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ACID - Acid contributes to the crispness and longevity of wine, particularly white wine. A wine that has too much acidity will taste sharp.

AFTERTASTE - The flavor that stays in the mouth after swallowing wine. Also known as a wine's finish, this flavor can be buttery, oaky, spicy, tart, or bitter.

AGING - Wine can age in bottles, barrels, vats, or stainless steel tanks. Many wines improve during the aging process, which can take anywhere from five months to five years before the wine is ready to be sold to the public. The best conditions for aging wines are a dark room with high humidity and a stable, cool temperature.

ALCOHOL - An integral component of wine that adds much of the wine's body. Most wines range from 7 percent to 14 percent alcohol by volume. Alcohol is produced naturally by yeast during the fermentation process. The active yeast converts the natural sugars in the grape juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is released from the fermenting tank by means of a trap.

ASTRINGENT - Causing a dry feeling in the mouth. Wine having excess tannin will feel this way. An astringent wine may be young and in need of aging. It may also simply need to breathe.

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BALANCE - A well-balanced wine is a primary goal of the wine maker. Such a wine blends all of its components gracefully: the fruit, tannin, acid, and sugar. A wine's balance may only be realized after some aging.

BARREL - A round container, generally made from wood. Barrels of all different sizes are used, depending on the wine region and producer. Oak barrels are commonly used to age table wines.

BITTERNESS - Bitterness in wine may be due to a grape variety, an extremely dry climate during the growing season, or poor wine making. Bitterness comes from excess tannin.

BLENDING - The primary task of the wine maker. Wines from different lots or barrels are blended together to produce the final product for bottling. Tradition and regional laws dictate what grape varieties may be blended together to make a certain wine. It is up to the wine maker to select the percentages of each type of grape for the final blend. The particular characteristics of the vintage play a crucial role in this decision. The classic blending example comes from Bordeaux, where by law wine can be made from a blend of the following grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc.

BLUSH WINE - An American term for rose. Any wine that is pink in color, such as the misnamed "white Zinfandel."

BODY - Generally used to describe the "weight" of a wine in the mouth. Wines can be categorized as light-, medium-, or full-bodied. A Cabernet Sauvignon is an example of a full-bodied wine; a Sauvignon Blanc is a light- or medium-bodied wine.

BOTTLE - Glass bottles are the most common containers for storing wine. Glass is ideal because it does not affect the wine in any way, even during extended periods in the bottle.

BOUQUET - A French term for the aroma of a wine. Often the first indicator of a wine's quality during wine tasting. Aromas may include fruit, spice, and other smells associated with a particular grape variety, region, or condition of the wine. The bouquet of a Merlot, for example, will often contain aromas of raspberry and cassis (black currant).

BREATHING - Allowing a wine to mix with the air. Aeration occurs by pouring the wine into a larger container, such as a decanter or large wineglass. Breathing can be beneficial for many red wines and also for some young white wines. Chemically, breathing enables oxygen to mix with the wine, which hastens the aging process. If a wine stands open for more than 12 hours, it will begin to turn to vinegar as the oxygen continues to work. Whether to let a wine breathe before serving depends on the wine. Contrary to popular belief, it is not always beneficial to let older wines breathe prior to drinking, as this can cause them to "turn" - or go bad - before dinner is over.

BRILLIANT - A clear and bright - as opposed to cloudy - appearance.

BRUT - A French term meaning "raw"; describes champagne or other sparkling wines around the world that are very dry, containing no more than 1.5 percent residual sugar.

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CABERNET FRANC - Red wine grape used in Bordeaux for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon. It is an earlier-maturing red wine, due to its lower level of tannins.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON - One of the primary grape varieties used in Bordeaux, and successfully grown in many countries. Cabernet Sauvignon is often called the king of red wines.

CAPSULE - The protective metal or plastic sheath over the cork and neck of a wine bottle. The capsule keeps the cork from drying out and admitting air into the bottle.

CELLAR - A storage area for wine, not necessarily underground. A cellar is the best area to keep wines for aging. Ideal conditions are darkness, controlled cool temperature, and high humidity. Bottles should be stored on their sides to keep the corks from drying out.

