Wine ABCs

Glossary of Terms



Acetic Acid

All wines contain a very small amount of acetic acid. At low levels it can enhance the character of a wine, at .07% a sweet-sour vinegar smell and taste are found and at higher levels (over .1%), it can become the dominant flavour and is considered a major flaw.


A term to describe a wine whose total acid is so high that it tastes tart or sour and has a sharp edge on the palate.


Describes a harsh or bitter taste or pungent smell that is due to excess sulfur.


The process that allows a wine to “breathe” in the open air, or by swirling in a wine glass. It’s debatable whether aerating bottled wines improves their quality. Aeration can soften young, tannic wines, however it may also fatigue older ones.

Aerobic Fermentation

Fermentation conducted in the presence of fresh air, as in a crock or a vat.


Term describing the storing of wine under certain specific conditions for the purpose of improving it. The life differs greatly in different wines. Not all wines will improve with age. Generally only the finer ones will, and even those only when carefully stored.


Wine with an excess of acidity or tannin giving it an unpleasant harsh taste or texture.

Aging on the Lees

Storing wine prior to bottling in contact with the lees from the fermentation


Spain’s most widely planted grape variety


A premium white wine grape grown in the Galicia region of Spain. The wines are refreshing, crisp and light bodied, and can have a peachy aroma.

Alcohol by volume

As required by law, wineries must state the alcohol level of a wine on its label. This is actually expressed as a numerical percentage of the volume.


A red wine grape that is a member of the Muscat family used for sweet dessert wines. The Italian Vino Santos is made from this variety.

Alicante Bouchet

A red grape variety, originally from Spain, used in France’s Burgundy region to add colour to Burgundy blends. Also found in California’s Central Valley. It is unique in that it is the only red grape variety that actually possesses red flesh.


White grape variety used in various blends in many countries but best known for its fruity, light wines from Burgundy in France.


Forested region in central France from which come oak barrels of the same name.


A growing region in northeastern France, known mostly for dry and sweet full-bodied white wines from grapes of German heritage, primarily Riesling and Gewurztraminer.


Italian: Bitter. A powerful, hearty dry red wine from Italy’s Veneto region made from a blend of partially dried red grapes.

American Oak

Increasingly popular as an alternative to French Oak for making wine aging barrels. Marked by strong vanilla, dill and cedar notes, it is used primarily for aging Cabernet, Merlot, and Zinfandel, for which is the preferred oak.


A dry, barrel-aged Spanish Sherry with a very high (16%) Alcohol level, because it’s blended with brandy. Made famous by Edgar Allan Poe.


A sweet dessert wine, usually amber in colour produced from “any variety and every variety” in California because it often is the final repository for leftover lots of wine. Historically sold as a Sacramental wine for Christian communion.


A wine-growing region of Tourraine in the Loire Valley of France that produces red, white and rose wines.


An abbreviation for “Appelation D’origine Controlee”. The French system of appellations begun in the 1930s and considered the wine world’s prototype. To carry an appellation in this system, a wine must follow rules describing the area the grapes are grown in, the varieties used, the ripeness, the alcoholic strength, the vineyard yields and the method used in growing the grapes and making the wine. Unfortunately, this is not a guarantee of quality.


Defines the area where a wine’s grapes were grown, such as Bordeaux, Napa Valley, etc. Regulations vary widely from country to country. In order to use an appellation on a California wine label, for example, 85% of the grapes used to make the wine must be grown in the specific district.


A white wine grape grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. Produces a wine that’s light-bodied and dry with perfumey characteristics of apple, pear, and hints of licorice. In Italian it means “little difficult wine”.


French: Assembly. The Blending together of several finer wines from different grape varieties to form a final composite intended for bottling, aging or Sparkling Wine production.

Asti Spamante

South of Turin in Italy’s Piedmont region is the village of Asti. Origin of a sweet white sparkling wine made from Moscato di Canelli grape.


More noticeable in red than white wines, this rough, harsh, puckery feel in the mouth is similar to that of drinking over-steeped tea. Usually attributed to high tannin content and may indicate that the wine needs to age or breathe longer.


Hungarian botrytis-effected grapes.


An abbreviation for “American Viticultural Area.” A system of permitted geographical designations of wine in the United States established by the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms in 1983. It requires that a wine labeled with an AVA to contain 85% of wine from that region. If the wine is a varietal, a minimum of 75% of the named grape variety must come from that AVA. Two examples are Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.



