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Abboccato
Italian word for semisweet. It has the same meaning as “amabile”.
Accolage
French word for trellising.
Acerbo
Italian word for unripe. A wine with a unpleasant excessive high acidity.
Acetaldehyde
The main aldehyde found in wines. It is a unique and pleasing element of Sherry wines (Spain). However, if found in significant amounts in table wines, it is considered to be a flaw.
Acetic Acid
All wines contain small quantities of Acetic Acid. It’s only when this substance is present in larger quantities (above the sensory threshold) that it impairs a vinegary taste and aroma to the wine.
Acetobacter
A bacterium that produces acetic acid. It causes the conversion of wine to vinegar in wines exposed to air.
Acid
A substance with a pH of less than 7. It has a sour taste and forms a salt if mixed with a base. In wine, it is one of the main structural elements. It comes from the grapes, even though in some cases acid can be added by the winemaker. The two main acids found in grapes are tartaric and malic (about 90%), but some other acids, such as lactic (derived from the malolactic fermentation), are found in wine as well.
Acidic
A wine that expresses excess of acidity. A good wine needs acidity to be balanced, but when it passes the point where it is felt as “sharp” or “crisp” (both positive tasting notes), it is felt as “sour” or “tart” (both negative tasting notes).
Acidification
A process used in warm wine regions to increase the acidity (lower the pH) of the must. Harvesting a portion of the crop before full maturity or using grapes from a secondary flowering can provide natural acidification; as well as blending with other must (high acidity and low pH) is the best natural and elegant method of acidification, whenever is possible. Several acids can be used in the process, but Tartaric acid is the most used acid for acidity correction (but it will lower the initial pH). If high pH is the major problem of the must, the addition of tartaric acid and precipitating its surplus potassium by cold stabilization will improve the pH value of the wine considerably. Malic acid, which is less acidic than tartaric acid, may be transformed into lactic acid by MLF (malolactic fermentation). Therefore, its use may not be as efficient. Citric acid can be added to expand the acid taste and to prevent possible iron haze. However, during MLF, it may be partially converted into acetic acid. So, addition of citric acid can be done safely only when MLF is inhibited. The main problem with fumaric acid is its low solubility in water or water/alcohol solutions. Besides that, it has some harsh taste and its addition should be done with care.
Acidity
A natural component of every wine. It makes a wine taste vibrant, energizing and refreshing, and it is mostly detected on the side of the tongue. It is also a leading determinant of balance (when the wine is not balanced it will taste sour if the acid content is high).
Adega
Portuguese word for winery.
Aerate
Also known as breathe. A wine opens up after it is intentionally put in contact with air and the harsh tannins of a young wine will be softened.
Afrutado
Spanish word for fruity. A tasting term used to describe a wine (usually young) that reminds you of fresh fruit.
Aftertaste
The taste left on the palate after the wine has been swallowed. Also known as finish.
Aggressive
A wine that imparts harshness on the palate. It may be either a texture or a gustatory sensation and is caused by excessive alcohol, tannins or acid.
Aging
Storing wine to allow it to mature (it can take place in barrels or bottles). The process in which the flavors and other components of the wine blend, harmonize and mature.
Agrément
An official license provided by the INAO that allows the name of an appellation to be used on a wine label.
Airlock
The apparatus that allow gas to escape from a tank containing wine (no air, however, enters the vessel).
Albariza
A white and porous chalky soil found in some parts of the Andalusia region (Spain). This is the type of soil on which the grapes for the production of Sherry wines are often cultivated.
Alberello
Italian word for “head training” (Gobelet). An ancient method of vine training that involves no wires or other type of support, and the result is a goblet shaped vine typical of the Mediterranean countries.
Albumin
It is found in egg whites (the white portion of eggs). It works as a fining agent for red wines. It is considered as the best for softening and polishing red wines. The usual doses are one-two eggs per barrel of red wine (225 L).
Alcohol
Ethyl alcohol produced from the interaction of natural grape sugars and yeast during the fermentation process.
Alcohol content
Amount of alcohol (expressed as a percentage) included in the wine.
Alcoholic
A negative tasting term used to describe wines that have and excessive and/or unbalanced alcohol content. Also known as “hot” (the wine causes a burning sensation in the mouth).
