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Types of Red Wines &
White Wine and Food Pairings
Wine and Food Pairings
Types of Red Wines & White
The type of grape used in winemaking determines the variety
of wine produced. Here's a guide to the classic grape
varieties around the world:
Red wine variety found in Italy, France and surrounding
Balkan region. Used to make an aromatic, robust varietal
wine with moderate aging potential.
Semi-classic grape commonly grown in the Piedmont region and
most of northern Italy. Was probably imported into the
U.S.A. late in the 19th century. Usually produces an intense
red wine with deep color, low tannins and high acid and is
used in California to provide "backbone" for so-called "jug"
wines. Century-old vines still exist in many regional
vineyards and allow production of long-aging, robust red
wines with intense fruit and enhanced tannic content.
Plantings in North America are mostly confined to the warm
western coastal regions.
CABERNET FRANC [Cah-burr-NAY Frahnk]
One of the parent grape varieties that gave rise to the
Cabernet Sauvignon. Mainly found in cooler, damper climatic
conditions than its offspring. Widely grown in the Loire
region of southwest France. Bordeaux wines commonly contain
a blend of both Cabernet varietal wines, a practice
increasingly being followed in California and elsewhere.
Wine from these grapes has a deep purple color, when young,
with a herbaceous aroma. Just like Cabernet Sauvignon.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON [Cah-burr-NAY Sow-vee-NYOH]
A "noble" grape famous as one of the main varieties, along
with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and others used to create the
magnificent French Bordeaux region blended red wines. The
most successful plantings in North America are mainly on
Long Island (N.Y.) and the cooler regions of northern
California. In the warmer regions of California, grapes made
into a single varietal wine will often produce higher than
optimum levels of alcohol due to high sugar content and,
conversely, lower than optimum acid levels in most years and
so may tend to age less successfully than the blended French
versions. Many other countries have seen their regions
develop into prime producers - Argentina, Chile, Italy and
Very limited plantings of this red wine grape are now found
in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France where it is used to
produce deep red wines occasionally used for blending
purposes. The worlds largest vineyard area under cultivation
of this variety is now found in the Santiago region of
Chile, South America. Some claim that, in Chile, some
individual plantings of this variety has been mistakenly
labeled as Merlot due to certain similarities.
This variety is the best-known white-wine producer grown in
France. The Chardonnay vine is widely planted in the
Burgundy and Chablis regions. Hugely successful in many
regions of the world due to its mid-season ripening and
versatility. Australia and New Zealand have succeeded in
producing world-class wines in recent years. In its
Burgundy, France it’s homeland, Chardonnay was for the sole
vine responsible for all of the finest white Burgundy. In
the late 20th century however, it was transplanted in most
of the worlds wine regions - where varietal labeling has
become the norm.
CHENIN BLANC [SHEN-ihn, BLAHN]
A widely grown white-wine producing variety, known as Steen
in South Africa, Pineau de la Loire in the Loire region of
France and under the alias name White Pinot (Pinot Blanco)
elsewhere in the world. Often made in a number of styles
with or without some residual sugar. It is the favored grape
of the Anjou region of France and, although naturally a
hard, acidic grape slow to mature, is made into fine sweet
wines that age well for a least ten years in the bottle. In
the U.S. the grape all too often ends up in the generic jug
wines of bulk producers as acidity enhancer for otherwise
flabby high sugar/alcohol blends.
Grown in the Piedmont region of Italy and used to make both
dry and spumante-style sweet red wines. (Sparking wine)
At least three different vitis vinifera grape species are
permitted to use the term "Gamay" as their label-specified
variety in the U.S.A. The Gamay Noir, Gamay Beaujolais and
Napa Gamay. At one time or another each one was thought to
be the true Pinot Noir variety of Burgundy before it was
determined that many cepage clones existed.
GAMAY BEAUJOLAIS [Gah-MAY, Bo-zho-LAY]
According to investigations by Dr. Olmo of Davis U. the
Gamay Beaujolais variety is a widely grown, early-ripening
clone of Pinot Noir that can do well in the temperate
climates of the northwest U.S. and if picked promptly will
produce a good red wine.
Alternate name for the Grenache grape in Spain.
A clone of the parent Traminer variety. Widely grown, having
literally dozens of synonym names in various countries
including Traminer Rot. Best known as one of the mainstay
grape varieties for which the french Alsace region is famous
the popular Gewürztraminer produces white wines with a
strong floral aroma and lychee nut-like flavor. It is often
regarded as somewhat similar in style to the (Johannisberg)
Riesling - when vinified as slightly sweet yet tart.
Occasionally it is made into a "botrytized" late harvest
dessert style wine. Does well in the cooler coastal regions
of Western U.S. - (where it ripens in late September) -
Australia and New Zealand. In Australia the variety is also
known under several alias names. Among these are Traminer
Musque, Gentil Rose Aromique and Red Traminer. Cool climate
growers should be aware that, in addition to quite large
successful plantings of the above variety, a well-regarded
cross named Traminette, developed by Cornell University in
the U.S.A over the last 30 years, is currently very
successfully cultivated on small commercial acreages in the
Finger Lakes region of New York State and several other cool
northern regions of the USA.
Also confusingly known under the synonym names Alicante in
the south of France and Guarnaccia in the Ischia DOC,
Campania, Italy. It should not be confused with the
shortened name for the late nineteenth century cross
Alicante Bouschet. Grenache is currently widely grown in
Spain, (where it is known under the name Garnacha), the
south of France and also in California. Is now believed to
be descended from the grape named Cannonau, an ancient
variety widely grown in Sardinia. It is the main grape used
in the red wine blend known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape and,
along with the Mourvèdre, Cinsaut and some others, makes
good wine blends under the appellation "Cotes du Rhone
Villages". In the warmer regions of California the Grenache
grape tends to produce pale red wines that are mainly useful
for blends. Older vines give juice that produces a
creditable varietal. Often "hot" due to high alcohol content
and with a distinctive orange colored tint. Also used to
make some of the better rosé wines of Provence in southern
(JOHANNISBERG) RIESLING[yoh-HAHN-ihss-berk, REES-ling]
(aka White Riesling in New York state (USA), Ontario and
British Columbia (Canada), Riesling in Germany,
Rheinriesling in Austria, Riesling Renano in Italy and Rhine
Riesling in Australia). A white-wine producer variety widely
grown along the Rhine river and tributaries - (e.g: Rheingau,
Rheinhessen, Mosel, Nahe regions etc.) - in Germany and also
in other cool temperate regions of Europe. It is also grown
in N. America, where it can produce a flowery, fruity dry
wine with high acid and low alcohol not unlike the german "Kabinett"
version or a semi-dry style with some residual sugar similar
to the german "Spätlese" version. If infected with
appropriate amounts of "botrytis", it can make outstanding
late-harvest wines - (e.g: comparable to the german "Auslese"
series). The Finger Lakes region of New York state in the
U.S. and the Niagara region of Ontario, Canada produce
excellent dry versions in the Mosel and Alsation styles in
addition to consistent freezing temperature extracted juice
made into "ice-wine", "eiswein".
