Helpful explanations of all the wine terms from A to Z.

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée: A wine that originates from a specific region or area, that meets strict production norms and is officially recognized only after tasting and analysis. The A.O.C. is a guarantee of typicity and quality for the consumer. A.O.C. Bordeaux is a regional appellation that applies to wine produced in a production area strictly defined by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine.
A disease that transforms the alcohol in wine into acetic acid and ethyl acetate (vinegar smell).
Acidity is an essential component of wine that confers depth and longevity. Grapes that are harvested prematurely can result in an unpleasant level of acidity. Acidity stimulates the front sides of the tongue and gives "bite" to wine.
This is the taste that remains in the mouth after the wine has been swallowed. It can also be referred to as length of the wine or its finish and should be balanced, harmonious and the most persistent possible.
Ageing (Vieillissement)
Storage of wine in bottles. After an appropriate period of ageing depending on the year and style of wine, wine achieves its peak of quality.
Aging cellar (chai)
Locale where wine is stored and aged (in tanks or barrels), separately from the other winemaking locales.
Alcohol is the most important component in wine after water. It confers a warm character to wine, balancing its acidity and is produced by yeast that transforms the sugar in grapes. 17 grams of sugar per litre of grape must produce approximately 1% of alcohol. (200 grams of sugar per litre of grape must is the minimum required to obtain a wine with 12% alcohol, often the case in Bordeaux).
After aging for too long, or due to premature oxidisation, dry white wines take on a colour that resembles amber, like aged gold with hints of brown. However, this colour is highly appreciated in Bordeaux sweet wines since it is proof of a long period of bottle ageing.
The study of grapevines, including their structure, origins and growing habits.
Describes the series of aromas that evoke the animal world (musk, raw meat, leather, etc.) which are common in aged red wines. These aromas are produced by the recombination in the bottle of certain elements in wine and appear as wine ages.
A phenolic compound found in grape skin and which imparts colour to the wine.
Approval Process (Labellisation)
After being cultivated according to strict production norms, wines must be submitted to a series of analyses, as well as a professional tasting in order to obtain the designation of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.
All of the odours that can be detected using the sense of smell. Over time, aromas evolve and become more complex.
Aromas (Primary)
Primary aromas, or varietal aromas, exist in each grape variety and develop during fermentation. Each grape variety therefore has a characteristic primary aroma(s). For example, in Bordeaux wines Sauvignon has a primary aroma of boxwood, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon's is of blackcurrant flower and/or liquorice stick and that of Merlot is strawberry. Primary aromas are generally reminiscent of flowery, fruity or vegetal elements.
Aromas (Secondary)
Also know as fermentation aromas, these notes emerge during fermentation cycles. These aromas can evoke bananas, nail polish, fruit drops (after alcoholic fermentation), but also candles, wax, wheat, brioches, or even fresh butter or crème fraîche (after malolactic fermentation).
Aromas (Tertiary)
Describes the complex, fragrant bouquet that develops during anaerobic bottle ageing. The most well known tertiary aromas are of truffle, leather, mocha, coconut, baking (cakes, honey, marzipan) and especially the animal notes of fur, leather and musk.
Astringency is created by tannins that produce a dry feeling on the tongue and the gums by stopping the effect of the lubricating proteins in the saliva. Recent progress in oenological studies in Bordeaux have resulted in the marked reduction of the astringent sensation in young wines. Astringency decreases with time.
Describes wine that has not yet developed a bouquet, and thus does not have aromatic richness.
Balanced (Équilibré)
Describes wine with harmonious proportions. Its tannins and acidity are balanced by a smooth texture. Its aromatic richness is balanced by a dense texture. A balanced wine is every winemaker's goal. In Bordeaux, the blending of different but complementary grape varieties makes this goal easier to achieve.
A series of tertiary perfume-related aromas that, in Bordeaux, includes vanilla, incense, sandalwood, pine resin, as well as beeswax, and camphor. These aromas develop during anaerobic bottle ageing and are usually very desirable.
Ban des vendanges
Official harvest start date.
Oak is used to make barrels, the volume of which varies from one winemaking region to another. In Bordeaux, barrels contain 225 litres and therefore 4 barrels are required to make a 900 litre "tonneau" (or register ton, a commercial measurement used in Bordeaux by négociants), which equals 1,200 bottles of 750 ml.