Red wines that are big, full-bodied, well structured and balanced by a desirable level of acidity, tannin or both are said to have a good backbone. Wines without backbone taste softer and are gentler on the palate.

Baco Noir

A French hybrid wine variety used primarily in the eastern United States and Ontario, Canada for dry, red table wines.


A wine has balance when no single element dominates and all components are in harmony. Acid balances sweetness, fruit balances oak and tannin content and alcohol balances acidity and flavour.

Ban de Vendange

Official start of the harvest in France. Each region has its own ban de vendange.


Similar to light tawny Port, this dry, red French dessert wine is made from late-harvest Grenache grapes. This unusual French wine is usually served with chocolate or savory dishes.


Lighter in style than Barolo and made from Nebbiolo grapes, this excellent and respected red table wine is produced in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy.


This Noble red grape is used to make a wine of the same name that is a hearty, dark red, astringent but full-bodied fruity wine high in tannin. Produced in the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy and in California, this wine ages well and is sometimes called “the people’s wine” for its versatility and high production.


Considered one of the most highly regarded Italian red wines, known for its rich bouquet and outstanding full body. Produced in the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy, this Nebbiolo based wine is dark, high in tannin and alcohol and can improve with decades of aging.

Barrel Aging

The technique of storing wine in wooden barrels for a period between bottling and fermentation. This process imparts some of the character of the wood into the wine, adding flavour, tannin and deepening the colour. Alternatives include stainless steel containers and bottle-aging.


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. This US federal agency collects alcohol taxes and administers wine regulations.


Made from 100% Gamay grapes and are best consumed young, this light, dry, fresh fruity NOUVEAU red wine is produced in a wine-growing region and AOC of the same name. Located just south of Burgundy, France.

Black Currant

Cabernet grape’s predominant aroma.

Blanc de Blanc

“White of Whites”, this expression may be found on some Champagne labels referring to white made from white grapes.


Primarily used in the United States; this term refers to a very pale rose wine produced by fermenting red grapes in contact with their skins for a short period of time, perhaps hours. The juice is then separated from the skins when the chosen percentage of pink colouring has been achieved while the fermentation process continues.


Located in Southwestern France, Bordeaux is on of the oldest and most famous wine growing regions in the world know for red wines blended primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes. Advocates say that Bordeaux from specific sub-regions, from Medoc and Haut-Medoc down to specific villages like Paulliac and Saint Julien, and Margaux, are considered most sought after. Wines for the Gironde River ’s, right bank, St. Emillion and Pomerol, often contain higher percentages of Merlot.


A mold or fungus growing on the skin of a grape, causing it to lose moisture. While this can have a devastating effect on most grape varieties, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc to name a couple, benefit; as it increases the grapes sugar content.

Bottled By

When a wine is labeled “bottled by” it means the wine could have been purchased ready made and simply bottled by the brand owner or made under contract by another winery. When the label reads “produced and bottle by” or “made and bottled by” it means the winery produced the wine from start to finish.


The smell that a wine develops after it has been bottled and aged. Most Appropriate for mature wines that have developed complex flavours beyond basic young fruit and oak aromas.


French: Burgundy .

Brunello Di Montalcino

Produced from the Brunello grape in Montelcino, located in southern Tuscany, Italy . This full bodied rich red wine must be aged in wood for three and a half years and may not be released prior to its fourth year, per DOCG law. On the other hand, the Rosso di Montalcino, can be released after one year without any wood aging.


Raw or crude. Describes a very dry sparkling wine or champagne, often the driest according to the winemaker. These wines contain no more than 15g/litre of residual sugar.


A region famous fro the production of elegant wines that has extreme finesse and subtle earthy characteristics. Located in eastern France, red and white wines are produced using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals.


Cabernet Franc

A parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. Mostly as an additive to blend with other grapes. Typically softer in tannins, it is used in small amounts in Bordeaux blends for flavour and also used in the Loire Valley, where it is called Breton.

Cabernet Sauvignon

A red grape variety that produces dark wines that are full of tannin when young, but with age become soft and more delicate. Used to make Cabernet Sauvignon wines. While on the vine they are red, small and tough. The wines tend to taste like blackberries and frequently have a cassis aroma. Bordeaux blends use the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, most often mixed with Merlot.

Carbonic Maceration

Fermentation of whole, uncrushed grapes in a Carbon Dioxide atmosphere creating a light, fruity red wine. Low in tannin and distinctive in character. The weights of the upper layers of grapes in a vat will break the skins of the lowest layer.


