Vino Vocabulary

Wine tasting, WA

Ever been confused when a friend dropped a term such as “eiswein” or “ullage” over a glass of chardonnay? How about something more commonplace like “vintner,” a word you feel like you should know? With dozens of wine terms it’s easy to get lost in the translation. Study this cheat sheet of wine words, and you’ll be sure to feel confident talking wine at your next evening out with friends.

Oenophile: a lover or connoisseur of wines; one who has shown dedication to the collection and consumption of wine.

Vintner: a person involved in the process of making wine, from monitoring the growth of the grapes to the bottling of the beverage.

Viticulture: a branch of horticulture, this is the science and process of growing grapes for wine.

Brix: a scale used to measure the grape solids, generally sugars, in the non-fermented fruit juice. To determine a wine’s future alcohol level, simply multiply the brix by 0.55.

Foxy: a distinct odor and taste of a wine, made from several of the American species of grape that resembles Concord grape juice. Methyl anthranilate, a flavor substance, plays a large role in creating this flavor.

Chaptalization: a method used to increase the alcohol content, sugar is added to the grapes during the fermentation process.

Fining: a step of the clarification process in which a substance is added to the wine to capture and remove solids before the filtration procedure. Elements such as egg whites or gelatin are used to remove solubles such as tannins and proteins.

Negociant: a French term used to describe a person who buys grapes or wine, in various steps of completion, and markets the product under his or her own name.

Plonk: a term used to describe inexpensive, poor-quality wine.

Primeur: a French term used to describe wine sold in the original barrel; referred to as “futures” in English-speaking countries.

Steely: a description of a wine that was not aged in barrels, characteristically crisp and acidic.

Brettanomyces: a form of yeast that negatively affects the flavor and smell of wine. It is difficult to get rid of, and affected wines often have a shoe-polish or barnyard odor.

Eiswein: a sweet, very concentrated wine made from grapes that have lasted through the first frost; a rare and sweet treat.

Lees: a mixture of dead yeast cells and grape solids, such as skin and seeds. It is the sediment that can be found at the bottom of the tank after the fermentation process.

Terroir: used to describe the location, soil and climate of a particular grape-growing region.

Ullage: the space between the cork and the level of liquid in the bottle. A greater ullage is common in older wines.

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