Bitterness (Amertume)
Though normal for certain young tannic red wines (bitterness and astringency are complementary flavours), bitterness can also be a fault caused by bacteria during malolactic fermentation. It is normally perceived as one of the last flavours during a tasting.
Body (Corps)
Describes a wine with a good composition (structure and flesh) that imparts a warm sensation (due to an elevated level of alcohol).
Bordeaux mixture (Bouillie bordelaise)
Copper sulphate is used to prevent grapevine parasites. Applied as a spray, it leaves a characteristic greyish-green colour on vine leaves.
Botrytis cinerea
A fungus that develops on grape clusters that are almost mature which produces a highly desirable phenomenon in the Sauternes region called "noble rot." Botrytis cinerea can also cause considerable damage when it matures too quickly in years with cold and damp autumns resulting in what is known as "grey rot."
Bottle preparation (Habillage)
Preparing a bottle includes all of the elements that are applied to it to prepare it for sale and include: front and back labels, rings, capsules, etc.
See Aromas (Tertiary)
Bright (Brillant)
Describes a very clear colour that strongly reflects the light. A sign of a high quality wine.
Burning sensation (Brûlant)
Describes the sensation caused by a wine with too much alcohol that is unbalanced in the mouth. It manifests itself by excessive roundness and an "alcoholic" character that sometimes leaves the mouth dry.
There are two types of this widely planted grape variety in Bordeaux: Cabernet Franc (grown mostly on the Right Bank of the Garonne, particularly in the Saint-Emilion and Côtes de Bordeaux regions) and Cabernet Sauvignon (grown mostly on the Garonne's Left Bank, in the Médoc and Graves regions).
Cap (Chapeau)
Describes the grapes' solid matter that rises to the top of the juice in the fermentation vat and forms a thick layer after a few days of fermentation. When fermentation is finished, the cap is pressed to obtain "vin de presse" or press juice.
An accident that affects wine's clarity, due to high concentrations of specific elements. Named for the element that causes the problem, such as an "iron casse" or "protein casse", it is caused when these elements solidify and cloud the affected wine.
Derived from the word caudal (tail), this is the unit used to measure the persistence of a wine's finish. One caudalie represents one second. A fine wine can have a finish that lasts up to 8 caudalies, or even longer.
Cellar master (Maître de chai)
The person in charge of managing the vinification (winemaking) and the cellaring of the wines.
This involves leaving a wine for a couple of hours so that it reaches the same temperature as the room where it will be enjoyed. Formerly, these rooms remained cool all year long, between 16-18°C, which is ideal for wine. Nowadays, it is important to lower wine's serving temperature, since rooms are usually heated in winter and too warm in summer.
Describes the process, invented by Chaptal, of adding sugar to harvested grapes to increase the alcohol level if it is too low in order to balance the wine. This practice is regulated yearly with each harvest and is generally illegal in southern France.
Used to describe wine. A wine's character refers to its terroir, grape varieties used, or how it was vinified. For example, wine can have a character that is "straightforward" or "generous."
In Bordeaux, the term "Château" does not necessarily refer to a building with the same name but, rather, to a specific production area and terroir. On any given area in Bordeaux, whether it is classified or not, the wine produced there is a result of a unique combination of the climate, soils, grape varieties and experience of the winegrower.
Chewy (Mâche)
Describes wine that is thick and full in the mouth, giving the impression that it can be chewed.
Clairet (Claret)
Refers to a light, smooth and fruity wine which is normally consumed during its first or second year. The "French Clarets" were widely exported to the United Kingdom two centuries ago, and remain very popular.
Rootstock that is genetically identical and created from a single plant, called the master rootstock.
Closed (Fermé)
Describes wine that needs to age in order to develop its aromatic qualities, which sometimes remain unusually weak for its quality and terroir. Sometimes the wine passes through a phase when it is less expressive that otherwise would be expected for its vintage or quality level.
A variety of white grape from the south west of France that is used in Bordeaux, but typical of Cognac. It produced lively wines that are fruity and aromatic when young.
Describes a rich wine, with a refined colour, power and diverse aromas. A wine's concentration often results from a long period of maceration during fermentation and is possible when the grapes are thoroughly mature and contain a significant concentration of tannins.