A grape well known for its use in Medoc wines. Once widely planted in Bordeaux, it was thought to have become extinct by a severe outbreak of Phylloxera. Fortunately, cuttings were taken to Chili where Phylloxera had not ventured.


An AVA in California that spans the southern end of Sonoma and Napa Counties with a climate that is cool and foggy.


This is a Spanish sparkling wine found mostly in Catalonia, near Barcelona. In addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, Cava’s distinctive earthy and fruity aromas come from Macebeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada.


Chablis is a white wine made from Chardonnay grapes. An AOC and produced in the northernmost part of Burgundy, France.


The best-known sparkling wine in the world, produced 70 miles northeast of Paris in Champagne, France . It is here where sparkling wines are permitted to carry the name Champagne on the label. Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir grapes are exclusively used. Champagne can range from bone dry to exceptionally sweet. It is the secondary fermentation that gives Champagne its trademark fizz.


A fresh, fruity grape grown in a multitude of wine growing regions around the world. Chardonnay wines tend to have fruit flavours, such as melon and peach and many have an oaky flavour. It is one of the most popular and least difficult grapes to produce white wine from.

Charmat Process

Created in 1910 by Eurgene Charmot. Rather than using individual bottles, the secondary fermentation occurs in a large tank where sugar is added to create the bubbles and then transferred, under pressure, to the bottle. This method is less expensive then the Classique method.


Located in the southern Rhone region in Southern France, this important appellation produces a wine dating back t the 14 thcentury. Blending as many as 13 grape varieties produces this rich, full-bodied but complex dry red wine; however Syrah and Grenache are its primary components.

Chenin Blanc

This grape makes a light, fruity wine. In South Africa this grape is referred to as Steen. Also known as Pinot Blanco. Chenin Blanc is able to age ten years or more.


This light, fruity classic dry red wine from Tuscany, Italy is a blend primarily produced with Sangiovese. Chianti Classico, considered to be more desirable, is produced from grapes grown in the central part of the region. But to carry this label requires that both the vineyard and winery be within the same delimited region.

Citric Acid

A colourless acid that is found in all citrus and many other fruits, but in grapes, only small amounts are present. It is sometimes used to increase the acidity in cheaper wines.

Classification of 1855

This ranking system is a classification of Bordeaux but only includes the wines of Medoc and Chateau Haut Brion from the Graves region. Based mostly on price that the wine brings into the market, it is divided into 5 classifications with the addition of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in 1973.


A town in France and the only place in the world permitted to use the name Cognac for its Brandy.

Cold Fermentation

A fermentation technique used for white wines that occurs at a low controlled temperature of about 45 degrees farenheit. This method preserves the aroma and bouquet of the wine.

Continental Climate

A climate with hot summers and cold winters ( Ontario .)

Cote d’Or

Stretching in a narrow 35 mile band, this wine region is located in he very heart of Burgundy, in eastern France and has to primary sections: Cote de Nuits, which mainly produces red wines made from the Pinot Noir grape; and Cote de Beaunes, which mainly produces white wines made from the Chardonnay grape.


An appellation located in northern Rhone, France that produces red wines made solely from Syrah grapes as well as blends containing small amounts of white Viognier.

Coteaux du Languedoc

An appellation located in southern France famous for using Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and other grapes in combination or individually.

Cru Classe

French: Classed Growth. A term used to refer to a vineyard of exceptional quality and frequently used to refer to Bordeaux chateaux.



A process usually performed about an hour before serving, separating sediment from the wine before drinking. This is accomplished by slowly pouring from the bottle into another container, such as a decanter. This also aerates the wine and helps soften heavy tannins.


As Champagne is produced, Riddling allows sediment to gather near the cork. The neck of the bottle is then frozen in an ice bath and the frozen sediment is then removed.



German: Ice Wine. A rare sweet wine produced from late harvest grapes picked while frozen solid on the vine.



The process that turns grape juice into wine through the metabolization of sugar by yeast. Alcohol and Carbon Dioxide are the by-products. Increasing the length of time that this process is allowed to continue reduces sugar content and increases alcohol. Including the skins of the grape for red wine and excluding them for white.


A pale sherry that has been aged under flor. It is light-bodied, dry and often served as an aperitif.


A tasting term for a soft, feeble wine that lacks in definition due to its low acidity and high pH.


