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A Quick Wine Glossary
Like any activity, wine making and wine tasting have specialized vocabularies, and most of the terms are actually quite helpful, once you have them down. Here are some core terms to know:
American Viticultural Area (AVA). More commonly termed an "appellation," this is a region with unique soil, climate, and other grape-growing conditions. When a label lists an appellation—Napa Valley or Mt. Veeder, for example—at least 75% of the grapes used to make the wine must come from that region.
Aroma and bouquet. Aroma is the fruit-derived scent of young wine. It diminishes with fermentation and becomes a more complex bouquet as the wine ages.
Corked. Describes wine that is flawed by the musty, wet-cardboard flavor imparted by cork mold.
Estate bottled. A wine entirely made by one winery at a single facility. The grapes must come from the winery's own vineyards within the same appellation (which must be printed on the label).
Horizontal tasting. A tasting of several different wines of the same vintage.
Library wine. An older vintage that the winery has put aside to sell at a later date.
Méthode champenoise. The traditional, time-consuming method of making sparkling wines that are fermented in individual bottles.
Oaky. A vanilla-woody flavor that develops when wine is aged in oak barrels. Too much overpowers the other flavors.
Reserve wine. Fuzzy term applied by vintners to indicate that a wine is better in some way (through aging, source of the grapes, etc.) than others from their winery.
Table wine. Any wine that has at least 7% but not more than 14% alcohol by volume. The term doesn't necessarily imply anything about the wine's quality or price—both super-premium and jug wines can be labeled as table wine.
Tannins. These natural grape compounds produce a sensation of drying or astringency in the mouth and throat.
Terroir. French for "soil." Typically used to describe the soil and climate conditions that influence the quality and characteristics of grapes and wine.
Varietal. A wine that takes its name from the grape variety from which it is predominantly made. California wines that qualify are almost always labeled with the variety of the source grape.
Vertical tasting. A tasting of several wines of different vintages.
Vinification. Wine making, the process by which grapes are made into wine.
Vintage. The grape harvest of a given year, and the year in which the grapes are harvested. A vintage date on a bottle indicates the year in which the grapes were harvested rather than the year in which the wine was bottled.
Viticulture. The cultivation of grapes.
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