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Alcoholic content

This little number gives you an idea of how strong in alcohol a wine is. Lighter white wines can contain just 9% alcohol, but really robust reds can pack a punch of up to 16%.

Appellation

The official name that a wine can only be given if it comes from a specific geographic area and is made according to particular rules. Examples include Champagne and Côtes du Rhône.



Barrel-aged

A wine that has been given time to mature in oak barrels after it has been fermented, to give it an oaky taste.

Biodynamic wine

Only natural yeast and ingredients are used in these wines.

Blended wine

A wine made from several different types of grape.

Blush wine

Another name for rosé.



Case

A box of 12 75cl bottles or six magnums of wine.

Château

When it comes to wine, this castle doesn’t have to have turrets and a king – this is the French term for the place where the wine is made.

Cork

A bottle-stopper, usually made from natural cork but sometimes from plastic.

Corked

The funny musty taste you get from a wine when the cork has been contaminated by a sort of bacteria called trichloroanisole (TCA).

Cru classé

A Bordeaux term for a vineyard within one of the region’s top five classifications.

Cuvée

A blend of several grape varieties. In wineries, this can also mean the mixing of different types of grape and wines. In Champagne, this is particularly important when wines from different years are mixed to create the same taste every year.



En primeur

Buying wines ‘en primeur’ is a bit like buying a house off-plan. You buy a case of the wine before it’s bottled, and it gets sent to you bottled a couple of years after the vintage. It’s a way of buying premium and limited edition wines cheaper than they will be when they go on the market.

Estate-bottled

Wine bottled at the winery at which it was made.



Fermentation

This is the process when yeast and the sugars in the grapes combine to make alcohol.

Fortified wine

Extra-strong wine – including port, sherry or Madeira – that has had a spirit added to it during the process.



Geography

Vines grow best between 16ºC and 21ºC, but wine can be made in cooler and hotter regions. The more important factor is that the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too rapidly, which can lead to the grapes not ripening properly.



Jeroboam

A giant bottle containing either three or four litres of Champagne, or 4.5 litres of Bordeaux, which is the same as six regular bottles of wine.



Low-sulphur wine

Sulphur is a chemical compound that occurs naturally in grapes, but it is also added as a cleansing agent to kill unwanted bacteria in wine. Some people are a bit sensitive to sulphurs, so low-sulphur wines are now on the market.



Magnum

A 1.5-litre bottle that is twice the size of a regular wine bottle.



Nebuchadnezzar

One of the biggest sizes of bottle, this whopper contains 15 litres, the equivalent of 20 normal bottles.

Non-vintage (NV)

A sparkling wine or Champagne that is a blend of different years’ grape harvests.



Oaked

Wines that have a warm, woody taste as a result of having contact with oak through the wine-making process, usually when they are being matured in oak barrels.

Oenology

The science of winemaking.

Organic wine

Wine that has been made without using pesticides or fertilisers, both as the grapes grow and during the winemaking process.



pH

A measure of how acidic a wine is. Water has a pH of 7, wine is about 3.5.

Phylloxera

An aphid that feeds on vine roots, killing the vine.



Red wine

Wine that is made using the skins of red, black and purple grapes. Many red wines also include the stalks.

Reserve

This term is often used on wine labels to indicate a high-quality wine and is controlled by law in Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Rosé

White wine that’s made pink by coming into contact with red, purple or black grape skins.



Sediment

The residue at the bottom of the bottle, often in a good wine that’s been sitting in a bottle for a few years. It’s harmless and you can remove it by decanting your wine.

Sommelier

A waiter who specialises in wine.



Tannins

This natural compound comes from the grape skins, stalks and pips and is what gives red wine (and tea) its slightly bitter taste.

Terroir

The physical environment that grapes are grown in. This is a complicated combination of the soil, the sub-soil and the rocks beneath where the vines grow, and how they interact with the climate.



Unit calculator

To work out how many units are in your glass of wine, try multiplying the litres of wine by alcohol percentage. If you drink a 250ml (so .25 of a litre) glass of 14.5% wine, you would have had .25 x 14.5 = 3.625 units.



Varietal

A wine that is sold under the name of the grape it’s made from, such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Variety

The type of grape.

Vegetarian wine

Wine that is refined without using animal ingredients such as gelatine (made from animal bones), isinglass (from fish bladders) and chitosan (from crustacean and shellfish shells).

Vintage

The year in which the grapes were harvested. Most wines are labelled with the vintage, unless they’re blended using wines from different years. Champagnes and fortified wines can also be non-vintage, as they’re made from different vintages to keep their trademark taste consistent. If there’s a really great vintage, when the wines are at their best, a special vintage champagne or port will be made.

Vintner

Traditionally this term meant a winemaker, but now it usually refers to a wine merchant.

Viticulture

The science and practice of growing grapevines.



White wine

A catch-all term to describe any wine that is not pink or red, ranging from colourless to rich gold.



Yield

The measure of how productive a vineyard is.