A process that increases the alcohol content in wine through the addition of other spirits such as brandy during the fermentation process. When the spirit is added, fermentation stops and the alcohol level rises. Adding the spirit to a wine early in the fermentation produces a sweeter wine; adding it later produces a drier wine.

French Oak

At more than twice the price of American Oak, this traditional wood is used for wine barrels. Used in the production of both red and white wines, it supplies vanilla, cedar and sometimes butterscotch flavours.

Fume Blanc

Another name for Sauvignon Blanc. Typically, the name Fume Blanc is used when the wine has been oaked.



The red grape used in Beaujolais, (an appellation in France ) a juicy, medium bodied wine with low alcohol, high acidity and a light fruity flavour. Can age between 5 and 7 years, but is considered best when consumed young.


Best know in Alsace, France. This white grape has the flowery, spicy aroma of roses, and lychees and a pepper, floral and nutty flavour. It can be light or full-bodied and while the wine may be consumed young, some versions may benefit from 2 to 4 years of aging. Besides France it is also grown in Germany, Canada, California, New York, Australia, New Zealand and Eastern Europe.

Grand Cru

A French term used in Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne; used to recognize the superiority of the vineyard.


A grape most often used for rose wine, widely planted in France, Spain and California and the second most planted grape in the world. It produces a low tannin wine filled with hearty peppery notes and red berry overtones.

Gruner Veltliner

This white grape variety is widely planted in Austria ; typically fruity and dry, with medium to high acidity. Its complexity brings forth citrus and minerals in an herb envelope.



A major sub-region of the Medoc district of Bordeaux, France that includes such famous appellations as Margaux, Pauillac, St-Estephe, and St-Julien.


A wine produced in the Rhone appellation made from Syrah grapes.

Horizontal Tasting

A wine tasting where a single vintage of wine for multiple wine producers is tasted.


Describes the creating of a new variety, which is the result of crossing two, often very different grape varieties. For example, Vidal is a successful hybrid of Ugni Blanc and Seyval Blanc.


Ice Wine

A specialty of Canadian wine makers, is produced from ripe grapes that have been left on the vine and allowed to freeze. The grapes are pressed while frozen and only the juice is used in the fermentation; highly concentrated in sweetness and acidity.


An Italian wine category, created in 1992, and is similar to French Vins De Pays and is above vino da tavola but below DOC and DOCG.


This public organization in France is sanctioned to determine and inspect production conditions of French wines, which have the appellation d’origine controlee.


Kosher Wine

A usually sweet red wine that is produced following a strict set of guidelines laid out by Jewish rabbinical law, which makes it acceptable for consumption by Jewish people who keep a kosher household.


Lactic Acid

A weak acid that contributes to the creamy texture of wine and is created during malolactic fermentation.

Late Harvest

A term found on labels that usually refers to noble rot or dessert wine that is made from grapes left on the vines until the late fall or into the winter. The grapes become overripe and their sugar content becomes very high resulting in wine that is sweet and typically golden yellow in colour.

Late-Bottled Port

A style of port that is barrel-aged, but for a shorter period of time than tawny port.



A process that allows the grape juice and solids to remain in contact with each other prior to the fermentation process. Alcohol acts as a solvent to extract colour, tannin and aroma from the skins. Less time produced Rose wine, while prolonged contact produces Red Wine.


This rich, sherry-like dessert wine is named for the Portuguese island of Madeira . Traditionally, it is made in four styles named for the principal variety of grape used in each: Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malvasia or Malmsey. Madeira is an excellent widely used cooking wine, but at its highest quality, it is considered a wine rich in colour.


A red grape variety that is used as a blend in Bordeaux and California with Cabernet-based wines. In Argentina, however, it is not blended and is used by itself. Malbec produces dry, light, medium-bodied wines that are fairly deep in colour. It has dark, ripe berry flavors and contains a fair bit of tannin.

Malolactic fermentation

The second fermentations where malic acid is converted into the softer lactic acid; thus reducing the overall acidity in the wine. Lactic acid contributes to the creamy texture of wines that go through this process. This softens reds and adds complexity to whites like Chardonnay.


A white grape variety originating in the northern Rhone of France. Frequently blended with other varieties, like Viognier, Roussanne and Rolle. Typically, it produces full-bodied, rich wines.

Mediterranean Climate

Warm dry summers and mild, wet winters; ideal for grape growing.