Alcoholic fermentation
The process by which yeast turns sugar (about 90% – the other 10% is diverted into the production of other by-products like glycerol, acetaldehyde, succinic acid, ethyl acetate, acetic acid, higher alcohols and lactic acid) into alcohol (Ethanol) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in roughly equal quantities (52% alcohol – 48% CO2). In most cases, the CO2 is allowed to evaporate, but in the production of sparkling wines (Methode Champenoise – Charmat Method) the CO2 is captured under pressure and becomes the bubbles in the bottle or tank.
Aldehyde
It is an organic compound containing a terminal carbonyl group that produces a strong smell during the oxidation of wine (they are formed by the oxidation of primary alcohols found in wine).
Amabile
Italian word for semisweet. It has the same meaning as “abboccato”.
Amaro
Italian word for bitter. It is also the name for an aperitif liqueur.
Ambrato
Italian for a wine that presents an amber color. Typical of oxidized wines.
Amphora
A ceramic vase, used for transportation and storage of wine in ancient times.
Ample
Positive tasting term for a wine that gives the feeling on the palate of having depth.
Añada
Spanish word for vintage. The particular year when the grapes were harvested.
Anbaugebiet
German name for a wine region. The “A” in QbA (Qualitätswein Bestimmter Anbaugebeite).
Angel’s share
Wine that is lost due to evaporation in a barrel during the aging process.
Angularity
A wine with high acidity sometimes gives the impression of having edges (instead of being “round”).
Annata
Italian word for vintage.
Anosmia
The loss of sense of smell. It can be either temporary (caused by a blocked nose or infection) or permanent (caused by death of olfactory receptor neurons in the nose, or by brain injury). Some people may not smell only one particular odor and this is called “specific anosmia”.
Anthocyanins
Phenolic pigments present in grape skins that give red wine its color. They also act as a powerful antioxidant.
Antioxidant
It is a substance capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other substances. The most common antioxidant used in wine is sulfur dioxide (SO2).
AOC
France’s appellation system (known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée or AOC) has become the international model for laws that define and protect geographically named wines, spirits and even certain foods. For any given wine, the AOC laws stipulate, among other things, the precise area where the grapes that make the wine are grown, the acceptable grape varieties, the permissible yield per hectare, and aspects of viticulture – such as pruning and irrigation, the alcohol content, and methods: how the wine can be made and storage times. For a given French wine to carry an appellation, it must meet all of the criteria set by AOC laws. Started in the 1930s, the appellation system and its laws have evolved progressively. Today, most European wine-producing countries have similar systems that define and govern the wines produced.
Aperitif
Spanish word for apéritif. A wine (or any other alcoholic beverage) that is served before a meal.
Appassimento
Italian word to describe the process of drying grapes to concentrate their sugars and flavors.
Appearance
Clarity or haziness (cloudiness); intensity (or lack of it); color. These are the main components used to describe the visual aspects of the wine.
Appellation
Generally described, the word appellation is used today as the name or title of a place, product, or object which both protect these names and ensure that high quality is associated with these names, much of the world has established various forms of appellations that incorporate stringent rules and regulations that must be followed to be used as a specified appellation. The word is of French origin, where it has been used for centuries as a protected name under which wine can be labeled, indicating that the grape growers, harvesters, and the wine producers followed strict rules and regulations to ensure the quality that is associated with a specific wine region.
Aroma
The smell of a wine. The term is generally applied to young wines (when the smell comes primarily from the grape), while the term Bouquet is reserved for old wines (when the smell becomes more complex).
Aromatic
A term to describe a wine that has a prominent aroma. These aromatic wines come from grapes with this intrinsic characteristic (a perfume that will translate into flavor when you actually taste the wine).
Assemblage
“Blending” in French. The process of combining two or more grape varieties after they have gone through a separate fermentation.
Astringent
The mouth-drying feeling left by the tannins present in some red wines (especially when they are young).
Attack
The impression caused by the wine in the front of the mouth right after it is sipped.
Auslese
“Selected harvest” in German. The minimum must weight requirements for Auslese is (in German wine) 83 to 100 degrees Oechsle, depending on the grape variety and region. In order to achieve this high must weight, the grapes are picked from selected ripe bunches.
Austere
A negative description of a wine that is somewhat harsh on the palate.
Autolytic Character
The biscuit, butter, caramel, nutty, oak, smoky, toasty character present especially in Champagne (or other sparkling wine) that has been aged for a long time.
Autolysis
The breakdown of dead yeast cells (lees) by the enzymes contained in it. In winemaking it is the process through which some desirable (and occasionally, undesirable) traits are imparted to the wine.
AVA
American Viticultural Area; a denominated American wine region approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
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