Semi-classic grape grown in the Bordeaux region of France
and in other areas under the names Médoc Noir, Côt or
Pressac, while in the Alsace it has the local name Auxerrois.
Also grown in the cooler regions of California. The vine is
widely planted in Argentina where it is being used to
produce very popular varietal wines. As a varietal it
creates a rather intense, inky, red wine so it is also
commonly used in blends, such as with Merlot and Cabernet
Sauvignon, to create the renowned red French Bordeaux
"claret" blend. In California and other areas it is
increasingly being used for the same blending purpose.
Classic grape widely grown in the Bordeaux region of France
and elsewhere. The red wine bears a resemblance to Cabernet
Sauvignon wine, with which it is sometimes blended, but is
usually not so intense, with softer tannins. Matures earlier
than Cabernet Sauvignon, with mid-late ripening. Moderate
cold-hardiness. In California it is a popular varietal on
its own and also as a percentage constituent of the red wine
blend resembling Bordeaux claret called "Meritage". It does
extremely well in the state of Washington and shows great
promise on Long Island, N.Y. Results in the Finger Lakes
region of N.Y., where it ripens in early October, have been
mixed due its relative lack of cold-hardiness and the fruit
subject to bunch rots. Recently some have claimed that many
of the labeled Chilean varietal wines are actually of the
Carmenère variety. Other countries such as Argentina and New
Zealand also seem to have a suitable climate for this
Another family of clone varieties, making both red and white
wines. Most are of the muscat type, having the unique
aromatic character commonly associated with muscat wines.
These include the Muscat Blanc, Muscadel, Moscato di Canelli.
These clones are mostly used for making medium-sweet and
dessert style table or fortified wines. Small acreages of
Orange Muscat in the Central Valley of California allow a
local variation of this wine to be made by at least one
producer, a situation that also occurs in Australia. Hot
climate producers of sparkling wines often use the various
Muscat grape clones to create wines in the style of Italian
Grape responsible for the long-lived, fine red wines of the
Piedmont region of Italy. The role of honor includes
traditionally vinified "Barolo", "Gattinara", "Barbaresco"
and "Ghemme"; all huge, tannic wines that at their best can
take decades to mature.
PETITE SIRAH [peh-TEET sih-RAH]
Historically has been something of a "mystery" vine. When
first imported into California this variety somehow acquired
the subject name possibly as a result of a labeling error
confusing it with Petite Syrah. Traditional Californian wine
blends under the name of Petite Sirah produce dark red,
tannic wines in the warmer regions of California, used
mainly as backbone for Central Valley "jug" wines. In the
cooler northern regions, where many very old vines still
exist, it is often made into a robust, balanced red wine of
PINOT NOIR [pee-noh NWAHR]
The premier grape of the Burgundy region of France,
producing a red wine that is lighter in color than the
Bordeaux reds such as the Cabernet's or Merlot. It has
proved to be a capriciously acting and difficult grape for
N. American wineries, best results being obtained in cool,
fog-liable regions such as the Carneros region of northern
California. The worlds best "quality" wines are reputed to
result from a mixing of suitable clones; a common practice
in Burgundy, France. Cherished aromas and flavors often
detected in varietal wines include cherry, mint, and
PINOTAGE [pee-noh TAHJ]
This grape has been widely grown and successful in South
Africa since its release in 1925. Also currently grown in
Brazil, Canada, California (USA), Virginia (USA) and
Zimbabwe. Also grown in some quantity on New Zealand's North
Island where it is used to produce flavorsome,
early-maturing wines that are considerably less concentrated
or complex than South African versions.
PINOT GRIGIO [pee-noh GREE-zOH"]
Synonym name of the Pinot Gris where grown in Italy. Planted
extensively in the Venezia and Alto-Adige regions where it
can produce crisp, dry wines with good acid "bite".
PINOT GRIS [pee-noh GREE]
Mutant clone of Pinot Noir. Has several synonym names in
France, eg. Fromentau in the Languedoc, Malvoisie in the
Loire or Pinot Beurot in the Burgundy region where it is
selectively used in blends because it produces high sugars.
In Germany and Austria it is known as the Ruländer or Grauer
Burgunder where it is used to make pleasant, young, white
wines in the southern regions. Similar aliases are used in
the german settled regions of Australia. In northeastern
Italy it is known as Pinot Grigio. Versions named Auxerrois
Gris and Tokay d'Alsace are also grown in the Alsace where
the latter variety is used to make a golden-yellow wine with
aromatic, fruity flavors that improves with a couple of
years in the bottle - (not to be confused with the Hungarian
Furmint grape used to make the famous "Tokaji" sweet wines).
Also grown in western coastal regions of the U.S.A. where it
ripens earlier than Chardonnay.
Also known as the Weisser Riesling. Premier white wine grape
of Germany and Alsace, known as Rheinriesling in Austria and
Riesling Renano in Northern Italy. (See (Johannisberg)
(Pronounced "sahn-joe-veh-zeh"). Semi-classic grape grown in
the Tuscany region of Italy. Used to produce the Chianti and
other Tuscan red wines. Has many clonal versions, two of
which seem to predominate. The Sangiovese Grosso clone
Brunello variety is used for the dark red, traditionally
powerful and slow-maturing "Brunello di Montalcino" wine.
The other is the Sangiovese Piccolo, also known under the
historical synonym name Sangioveto, used for standard
Chianti Classico DOC wines. Old vine derived wine is often
used in the better versions, needing several years aging to
reach peak. A third clone, Morellino, is used in a popular
wine blend with the same name found in the southern part of
the province. Recent efforts in California with clones of
this variety are very promising, producing medium-bodied
reds with rich cherry or plumlike flavors and aromas.
SAUVIGNON BLANC [SOH-veen-yown, blahnk]
Classic white-wine producer variety commonly planted in the
Bordeaux and eastern Loire regions of France. Shows vigorous
growth and is late maturing. Members of the cépage are now
thought to be descendants of the ancient Fié variety once
common in the Loire region of France. The sauvignon cépage
apparently derives the latter part of its name from the
color of its skin. Other members include the recent - (4-97)
- genetic parental link to Cabernet Sauvignon and other
mutations known as the Sauvignon Noir, Sauvignon Jaune and
Sauvignon Rose. The last named grape is also known as
Sauvignon Gris. In the Styria region of Austria the variety
is occasionally referred to as the Muskat-Sylvaner. All
versions of the cépage show a tendency towards a grassy,
herbaceous flavor in the grapewine, often referred to as
"gooseberry" by professional tasters, when the grapes are
grown in temperate regions. In warmer regions, the flavors
and aromas tend to be more citruslike, (e.g: grapefruit or
pear), plus the characteristic "earthy" taste. New Zealand
has had much success with the grape in recent years.
