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Glossary

Wine terms can be confusing even to professionals. Learn here about all the terminology and jargon we use on our site.


Glossary of terms used on our site

Acacia Barrel

Acacia is sawed rather than split into staves, and it’s used by a handful of wineries worldwide. It gives suave texture to wines and roundness that can often be confused with sweetness. Still, it is more neutral than oak.

Acidity

Identified as the crisp, sharp character in a wine. It refers to acid found in all grapes as an essential component of wine that preserves it, enlivens and shapes its flavors and helps prolong its aftertaste. There are four major kinds of acids--tartaric, malic, lactic and citric--found in wine. Acid is identifiable by the crisp, sharp character it imparts to a wine.

Appellation

A named geographical area (may be as large as an entire region or as small as a vineyard) from which wine may be labeled and marketed as having come from. Regulations vary widely from country to country and appellation to appellation, but typically require that appellation-labeled wine be made entirely or mostly from grapes grown within the appellation's boundaries. Some appellations also regulate which grape varieties are permitted, how they are grown and harvested and how the wine is made.

Batonnage

French term for stirring the lees during the aging and maturation of wine.

Biodynamic

A farming approach that combines principles of organic farming and concepts developed by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher. Some of these include the use of manure and compost as a substitute for artificial chemicals; incorporating livestock into plant care; and the following of an astronomical planting calendar. In its purest form the farm becomes a self-sustainable ecosystem that is centered around capturing the energy from all elements of the farm and implanting it into all of the produce that the farm grows, including grapes and finally wine.

Charmat Method (Martinotti)

A less expensive, mass-production method for producing bulk quantities of sparkling wine. The second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle, decreasing lees contact and producing larger, coarser bubbles. The wine is filtered under pressure and bottled. Also known as the bulk process or tank method. Wines made this way cannot be labeled Méthode Champenoise nor Méthode Traditionnelle.

Chestnut Barrel

Primarily used in Italy, but some other regions venture out as well. It is much more neutral than oak, even more neutral than acacia, because it imparts delicate tannins.

Co-ferment

Co-ferment normally refers to a wine that mixes both red and white grapes during the fermentation process. Generally speaking, co-fermenting is the winemaking process of fermenting at least two varieties of grapes at the same time. This practice is different from the widely used process of blending wine components into a cuvée after fermentation.

Concrete Tanks

A heavy, thick-walled vessel that comes in many shapes and sizes. Unlike oak, concrete tanks have a minimal influence on wine. It is a neutral vessel, like stainless steel, but with some differences. Unlike stainless steel, the inner walls of concrete tanks aren’t uniform. They are porous, with thousands of tiny pockets that trap air and allow the wine limited contact with oxygen. They are still neutral, so the wines created in concrete tanks tend to be bright and fruit-forward, with excellent texture and minerality.

Elevage

French term for the progression of wine between fermentation and bottling. Comparable to the term maturation in English, this is the period when the raw fermented juice is shaped into something resembling its final form, through techniques such as barrel aging, resting on lees, batonnage, filtering and fining.

Field Blend

Field blend is a wine produced from a vineyard planted to several different varieties and the grapes are harvested together to produce a single wine.

Fortified Wine

Denotes a wine whose alcohol content has been increased by the addition of brandy or neutral spirits.

Frizzante

Italian term for sparkling wines with lighter effervescence and fewer bubbles than found in ordinary sparkling wines.

Gastronomic Wine

Wines speak of their place of origin and winemaking style very clearly, and are best enjoyed during gastronomic experiences.

Glass (demijohns, tanks)

Very neutral vessels, not allowing for any micro oxidation.

Glouglou Wine

Glouglou wine is one that invites easy, copious drinking. It is a wine to be poured and not stored.

Hand Harvest

Hand-harvest refers to manual grape picking, rather than with the use of machinery.

