructuring of the Treasury Department and the ATF - as mandated by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 . Supervision and administration of the AVA system now rests with the TTB. See: Appellation. More about appellations.

Anaheim disease

: A disease of grape vines which wiped out some 25,000 acres of Southern California vineyards in the late 1800’s as well as others since. It was also called the mysterious disease, California disease and finally 'Pierce’s disease' (after the USDA scientist who studied it, publishing a description in 1892). A lethal disease affecting grape vines, it is spread by insects known as sharpshooters or leafhoppers and infects the xylem (the water conducting channels found in all parts of all plants).


: (tasting term). A somewhat elusive word used to describe a wine that lacks roundness, fullness and depth. It is often applied to lean wines from poor vintages or with inappropriately high acidity.


: An officially recognized region for growing grapes. Appellations are defined by geographic and climatic features. See: AVA. More about appellations.  


: (tasting term). The smell in a young wine it develops nuances of smell that are then called its bouquet. This occurs with aging.

Arroyo Grande Valley

: (AVA) a 16-mile-long winding valley in San Luis Obispo County. The mid valley grows mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Zinfandel and Rhone varietals are grown above the fog line of the valley. More.

Arroyo Seco

: (AVA) in the center of Monterey County's Salinas Valley, this appellations claim to fame are white wines characterized by tropical fruit flavors. The larger eastern and central areas are planted predominately to Chardonnay and Riesling. The western portion of this appellation is much smaller and warmer and grows Zinfandel and Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. More.


: (French winemaking term). [a-SEM-blah-DZH] [?] The process of blending several wines from different grape varieties which have been produced separately.


: (tasting term) A puckery or dry sensation in the mouth, typically encountered in red wines. This becomes a flaw when out of proportion with the other components of the wine. That is not a categorical condemnation, though. Wines may be astringent, harsh or coarse because they are young, tannic and unevolved.


: (tasting term). A wine that is not forthcoming with aromas and flavors. This is common in young, tannic wines. This is merely a phase and the wine most likely will improve with age. At this stage, though, wines are not pleasant tasting, They are typically hard, high in acid, dry and lack richness and roundness. Mostly seen in young Bordeaux wines.

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