A term used for new world wineries for Bordeaux-style red and white blended wines. The term arose out of the need to name wines that did not meet minimal labeling requirements for varietals. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot are allowed for reds; Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are allowed for whites.


A red grape variety that is grown throughout the world in countries such as France, Italy, Australia, California, as well as Canada . An early ripening grape that has flavours of cherry, honey and sometimes mint. It is frequently blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux . The variety produces wines that have mild tannins that range from medium to full-bodied.

Method Champenoise

The process where wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle creating bubbles. All champagne and most high-quality sparkling wines are made in this method.


A well-known grape variety that is grown predominantly in central Italy, especially in the Abruzzi region. Wines are medium to full-bodied with good structure. They are typically soft, smooth and have a pleasant ruby colour.


A popular red grape variety planted in the Mediterranean regions of Spain and France . Also known as Mataro, it is found increasingly in California . It produced dark, fruity wines that sometimes have an earthy bouquet.


A hybrid of the Riesling and Sylvaner grapes, producing dry to medium-dry wines that have a floral aroma. It is grown in Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, Switzerland and the northwestern United States.


Produced from the Melon grape, this wine is produced in the Loire Valley, southeast of Nantes, France . It is a tart white wine that is typically served with seafood and is slightly musky.


This family of white grape varieties does not ripen early and has a very Grapey flavour. Muscat Blanc, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscadel and Moscato are all part of the same family.



A dark red grape variety for the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy that is responsible for the Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Common descriptors include tannic, pruney, tarry and chocolate. This grape produces wines that mellow with age.


Grown extensively in Sicily, Italy that produces wines with medium-body and sweet fragrances. It has a good potential for aging.

Nero d’Avola

This is a very important grape in Sicily, producing an extremely ageworthy wine. The aroma is complex and considered slightly superior to Nerello.

Noble Rot

A positive effect that botrytis cinerea (mold) can have on grapes. The grapes lose partial moisture concentrating sugars in the remaining juice. Although grapes that are inflicted look extremely unappealing, the results produce some of the best dessert wines in the world, such as France ’s Sauterne.


This term refers to a wine produced by blending wines from more than one year of harvests. This allows the vintner to maintain a particular style from one year to the next. Many champagnes and sparkling wines are non-vintage.


Oak Aged

Aged in oak barrels.


A type of sherry that is fortified containing a high alcohol content (18%) compared to fino (15% to 15.5%). Ranging from dry to sweet, it is aged without the use of flor making it subject to some oxidation and is typically dark and full-bodied.


Oxidation is a chemical change that has a negative effect on a wine’s flavour, colour, and stability. Caused by exposure to air anywhere between the time that the grapes have been crushed and the wine has been poured into a glass. The wine may change colour to brownish and it s taste will become stale or thin and its aroma becomes flat.


Petit Verdot

A grape variety grown predominantly in St. Emillion, Bordeaux, used to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and other wines.


Native to the eastern US, this yellow root-eating microscopic aphid attacks the root system of grapevines, rendering the plant unable to absorb water and nutrients vital to its survival. Grafting rootstocks that are immune, such as the American “vitis labrusca” to the old world vines of “vitis vinefera”.

Pinot Blanc

Grown in Alsace, Italy, and Austria (Weissburgunder) and used in many Californian sparkling wines. The white grape version of Pinot Noir produces a full-bodied wine that ranges from dry to ultra sweet. Similar to Chardonnay, many thought it to be a relative.

Pinot Gris

A clone of Pinot Noir, which is grown in France, Germany, Austria, along the west coast of the US, Ontario and in Italy where it is called Pinot Grigio. It is also known as Rulander or Grauer Burgunder and can be used to create both fine whites and roses.

Pinot Meunier

Grown in Champagne, France, this dark red wine grape is usually blended with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, adding fruitiness to Champagne.

Pinot Noir

Softer and earlier ripening than Cabernet, these grapes are demanding to grow and ferment, as they are very sensitive to environmental conditions. Pinot’s trademark aromas include, cherry, mint and raspberry. They are used in Champagne without their skins, as well; it produced some of the most elegant and complex red wines in the world.


A cross between a Pinot Noir clone and Cinsault, it is widely grown in South Africa, New Zealand and small areas of California, making hearty, fruity wine with a spicy taste.