Classic grape widely grown in the Bordeaux region of France
and elsewhere. This grape variety has a distinct fig-like
character. In France, Australia and increasingly in
California it is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc to cut
some of the strong "gooseberry" flavor of the latter grape
and create better balance. Wineries in many countries also
use the grape to create dry single-varietal white wines.
Australian grapes, particularly those grown in the Hunter
Valley region where the fruit has also been historically
known as Hunter (River) Riesling, are famous for producing
dry and sweet wines from this varietal that will age
admirably for 20 to 30 years. Another alias name used for
this variety is Boal/Bual in its incarnation as one of at
least four varieties using the same name for use in
fortified wines on the island of Madeira. Back in France, it
has the synonym names Chevrier, Columbier, Malaga and Blanc
Doux. Those grown in South Africa, where the grape is known
as the Green Grape and also as Semillion, have not fared so
well in popular favor and are not extensively planted at
present. When infected by the "noble rot" fungi, (Botrytis
cineria), it can be used to produce first-class sweet white
wines such as those of the french Sauternes.
Alternate name for the french Syrah clone grape grown in
Australia and responsible for very big red wines that are
not quite as intense in flavor as the french Rhone versions.
In the past it was also known under the alias name
A grape variety associated with the Rhone Valley region of
France, famous for creating "Hermitage" red wine. In
southern France some regard the grape as taking two forms,
the Grosse Syrah and Petite Syrah, distinguished only by
berry size. Experts reject this distinction but it has in
the past led some wine producers in North and South America
to mistake California vineyard plantings of Petite Sirah,
which produces a very dark red and tannic wine judged simple
in comparison to the true Rhone Syrah, as the latter grape.
DNA analysis has now shown (Meredith C.P., et al., "Am. J.
Enol. Vitic." 50(3): 236-42 1999) there is in fact a
probable cross-variety relationship. In the cooler regions
of Australia a (presumed) clone of the Rhone variety, once
known as the Scyras, is grown very successfully and now
known as Shiraz. In the state of California, depending on
location, vintage or fermentation technique, the grape is
used to either produce a spicy, complex wine or a simple
wine. Considerable acreage is grown in South Africa, and
also in Argentina where it has historically been called the
Balsamina grape until the late 1960's.
Fine winegrape used in best quality red wines of Spain. Also
known under the alias name of Cencibel in La Mancha and as
Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. Has over thirty synonym names
listed in the Geilweilerhof database (see above). Some other
reported versions that exist are the Tinto Fino of the
Zamora region, Tinta del Pais of the Ribero del Duero and
Tinta de Toro in the Toro region. In Portugal the grape is
known as the (Tinta) Roriz and Aragonez. Large acreages are
grown in Argentina. Also found in the Central Valley of
California where it is known as Valdepeñas and mainly used
to make grapejuice much favored by home-winemakers sold
under the "Valdepenas" name in N. America.
Still grown in France, where it is better known as Savagnin
Blanc, and in California but almost everywhere else has been
largely replaced by its much more intense and aromatic
offspring Gewürztraminer clonal variety. The subject name is
still used in Australia as an alias name for Gewürztraminer
and, confusingly, is also known there under the synonym name
Alternate name for Ugni Blanc grape - see below. Has many
mutations/sub-varieties such as Procanico etc where found in
Tuscany and Umbria, Italy.
Semi-classic white grape variety grown in the Rhone Valley,
France and California. Has full, spicy flavors somewhat
reminiscent of the Muscat grape and violets. New plantings
in California have created much anticipation among that
States wine community. Viognier wine can vary from almost
Riesling-like character to almost Chardonnay character,
depending on production method, but is not noted for aging
ability and is best drunk while young. Recently planted
small commercial acreages in the eastern Finger Lakes region
of New York state are now yielding enough grapes to allow
one winery to make limited amounts of varietal wine.
An important grape variety, also thought to be the variety
once known as Black St. Peter in early 19th century
California lore, currently grown in California and used to
produce robust red wine as well as very popular "blush
wines" called "white Zinfandel". The oldest vines found in
the Dry Creek and Amador regions are notable for their
ability to produce superior juice; eg. the "Bevill-Mazzoni"
clone from the Dry Creek appellation was recently reported
(7/2000) as yielding excellent results even as a young vine.
Zinfandel is noted for the fruit-laden, berry-like aroma and
prickly taste characteristics in its red version and
pleasant strawberry reminders when made into a "blush" wine.
While its origins are not clear it has been positively
identified, via DNA analysis at UC Davis (California), as
the Primitivo (di Gioia), a variety grown in Apulia,
southern Italy. According to an Italian report of 1996 the
latter variety may have a relationship to members of the
Vranac variety cépage grown in Montenegro, the state that,
combined with Serbia, constitutes what remains of the former
Yugoslavia. Other contenders were certain mutated members of
the Mali Plavac, (a.k.a Plavac Mali), cépage varieties which
are mainly grown in the coastal area known as Dalmatia, a
province of Croatia recently a part of the former Yugoslavia
and located just across the Adriatic sea from the shores of
Italian Apulia. Research is presently (7/98) underway to
explore possible relationships. The origin of the grapename
"Zinfandel" in California is currently not known but is
thought by some to be a corruption of Zierfandler, a
completely unrelated white variety still grown in the Balkan
region of Europe. It has been noted that mid-19th century
catalogs mention a red (ie. "roter") mutation of that
variety. A plausible hypothesis is that a naming error arose
due to attribution and shipping mistakes made during
unreliable early-19th century transport and handling to New
All wines contain acetic acid - (ie: vinegar). Normally the
amount is insignificant and may even enhance flavor. At a
little less than 0.10% content, the flavor becomes
noticeable and the wine is termed acetic. Above 0.10%
content is considered a strong fault. A related substance,
ethyl acetate, contributes the smell associated with acetic
Acid -- term used to describe a tart or sour taste in the
mouth when total acidity of the wine is high.
Acidity -- term used on labels to express the total acid
content of the wine. The acids referred to are citric,
lactic, malic and tartaric. Desirable acid content on dry
wines falls between 0.6% and 0.75% of the wines volume. For
sweet wines it should not be less than 0.70% of the volume.
Term used to describe the taste left in the mouth after
swallowing the wine. Both character and length of the
aftertaste are part of the total evaluation. May be harsh,
hot, soft and lingering, short, smooth, tannic, or
White wines tend to turn from a greenish hue in young wines
to a yellowish caste/tone to a gold/amber color as they age.