Corked (Bouchonné)
Wine takes on the taste of the cork due to poor quality corks and unhygienic bottling conditions. However, wine can even become corked despite the very best bottling conditions.
Describes poor pollination of grape blossoms that can be caused by many things (rainy or cold weather) and which greatly influences yield and the uniformity of grapes in the same cluster.
Crushing (Foulage)
The process of splitting open grapes after destemming to allow their juice to escape. This was done by foot until the development of efficient machinery.
Describes the step in the vinification process when the must macerates in stainless steel, concrete or wood vats. The sugar in the grapes is transformed into alcohol and both tannins and pigments are extracted from the grape skins. The winemaker determines the appropriate length of time. Bordeaux Clairets and rosés have a relatively short cuvaison period in order to control their colour.
Decanting (1) (Aération)
Decanting is a process of exposing young wine to oxygen by pouring it into a carafe from the bottle in order to soften harsh tannins and make wine rounder.
Decanting (2) (Décantation)
Decanting involves pouring wine from a bottle into a carafe. One must be careful to stop pouring as soon as deposits formed during the wine's ageing appear in the spout of the bottle. During decanting, the wine comes in contact with oxygen that can help to develop its bouquet. For aged wine, exposure to oxygen must be kept to a minimum in order to preserve its volatile, fragile bouquet.
Solid particles in wine, especially in aged wines that can be removed by decanting (see definition).
Destemming (égrappage, éraflage)
Describes the process of separating grapes from their stems in order to avoid coarse tannins appearing in the wine (tannins in the stems are particularly harsh).
Devatting (Décuvage)
The separation of the free-run wine from the solid matter after fermentation. Also known as running off.
The process of using heat to separate the components of a liquid. (See also: Marc)
Distinguished (Racé)
Describes wine that is recognisably original.
Double Magnum
A bottle that contains three litres, or four bottles of 750 mL.
Downgrading (Déclassement)
Removal of a wine's right to a specific A.O.C. which results in it being downgraded to a table wine. This occurs when wine presented for A.O.C. classification does not satisfy all of the requirements of the A.O.C. in question.
Dry (Sec)
Describes wine that contains less than 4 grams of residual sugar (not fermented by yeast) per litre.
Dull (Mou)
Describes wine that is not quite acidic enough.
A quality of a delicate, stylish wine with a harmonious balance of smoothness, flavour and aromas.
A term that covers all of the steps in winemaking after malolactic fermentation. During these processes, wine becomes more stable, limpid, and its flavours develop and become more rich and complex. A step of elevage commonly used to create fine Bordeaux wines is ageing in oak barrels.
Empty (Creux)
Describes a wine, like a speech, that lacks substance.
Chemical compounds produced by combining alcohol and acid that are responsible for complex and delicate aromas developed during elevage and ageing.
Describe wine that is elegant and light, as opposed to structured and tannic.
Wine goes through two types of fermentation. The first is alcoholic fermentation, when yeast transforms sugar into alcohol. This is followed by malolactic fermentation when bacteria soften the wine by transforming its malic acid into lactic acid.
Fête de la Fleur
Every year in June, the winemaking brotherhoods of the Bordeaux region celebrate the beginning of the vineyards' flowering.
A mechanical process to rid wine of its suspended particles. This is a very delicate process that requires considerable skill: too much filtration strips wine of its flavours and aromas. Numerous winemakers in Bordeaux refuse to filter their wine and instead subject it to clarification (fining) in order to preserve all of its richness.
Fine (Grand)
Describes a superior, high quality wine that is balanced, complex and persistent.
Fining (Collage)
A process that involves adding a substance to the wine that binds with particles in suspension that affect the wine's clarity, causing them to fall to the bottom of the vat or barrel. Egg whites are still used in the barrels of major Bordeaux châteaux.
Flat (Plat)
Describes wine with no bouquet or acidity.
The sum of what is detected by the mouth and nose. Taste designates what is sensed in the mouth, whereas aroma designates what is sensed by the nose, or in the back of the mouth (retro-olfaction).
Fleshy (Chair, Charnu)
Describes wine that gives an impression of smooth fullness and density in the mouth (a fleshy wine).
