Acid/acidity – Terms such as “crisp,” “tart,” “lively,” and “refreshing” are used to describe wines that have a good balance of acidity.
Astringent/astringency – Is associated with high levels of tannin. Tannin will usually decrease with age. A little bit of astringency is to be expected in robust, rich, full-bodied red wines.
Body – Describes how a wine feels in your mouth, its weight and fullness. Refers to a combination of the wine’s alcohol, sugar and glycerin content.
Brut – A term that refers to a very dry sparkling wine.
Carbonic Maceration – Refers to a process where whole bunches of grapes are placed in a tank with carbon dioxide. The weight breaks the skin of the grapes at the bottom, thus beginning fermentation at an intracellular level. The resulting wines have less acidity and are light and fruity, and are best consumed young.
Clarity – Refers to the cloudiness or sediment in a wine.
Fortified – A method in which the alcoholic content has been increased 17% to 21%. Used in the production of Sherries and Ports.
Late Harvest – Refers to how ripe the grapes were at harvest time and may, but not necessarily, have been harvested with Botrytis (a beneficial mold that develops on grapes under certain environmental conditions, concentrating and intensifying both sugar and flavor). Late harvest wines are usually sweet and may be high in alcohol. Late harvest wines are best enjoyed after the main course as a dessert wine.
Lees – Refers to sediment or dead yeast cells that are a by-product of fermentation. When wine ferments, this sediment sinks to the bottom of the barrel or tank and is promptly removed. Some wines, particularly Chardonnays, are left in contact with the lees after fermentation. This adds complexity.
Methode Champenoise – The original French method of producing Champagnes in which the wine undergoes its second fermentation in the bottle.
Microclimate – See terroir.
Organically Grown Grapes – Refers to grapes grown without the use of synthetic or chemically altered pesticides or fertilizers.
Organically Processed Wines – These wines cannot contain any sulfur dioxide (sulfites) added during winemaking.
Residual Sugar – Refers to the unfermented grape sugar remaining in the finished wine, it is usually expressed as a percentage and lets consumers know how sweet the wine is.
Sulfites – Salts of sulfurous acid. The words “contains sulfites” are mandatory on labels of wine sold in the U.S. if the wine contains 10 parts per million or more of sulfites. Indicates sulfur dioxide was used somewhere in the grape growing or winemaking process.
Sulfiting – When sulfur dioxide is used in winemaking. Before harvest, sulfur is often sprayed directly on the vines in an effort to deter many insects and diseases. Once the grapes are grown, sulfur dioxide is used to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold and wild yeast in must (the juice of freshly crushed grapes that will be fermented into wine), as well as to prevent spoilage or oxidation in the finished wine.
Tannin – The puckery feeling in your mouth known as astringency is from tannin. Tannin comes from the stems, seeds and skins of grapes as well as the wooden barrels in which the wines are stored and aged. Red wines have about five times more tannin than white wines.
Terroir – French for soil, used in the phrase gout de terroir (taste of soil). Terroir refers to the earthly flavor of some wines. It tells of not just the type of soil but also other geographic factors that might influence the quality of the finished product like altitude, position relative to the sun, angle of incline. In the U.S., the term microclimate is used.