CHAMPAGNE - Only 75 miles northeast of Paris, the region has over 300 villages and produces the best-known sparkling wines in the world. Only wines produced here can legally be called champagne.

CHAPTALIZATION - The process of adding sugar to the fermenting wine to raise the final alcohol level. Often used in France to raise low alcohol levels by 1 to 2 percent. Because the sugar is converted to alcohol, it does not add sweetness to the finished wine.

CHARACTER - That which makes a wine distinctive. A region's wine-making tradition, soils, and grape varieties combine to produce a wine's character.

CHARDONNAY - This noble grape is grown in many wine regions around the world. It is responsible for the great white wines from the Burgundy region of France. Chardonnay ranges from medium to full-bodied and is frequently aged in oak barrels to enhance its flavor.

CHARMAT PROCESS - The process of producing sparkling wines in tanks rather than bottles. Often used to mass-produce inexpensive sparkling wines.

CLOUDY - The opposite of clear or brilliant. Possibly the result of sediment being stirred up during transportation.

CLOYING - Overly sweet, and lacking the correct amount of acidity to give the wine balance.

COLOR - White, red, and rosÖ{each of which has its own spectrum from light to dark. It is the skins of the grapes that give a wine its color. During the wine-making process, the longer the juice is in contact with the skins, the more color will be imparted to the wine. A pink or rosÐRine is made from red grapes but is only allowed brief contact with the skins.

CORK - Corks are produced from the bark of cork trees, which are grown mainly in Spain and Portugal. Corks are airtight and have for years been the best way to seal wine bottles.

CORKAGE - A fee paid to a restaurant by a customer who brings his own wine. Typically $5 to $10 per bottle.

CORKED - An expression meaning the wine has gone bad. Implies an unpleasant, musty, moldy smell imparted by a flawed cork. Cork can contain bacteria that will cause "off" flavors in the wine. Quality cork manufacturers bleach and process corks to minimize the chance of a bottle being "corked." Unfortunately, almost one out of twelve bottles will have some off, corky flavors. It is for this reason that alternative wine bottle closures have been tested in recent years, but the use of non-cork closures has been resisted by traditionalists. Any closure that seals the bottle airtight is a perfect one for wine. Contrary to popular belief, cork does not - or should not - let air into a wine bottle over time. It is intended to create an airtight seal.

CORKSCREW - A device used for removing the cork from glass bottles.

CRISP - A wine with a lively acidity level. A French Chablis, a Sancerre, or a light California Sauvignon Blanc will have the characteristics of a crisp, refreshing wine.

CUV? - A French term meaning a vat or tank. Often used to refer to the best product a producer has to offer.

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DECANT - To pour wine from its bottle into a larger container (i.e., a decanter) for the purpose of leaving any accumulated sediment behind. Decanting also lets a wine breathe.

DRY - Wines are usually noted as dry or sweet, with variations in between. Dryness is a function of the residual sugar in the finished wine - the drier the wine, the less sugar it contains. Most table wines are dry.

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ENOLOGY - The study of wine and wine making. Also spelled Oenology.

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FERMENTATION - The transformation of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas by the action of yeast. The primary chemical process in wine making.

FINESSE - The complexity and elegance, subtlety and delicacy of a wine.

FINING - The process of clarifying wine by introducing certain additives that cling to suspended particles in the wine and fall to the bottom.

FINISH - The flavor that stays in the mouth after swallowing wine. Also known as a wine's aftertaste, this flavor can be buttery, oaky, spicy, tart, or bitter.

FLINTY- A "flinty" wine is said to recall gunflint. Flinty wines are usually dry and austere.

FORTIFIED - A category of wines to which a neutral wine spirit has been added to create distinctive types of wine and to increase alcohol strength. .

FRAGRANT - A fragrant wine is very aromatic and flowery. Common wine fragrances are floral, spice, and fruit aromas such as pineapple, blackberry, peach, apricot, and apple. The variety of the grape is primarily responsible for a wine's fruit fragrances.