Reds usually possess a purple tone when young, turning to a
deep red - (Bordeaux wines) - or a brick red color -
(Burgundy wines) - detectable at the surface edge in a
wineglass as they age. Rose''s should be pink with no tinge
of yellow or orange. Cellar aged red wines at their peak
will show a deep golden-orange color as it thins at the
surface edge. If the wine color has deepened into a
distinctly brown-orange tint at the edge it usually
indicates a wine past its peak and declining.
The total effect of dominant, tart-edged flavors and taste
impressions in many young dry wines. Has opposite meaning to
round, soft or supple.
The specific area a wine comes from. It can refer to a
region, such as Bordeaux or Burgundy in France, for example.
It can refer to an even more tightly defined sub-region
within, say, Bordeaux, such as The Médoc.
Refers to smell or aroma of a wine, usually carrying
additional modifiers. "Ripe apples" describes a full,
fruity, clean smell associated with some styles of
Chardonnay wine. "Fresh apples" does the same for some types
of Riesling. "Green apple", however, is almost always
reserved for wines made from barely ripe or underipe grapes.
"Stale apples" applies almost exclusively to flawed wine
exhibiting first stage oxidation.
Drinkable, easy to enjoy.
The intensity and character of the aroma can be assessed
with nearly any descriptive adjective. (eg: from "appley" to
"raisiny", "fresh" to "tired", etc.). Usually refers to the
particular smell of the grape variety. The word "bouquet" is
usually restricted to describing the aroma of a cellar-aged
Descriptive term for wines of markedly flowery, spicy or
"Ascescence" is the term used to mark the presence of acetic
acid and ethyl acetate. Detected by sweet and sour,
sometimes vinegary smell and taste along with a sharp
feeling in the mouth.
Descriptive of wines that have a rough, puckery taste.
Usually can be attributed to high tannin content. Tannic
astringency will normally decrease with age. However,
sometimes the wine fails to outlive the tannin.
The initial impact of a wine. If not strong or flavorful,
the wine is considered "feeble". "Feeble" wines are
sometimes encountered among those vinified in a year where
late rain just before harvest diluted desirable grape
The winetaster liked it anyway. A veiled criticism of
expensive wines, a compliment for others.
Usually used in description of dry, relatively hard and
acidic wines that seem to lack depth and roundness. Such
wines may soften a bit with age. Term often applied to wines
made from noble grape varieties grown in cool climates or
harvested too early in the season.
Describes a wine that retains youthful characteristics
despite considerable aging. This usually indicates that it
will take longer to reach maturity and requires even more
aging in the bottle or barrel. Opposite of forward.
Denotes harmonious balance of wine elements - (ie: no
individual part is dominant). Acid balances the sweetness;
fruit balances against oak and tannin content; alcohol is
balanced against acidity and flavor. Wine not in balance may
be acidic, cloying, flat or harsh etc.
Term for reds meaning solid or chunky.
Equates with the ripe, sweet, fruity quality of
blackberries, raspberries, cranberries and cherries. The
aroma and taste of red wines, particularly Zinfandel, are
often partly described with this adjective.
The overall flavor of a wine, white or red, that has full,
rich flavors. "Big" red wines are often tannic. "Big" white
wines are generally high in alcohol and glycerin. Sometimes
implies clumsiness, the opposite of elegance. Generally
positive, but context is essential - (eg: A Bordeaux red
wine shouldn''t be as "big" as a California Cabernet
One of the four basic tastes. A major source of bitterness
is the tannin content of a wine. Some grapes -
(Gewurztraminer, Muscat) - have a distinct bitter edge to
their flavor. If the bitter component dominates in the aroma
or taste of a wine it is considered a fault. Sweet dessert
wines may have an enhanced bitter component that complements
the other flavors making for a successful overall taste
The effect on the taster''s palate usually experienced from
a combination of alcohol, glycerin and sugar content. Often
described as "full", "meaty" or "weighty".
The most important wine region in France. Wines from this
area are called "Bordeaux". Red wines from Bordeaux are
primarily blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet
Franc. White wines from the region are usually blends of
Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
"Botrytis Cinerea", a mold or fungus that attacks grapes in
humid climate conditions, causing the concentration of sugar
and acid content by making grapes at a certain level of
maturity shrivel. On the Riesling grape it allows a uniquely
aromatic and flavorful wine to be made, resulting in the
extraordinary "Beerenauslese" style of wine.
Near synonym for "aroma". Term generally restricted to
description of odors from poured bottled wines.
Term used mainly to describe young red wines with high
alcohol and tannin levels. Certain red wines from Amador
County, California, can be examples. The mild epithet
"tooth-stainers" is sometimes applied to this style of wine,
denoting respect for strength.
Denotes the act of allowing the wine to "breathe"; ie: when
wine is poured into another container, such as a wineglass,
the admixture of air seems to release pent-up aromas which
then become more pronounced, in many cases, as minutes/hours
Term reserved for wines from the best grape varieties, the
so-called "noble grapes". Denotes wines judged to have
reached classical expectations of aroma, balance, structure
and varietal character.
Denotes a wine having an aggressive, prickly taste best
described as "peppery". Sometimes combined with the
adjective "brawny" to characterize a young red wine with
high alcohol and tannin content.
Very clear (and transparent in white wines) appearance with
no visible particulates or suspensions. May be sign of
flavor deficiency in heavily filtered wines.
Measurement system used for sugar content of grapes, wine
and related products. A reading of 20 to 25 deg. Brix is the
optimum degree of grape ripeness at harvest for the majority
of table wines. A quick conversion method for users
requiring Specific Gravity units of measurement is to take
the Brix reading, deg. Brix (as Sucrose, for which most
refractometers are calibrated), and multiply by 0.00425 and
then add 0.9988 to the resulting number. This will give a
close approximation to the equivalent figure for the S.G of
Sucrose at 20 deg. C. Ex: A Brix reading of 18 equals S.G.
1.074. Using the conversion technique above gives a figure
of 1.075 which is close enough for most users.
Denotes aging in a wine. Young wine color tints show no sign
of such "browning". If possessed of good character and
depth, a wine can still be very enjoyable even with a
pronounced "brown" tint. In average wines this tint, seen
along the wine surface edge in a tilted glass goblet,
normally signals a wine is "past its peak", although still
Refers to dry Champagne or Sparkling Wine. The authorities
in the Champagne region of France use this term to denote
Describes taste sensation found in better white wines,
The name for Sparkling Wine (similar to Champagne) from
Aroma component often found in fine red wines.
White wine from the Chablis area of France. Made from
An important region of France, most known for its production
of the only sparkling wine that can truly be called
Champagne. The méthode champenoise was invented there.