Frank (Franc, Net)
Describes the whole wine, or one of its aspects (colour, bouquet, taste, etc.) that is faultless and straightforward.
Free-run wine (Goutte, vin de)
During the red wine vinification process, this is the wine obtained by gravity during devatting.
Describes a slightly acidic wine that creates an appealing sensation of freshness that is sought-after for its thirst-quenching properties.
Full-bodied (1) (Ample)
Describes balanced wine that fills the mouth and has a long finish.
Full-bodied (2) (Plein)
Describes wine with all the qualities of a good wine that procures a sensation of fullness in the mouth.
Characteristic of a wine that rich in alcohol without being unpleasant, as opposed to a heady wine. Often applicable to wines with hot and sunny vintages.
Grafting (Greffage)
A technique used since the phylloxera epidemic that consists of attaching a local grapevine cutting (graft) to phylloxera-resistant rootstock. The grafted grapevine is then what gives wine its personality whereas the rootstock is simply a support.
Grassy (Herbacé)
Describes odours that are reminiscent of dried hay, tobacco, or green grass (negative connotation since this is due to the use of grapes that are not quite ripe).
Green (Vert)
Describes wine that is too acidic. More acidic than "lively" but less than "hard".
A cane pruning method that leaves only one horizontal branch (the courson), which is common in Bordeaux. Each year, a long branch with 6 to 10 spurs will be attached so as to remain horizontal.
Hard (Dur)
Describes wine that is not round and often is very tannic or acidic. This is often caused by an excessively long cuvaison period, or the presence of too much acid in the wine due to grapes that are not quite ripe.
Harsh (1) (âpre)
Describes very astringent wine with a strong tannic structure, or containing harsh tannins. In the astringency scale, harsh (âpre) is stronger than rough (Rêche) and weaker than inky (Atramentaire).
Harsh (2) (Râpeux)
Describes very astringent wine that produces an extremely dry feeling in the mouth.
Harvest (Vendange)
The action of harvesting grapes when they are at their very best point of ripeness. The date of the harvest is a critical moment for all winegrowers. In Bordeaux, the harvest is a go when the grapes have: satisfactory sugar concentrations, mature tannins, and a sufficient acid structure.
Heady (Capiteux)
Describes wine with a high alcohol content, which "goes to your head".
Heavy (Lourd)
Describes wine that is thick and contains a high level of alcohol.
Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (National Institute of Appellations of Origin); a public institution responsible for establishing and enforcing production standards for A.O.C. and A.O.V.D.Q.S. wine.
Institut Technique de la Vigne et du Vin (Technical Institute of Grapevines and Wine); a professional technical institute dedicated to testing and researching grapevines and wine.
A bottle that contains six litres, or the equivalent of eight bottles of 750 mL.
Describes wine that has no particular flavour or aromas.
A bottle that contains four and a half litres, or six bottles of 750 mL.
Lactic acid is created during malolactic fermentation that produces secondary dairy-related aromas (butter, crème fraîche, fresh yogurt). Lactic acid increases the chemical stability of wine as well as its smoothness.
Lees (Lies)
When fermentation is complete, the yeast cells die and fall to the bottom of the vat to become the lees. Some wines are left on this sediment of dead yeast cells to enrich their aromas. The lees also stabilises wine and due to this fact, this practice is becoming more common in Bordeaux.
Legs (Jambe)
Legs are the tear-like marks that some wines leave on the inside of the wine glass. Legs indicate a good level of glycerol and alcohol, due to the ideal maturity of the grapes when harvested.
Describes wine without much colour or structure but that is nevertheless balanced and pleasant. Bordeaux Clairet is a good example of this type of wine, which should generally be enjoyed when young.
Describes wine with a clear, bright colour that does not have any particles in suspension to cloud it.
Lively (Nerveux, Vif)
Describes wine that leaves a marked impression in the mouth due to its well defined characteristics, and significant, but not excessive, acidity
Long (Long en bouche)
Describes wine that leaves a pleasant lasting sensation in the mouth after being swallowed.
The process by which the grape solids (skin, seeds) are left to soak in the must in order to extract the desired components, such as tannins, aromas and pigments.