FRUITY - A fruity wine is one in which fruit flavors dominate the aroma and taste. Often these wines are easy-drinking and light.

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GEW?ZTRAMINER - Also called Traminer. A perfumed, pungent, spicy white grape that produces semisweet to dry wines; a specialty of Alsace (France) but also grown in California, Germany, Eastern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

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HECTARE - A metric unit of measure equivalent to 2.471 acres. Wineries in Europe use this term to describe the land area of vineyards. Output of wine is measured in hectoliters per acre. A hectoliter is equal to 100 liters or 26.4 U.S. gallons.

HERBACEOUS - Describes a wine that smells or tastes grassy or green. Often a characteristic of wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and S×bllon grapes. Can also be found in very young wines that will change flavor as they age. Primarily a function of the grape variety, not soil or climate.

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LEES - An English term used for the sediment that settles at the bottom of tanks and vats after the fermentation process. It is made up of grape seeds, pulp, stems, and skins, and is not transferred when the wine is moved to a different container.

LIGHT - A term used to describe the body or color of a wine. A light wine is usually easy to drink and not high in alcohol.

LIQUEUR - A sweet, alcoholic after-dinner drink, also known as a cordial.

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MASTER OF WINE - A title bestowed by the Institute of Masters of Wine. Founded in 1953 in England, it is an exclusive organization requiring one to pass a rigorous three-day exam. Part of the exam includes blind-tasting about 36 wines with the aim of correctly identifying them. A person with this title may put the abbreviation M.W. after his or her name.

MERLOT - A red wine grape that continues to build a large consumer following in all areas of the world. Merlot is traditionally blended into the wines of the Pauillac, Margaux, Graves, and Saint-Est�Se regions of Bordeaux. In Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, Merlot dominates the wines. In California, Merlot is blended with Cabernet and bottled on its own.

M?HODE CHAMPENOISE - French term for the method used to make champagne, which is fermented in the bottle. French champagnes and many other sparkling wines are produced using this traditional French technique. The monk Dom P֟gnon is credited with inventing this method. See charmat process.

MICROCLIMATE - The climate within a small, defined area. Can dramatically affect the character of the wine produced there.

MULLED WINE - Red wine that has been mixed with sugar, lemon, and spices, usually including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Served hot.

MUST - The mixture of grape juice or crushed grapes that is fermented into wine.

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NOSE - A term used by wine enthusiasts to describe the smell of a wine.

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OAK - The most popular wood for constructing barrels. Oak imparts flavors and tannin to wines during the barrel aging process.

OENOLOGY - See Enology.

OXIDIZED - The smell of a wine that has been overexposed to air. White wines that are oxidized turn dark golden in color, lack freshness, and have an off nose and flavor.

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PERIQUITA - A red wine grape grown in southern Portugal. A medium-bodied, fruity wine that is a good value.

PETIT VERDOT - Red wine grapes grown in Bordeaux and used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon. Many producers have been abandoning this grape, since it ripens late and sometimes not at all.

PETITE SIRAH - This red wine grape grown in California by many producers is not related to the French Syrah of the Rhone Valley. Its characteristics are deep color, pepperiness, full body, and good aging potential.

PHYLLOXERA - An insect that attacks the roots of grapevines, killing the vine. Phylloxera is native to the eastern United States. It was transported to Europe on vine roots and plants and caused vine devastation in France around 1863. Usually a vine will die within several years of the attack.

PINOT BLANC - This white wine grape has in the past been mistaken for Chardonnay. The two varieties look very much alike. Grown in a variety of regions - Italy, France, California, Germany, Austria - the Pinot Blanc is a light, smooth, easy-quaffing white. Drink young.

PINOT GRIS - Grown in Alsace, Germany, Italy, and very successfully in Oregon, this grape variety can produce round, flavorful, dry white wines. Known as Tokay in Alsace, Pinot Grigio in Italy.

PINOT MEUNIER - Red wine grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. Pinot Meunier is used for blending with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to add fruit to champagne. Recently the Pinot Meunier varietal is being grown and marketed in Oregon.