This rich, sweet Portuguese wine is said to be one of the world’s greatest fortified wines. Although produced all over the world, authentic Port is labeled “ Porto ” and is produced in northern Portugal ’s Douro Valley . Brandy is added to the must of fermenting grapes to make Port. Commonly a sweet, red after dinner drink, a wide range of styles and quality levels exist such as Colheita Port, Late-Bottled Port, Tawny Port, Ruby Port and Vintage Port.


Located in the Macon region at the southern end of Burgundy. The 5 villages of Pouilly Fuisse, Chaintre, Solutre and Vergisson grow only Chardonnay grapes, producing high quality white wine.


“Fume” in French translates to Smoke, referring to the smoky quality of this dry white wine produced in Loire Valley, France made only from Sauvignon Blanc grapes.


A grape variety grown in Apulia, Italy, which through recent testing is the same grape as California grown Zinfandel.


The Hungarian word for a wooden tub used to hold grapes affected by botrytis during the production of Tokay.



An abbreviation for the German “Qualitatswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete,” a 1971 wine law similar to the French AOC and Italian DOC that guarantees a level of quality to the consumer.



A traditional method of separating wine from the sediment that has settled at the bottom of a tank during the fermentation process. In some wine tanks, this is accomplished by using a built-in “racking value” located about 20 inches from the bottom of the tank, allowing the transfer of liquid from one tank to another. In fine wines, this is performed at least twice, or as many as five or more times, serving to increase clarity.


A style of Italian wine made from grapes picked earlier than usual and dried until January on straw mats in order to concentrate the sugar. The resulting bittersweet wine may age well for five to eight years and have deep colour and rich, cherry-like fruit intensity.

Residual Sugar

The remaining grape sugar that has not been converted to alcohol during the fermentation process, adding to the wine’s sweetness. While sweet wines may contain between 200 to 300 grams of sugar per litre, there may be 1 to 2 grams per litre of remaining sugar in very dry wines.


A process used in the making of champagne that works sediment into the neck of the bottle for removal by Desgorgement, a time consuming process by hand, the same operation can be performed by a machine such as the Gyropalate in a fraction of the time.


This famous dessert wine grape has a honeyed, musky flavour native to Germany, with the highest produced in the rheingau. It is also produced in California, Australia, France, and many other countries by a different name. The Finger Lakes region of New York are well known for its Rieslings and in Ontario, Canada, it is used in the production of Ice Wine.


This region is the first northern spain appellation to receive DOC status. Some of the best red wines are made here. The region uses seven types of grapes. 80% of which are used for red wine production with 20% used in white and rose.


This Italian winemaking technique passes Valpolicella over the lees of Recioto Amarone in a 2-3 week process that ads colour, tannin and flavours to the wine.


Often blended with white Marsanne, this is one of the most important white grapes grown in Rhone Valley, France . It produces floral, light wines similar to Viognier, but with more citrus.



Located in the Loire Valley of France, this wine region produces light and easy to drink red and rose wines from the Pinot Noir grape and white wines from Sauvignon Blanc.


Literally translating to “blood of Love,” this widely-planted Italian red grape variety is used to produce Chianti and other red wines in Tuscany . It ranges from medium to full-bodied, benefits from oak aging and has a moderate level of tannin.


An area in France, as well as the name of the wine, that is produced in that area. The wine is made of 80% Semillon grapes infected with noble rot; it is then blended with Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc to make a sweet dessert wine.

Sauvignon Blanc

The primary regions where the Sauvignon Blanc grape thrives are California and France, though it is planted throughout the world. It frequently has a grassy flavour that produces a crisp, light wine. Distinct aromas include Cat’s pee, and gooseberries.


Located in the Loire region of France, this small region produces a wine of the same name using the Chenin Blanc grape. It may be dark, acidic and difficult to drink when young, but when aged 5 to 10 years, it takes a golden colour and has amazing complexity and richness.


This thin-skinned grape ripens early and is used mostly in Bordeaux, France and is also grown in Australia and California . It has a grassy, fig-like flavour and is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc. When it is infected with Botrytis, it produces top quality dessert wines.


A fortified wine produced by adding Brandy after fermentation and by encouraging contact with oxygen. Five styles of Sherry are produced: the dry varieties of Manzanilla and Fino, medium dry, Amontillado and the sweet Cream and Oloroso.


The Australian and South African name for the Syrah grape.


A Spanish system for producing Sherry. The oldest wines are placed in the lower level of a multi-level system. The wine to be bottled is drawn from several casks in the lower level. These casks are then topped up with the younger wine in the casks above which in turn are topped up with younger wine. Due to blending several vintages, consistency in quality and flavour is achieved year after year.