Maceration (carbonic)
A vinification method used mostly to produce certain young or recently commercialised wines (vin nouveau). The release of aromas is facilitated by allowing whole grapes to macerate in an anaerobic environment. Enzymes in the grape then begin the process of sugar fermentation, which is continued in the normal fashion by yeast in the presence of oxygen.
Maceration (cold) (Macération pelliculaire)
A pre-fermentation phase that consists of letting the grapes macerate away from air and at a low temperature in order to activate aromatic precursors. This phase is followed by the typical fermentation phase with yeast in the presence of oxygen to transform sugar into alcohol.
Describes wine that has aged for too long and has acquired a Madeira- or sherry-like taste and amber colour. A maderized wine is far past its peak and is considered at the end of its life.
A bottle that contains one and a half litres, or the equivalent of two bottles of 750 mL.
Sometimes called Cot, this a red grape variety found throughout Bordeaux and that likes warm terroirs. It produces dark wines with predominant notes of violet and plum with a strong tannic structure.
Malic acid (Malique)
Malic acid, which occurs naturally in many wines, is transformed into lactic acid during malolactic fermentation.
The grape solids that are pressed at the end of alcoholic fermentation to produce press wine. Press wine is richer but less balanced than free-run wine and is used for blending.
Masculine (Viril)
Describes wine that is full-bodied, robust and powerful.
Medium sweet (Moelleux)
Describes sweet wines with less sugar than dessert wines.
Mellow (Fondu)
Describes wine, usually aged, in which the different characteristics have blended together resulting in a harmonious, very well balanced whole.
Mildew (Mildiou)
A disease caused by a parasite fungus that attacks the green parts of the grapevine, especially the leaves.
A white Bordeaux grape variety that produces very perfumed wines with notes of orange juice and musk.
Describes an odour similar to musk. In Bordeaux, this note is often found in wines made with the Muscadelle grape variety and in the bouquet of red wine that has aged in the bottle.
Must (Moût)
Grape juice before fermentation has been completed.
A bottle that contains fifteen litres, or the equivalent of twenty bottles of 750 mL.
Describes a wine that lacks personality.
Noble rot (Pourriture noble)
The action of the fungus Botrytis cinerea on Sémillon and Sauvignon grape varieties that dehydrates the grapes and consequently concentrates their sugar content. This process is essential to the production of fine Bordeaux sweet wines.
Nouveau (new)
A young wine, once fermentation is complete. Also describes wine that has recently been put on the market. These wines typically have primary aromas (fruity, flowery) and other characteristics of young wines. In Bordeaux, rosés are typically sold when young.
A wine expert with a diploma in wine studies. His/her role consists of making wine, supervising the winemaking process but also advising winemakers and négociants. These wine experts are the only people allowed by law to undertake certain winemaking processes (treatments and filtrations).
The science of wine including related physical, biological and chemical processes as well as production and conservation methods. Also includes cultivation techniques to obtain the best quality grape.
Describes individuals who love wine and its world, whether or not they are connoisseurs. At some point in their lives, all oenophiles come across Bordeaux.
A grape disease caused by a small grey fungus that attacks and dries out grapes. Can be treated with sulphur. Also known as powdery mildew.
Like a bouquet of flowers, describes a wine that is at its best aromatically speaking, and ready to be enjoyed.
Properties of wine that stimulate tasting senses: sight, smell and taste.
The result of the interaction of oxygen in air with wine. Before fermentation, this can denature the grapes' aromatic components, and afterwards it can alter wine's colour and bouquet. However, during barrel ageing, an infinite amount of oxygen reaches the wine inside the barrel through pores in the wood, which helps to stabilise the wine's colour and develop its aromatic richness. This is described as controlled oxidisation.
Describes wine that has aged for too long and thus has lost all of its qualities and is at the end of its life.
Processes of air-drying grapes to concentrate their sugar content to produce sweet wines. However, these wines are less sweet than those produced with grapes infected with noble rot.
Past prime (évolué)
Describes wine that is no longer at its best. Its aromas weaken and its colour becomes orangey in reds, and brownish in whites.
Peak (Apogée)
A wine at its peak has achieved its maximum quality, which will begin to decline thereafter. The peak of a Bordeaux wine depends on the richness of its tannins, natural acids and aromatic substances.
Describes the perception of the duration of a wine's flavours or aromas. A long aromatic persistence is a positive sign of a wine's power.