HVE Certified

HVE certification (meaning “high environmental value”) is awarded to farmers/winegrowers who choose to take a “reasoned” approach to their work, from vine cultivation to bottling. This French certification promotes good, environmentally friendly practices across three levels: level 1 certifies that growers have a basic knowledge of “sustainable” cultivation; level 2 is achieved if the grower adheres to 16 environmental standards; and level 3 is based on the measurement of indicators such as respect for biodiversity, a strategy regarding insect pests, and sound management of fertilizer and irrigation.

Kvevri (Qvevri)

Kvevri (Qvevri or Tchuri) are large earthenware vessels used for the fermentation, storage and aging of traditional Georgian wine. Resembling large, egg-shaped amphorae without handles, they are either buried below ground or set into the floors of large wine cellars. Kvevris vary in size: volumes range from 20 liters to around 10,000; 800 is typical.

LIVE Certified

LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) certification is your assurance that the wine in the bottle was made in conformance with the most advanced standards for sustainable grape growing and winemaking. It pertains to the winegrowers in the Pacific Northwest and the organization takes into account unique attributes of the region.

Méthode Traditionnelle (Champenoise)

The labor-intensive process whereby wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, creating bubbles. The process begins with the addition of a liqueur de tirage (a wine solution of sugar and yeast) to a bottle of still base wine, triggering a secondary fermentation inside the bottle which produces both carbon dioxide and spent yeast cells, or lees, which are collected in the neck of the bottle during the riddling process. The lees are then disgorged from the bottle, and replaced with a solution of wine and sugar, giving the sparkling wine its sweetness. All Champagne and most high-quality sparkling wine is made by this process. Also known as méthode Champenoise, méthode classique and metodo classico.

Microfiber (Fiberglass)

Neutral tanks that have many benefits: Flexibility - Allows for heat expansion during fermentation; Tight Seal - Wine remains microbiologically stable; Heavy Side Wall - Makes for a strong, durable tank with a long life span; Lightweight - Easy to maneuver; Narrow Diameters Available - Saves Valuable Space; Inexpensive - More cost effective than alternative tanks

Minimal SO2

Minimal SO2 refers to wines that get up to 30mg/L of SO2 added.

Multi-Vintage (MV)

See Non-Vintage.

Native Yeast

Also known as indigenous, ambient or wild yeasts, these are yeasts that are naturally present on the grapes or in the cellar, rather than commercially cultured yeasts.

Neutral Oak

Refers to barrels that have been used in the past and thus do not impart the flavors of the wine matured in them.

New Oak

Refers to the first time a barrel is used, when it has the greatest impact on wine (every use after diminishes the flavor influence on wine). Flavors associated with new oak include vanilla, cedar, toast and smoke. The wood tannins in newer barrels add firmness to the wine's structure.

No added SO2

Finished wines bottled without any SO2 addition. These wines still contain naturally occurring SO2 (bi-product of the fermentation process)

Non-Vintage (NV)

A wine blended with grapes grown in more than one vintage. The idea is to keep a house style from year to year, eliminating vintage variations. Many Champagnes and sparkling wines are non-vintage. Also, Marsala, Sherry and the non-vintage Ports (Tawny and Ruby).

Organic

The rules and methods for producing organic grapes and wine. These rules usually differ between countries of origin and the various governing organizations involved. France, for example, legally defined organic farming in 1981 as "farming which uses no synthetic chemical products." In most cases, organic wines are fermented from grapes grown without the use of synthesized fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. In organic wines, natural yeasts and minimal amounts of sulfur are often used in the fermentation process.

Permaculture

An approach to land management and settlement design that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. It includes a set of design principles derived using whole-systems thinking.

Pét-Nat

Pét-nat is an abbreviation for “pétillant naturel”—a French term that roughly translates to “naturally sparkling.” Pétillant means lightly sparkling, referring to the bubbles in these wines. Pét-nat is bottled while still undergoing its first round of fermentation. The French call this process “methode ancestrale,” and it’s likely been around far longer than other, more complex methods of producing sparkling wine like the Champagne method.

