Category Archives: A to Z Wine Glossary

To the uninitiated many wine terms can seem quite baffling. In an attempt to de-mystify many of these aspects we have listed in this section some of the most common terms and phrases associated with viticulture and the wine industry as a whole.

A – Z Wine Terminology | The Z’s

ZINFANDEL: Once thought to be America’s only indigenous vitis vinifera grape it has now been identified as the Primitivo grape of southern Italy. It can produce many different styles of wine from rich and dark to light and fruity. They can be dry, sweet, white, rosé or red.

ZYMOLOGY: The science of fermentation and the action of enzymes.

A – Z Wine Terminology | The Y’s

YEAST: A kind of fungus that is vital in all winemaking. Yeast cells excrete a number of yeast enzymes, 22 of which are needed to complete the chain reaction that is known as fermentation.

YEAST ENZYMES: Each yeast enzyme acts as a catalyst for one particular activity in the fermentation process and is specific for that one task only.

YIELD: Usually refers to the quantity of grapes produced from a given area of land and how much juice is pressed from this quantity. In Europe it is measured in hectolitres per hectare (hl/ha) where 1 hectolitre equals 1000 litres.


A – Z Wine Terminology | The V’s

VANILLA: A term often used in describing aroma or sometimes the palate of an oak-aged wine, especially in Rioja. It is one of the most obvious oak-induced characteristics of a wine.

VENDANGE TARDIVE: A French term for late-harvest.

VÉRAISON: A French term for the ripening period during which the grapes do not actually change very much in size, but do gain in colour and increase in sugar.

VIGNERON: A French term for a vineyard owner or vineyard worker.

VIGNOBLE: French for vineyard.

VIN DE FRANCE: This term has replaced vin de table as the lowest quality wine in the French classification system. A change in laws has meant that winemakers are now making some interesting and good quality wines at this level.

VIN DE GARDE: A French term that refers to a wine that is capable of significant improvement if left to age.

VIN DE GLACE: The French equivalent of Eiswein

VIN JAUNE: The famous ‘yellow’ wine of the Jura wine region in France that derives its name from the golden honey colour that results from the deliberate oxidation beneath a sherry-like flor.

VIN MOUSSEUX: A French term that literally means ‘Sparkling Wine’.

VIN ORDINAIRE: A French term for ‘ordinary wine’ that is most often applied to French vin de table, but can also be used in a derogatory way to describe a wine from any country.

VINIFICATION: A term used to describe the entire process of winemaking from grape-picking right up to wine bottling.

VINO-LOK: A commercial glass-stopper alternative to cork. Has a click-on, click-off seal which makes it easy to reseal not only the bottle it comes with but many other bottles too, so worth keeping hold on to.

VINO DE MESA: Spanish for table wine.

VINO DA TAVOLA: Italian for table wine

VINTAGE: A vintage wine is the wine of one year’s harvest only, and thus the vintage may be anything from poor to exceptional.

VITICULTURE: Viticulture is to grapes what horticulture is to flowers.

VITIS VINIFERA: A species that covers all varieties of vines that provide classic winemaking grapes.




A – Z Wine Terminology | The T’s

TABLE WINE: Originally a term used to distinguish between a light, unfortified wine (generally served at the dinning table) and a fortified wine (which was served at other times such as Sherry in the morning or Madeira at tea-time). The French then adopted the term ‘vin de table’ for their very basic quality wine, which has now been replaced with ‘vin de France’.

TAFELWEIN: The German equivalent of table wine.

TANNIN: These are various phenolic substances found naturally in a wine that come from the grape skins, seeds or stalks. They can also be picked up from oak casks. Tannins are a vital component of red wines.

TASTEVIN: A shallow, dimpled, silver cup used for tasting wine; usually in Burgundy.

TbA: An abbreviated term for the German ‘Trockenbeerenauslese’ an intensely sweet wine made from botrytized grapes.

TERROIR: The French term which translates as soil, but in a viticultural sense refers to a more general way of a vineyards whole growing environment, including amongst others: altitude, aspect, climate and any other significant factors that may effect the life of a vine and thus the quality of grapes it produces.