Petit Verdot
A red Bordeaux grape variety.
An aphid that destroyed Bordeaux and European grapevines between 1860 and 1880 by attacking their root systems. This plague put an end to European wine production until the beginning of the 20th century when it was resurrected thanks to grafting, using resistant American rootstock.
Planted surfaces (Encépagement)
Represents the relative proportions of different grape varieties planted on one property. In Bordeaux, the choice of grape varieties to plant is determined parcel-by-parcel depending on the soil, microclimates and exposure to the sun. The type of wine desired also influences the decision.
Plump (Enveloppé)
Describes wine that is rich in alcohol but where sweetness dominates.
Powerful (Puissant)
Describes a full-bodied wine that is robust and generous with a rich bouquet.
Press wine (Presse)
Wine made from pressing the marc after devatting (see definition). Wine experts choose appropriate presses and determine the volume of press wine to blend with the free-run wine (obtained after running-off - see definition).
Pressing (Pressurage)
In white wines, the process of pressing grapes to extract their juice. In the red wine vinification process, only the grape solids are pressed after alcoholic fermentation.
Prime (épanoui)
Describes wine that is balanced and at its best. Aged perfectly, wine begins to decline after this point in its evolution.
Pruning (Taille)
The trimming of excess branches on grape vines to regulate growth. Pruning also enables the control of the vine's productivity, called its charge and has a direct impact on the volume of the harvest, and thus the quality and concentration of grapes.
Racking (Soutirage)
The process by which wine is transferred from one barrel or vat to another, to separate it from the lees and other sediments. During racking, the level of sulphur is monitored and corrected in order to avoid contamination. The wine is also subjected to controlled oxidisation in order to further develop its aromatic potential.
Raw (Rude)
Describes astringent, poor-quality wine.
The evolution of wine in the bottle, away from air. In fine Bordeaux wine, this process encourages the development of desirable and delicate aromatic elements such as truffle notes. When a bottle of wine that has been closed for a long time is opened, stale aromas can be present that can be evacuated by a short decanting.
A process that takes place at the beginning of fermentation to ensure adequate oxygen for yeast growth. The must is pumped out of the bottom of the vat, and is pumped back in from the top after it has been aerated. Via this process, the components in the grape skins are evenly released into the juice.
Describes wine that has a good colour, and is generous, powerful and balanced all at the same time.
Ripe (Maturité)
Once the grapes are completely ready, or ripe, the harvest can begin.
Ripening (Maturation)
The vegetative period during which the level of various elements, including sugar, increases while the acid level falls. This period occurs just before harvest. The University of Bordeaux distinguished itself due to its research into the ripening process, especially concerning the development of tannins, in order to avoid wine that is too tannic and harsh during difficult years.
Roasted (aromas) (Rôti)
Aromas found in wines made from grapes infected with noble rot, which are reminiscent of citrus peels, dried fruit or toasted bread.
Roasted (Empyreumatique)
An adjective that describes a series of aromas related to burnt, cooked or smoked elements.
A term used to describe the colour of a wine.
Robust (Corsé)
Describes a red wine with body, a strong tannic structure noticeable in the mouth. In Bordeaux, wines are created by blending tannin-rich grape varieties resulting in well structured, robust wines.
Rough (Raide)
Describes wine that is both tannic and acidic.
Describes wine that is supple, smooth and fleshy that procures a pleasant feeling of roundness in the mouth.
A vivid red colour typical of young wines, this is also the classic colour of Bordeaux Clairets.
Running off (écoulage)
Also known as devatting, this process consists of separating the grape solids (skins and seeds) that remain after fermentation. These solids are then pressed which results in a more tannnic wine that can then be blended with the free-run wine.
The process of extracting part of the juice from the vat at the beginning of fermentation in order to produce Rosé and Clairet wines.
A bottle that contains nine litres, or the equivalent of twelve bottles of 750 mL.
White Bordeaux grape variety that produces very aromatic wines.
A white Bordeaux grape variety widely planted in the regions where sweet wines are produced.
Describes wine that is hard and does not have any bouquet.
Short (Court)
Describes wine that does not leave any lasting flavour in the mouth (1 to 2 caudalies - see definition). Also called a wine with a short finish.