Practicing Organic/Biodynamic

Refers to when a producer is using these practices, but doesn't have the certificate most often because of cost and bureaucracy associated with it.

Residual Sugar

Residual Sugar, or RS for short, refers to any natural grape sugars that are leftover after fermentation ceases (whether on purpose or not). The juice of wine grapes starts out sweet, and fermentation uses up that sugar as the yeasts feed themselves on it.

Sandstone Amphora

Sandstone amphoras are widely used, but most commonly clay, including terracota, is used for amphoras.

Single-vineyard Wine

A wine made from grapes harvested from one (single) vineyard.

Skin-contact Whites (Orange Wine)

When people talk about skin-contact wines, they usually refer to white grapes that are vinified like red wines. They also call these wines orange or amber, because of the color that is extracted from the skins. Skin contact is another term for maceration, or the period during winemaking when the grape skins remain in contact with the juice. Reds and some rosés get their color from maceration. Most white wines are made by pressing grapes after harvest, and only the resulting juice is fermented. But even with white grapes, if you let the juice ferment on the skins, it extracts additional tannin and flavor, just like in red wines.

SO2

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is the most common chemical compound used in winemaking. Sulfur serves two main purposes. It prevents the wine from reacting with oxygen which can cause browning and off-odors (oxidation), and it inhibits the growth of bacteria and undesirable wild yeasts in the grape juice and wine.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel tanks offer a cleaner, more controlled way of fermenting and storing wine than oak barrels, allowing winemakers to make a fresher style with more fruit and acidity rather than texture and oaky or oxidative flavor. Some winemakers feel stainless steel tanks are too sterile, sometimes producing sharp, linear wines that couldn’t breathe.

Terracotta Amphora

Terracotta is clay that has already been modeled and fired. Typically, terra-cotta objects may be made of any type of organic clay, but earthenware clay has the brown-orange color that is also known as terra-cotta. As a vessel used for wine maturation, it doesn't impart any flavor to the final wine, while allowing for a steady micro-oxidation.

Unfiltered

Unfiltered wine is simply a wine made without filtering, a process of removing leftover grape and fermentation particles. Most wines are filtered for both clarity and stability, although some winemakers believe that flavors and complexity may also be stripped from the wine. Unfiltered wines get their impurities removed through racking, where wine is left to sit for a time (the tanks aren't shaken or moved), allowing the particles to fall and settle naturally at the bottom of the tank through gravity.

Unfined

Unfined wine is simply a wine made without fining, a technique for clarifying wine using agents such as bentonite (powdered clay), isinglass (fish bladder), casein (milk protein), gelatin or egg whites, which combine with sediment particles and cause them to settle to the bottom, where they can be easily removed. Vineyard Exposure - Direction which a vineyard is facing (i.e. southeast) Vineyard Slope - Refers to the incline of the vineyard, often expressed in percentage (i.e. 40% incline)

Vegan Certified

Vegan certified means that a wine is defined as containing no animal ingredients or by-products, using no animal ingredients or by-products in the manufacturing process, there is no testing on animals, and no animals are used in farming or winemaking process. Sometimes during the clarification process, egg whites, milk (and sometimes derivatives from fish) are often used to eliminate particles after the alcoholic fermentation and before bottling and this is not the case with vegan wines.

VinNatur

A natural wine association that brings together winemakers from around the world who want to defend the integrity of their territory, while respecting the history, culture and art which has been handed down over time. Producing natural wine means respecting the soils, the environment, the natural cycle of life, and eliminating the use of invasive and toxic agents, first in the vineyard and then in the cellar. The goal of the association is to unite winemakers, giving each of them greater strength, awareness and knowledge by sharing experiences, studies and research. VinNatur was founded in 2006 by Angiolino Maule in Italy. Today, there are over 180 winemaker-members from 9 different countries.

Zero-Zero

Natural wine with no additions whatsoever, including sulfur and no intervention. Zero-zero means zero added, zero removed.

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