A comment applied to wines that don''t quite fulfil the
first expectations. Means detecting a slight flavor
lightness. Sometimes used to describe wines made from the
Chenin Blanc grape styled after a type of wine originating
from the Loire region of France.
Refers to a high total tannic component of a wine.
Figuratively, one cannot swallow this wine without chewing
Near synonym for "tobacco" aroma detected in the nose,
especially if a "cedarwood" component is present. Spanish
cedarwood is the traditional material for making cigar
Describes aroma and flavor reminiscent of citrus fruits.
Most common is a perception of "grapefruit" content. Most
often detected in white wines made from grapes grown in
cooler regions of California or other countries.
In England, "Claret" refers to English-style Bordeaux or
wines from Bordeaux. In France "Clairet" is a particular
Bordeaux that is produced like red wine but the must stays
in contact with the skins for the first 24 hours during its
Opposite of clear. Noticeable cloudiness is undesirable
except in cellar aged wines that have not been decanted
properly. A characteristic of some unfiltered wines showing
the result of winemaking mistakes and often possessing an
Almost a synonym for "breed". Possesses that elusive quality
where many layers of flavor separate a great wine from a
very good one. Balance combines all flavor and taste
components in almost miraculous harmony.
Wine has unpleasant "wet carUser_ACB23Card" taste/smell.
Reason is thought to be chemical changes in the wine caused
by inadequately sterilized cork stopper inserted at bottling
Refers to "silk-like" taste component of wines subjected to
malolactic fermentation as opposed to the "tart/crisp" taste
component of the same wine lacking the treatment. Almost a
synonym for "buttery". Opposite of "crisp".
Wine has definite but pleasing tartness, acidity. Generally
used to describe white wines only, especially those of
Muscadet de Sevres et Maine from the Loire region of France.
A method by which cellar-aged bottled wine is poured slowly
and carefully into a second vessel, usually a glass
decanter, in order to leave any sediment in the original
bottle before serving. Almost always a treatment confined to
red wines. The traditional method uses a candle flame as the
light for illuminating the neck of the bottle while the wine
is passing by. The low intensity of the light is ideal for
viewing since it does not strain the eyes. Care must be
taken NOT to allow the flame to heat the wine while
performing this ritual.
Any wine demonstrating somewhat mild, but attractive
characteristics. Occasionally used to describe well-made
wines from the so-called "lesser grape" varieties.
Refers to a premium wine that demands more attention, it
fills the mouth with a developing flavor, there are subtle
layers of flavor that go "deep."
Has two meanings:
Fortified wine - eg: Sherry - where alcohol is added in the
form of Brandy or neutral spirits. Sweet or very sweet wines
of any alcohol level customarily drunk with dessert or by
themselves and usually in small amounts.
Everything present in this wine is immediately obvious.
Describes any of the undesirable odours that can be present
in a wine that that was poorly vinified. A characteristic
imparted by improperly cleaned barrels or various other
processes performed incorrectly. Usually detected first in a
wine by the smell of the cork stopper or from a barrel
sample. Not to be confused with corked wines where the
stopper is thought to be responsible.
Dry/Off Dry: Little or no sugar = "dry", slightly sweeter =
Covers situations where a "mother-earth" component is
present. Earth is soil-dirt, but an earthy wine is not dirty
as in "DIRTY" above. The term appears to be applicable to
wine thought, by some, to be made from certain young
varietal grapes obtained from vines planted on land
previously used for growing vegetables containing components
which "marked" the soil in some way. European tasters use
the term in a broader sense to describe "terroir"
Undemanding but pleasant, doesn''t require good taste, just
What to say when there is great balance and grace in the
wine, but you can''t quite find apt words of description.
Almost a synonym for "breed".
Refers to "odor kits" containing vials of representative
Used occasionally by wineries to describe a late harvest,
sweet red wine. Most frequently appears on bottle labels for
Zinfandel red wine made from grapes picked at 35 deg. Brix
or higher sugar content.
Refers to the coloring imparted to wines during the
fermentation process by the skins of the grapes used. Can
also occur in the further step known as "maceration" where
new wine is allowed to steep with the skins again. This
second step usually results in a "highly extracted" style of
wine, deeply colored with strong flavors and tannin.
Rose''s, (aka "blush" wines), are normally made by limiting
contact with the skins, the opposite of "extraction".
Fills the mouth in a positive manner. The wine "feels" and
tastes a little obvious and often lacks elegance but is
prized by connoisseurs of sweet dessert wines. Not quite
desirable in a late harvest Moselle Riesling, but
appropriate in a classic Sauternes. Fatness/oiliness is
determined by the naturally occurring glycerol - (a.k.a
glycerin) - content in the wine.
Wines that have had suspended particulates resulting from
the fermentation process removed. Important for future
clarity and stability of a wine.
Use of various materials for clarifying wines. These
materials precipitate to the bottom of the fermentation
process vessel carrying any suspended particulate matter
As in "this wine has a (whatever) finish" or aftertaste
Attacks the palate with acid or tannic astringency. Suggests
that the wine is young and will age. Nearly always a
positive comment and very desirable with highly flavored
Opposite of "firm". Usually indicates very low acidity, so
tasting insipid and lacking flavor.
Refers to both body and texture. A fleshy wine tastes fatter
than a meaty wine, exhibiting some excess oiliness if too
pronounced. Often suggests great smoothness and richness.
Synonym for "stoney". Derived from French phrase "gout de
pierre a fusil", literally a smoky, whiff of gunflint,
almost acrid taste. These terms are presumably metaphorical
approximations based on the flavor sensations allegedly
present in wines made from grapes grown on a
limestone/silica rich terroir. "Flinty" describes an initial
evaluation indicating a young white wine made from cool
region grapes under cold fermentation conditions.
Characterized by high acidity, a tactile "mouthfeel" that is
filling and yet has a flavor sensation that is cleanly
Suggests the aroma or taste, usually aroma, of flowers in
wine. "Floral" usually employed as an adjective without
modifier to describe attributes of white wine aromas. Few
red wines have floral aromas.
Opposite of "closed-in" or, as used by some, backward. Means
presence of "fruitiness" is immediately apparent. Usually
employed as a term denoting that the wine is in peak
condition and on its plateau of maturity.
Common descriptive word used to note the presence of the
unique musky and grapey character attached to native
american Vitis. labrusca grapes such as the Concord or
Catawba varieties. The term "fox" has traditionally been a
pejorative name given by grapegrowers to the fruit of a
feral, ie. reverted to the wild species, cultivar grapevine.
