Learn wine vocabulary thanks to this primer specially designed by the Bordeaux Wine School.
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (in English, Protected Designation of Origin - PDO) A wine from a specific region or place that adheres to strict and verified production conditions and which has obtained official approval after tasting and analysis. AOC certification is a guarantee of typicity and quality for consumers.
An abnormality in a wine which results in alcohol transoforming into acetic acid and ethyl acetate (giving it a vinegary smell).
We describe a faulty wine as having acetic spoilage when it develops vinegary aromas. This issue is becoming rarer, owing to good hygiene and control of bacteria populations during vinification.
Acidity is a requirement for wine, it provides structure and assists with the ageing process. When acidity is unpleasant, it is the result of harvesting before the grapes have reached full ripeness. It creates a biting sensation which is experienced on the taste buds around the sides of the tongue.
This is the taste that lingers after the wine has been absorbed. It can also be referred to as persistence or finish. The after-taste should be balanced, harmonious, and as long-lasting as possible.
Conservation of a wine in bottle. After a period of ageing which may vary depending on the vintage and the style of wine, the wine reaches its best, or its peak. It then has maximum tasting potential.
For young wines and those with hard tannins, airing involves pouring the contents of the bottle into a decanter in order to oxygenate the wine. Airing helps to round out the tannins and make the wine more supple in the mouth.
This is produced by yeasts which transform sugar from grapes into alcohol. 17 g of sugar per liter of must produces around 1 degree of alcohol. (200 g of sugar per liter of grape must is the minimum amount required to obtain a wine at 12° alcohol, as is often the case in Bordeaux). After water, it is the second most plentiful ingredient in wine, and brings a warm character that compensates for the acidic sensation.
When they age for too long or become prematurely oxidised, dry white wines take on a color close to amber, or a faded gold with deep brown glints. For sweet Bordeaux wines, this color is a sign of long bottle ageing and is highly appreciated.
A term to describe a balanced wine which gives the impression of filling the mouth completely with a lingering sensation.
The combination of smells that may be identified by the olfactory sense. Aromas gradually evolve and transform into a more complex bouquet.
Contributed by tannins when they produce a drying effect on the tongue and gums. In fact, tannins stop the lubricating proteins in saliva from carrying out their role. Recent oenological progress in Bordeaux has enabled a significant reduction in the sensation of astringency in young wines. Astringency lessens as the wine ages.
Describes a wine whose various components are in harmony with one another. Tannins and acidity are balanced by a smooth texture. Aromatic complexity is balanced by a dense texture. A balanced wine is what all producers strive to achieve. In Bordeaux, the blending of the different yet complementary grape varieties helps to ensure that balanced wines are produced.
A group of tertiary aromas that derive from perfumery and in Bordeaux include vanilla, incense, sandalwood, pine resin, as well as beeswax and camphor. These aromas appear when a wine develops during its bottle ageing process. They are generally very highly prized.
Also known as a barrique, cask, hogshead... the names vary depending on volume and region (the Bordeaux barrel contains 225 liters, which is 300 bottles). Produced by coopers, it is made up of wooden staves, held in place by circles and two flat surfaces. Wood is ideal for traditional wine maturation, it contributes aromas and tannins, as well as providing controlled oxygenation.
Vinification process that involves macerating the must in a stainless steel, concrete or wooden container during which the sugar it contains is transformed into alcohol. During fermentation, tannins and colors are also extracted from the skins. The winemaker decides how long the fermentation process should take. Bordeaux Clairets and rosés have a shorter fermentation process because achieving the desired color requires careful management.
Oak is used to make these barrels, the volume of which varies depending on the wine-making regions. In Bordeaux, a barrique contains 225 liters. Therefore, four barriques are required to produce a 900 liter tonneau (this is the commercial measure used in Bordeaux by the trade), which corresponds to 1,200 bottles of 75 cl.
A scale of measurement used to determine the sugar content of must, used to calculate what the wine's alcohol content will be after fermentation. A mustimeter (densimeter) is used, which is unit of measurement invented by Antoine Baumé in 1770.
A dry white wine that shows tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide which originate from fermentation. A beady wine with a pressure between 0.5 and 1 bar does not undergo second fermentation as sparkling wines do. On the palate, a sensation of freshness and liveliness is expressed by this type of wine, which is categorised in between a still wine and a sparkling wine.
