Glossary: A

Abboccato

Slightly sweet in Italian terminology. (Abocado in Spain)

Abfüllung
German wine label term for an estate that bottles their own wine. Similar terms include erzeugerabfüllung and gutsabfüllung.

Abruzzo

A wine region on the eastern coast of Italy. The Montelpuciano grape is the local favorite, with Montelpuciano d’Abruzzo being the sought-after wine of the area. Trebbiano is the white grape that the region has shown the most promise with.

 

Acetic Acid
A volatile organic acid often encountered in food; this is the main acid responsible for the flavor of vinegar. From this you'll have gathered that it is not a desirable component of wine. If you leave a bottle of wine open for a couple of weeks, a bug called Acetobacter will turn the alcohol into acetic acid, and you'll have vinegar.

 

Acetaldehyde

Chemical used to digest alcohol by the human body.

 

Acid
A  vital component of wine: it helps red wines keep their color and gives white wines their balance. If a wine has too much acidity, it will be abrasive. If it has too little, it will be homogenous and uninteresting. Acidity levels (along with alcohol, tannin, etc.) is a key component in a “balanced wine”.

 

Acidification

A wine additive process commonly used in warm climate growing regions to enhance the acidity levels in wine.

 

Acescence

An intensely sharp sensation most often caused by volatile acidity or an off aroma or flavor in wine.

 

Adega

Term for a winery or wine cellar in Portugal.  

 

Ageing
Most wines are meant to be consumed young, however some can improve with proper ageing. This usually entails wine being aged in barrel or steel tank at the winery or being aged in a wine cellar at a restaurant or a private home.  

 

Aglianico

Red grape varietal found in central and southern Italy. The typical style is medium to full bodied with high tannin. Aglianico del Vulture are wines of note from this grape.

 

Agritourismo

An Italian term for a winery that doubles as a holiday destination.

 

Albariño

A white wine grape from Spain, specifically from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia. This wine is lighter in body style, dry and has a great quality to price point ratio.

 

Alberello

A viticulture term for head-trained vines in Italy, known as bush vine training in the southern hemisphere and gobelet in France.

 

Alcohol
Commonly used term for ethyl alcohol. It is the product of the fermentation of sugars by yeast.

 

Alcohol by volume (ABV)

The measure of the percentage (or proof) of a particular alcoholic beverage. The measure of its overall “strength”.

 

Almacenista

Winemaking term in Spain that describes the producer who both produces and ages the wines before sale, specifically in the region of Jerez.

Almaviva

A wine produced in Chile, specifically in the Maipo Valley. This is a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Viña Concha y Toro. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

Alsace
Alsace is a wine region in the eastern most portion of France, bordering Germany. It has a long history of wine production and gastronomy, with its Germanic roots being centered around food & wine production. You can find street signs and storefronts in German, but it is for the county of France that Alsace grows its famous Riesling, offering a grand cru appellation system as many other French regions do. The Vosges Mountains form a rain shadow on the western border of the appellation, making Alsace one of the driest places in Europe, with Colmar being the driest city in France. Alsace has some weird idiosyncrasies, as wine quality is often dependent upon producer and not classification. To further complicate matters, whether a wine is sweet or dry can be anyone’s guess sometimes, much to the displeasure of consumers, especially guests in restaurants. Much like the majority of wine regions in France, the best producers in the appellation make stunning wines, with some true pioneers residing in the much fought over border region, situated between German and French interests.

Amaro
'Bitter'. Amarone derives its name from this word, as does the after-dinner elixir so popular around the world. It is not uncommon to see an Amaro section on the after dinner menu of a fine dining restaurant, as its digestive properties have been touted for centuries.

 

Amarone

A wine that hails from the Veneto region of northern Italy, based mostly on the Corvina grape. The grapes are laid out on straw mats and air dried, left to shrivel slightly (passilerage) concentrating the sugars and creating a wine that is often heavier on the palate, has a slight amount of residual sugar and takes on the aromas and flavors of raisin and dried fruit. See Appassimento.

 

American Viticultural Area (AVA)

These are the official mapped out areas of wine production in the United States. Places such as Napa Valley, Columbia Valley and Willamette Valley are all examples of AVA’s.

 

Amontillado

This is aged Fino Sherry that undergoes oxidative ageing.  After the flor (yeast) dies, the yeast sinks to the bottom of the wine and is no longer able to protect the Sherry from oxidation. The now unprotected Sherry begins to take on a rich and deep nutty flavor and takes the character of traditional Amontillado.

 

Amphora

A ceramic vessel used for aging wines. Most associated with wine production in antiquity, this methodology has made a resurgence in recent decades.