The earliest known reference to a "fox" grape occurs in the
first part of the 17th century, specifically applied to
cultivated North American grapes, and seems to refer to the
unexpected results obtained from planted seeds, a
notoriously unpredictable method of reproduction. The word
itself may be an early corruption of the french word "faux",
(ie. false). Some also claim the word is derived from the
french "gout de renard" meaning, in all senses of the
phrase, "taste of fox". The aroma and flavors defy verbal
description. The best way to imprint "foxiness" in the
memory is to mentally compare the flavor of fresh Concord
grapes and any fresh California table grape. Most people
find the juice or jelly from the Concord grape quite
sprightly and delicious. In dry table wines the fermented
flavor result is considered by many to be obtrusive and even
The wine has a lively fruity acidity, maybe a little bite of
acid, as found in youthful light reds, rose''s and most
whites. All young whites should be fresh. The opposite is
A fruity wine has an "appley", "berrylike" or herbaceous
character. "Fruitiness" usually incorporates the detection
of a little extra sweetness as is found in really fresh
grapes or berries.
As opposed to "thin" or "thin-bodied". Fills the mouth, has
a winey taste, alcohol is present, the wine has "weight on
Defies precise definition. Appears to be a 1970s cannabis
culture derived word sometimes used by N. American west
coast winetasting reviewers when describing vegetal/
yeasty/yeastlike aromas so complex that individual
identification is difficult. Can have positive or negative
connotations depending on context.
Descriptive term for one of the flavors/aromas considered
particular to Burgundian style Pinot Noir red wines.
Reminiscent of taste and flavor associated with cooked wild
duck and other "gamey" meats. Thought to be caused by
contamination with "brett" - (brettanomyces strain of
yeast). Sometimes referred to as "animale" by french
winemakers or "sweaty saddle" by Australians. Considered a
major flaw when flavor is overly-pronounced.
Gives a sweet taste on the tongue tip. Higher concentrations
are found in high-alcohol and late-harvest wines, leading to
sensations of smooth slipperiness giving a sense of fullness
to the wine body. Is a natural by-product of the
Grapefruit flavours are characteristic of cool-climate
Chardonnays. See citrusy above.
Content has simple flavors and aromas reminiscent of a
certain type of fresh wine or table grape. Used by some as
adjective alternate for "foxy".
Slightly vegetal-tasting undertone often part of the overall
character of Sauvignon Blanc and certain other grape
varietals. European tasters sometimes use the word
"gooseberry" to describe this flavor. In minute presence it
can enhance flavors. As it becomes more dominant the more it
loses appeal leading to unattractiveness.
Strictly applied refers to the taste of wines made with
underipe fruit. More loosely used it refers to some white
wines, especially Riesling, possessing the greenish colour
tint indicating youth; does not necessarily mean the sour
and/or grassy taste of unripe fruit content as well.
High acidity and/or tannin content leading to a sensation of
dryness in the mouth, a degree of puckery-ness. Useful for
detecting young red wines suitable for aging. Characteristic
preferred in dry white wines that will accompany shellfish.
Very astringent wines, usually with high alcohol component,
often have this rough, rustic taste characteristic. May
become more tolerable with aging but also may not be worth
Refers to wines with slight particulate content when viewed
against the light. Occurs most often in unfiltered or
unfined wines where there is no need to worry. If the
haziness is intense enough to cause loss of clarity however
it may indicate a flawed wine.
Most often applied in description of full, warm qualities
found in red wines with high alcohol component. Examples are
found in the sturdier so-called "jug wines", some California
Zinfandels, lesser French Rhone or Algerian red wines and in
the occasional lesser Australian Shiraz.
Adjective used in description of wine with taste and aroma
of herbs, (usually undefined). Considered to be a varietal
characteristic of Cabernet Sauvignon, and to less extent,
Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Missing middle between "attack" and "finish". Caused by too
many grapes on insufficiently pruned vines. If very
noticeable, called "empty".
Apples to ripe wines, which, sweet or dry, have a taste or
aroma of honey.
Defines a wine high in alcohol and giving a prickly or
burning sensation on the palate. Accepted in fortified
wines, but not considered as a particularly desirable
attribute in Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. Positively
undesirable in light, fruity wines, (eg: Moselle Rieslings).
Word most often encountered in descriptions of California
Zinfandel wines made with Amador County grapes. Refers to
the natural berrylike taste of this grape.
Indicates grapes that are picked as late as possible in the
season for maximum sugar content.
Somewhat analogous to "vegetal". Desirable in minute
detectable amounts, if adding to notes of complexity in the
More body would be good, sort of thin in the mouth, often
too much astringency, sometimes a compliment for certain
Refers to residual yeast and other particles that
precipitate, or are carried by the action of "fining", to
the bottom of the fermentation vessel. US winemakers use the
term "mud". Imparts distinctive flavors to the wine
depending on type. Derived from French term "lies" as in
Term used when referring to the liquid rivulets that form on
the inside of a wineglass bowl after the wine is swirled in
order to evaluate the alcohol concentration present. Usually
the higher the alcohol content, the more impressive the
rivulets appear because of reduced surface tension effects.
(Some still cling to the erroneous belief that glycerin
content causes these rivulets). Valuable technique when used
in "blind" tasting competitions.
Descriptive of a somewhat acidic white wine. These wines
contain flavors reminiscent of that fruit. Apart from that,
may be well balanced in all other respects, sometimes with a
touch of extra sweetness.
How long the total flavor lasts in the back of the throat
after swallowing. Counted in time-seconds, known as
"caudilie". Ten seconds (caudilie) is good, fifteen is
great, twenty is excellent and fifty is superb. Almost a
synonym for "finish", as in "this is a wine with an long,
Low alcohol and/or sugar. Since about 1981 a wine containing
fewer calories per comparable serving than a regular glass
of wine has been legally designated as such. Used as a
tasting term, "light" is usually a polite expression meaning
Almost a synonym for fresh. Implies detection of barely
discernible spritzyness. Applies most often to white wines,
but some reds also qualify.
Describes impression of wines with high amounts of residual
sugar. Adjective almost entirely reserved for sweet dessert
Distinctive brown color in wine due usually to period of air
exposure. Regarded as synonym for "oxidized". Originates
from the taste/appearance of fortified Madeira wines.
Secondary fermentation occasionally detected in bottled
wines. Its action converts the naturally occurring Malic
acid into Lactic acid plus Carbon Dioxide gas. Reduces total
acidity by this action. Since the gas is contaminated with
undesirable odors, if it remains trapped in the bottle it
becomes a minor fault unless allowed to dissipate.
Malolactic fermentation is a commonly used technique for
reducing the sharpness of cool climate Chardonnays and the
Lactic acid component gives an admired "creamy" or "buttery"
Describes the odor of Sulphur Dioxide gas, described by some
as similar to the smell of "burnt matches", found in minute
amounts very occasionally trapped in bottled white wines.