It is a popular German white wine that is high in residual sweetness and has the flavour of honeyed peach.


This is a red grape variety that is known as Syrah in France and California, but as Shiraz in Australia, South Africa and other wine regions around the world. It is used to produce Hermitage and Cote Rotie in France ’s northern Rhone Valley . Frequent descriptors include, minerally, blueberry, spicy, peppery.


Table Wine

In the United States, a wine with an alcohol content lower than 14% is not required to disclose the alcoholic content and may label the wine as “Table Wine.” European union guidelines require that all wine be categorized as “Table Wine” or “Superior Quality Wine”. Each country has its own term for table wine: France : Vin de Table; Spain : Vino de Mesa; Portugal : Vinho de Mesa; Germany : Tafel Wein; Italy : Vino da Tavola.


Found in grape skins, stems and seeds, and as a result, is present mostly in reds. This naturally occurring chemical compound also is present in oak barrels, producing an astringent, mouth-puckering feel. In proper proportions, it helps to balance the wine, but in excess, the wine may become bitter or harsh. It acts as a natural preservative and its quality mellows, forming sediment with age.


A shallow silver or gold wine tasting cup; often dimpled to reflect light.

Tawny Port

After extended wood aging, this style of Port takes on a tawny colour. The age of the port reflects the amount of time in the wooden barrels. Cheaper versions of this style are obtained from blending a lighter coloured wine into it.


It is a thick skinned, Spanish red wine grape that produces deeply coloured, hearty and robust wines. When blended with the Garnacha grape, Rioja is produced.


A group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine making savoir-faire, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine.


Tokay is a dessert wine originating from the Tokay-Hegyalja region in northeast Hungary. It is best known for Tokay Aszoe. Aszoe is the Hungarian word for Noble Rot with which the grapes are purposely infected creating their complex character.


Trebbiano is widely planted in Italy and France. It produces crisp, fruity white wines, blended with Sangiovese to create Chianti and also used in Cognac as a base in the production of Brandy.



A wine that has not been filtered but may have been subject to other clarifying processes such as fining.



A wine region in Veneto, located in northeastern Italy that uses Corvina, Veronese, Molinara and Rondinella to produces a light and fruity red wine.


VDQS is a wine quality designation that is above Vin de pays (Country Wine). It is used as a testing ground for smaller regions. Wines used in the designation eventually gain the higher status of AOC.

Vertical Tasting

A method of structured wine tasting that involves a single wine that has multiple vintages.


This is a grape variety grown primarily in the northeastern US and Ontario, Canada . It has fruity, floral flavours that can range from dry to extremely sweet. It is a hybrid grape produced from Ugni Blanc and the Seibel grape. It is frequently used to produce late-harvest dessert wines, as well as ice wine.

Vinho Verde

Green Wine; a fresh, youthful wine from northern Portugal, best if consumed young.


A broad term that includes all procedures necessary to produce wine, including, aging, clarification and fermentation, but excludes those functions performed at the vineyard.

Vintage Port

This style of Port is the finest and most expensive, usually requiring many years of bottle aging before it should be consumed. When young, it has strong tannins and is dark, almost opaque. Once aged, however, it mellows into on of the world’s greatest red wines. Aging produces thick sediment that requires decanting to remove.

Vintners Quality Alliance

Abbreviated as VQA. Started in 1988, this Canadian wine industry organization joined the French AOC, the Italian DOC and other leading wine producing countries in regulating and setting standards for its production of fine wines.


A rare white grape variety originated in Condrieu, France and predominantly found in the Rhone Valley and California . It typically produces medium-bodied wines with relatively high acidity. It is noted for its Spicy, floral, citrus, apricot, apple and peach flavours.


The cultivation, science and study of grapes.


Vouvray is produced using Chenin Blanc grapes. This white grape variety from the Loire Valley, France produces wines that may be dry, semi-dry or sweet.


White Zinfandel

A pale pink, sweet wine that acquires its distinct blush color by limiting the amount of time that the Zinfandel grape skin is in contact with the grape juice.



Thought to have originated in southern Italy, this red grape variety is most common in California. It produces wines that can be fruity or spicy, depending on the age. This grape produced both red Zinfandel in which the grape skins are left on and white Zinfandel, where the grape skins are removed after only brief contact.