Sickly sweet (Mielleux)
Describes sweet wine that has an excess of sugar and lacks acidity. In French the word is "mielleux", which means honey-like due to the high sugar content.
Silky (Soyeux)
Describes a supple, soft smooth wine with fine, velvety tannins.
Smooth (Onctueux)
Describes a pleasant sweet and generous wine in the mouth, giving a soft feeling that can even seem sweet. Dry white wines can be smooth as opposed to lively.
Describes well-made wine with good structure.
Sour (Piqué)
Describes wine that has developed notes of vinegar. This is an increasingly rare fault due to improved hygiene and control of bacteria during vinification.
Spicy (épicé)
Describes wine with spice notes: pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, etc. For fine Bordeaux wines, this aspect is reinforced during ageing.
A term that includes all of the treatments to improve the longevity of wine, which are done by an oenologist.
Stale (éventé)
Describes wine that has lost part or all of its bouquet due to oxidisation.
Stamping (étampage)
Marking corks, barrels or cases using a branding iron.
Staves (Merrain)
Oak that has been cut and which is used to make barrels. The origin of the staves impacts the style of the wine.
Stem (Rafle)
Describes the woody part of the bunch of grapes that are separated from the grapes before fermentation. Stems produce harsh, green tannins that are incompatible with the elegance of Bordeaux wines.
Still (Tranquille)
Describes wine, once fermentation is complete and no more carbonic gas bubbles appear at its surface. More generally describes wine that is not effervescent.
Sting (Piqûre)
Stinging taste in wine caused by acetic acid. (Synonym: acescence)
Straightforward (Droit de goût)
Describes wine that does not leave any aftertaste that would indicate a fault in the wine. Frank is another term that can be used in this context.
Structure (1) (Charpenté)
A wine has structure when it has a good constitution, is rich and tannic, as opposed to being weak and diluted. Well structured wines generally have a good potential for bottle ageing.
Structure (2)
Describes the structure and overall composition of a wine.
Substantial (étoffé)
Describes full-bodied wine with substance.
Sulfite treatment (Sulfitage)
A carefully controlled procedure whereby a specific amount of sulphur gas (SO2) is added to the must or wine to prevent bacterial infections during the vinification or ageing process.
Supple (Souple)
Describes a light wine that is more sweet than astringent, and is generally to be enjoyed young. Results from a short period of cuvaison.
Sweet (Liquoreux)
Describes white wine that contains a high level of residual sugar (unfermented sugar). Sweet wines are very voluptuous in the mouth, almost thick. Sweet wines from Bordeaux (vins blancs d'Or de Bordeaux) are some of the most renowned in the world and offer an exceptional level of sweetness and aromatic strength.
Sweetish (Douceâtre)
Describes wine that is not acidic enough and much too sweet.
Describes wine's astringency caused by the level of tannins it contains.
Occurring naturally in grapes, this substance gives wine its structure, potential for ageing and astringency. Tannins combine with pigments (anthocyans) in red wine, and are also anti-oxidants that play a proven role in the prevention of certain cardio-vascular diseases when consumed in moderation ("French Paradox").
Tartrate crystals (Gravelle)
Often found on the cork or at the bottom of bottles these crystals are often mistook for residual sugar. These white crystals do not affect in anyway the flavour or quality of wine.
Tartrates (Tartre)
Crystallised particles of tartaric acid sometimes found in bottles of wine. They have no negative impact on wine, and are caused by sudden changes in temperature. This crystallisation can be prevented by a cold treatment prior to bottling done by an oenologist.
Taste (Saveur)
Tactile sensation (sweet, salty, acidic or bitter) produced in the mouth by food.
Terroir (taste of)
An aromatic expression related to soil composition that results in specific characteristics in wine that are typical of the terroir where it is made. For example, the note of violets in Pomerol.
A technique to control and optimize the temperature in the vats during fermentation that revolutionised winemaking, given the impact of temperature on yeast metabolism. The ideal temperatures for alcoholic fermentation are: 18°C for whites and from 28-30°C for reds.
Thick (épais)
Describes richly pigmented wine that is heavy and full in the mouth.
Thin (Maigre)
Describes an unbalanced wine with few tannins and no body.
