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Glossary

Discover the main terms of wine

A
Acescence
Acidity
Agreeable
Amertume
Ampélographie
Animal
Appellation (AOC)
Arôme
Assemblage
Astringency
Ageing potential
Acescence

Similar to sourness, indicating a wine which is past its prime. Caused by the presence of acetic bacteria, which increase the wine’s acidity. To avoid this phenomenon, wine must be protected from contact with air.

Acidity

Mostly a natural product of the vine’s metabolism (with several forms of acid present in the grapes: tartric, malic and succinic). Beneath a certain threshold, acidity imbues a wine with a sense of freshness and liveliness, contributing to the balance of flavour. However excessive acidity can be a problem, making the wine seem sharp and insufficiently mature. On the other hand a lack of acidity can make a wine seem limp and lacking in character.

Agreeable

With no obvious defects.

Amertume

Bitterness and astringency are two complementary sensations. Bitterness is often found in young red wines which are rich in tannins. Bitterness can also be a defect caused by a bacterial imbalance in the malolactic fermentation phase.

Ampélographie

The study of grape varieties: their form, their physical properties and their origins.

Animal

Describes a family of aromas reminiscent of animals: musk, venison, leather etc. Aromas of this kind are usually found in old red wines. These are aromas which emerge and develop in the bottle as the wine ages.

Appellation (AOC)

AOC wines meet a strict set of production criteria established by law and monitored by the INAO (National Institution for Designated Appellations of Origin and Quality). These strict production criteria cover the vine-tending practices and grape varieties used, the location of the vines, the conditions in which the wines are aged and more. Wines are subjected to taste tests before AOC status is granted.

Arôme

L’ensemble des principes odorants des vins jeunes (contrairement au bouquet, acquis lors du vieillissement). Il existe trois types d'arômes :

Les arômes primaires ou arômes de cépage préexistent dans le raisin et donnent au vin son odeur caractéristique. Par exemple, le Cabernet-Sauvignon, aux senteurs de poivron vert. Ils évoquent en général des odeurs fleuries, fruitées ou végétales.

Les arômes secondaires, ou arômes de fermentation sont produits par les levures durant la fermentation alcoolique et malolactique. Ils évoquent la banane, le vernis à ongle, le bonbon anglais... mais également la bougie, la cire, le froment, la brioche...ou encore le beurre frais ou la crème fraîche.

Les arômes tertiaires concernent le bouquet, odeur que développe un vin lors de son vieillissement en bouteille en milieu réducteur (sans oxygène). Par exemple, la truffe, le chocolat, le moka, la noix de coco, les arômes de pâtisserie (cake, miel, pâte d’amande) ainsi que les notes animales (fourrure, cuir, musc).

Assemblage

Composition d’un vin unique à partir de plusieurs cuvées vinifiées séparément en fonction du sol, du cépage, de l’âge des vignes etc. L’assemblage, qui s’effectue avant l’élevage, est le gage du talent de l’œnologue ou du maître de chais, il se distingue du coupage, qui, lui, a une connotation péjorative.

Astringency

A certain roughness in the mouth, experienced with wines which are packed with young tannins that have not yet mellowed.

Ageing potential

A wine’s capacity to improve with age

B
Ban des vendanges
Biodynamics
Bouquet
Brillant
Burnt
Bubble
Balance
Bitter
Blending
Blossom
Bung
Bold
Ban des vendanges

This is the date on which the grape harvest may officially begin, established by prefectural decree.

Biodynamics

A winegrowing philosophy which eschews all chemical treatments, herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, shifting the emphasis towards a renewed understanding of the natural cycles which are essential to working the land, allowing the soil to regenerate and caring for the vines throughout the year.

Bouquet

Also known as the tertiary aromas, these are the fragrances a wine develops during its ageing process. There are two types of bouquet.

An oxidation bouquet is found in certain wines with high alcohol contents. When stored in casks which are not completely full, they take on a rich amber colour and develop aromas of apple, quince, almonds, walnuts and rancio (with naturally fortified wines).

A reduction bouquet develops in classic, non-fortified wines with good ageing potential. As they mature in the bottle, protected from contact with the outside world, the primary and secondary aromas in the wine are transformed into a new bouquet containing animal aromas (leather, venison, fur) and vegetal notes (undergrowth, mushrooms).

Brillant

A sign of quality in a wine: its colour is shiny and reflective when exposed to the light, giving the wine a brilliant appearance.

Burnt

A family of aromas ranging from caramel to burning wood.

Bubble

Curved shape reminiscent of a bubble.

Balance

A well-balanced wine is a wine which unites the correct proportions of sweetness, acidity and tannins.

Bitter

Describes a wine with excessive tannins and acidity, lacking in smoothness and roundness of flavour.

Blending

The practice of composing a wine by blending several ‘cuvées’ which have been vinified separately to preserve the individual characteristics of different plots, different grape varieties, vines of different ages etc. Blending takes place before the maturing process begins, and is the moment where the oenologists and cellar masters demonstrate their talent and creativity. Blending is not the same as cutting, which has pejorative connotations.

Blossom

As a good wine ages it will blossom, revealing the full potential of its bouquet and achieving its optimal balance of flavours and sensations.

Bung

Stopper made of wood, rubber, black glass or a synthetic alternative, designed to plug the hole through which barrels and casks are filled. Located on the top or side of a barrel.

Bold

When referring to a wine or one of its properties, ‘bold’ indicates a certain confidence and lack of defects.