TÊTE DE CUVÉE: A French term which refers to the first flow of juice during the pressing of the grapes and the highest quality.

TRONÇAIS: A famous type of oak used for barrel making, from a small forest in the Allier départment in the centre of France.

A – Z Wine Terminology | The S’s

SAIGNÉE: A French term for the process of drawing off surplus liquid from the fermenting vat in order to produce a rosé wine from the free-run-juice.

SEC: A French term for ‘Dry’, which when applied to wine means without any sweetness. Dry wines made with plenty of very ripe fruit can sometimes appear so rich that they may appear to have some sweetness.

SECONDARY FERMENTATION: The fermentation that occurs in bottle during méthode champenoise.

SEKT: German term for sparkling wine.

SELECTION DE GRAINS NOBLES (SGN): A French term used in Alsace to describe a rare, intensely sweet, botrytized wine.

SOLERA: A system used in the production of Sherry that involves continually refreshing an established blend with a small amount of new wine (equal in proportion to the amount of the blend that has been extracted from the solera) to maintain a wine of consistent quality and character.

SPÄTLESE: A German QmP quality wine that is one level above Kabinett, but one below Auslese. The wines are relatively sweet and made from late-picked grapes.

SPUMANTE: An Italian term for a fully-sparkling wine.

STELVIN: A brand of screwcap developed specifically for wine in 1959 by La Bouchage Mecanique.

SUPER-TUSCAN: A term that arose in Italy in the 1980′s for the Cabernet dominated vini da tavola blends (led by Tenuta San Guido) that were considerably better and far more expensive that Tuscany’s traditional Sangiovese based wines.

SUR LIE: A French term popular in Muscadet that describes wines which have been kept on their lees and have not been racked or filtered prior to bottling.

SÜSSRESERVE: A German term for unfermented, fresh grape juice that is commonly used to sweeten German wines up to and including Spätlese quality level.

A – Z Wine Terminology | The R’s

RACKING: The draining of a wine off its lees into a fresh cask or vat.

RAISIN: A dried Muscat grape (as opposed to a Sultana, which is a dried Thompson Seedless grape, or a Currant which is a dried Zante grape).

RATAFIA: A liqueur made by combing marc with grape juice, Ratafia de Champagne being the best known.

RD: An abbreviated sparkling-wine term that stands for ‘recently disgorged’. The initials RD are the trademark of Champagne Bollinger.

RECIOTO: An Italian term for a strong, sweet wine made in Italy from passito grapes.

RÉCOLTANT: A French term for vineyard owner.

REMUAGE: A French term for the process of ‘riddling’ in the production of méthode champenoise. This involves the gradual tilting of the bottle neck-down (‘ sur pointe’), meanwhile rotating it by small increments, clockwise and anti-clockwise. As the angle of tilt increases, the forces of gravity draw the sediment into the neck and then removed at disgorgement.

RESERVE WINES: These are the still wines from previous vintages that are blended with the wines of one particular year to produce a non-vintage Champagne.

RESIDUAL SUGAR: The sweetness of a wine expressed in grams per litre (a standard 75cl bottle will therefore contain only three-quarter of the grams expressed). Dry wines can have up to 2 grams of unfermentable residual sugar per litre.

RIPASSO: An Italian term for the re-fermentation of wine on the lees.

ROSÉ: A French term adopted universally for describing a pink wine. Most rosé wine is made by crushing black grapes and keeping the juice in contact with the grape-skins for only a short while prior to pressing, or running off coloured juice (saignée). Champagne rosé may be made by blending a little red wine into a white wine.

A – Z Wine Terminology | The Q’s

QUALITÄTSWEIN BESTIMMTER ANBAUGEBIETE (QbA): A German wine classification term for a quality wine from a specific region. There are 13 wine-growing regions (Anbaugebiete), and the region must be shown on the label.

QUALITÄTSWEIN MIT PRÄDIKAT (QmP): The top level of German wine classification that refers to a ‘superior quality wine’ or translated as ‘quality wine with specific attributes’. The wines display a Prädikat (ripeness level designation) on the label and range from dry to intensely sweet.

QUERCUS: The Latin term for oak, or oak tree.

QUINTA: A Portuguese term for a wine estate.