Tired (Fatigué)
Describes wines that has been destabilised by a treatment such as filtering or transport. It becomes difficult to judge its quality until it has had time to recover.
In Bordeaux, this measure equals four barrels of 225 litres, or 900 litres. This is the unit of volume for bulk wine sales, used when négociants purchase wines from producers via brokers.
Topping (Rognage)
The process of pruning the tip of the grapevines in the summer to limit foliage growth and encourage the accumulation of sugar, tannins and acid in the grapes to maximize their quality.
Topping up (Ouillage)
Procedure that consists of refilling barrels or vats during elevage of wines in order to avoid possible oxidisation.
Describes wine that no longer has its young colour (ruby, crimson, garnet) with orange reflections due to premature ageing. Generally a wine at its peak will also have these reflections.
Ugni Blanc
A white grape variety planted in small amounts in Bordeaux but very common in the southwest of France and in Cognac. Produces a lively, nervous wine that has little potential for ageing. In Bordeaux, it lends vivacity to certain AOC blends.
Unbalanced (Déséquilibré)
Describes wine that lacks balance. For example, a white wine with too much acidity (due to grapes that are not quite ripe) or tannins that are too harsh (cuvaison that was too long). In Bordeaux, due to the long tradition of blending different grape varieties with complementary characteristics, wines are typically balanced.
Variety (Cépage)
A word that describes the type of grapevine or the grape itself. Bordeaux wines are unique since they are a blend of several varieties, which contributes to their balance, harmony and aromatic richness.
Describes aromas reminiscent of hay, green peppers, or liquorice sticks that are generally produced by grapes that were harvested when they were not quite ripe enough. When these flavours are too strong, the wine is described as vegetal.
Veiled (Voilé)
Describes wine that is slightly cloudy.
Venison (Venaison)
Describes a wine's bouquet that evokes the scent of large game animals.
A crucial growth phase in the development of the grape, which occurs when grapes change from green to yellow (white wines), or from green to black (red wines). During this phase, the grape also achieves its final size and its sugar content increases while its acidic content decreases. The harvest date is usually set for 45 days after mid-véraison.
Vin de garde
Describes wine that has an excellent potential for bottle ageing, which enables its bouquet and complexity to develop. Several Bordeaux wines have an excellent potential for ageing due to the high quality and richness of their components (acids, tannins, colour and aromas).
Vine cuttings (Sarment)
In Bordeaux, after pruning, the excess vine branches are often used for barbequing. Otherwise, they are buried in between the rows of grapevines as organic fertiliser, or are ground and burned.
All of the processes used to create wine, beginning after the grapes are harvested and ending with bottling.
Vinification cellar (Cuvier)
Locale where the vinification tanks are held, where vinification takes place.
Vitis vinifera
A botanical term that describes the species to which all of the varieties of European grapevine belong.
Volatile acidity
Refers to the acetic, formic and carbonic acid content of wine. These acids are produced during alcoholic fermentation and are essential for a wine's bouquet, structure and its potential to develop. Excess volatile acidity is a fault that makes wine unfit for sale.
Describes wine that gives the impression of filling the mouth.
Voluptuous (1) (Friand)
Describes wine that is both fresh and fruity. Bordeaux rosés and Clairets are good examples of this.
Voluptuous (2) (Gras)
A voluptuous wine has body and sweetness, even though it is dry. Its smoothness results from its alcohol, but mostly from its glycerol that is produced by yeast during fermentation. Bordeaux wines, more so than wines from other regions, have a natural roundness that is well balanced by acids and tannins. (Synonym: very round)
Warm (Chaleureux)
Describes wine that imparts a warm sensation primarily due to its alcohol content.
Weak (Faible)
Describes lightly coloured wine with little structure or aroma that is usually made from grapes from young vines or during a poor year.
Woody (Boisé)
Describes wine that has been barrel-aged. In young Bordeaux wines aged in barrels, the nose usually begins with roasted or toasted aromas that evolve into vanilla, mocha, chocolate or coconut notes over time. The woody aromas are derived from the tannins of the barrels in which wines were aged.
Yeast (Levures)
Found naturally on grape skins, these are the microscopic fungi that are responsible for alcoholic fermentation. If required, additional yeast can be added to the must to improve the fermentation process, as often occurs with white wines.


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