Dissipates with airing or decanting.
Lacks "body" and "depth". Has definite feeling of flavor
dilution. Seems to occur in some select varietal wines
vinified from grapes subjected to late season rain, although
there are other explanations as well.
With much body as though you could chew it. The reference is
to lean meat, so indicates less body present than "fleshy".
Wines possessing intense flavors which seem to affect every
sensory nerve in the mouth. Usually slightly high glycerin
component, slightly low acid.
A wine that displays unpleasant "mildew" or "moldy" aromas.
Results from improperly cleaned storage vessels, moldy
grapes or cork.
Not the fleshy sense-organ/projection on the human face. Is
near synonym word for "aroma" and includes "bouquet".
Strictly applied it refers to the totality of the detectable
odor, (grape variety, vinous character, fermentation
smells), whether desirable or defective, found in a wine.
One would speak of a mature wine as having, for example,
"varietal aromas, flowery bouquet and hint of vanilla oak
combining to give a balanced nose".
The sense organs of the human nose can be educated by the
use of purchased odor comparison kits known by such names as
"Le Nez du Vin", "Component Collection" or "Winealyser".
These can sometimes be obtained at the various Home Wine
Makers mail suppliers (etc.) around the country.
Indicates young, immediately drinkable wine - (eg: "nouveau
Table wines that have been exposed to air display this aroma
which resembles that of certain sherry wines. Considered a
flaw by some in red wines, but a desired flavor component in
certain white wines by others, (eg: Chardonnays with
extended "lees" contact in the fermentation vessel).
The taste or aroma of freshly sawn oak. A wine, especially a
red, is considered as correctly "oaked" when the "nose"
carries a bare whiff of vanilla aroma. Sometimes oak flavors
overpower other component wine flavors in which case it is
considered overoaked. Oak flavor is introduced from contact
with storage barrels made from that wood. New oak barrels
contribute stronger flavor to a wine than older storage
barrels. The "oaky" components encountered include
"vanillin", and so-called "toasty", "charred" or "roasted"
elements. "Vanillin" comes from the character of the
hardwood. The three others derive from the "charring" of the
barrel that occurs from heating the broad iron rings which
hold the barrel staves in place after contraction and the
flaming of the interior.
Describes the vaguely fat, slippery sensation on the palate
in contact with the combination of high glycerin and
slightly low acid content. Mostly encountered in high
quality Chardonnays and late harvest sweet wines.
Some bottled cellar-aged red wines possess the peculiarity
that, when the cork is first pulled and the wine poured, the
full flavors do not immediately make an appearance. However,
after the passage of several minutes in an open glass
goblet, the wine develops unsuspected flavor characteristics
that can verge on the sublime. This phenomenon is referred
to as "opening-up". Conversely, these flavors can disappear
just as fast in just 30 minutes, leaving a subsequent
impression of a flat, stale, "over-the-hill" and/or mediocre
A grape precondition necessary for making certain styles of
Californian Zinfandel wines. Left on the vine to dry in the
sun, certain grape varietals will develop the desirable
"raisiny" character and concentrated sugar necessary for
making specialty wines such as the Hungarian "Tokay".
Powerful, attack aroma. Usually denotes high level of
acidity, alcohol and/or other flavor faults.
Term almost solely applied to "spicy" wines, such as
Gewurztraminer among the whites, or the red Rhone Syrah and
Australian Shiraz wines. Is a component which can almost be
described as pungent in quality, being reminiscent of anise,
Synonym for "floral". Implies also a degree of extra
Less than "fat", but otherwise nearly a synonym.
Even less balanced than a "hearty" or "sturdy" wine. The
sole impact is one of high alcohol and "body" character.
Little or no acid/tannin content. An everyday red wine,
similar to a french "vin ordinaire" country wine sold by
alcohol content, can be an example.
Close to being a synonym for BRAWNY.
A wine with slight residual gas in it. Usually attractive in
light young whites, but in reds it is often a sign of
refermentation in the bottle or bottling of the wine
Overripe, sun-dried grapes can induce an undesirable pungent
quality into table wines; sometimes compared to "the taste
of dried prunes".
Synonym for ASTRINGENT.
Traditional method of wine clarification. Sequential
transfer of wine to several containers, each transfer
leaving behind some particulate matter.
Sharp acidity usually found in young white wine (i.e.
Italian Pinot Grigio, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc)
Mildly rich flavor due to excessive heat in the growing area
which dries out grapes still on the vine. Considered a fault
in most dry table wines.
Word normally used to describe a flavor perception found in
tawny brown, wood-aged and heated fortified wines such as
some "Madeira". Refers to the peculiarly blowsy overly-ripe
fruit aroma, analogous to overipe bananas, admired in
Port-style fortified wines but considered a fault in dry
table wines where the detectable presence of oxidized
components is frowned on for the most part.
Term for well-balanced wines. Mostly refers to reds, such as
Zinfandel, that normally turn "powerful" in the barrel.
Almost a synonym for "elegant".
Percentage, by weight or volume, of the unfermented grape
sugar in a bottled wine.
Giving a full, rounded flavor impression without necessarily
being sweet. Richness supplied by alcohol, glycerin and oak
vanilla nuances in dry wine. The sweeter wines qualify for
this adjective if also characterized by ripe, fruity
Refers to edge of wine surface as seen through a "ballon"
(goblet) style wineglass held at an angle of about 30-40
deg. from the vertical and viewed against white piece of
paper or cloth using natural light. Used in evaluation of
wine age. In "blind" tasting is about the only way to get an
informed perception about the probable life and/or condition
of the wine from that date on.
Favorable adjective bestowed when the varietal
characteristics of the grape are optimally present in a well
balanced wine. Ripe-tasting wines tend toward being slightly
more fruity and sweet than otherwise normal wines.
Vigorous, full with a lot of heart, a big scaled wine.
Smell of Hydrogen Sulfide gas in wine. Thought to be a
characteristic imparted by certain yeast strains. A decided
Flavor/texture is coarse. Acidity and/or tannin are
predominant and unpleasant.
Describes flavors and tactile sensations giving a feeling of
completeness with no dominating characteristic. Almost the
same as fat, but with more approval. Tannin, acid and
glycerin are sufficiently present but appear as nuances
rather than distinct flavors.
One of the basic taste sensations detected by the receptors
in the human tongue.
Excess acid predominates, disturbing the otherwise balanced
Normal, everyday, well-vinified table wine of
Some use the word in the same sense as the smell/flavor that
separates smoked (anything) from ordinary (anything). Refers
to aroma contributed by the charred oakwood in barrels. It
can have a variety of impressions - (eg: such as the remains
of a burnt-out fire). Needs a variant, such as "wood-smoke"
or "barbecue smoke" or "sooty" to fully convey the meaning.
