A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. But when it comes to wine, the more you know, the more fun the experience can be.
It would take a very thick book to fully explore the language of wine, in part because it unfolds in so many different languages. So, for today, let’s settle for two dozen plus two “wine words” — presented A-to-Z style…
Appellation — French term for a geographically designated wine area or region.
Barolo — An important Italian wine made from Piedmont-grown Nebbiolo grapes.
Cava — Spanish term for sparkling wine, adopted in 1970 to differentiate it from French Champagne. Until then, the term used was Champaña.
Dosage — The final addition of wine (often including a sugar syrup to mitigate high acidity) to top up a bottle of Champagne.
Espumoso — The actual Spanish word for sparkling, although “Cava” is used on labels of exported sparkling wine.
Fizziness — Describes a sparkling wine’s trait of bubbling when uncorked.
Gardet — Champagne house founded in the late 19th century, which today melds tradition and modernity in its cellar.
Henriot — Champagne house, based in Reims, which celebrated its 200th birthday in 2008.
INAO — The Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité, which oversees French appellation laws.
Jammy — Describes a wine that tastes like cooked, baked or stewed fruit.
Kabinett — German term for a wine of quality, typically the driest of the country’s best Rieslings.
Lees — Solid particles that settle at the bottom of a tank or barrel following fermentation. Contact with lees adds mouthfeel to a wine.
Mediterranean Climate — Defined by summers that are normally dry, warm to hot, and sunny, along with the winters that are mild — in other words, ideal for ripening winegrapes.
Nose — The aroma or bouquet of a wine; what it smells like.
Oloroso — Spanish term used to describe a style of Sherry with an intensely nutty aroma, generated via oxidative aging.
Primeur — French term that denotes a light, fruity style of wine that undergoes virtually no aging prior to release. Example: Beaujolais Nouveau.
Qualitatswein — Term that covers the top two tiers of Germany’s four-tier quality classification system.
Residual Sugar — The natural sugar remaining in a wine following fermentation. Some winemakers stop a fermentation early in order to retain sugar.
Sur lie — French term that denotes a style derived by maturing a wine in contact with its lees. Generally enhances complexity and texture.
Terroir — The grape-growing conditions — soil, climate, etc. — of a specific site.
Ullage — Small space of air in a wine bottle’s neck.
Viticulture — The science of growing wine grapes.
Whitehall Lane — An award-winning winery in the heart of Napa Valley, owned by the Leonardini family. The estate was founded in 1979.
X Winery — California winery that grew out of an MBA business plan hatched by Reed Renaudin at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Vinesse has featured numerous X Winery bottlings through the years.
Yield — The amount of grapes, usually measured in tons, harvested in a given year — by state, region, appellation, estate or vineyard.
Zweigelt — The most widely planted red winegrape in Austria, known for its mild peppery character.