PINOT NOIR - The noble red grape that produces all the great red Burgundies. In champagne it is vinified without skin contact to produce a white wine. A difficult grape to cultivate, it can produce some of the most elegant wines in the world. Also good examples in California and Oregon.

PINOTAGE - A red grape that is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Grown in South Africa, it is fermented at higher temperatures and matured in new oak for finesse and elegant berry flavors.


PLONK - British term for simple, ordinary wine. Often used to describe very inexpensive wine with no character.


POMACE - The mass of skins, seeds, pulp, and stems left in the fermenting vat or cask after wine making. One of the products that goes into the distillation of French marc and Italian grappa.

PORT- A fortified wine from the Douro region of Portugal. Styles of Port include Late Bottle (LB), Tawny, Ruby, Aged, and Vintage. Mostly sweet and red, Port is usually served after dinner as a dessert wine. All Port is made by Port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the southern bank of the Douro across from Portugal's second largest city, Oporto. Until recently most Port houses were British-owned.

PORTUGAL - Top wine-producing regions include Minho, Douro, Alenquer, and Portalegre.

PROVENCE - Located in the southeastern part of France, with a rich Mediterranean climate. The region is best known for dry rosès and fruity red wines. Regions: Côtes de Provence, Côteaux Varois, Côteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, Les Baux de Provence, Bandol, Cassis, Côtes du Lubèron, Côteaux de Pierrevert.

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RIESLING - The great white wine grape of Germany. Its good acidity level provides flavorful, crisp wines. Also found in Alsace (France), California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Also known as Johannisberg Riesling.

ROSE - A light pink wine, dry to sweet, made by removing the skins of red grapes early in the fermentation process or sometimes by mixing red and white wines. Also called "blush" wine.

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SEDIMENT - The natural aging process of red wines causes a deposit to accumulate in the bottle. This is not a flaw in the wine. Sediment is composed of tannins and pigments that precipitate out of solution. Older wines are decanted to separate the wine from its sediment.

SOFT - A wine that is not harsh, overly tannic, or acidic.

SPICY - A character in wine reminiscent of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, or other spices. Can be found in both red and white wines.

SPLIT - A quarter bottle of champagne, containing six ounces. Used frequently on airplanes and trains.

STRUCTURE - How a wine is built. A wine with good structure has the proper proportions of acid, tannin, and fruit that combine to make a well-balanced wine in which all the properties meld together.

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TANNIC - A word used to describe wine in which the tannins overpower the fruit and other elements. A tannic wine is not well balanced.

TANNIN - Tannins are a chemical component of wine that give it an astringent quality. They occur naturally in grapes, black tea, the bark of many trees, and some fruits. Tannins are a natural preservative critical to the wine aging process.

TART - Acidic. Often characteristic of young white wines.

TARTAR - A harmless substance, tartaric acid, that occasionally precipitates as crystals in some white wines.

TASTEVIN - A small saucer-shaped cup used by wine stewards for tasting wine. Usually made of highly polished silver, the cup has ridges and small crevices that allow the taster to look at the color and clarity of the wine.

TEMPERATURE - Wines generally should be served at one of three temperatures:
40 degrees F=Take straight out of refrigerator and serve. Appropriate for most sparkling wines and light-bodied whites.
50 degrees F=Take out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving. Appropriate for many medium-bodied whites, most dessert wines , and a few light-bodied reds.
65 degrees F=Room temperature is often higher than this. If needed, chill for 15 minutes. Appropriate for all but the lightest red wines.

TERROIR - The French term for that elusive combination of soil type and microclimate that gives wines their character.

THIEF - Glass or metal syringe used for taking wine samples through the bunghole of a barrel.

THIN - A wine that is light-bodied, lacks flavor, and is generally light in color.


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VARIETAL - A wine named for the principal grape from which it is made.

VIN - French word for wine.

VIN DE PAYS - A French term that simply means wine of the region or country. A category of ordinary table wines meant for quick drinking.

VINTAGE - a) One season's yield of grapes or wine from a vineyard or winery; b) a wine made from grapes grown in a single year.

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