 

Amtliche Prüfnummer
The Amtliche Prüfnummer (or AP number) is a unique code assigned to each individual bottling of quality wine produced by every winemaker in Germany. Each set of numbers stands for the region, village and winemaker; with every bottle of wine having their own AP number.

 

Anbaugebiet
The thirteen German growing regions, lead by names such as the Mosel, Rheingau and the Pfalz.

 

Ancestrale Method

This is a method of sparkling wine production in which the second fermentation naturally occurs from the presence of leftover sugar, creating a rustic and lighter style of sparkling wine.

 

Annata

Italian term for vintage.

 

Anthocyanins

The solid matter inside of a wine grape that give it color, specifically in red wine grapes.

 

AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protegee)

New organizational law of French agricultural products, replacing the AOC moniker for governmental purposes. DOP/AOP laws of the European Union are congruent to the AOC laws that a country as France has, for instance, and functions alongside the AOP/DOP laws.

 

Appellation Contrôlée (AOC/AC)
A controlled appellation. A system in which production methods such as grape type, yield, alcohol levels and so on are regulated by a local governing body. Originating in France, it is the arbiter of French wine law.  

 

Argentina
A major wine producing country in South America, Argentina has hung its reputation on the Malbec grape. Bordeaux varieties grow well there, with the melting snow and moderating winds off of the Andes Mountains assisting with viticulture. The Zonda winds and hailstorms are of concern, with the vignerons of Argentina getting better every vintage at dealing with climactic maladies. The Torrontés grape variety has shown promise, but Chardonnay commands more interest, and money, internationally. The region of Mendoza, at the base of the Andes Mountains, has become one of the most recognizable and high-quality appellations in the world. 

 

Aroma
A wine tasting term. The smell that emanates from the bottle or glass as a result of the grapes natural character and the tumultuous fermentation that takes place.  

 

Aspersion

A viticulture term for the spraying of vines with water before a freeze to intentionally create ice on the vines. This process protects the grapes when a deep freeze is imminent.

 

Assemblage
A French term for the process of making a wine by blending the component parts. In Bordeaux, the assemblage is usually high percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with low percentages of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

 

Astringent
Unflattering tasting term describing an unpleasant, dry, mouth-puckering sensation usually caused by excess acidity or bitterness.  This can be derived from volatile acidity, abrasive levels of malic acid and tannin that is out of balance to the typical style of a wine.

 

Aszu

A winemaking term in Hungary denoting wines made from grapes that have been selectively late harvested and affected by botrytis cinerea.

 

Ausbruch
A category for sweet wine from the town of Rust, Austria. These grapes often see passilerage and noble rot, concentrating the sugar levels and the honey sweet richness.

 

Auslese
German term that means literally 'selected harvest'. It is one of the sweeter official quality levels in German wine. These wines command high prices and are rare finds on restaurant wine lists.

 

Austerity
A wine that is not showing well at the time of opening, not produced properly or just not ready to drink. A wine that is not showing is best aromas and flavors can be called austere.  

 

Australia
A wine producing country in the Southern Hemisphere, surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Australia has a long history of winemaking, having been the destination for settlers from Europe in the 1800’s. They brought vines from their home countries and the fine wine industry was born in the Aussie territories. Shiraz has been the grape that has caused the biggest stir for the Australian wine industry, but it is the microclimates along the southern shores of the continent that may prove to be the best untapped areas for fine wine grapes. Growing areas such as the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale have put the industry on the map, and delicious white and sweet wines can be found in Hunter Valley and Rutherglen, respectively. The cooling effects of the Bass Straight and the Great Australian Blight (moderating bodies of water) keep the otherwise balmy southern areas of Australia well suited for Vitis vinifera growing. 

Austria
A wine producing country in central Europe. Austria makes excellent dry white wines from Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Chardonnay grapes. Most of the wine produced in Austria gets consumed in the cafes of Vienna, however, international restaurants and wine shops have had a growing Austrian wine section for quite some time. A chemical compound found in Austrian wine in the 1980’s hurt the industry and it took years for it to come back. Now, Austria is one of the best producers of fine wine in the world. The most widely exported wines come from the areas around the Danube River, specifically the Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal subregions. The wine label will often contain many similarities to Germany, as classifications and legal terminology tends to adorn both countries wine labels equally. 

Autolysis

A winemaking term for the creamy texture and “toasty” flavors a wine possesses from the lees (dead yeast cells) breaking down and creating a richer texture of the wine.

 

Azienda Agricola (Italy)
An estate or farm where wine is grown and/or produced.