C
Caraçonnage
Caudalie
Claret
Clone
Coulure
Cap
Coarse
Coulure
Caraçonnage

During the winter, winegrowers repair and replace the acacia stakes (known as caraçons) which support the trunks of the vines, and tighten up the metal wires which structure the branches.

Caudalie

Derived from the Latin word for tail (caudum), this unit of measurement is used to assess the time for which a wine’s aromas linger on the palate. One Caudalie is equivalent to one second. Truly great wines can achieve scores of up to 8 Caudalies.

Claret

An antiquated English name for the wines of Bordeaux.

Clone

Creating new vine plants using material from a single ‘mother’ source, via grafting or cutting.

Coulure

A phenomenon where the vine flowers fail to mature correctly, as a result of poor weather conditions, with negative effects on the quality (regularity) and quantity of the fruit produced. Certain grape varieties are very susceptible to this problem (e.g. Merlot), while others are less affected.

Cap

The solid parts of the grapes (seeds, stalks, skins) which form a crust on the surface of the wine as it ferments in the vat.

Coarse

A wine of poor quality.

Coulure

A phenomenon where the vine flowers fail to mature correctly, as a result of poor weather conditions, with negative effects on the quality (regularity) and quantity of the fruit produced. Certain grape varieties are very susceptible to this problem (e.g. Merlot), while others are less affected.

D
Decant
Delicate
Delicious
Decant

Decanting a wine means pouring it from the bottle into a carafe, for the purpose of removing any natural deposits, attenuating the aromas of the reduction bouquet or rounding off the edges of the wine’s tannins.

Delicate

A refined, smooth wine.

Delicious

Fresh, fruity

E
Empyreumatic
Earthing
Empyreumatic

The family of aromas which evoke burning, cooking or smoke.

Earthing

In the Autumn, winegrowers pile up the soil between and around the rows of vines.

F
Finesse
Flesh
Fleshy
Flow
Fresh
Full
Finesse

Applied to wines with a certain delicacy, elegance, poise and a certain aromatic discretion.

Flesh

The rich full, rich texture on the palate which some wines possess is referred to as flesh.

Fleshy

A wine with strong flesh.

Flow

A wine which is supple and agreeable may be said to ‘flow’ over the palate, with great fluidity in its flavours.

Fresh

A wine which remains lightly acidic, but offers an enjoyable sense of freshness.

Full

A wine which is full should be harmonious and give the impression that its flavour occupies the whole mouth for a good length of time.

G
Generous
Generous

Used to describe a wine with a rich alcohol content but which, unlike a ‘heady’ wine, is not overbearing.

H
Heady
Heady

Describes a wine with a high alcohol content.

L
Lees
Legs
Limp
Lees

Solid deposits.

Legs

The tracks left by wine on the side of the glass when tilted (caused by the alcohol, residual sugars and glycerol).

Limp

A wine with a perceptible lack of acidic freshness.

M
Maturing
Mellow
Must stettling
Maturing

The maturing process covers all operations undertaken between the end of malolactic fermentation and the final bottling of the wine. It is here that the wine stabilises, becomes clearer and develops the complex aromas which will be its seal of quality and character.

Mellow

Describes a wine which is harmonious and consistent, well-balanced but with flavours which have merged into one another somewhat.

Must stettling

A stage in the vinification process which comes just before fermentation. The winemakers remove many of the particles suspended in the must, to prevent them from damaging the quality of the wine’s flavour.

N
Neck
Nervy
Neck

The cylindrical upper part of a wine bottle. Counting the number of ‘necks’ is a trade term for measuring sales.

Nervy

Describes a wine which makes a distinct impression on the palate, with a certain acidity.

P
Palate
Pleasant
Plump
Palate

Used to refer to the whole panoply of sensations which a wine elicits in the taster’s mouth (temperature, acidity, astringency, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness).

Pleasant

An agreeable wine whose character is not particularly forceful.

Plump

Wines which are rich in alcohol, but dominated by a sense of sweetness.

R
Room temperature
Room temperature

For the purposes of red wine tasting, ‘room temperature’ actually describes a temperature of around 16°C, considered the optimal tasting temperature.

S
Seedless
Short
Smoked
Structure
Supple
Sweet
Sweetish
Seedless

Describes grape varieties which do not contain any pips (seeds).

Short

Or ‘short on the palate’- describes a wine whose aromas do not last long in the mouth.

Smoked

Fragrances which recall the aromas of smoked foods.

Structure

The structure of a wine is defined by the contours of its flavours, the power of the tannins and the balance between tannins and alcohol. Well-structured wines are also often described as having great body.

Supple

A wine where sweetness and smoothness trumps astringency.

Sweet

Wines with a naturally high sugar content.

Sweetish

A wine which is too sweet, lacking in acidity.

T
Tannins
Thick
Tough
Tannins

Compounds found within the grapes which allow a wine to mature and grow with time, and provide many of its distinctive flavours.

Tannins are also anti-oxidants.

Thick

Used to describe a wine with rich colour, giving a sensation of thickness and weight on the palate.

Tough

Describes the results of excessive astringency and acidity, with a concurrent lack of smoothness and alcoholic strength. Such imbalances may even out over time, as the tannins mellow with age.

V
Variety
Vintage
Vitis Vinifera
Variety

A variety is a distinctive type of vine which has evolved via the process of vine selection and cultivation.

Vintage

The year in which a wine was harvested.

Vitis Vinifera

The scientific name for European wine-producing grape vines.

W
Woody
Woody

Describes a wine which, during fermentation and maturing, has developed aromas reminiscent of wood (toasted and grilled notes, specific woods, even hints of roasted coffee, mocha and chocolate).

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