Generally has low acid/tannin content. Also describes wines
with low alcohol content. Consequently has little impact on
Almost a synonym for ACIDIC. Implies presence of acetic acid
plus excess acid component. (Is also one of the four basic
taste sensations detected by the human tongue).
Almost a synonym for "peppery". Implies a softer, more
rounded flavor nuance however.
Considered a fairly minor fault stemming sometimes from the
onset of a brief secondary malolactic fermentation in the
bottle. Consists of pinpoint carbonation typically released
when the bottle cork is pulled. Frowned on more if occurring
in white wines vinified to be dry.
Wine with lifeless, stagnant qualities. Usually found in
wines that were kept in large vessel storage for an
excessive length of time.
Mouth-feel and aroma applied to many non-oaked white wines.
Duel meaning due to it fermentation in steel and its almost
Describes a set of perceptions that seem to indicate a
relatively young white wine fermented from ripe, but not
overly so, grapes under cold fermentation conditions.
Classic examples are made from Chardonnay grapes in the
Chablis region of France. Wines from the Carneros region of
the Napa Valley in California are sometimes so described as
well. High acidity coupled with a tactile, mouth-filling
sensation that has a cleanly "earthy" flavor characterize
this type of wine.
Term for overall flavor. Used to suggest complete impression
of the wine. Needs a modifier in order to mean something -
(eg: "brawny" etc).
STURDY (see HEARTY above)
The style is distinctive and characteristic of the grape(s)
used. Carries a connotation of briskness or jauntiness.
Commonly used to describe an Australian or New Zealand wine.
Term often used for young reds which should be more
aggressive. More lively than an easy wine with suggestions
of good quality. The near synonym "amiable" is also
sometimes employed but does not quite emphasize the extra
connotation of "leanness" implied.
Refers to one of the four basic tastes detected by the
sensory nerves of the human tongue. In the description of
wine taste-flavor the term "sweet" is almost always used as
an identifier denoting the presence of residual sugar and/or
glycerin. Wine aromas require a descriptive term to identify
the source of the perceived sensation - (eg: "ripe",
A naturally occurring substance in grapeskins, seeds and
stems. Is primarily responsible for the basic "bitter"
component in wines. Acts as a natural preservative, helping
the development and, in the right proportion, balance of the
wine. It is considered a fault when present in excess.
Descriptive term used when comparing odor detected in the
"nose" of a wine with similar odor retained in a memory
trained by the use of a comparison kit of scent essences.
Such kits include tar, apricots, mushrooms and other
flavoring essences isolated from wines.
Synonym for "acidic".
Refers to the basic sensations detectable by the human
tongue. Current scientific opinion defines these as "sweet",
"salty", "sour", "bitter" and "MSG" (Monosodium Glutamate)
flavors all registered by the tongue taste receptors. The
traditional view of the tongue having four distinct surface
zones to register those tastes has recently been revised by
a report of new research discoveries (ie. see "Nature"
magazine, April 5, 2000).
Synonym for "legs".
French language term for all the characteristics of the
vineyard site thought to be imparted to a particular wine.
It is a term that includes geographic, geological, climatic
and other attributes that can affect an area of growth as
small as a few square metres.
Opposite of "full-bodied".
Other, similar descriptors are "caramel" and "toffee". Some
also add spicy flavours, such as "cinnamon" or "cloves".
Descriptive term, used by some, to describe a flavor
component resembling the taste of raw tobacco leaf in the
finish of certain red wines. Seems to mainly apply to
Cabernet Sauvignons from Bordeaux, France or the Napa region
of California. "Cigarbox" is a common term often used as a
near synonym especially if a cedar-wood note in the aroma is
detected. (Non-smokers may have trouble with this word and
Usually implying too much tannin.
UNDERIPE (see also ACIDIC, GREEN).
Resulting flavor when grapes that failed to reach optimum
maturity on the vine are used in the vinification process.
Opposite of "filtered". However, does not exclude other
clarifying processes such as "fining" etc.
Opposite of "fined", but does not exclude other clarifying
processes such as "filtering" etc.
Component detectable in the "nose" of a wine. The novice
taster can compare odors with the vials of artificial ones
provided in kit form.
Component contributed by oakwood barrel staves. Considered
to add a degree of "sweetness" to red wines when present in
barely detectable amounts, so adding to a desirably complex
style prized by connoisseurs.
The particular flavor characteristics associated with a
grape picked at optimum maturity - (eg: distinctive
"berrylike" taste of California Zinfandels, "blackcurrants"
of Cabernet Sauvignon etc).
Considered a flavor flaw when present in distinctive amounts
over and above that occurring naturally in the grape.
"Grassy" has somewhat the same connotation.
The grape species believed to be an impure, cross-pollinated
version of the wild grape native to North America. Makes
tasty juice, jelly but has wine flavor often termed as
The premier grape species used for the world''s most admired
wines. Also referred to as the "European vine".
Possesses high alcohol flavor offset by counterbalancing
flavors and other desirable qualities. Unlike "hot", is a
Synonym for MEAGER or THIN.
Well-structured/balanced wines with an implication of mildly
excessive flavor or "heaviness".
Contains all of the essential elements - (ie: alcohol,
flavors, acid or astringency etc) - in good proportions.
Sampling tube made from clear glass or plastic tube having a
narrowed opening at either end. The tube is lowered into the
wine container, usually a barrel, allowed to fill to a
predetermined level and is then withdrawn, keeping the upper
end sealed with a finger, so collecting a sample of wine.
The wine sample is then disgorged into a wineglass or
shallow "tastevin" cup held ready for use by the taster.
(Cooks will recognize the similarity to the kitchen
implement known as a "turkey baster").
Almost a synonym for OAKY. However, implies an overstay in a
wooden container which resulted in the absorption of other
wood flavors besides "oak".
Term describing odors deriving from varietal yeasts carried
on grapeskins, molds etc. Includes both desirable and
undesirable characteristics. Examples would be the presence
of "brett", (brettanomeyces), a strain of yeast that
produces "gamey/smokey" odors that are considered to add to
the character of the wine when barely detectable. Considered
a flaw when presence is pronounced. Another, similar example
is the "dekkera" wild yeast strain which gives a "fresh
dirt/cement-y" flavor component.
Basic Wine Chart
Aromas and Flavors
Apple, pear, yeast
(also Fume Blanc)
grassy, hay, citrus, grape-fruity
Light to Medium
Pear, apple, oak,
Medium to Heavy
apricot, pear, fruity
spices, rose petals
floral, apricot, fruity
Light - medium
current, chocolate, vanilla
Medium to heavy
current, cassis, raspberries, oaky
Medium to heavy
Light to medium
Red Wine and Food
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