In the vine's vegetative cycle, berry set occurs in June when flowering has finished and lasts around 10 days
Tiny tartar crystal deposits in the bottom of a bottle or more often at the base of a cork, often mistaken for sugar residue. These white crystals have absolutely no effect on the taste or quality of a wine.
Although it is perfectly normal for some young red wines that are rich in tannins (bitterness and astringency are two flavors that strengthen each other), bitterness maybe a fault caused by bacterial disease during malolactic fermentation. It is usually expressed on the finish.
Describes a wine that combines a good constitution (structure and flesh) with a warm character (a high alcohol degree of alcohol).
Copper sulphate designed to treat the vines for parasites. It is sprayed onto the vines and leaves behind a characteristic verdigris color on the leaves.
A fungus which develops on bunches towards the end of the ripening period. It produces a phenomenon that is highly valued in the Sauternes region known as 'noble rot'. Botrytis cinerea may cause damage when its development is complete and fast-acting, in vintages when the autumn season is damp and cold. In that case, it is known as 'grey rot'.
Bourru (rough) wine
A French term used to describe wine that is in the process of alcoholic fermentation. It is still cloudy and contains yeasts in suspension. It is rich in sugars, which have not yet been transformed into alcohol. This new sparkling, sweet wine is low in alcohol and cannot be kept for long.
Describes a very clear color whose glints reflect the light well. A sign of a wine's quality.
Bring to room temperature
To bring a wine to room temperature, it should be left for several hours in the room where it is to be consumed. A long time ago, these rooms were kept cool all year round, and room temperature meant 16-18°C, which is an ideal temperature for consumption. Nowadays, it is best to keep a careful eye on serving temperatures, because our homes are heated in winter and warmer in summer.
Describes a wine that has an excessive alcohol content, and is therefore unbalanced on the palate. It is expressed by excessive fullness and an 'alcoholic' character sometimes with a drying sensation on the finish.
A very common grape variety in Bordeaux. There are two versions, Cabernet Franc (mainly grown on the right bank of the Garonne, especially near Saint-Emilion or the Côtes de Bordeaux) and Cabernet Sauvignon (mainly planted on the left bank, in the Médoc and Graves regions).
Solid grape particles that form a thick layer on the surface of the tank during the fermentation process. The cap doesn't form immediately. The two phases separate after a few days
A vinification technique used mostly in the production of certain primeur wines. Macerating whole berries in an oxygen-free environment helps to release the aromas more easily. The fermentation of sugars begins when the grape enzymes begin their work. It normally continues when the yeasts begin to act and oxygen is provided.
An accident that occurs resulting in the loss of a wine's clarity, due to an excessive concentration of one element. It bears the name of the element that caused it, and denotes a deterioration in the colloidal condition of a wine. The outcome is precipitation and cloudiness in the wine. Example
Derived from the word 'caudal', meaning tail, this unit measures the duration of the aromatic persistence of a wine on the palate. One caudalie is equal to one second. A fine wine has a finish of 8 or more caudalies.
Adding sugar during the harvest, a process invented by Chaptal, and controlled by local regulations. It aims to achieve better balance in the wine by increasing its alcohol content when it is too low. Chaptalization is subject to legal specifications each year, depending on the vintage, but is usually prohibited in southern wine regions.
Used to describe the features of a wine. The character of a wine is related to its terroir, the grape varieties used to make it, or even its vinification process. Example
In Bordeaux, the word Château doesn't necessarily refer to a castle building, but actually is a name for a specific cru. For a given Bordeaux cru, whether classified or otherwise, the wine is the outcome of a very special interaction between climate, soil, planted grape varieties and of course, practices and traditions that stem from the winemaker's experience.
A term that applies to a wine that has both thickness and volume. It creates the impression that the wine can be chewed. The wine is described as being chewy.
Describes a wine with no immediate or apparent faults, either in terms of aroma or flavor. (Synonym of straightforward)
Cutting the tips of the vine branches in the summer to curb vegetative growth so that the grape berries will acquire good sugar, tannin and acid content. The grape's quality is enhanced.
A collection of vine stock that is genetically identical and derived from a single root, known as a parent strain.
Describes a wine that is not yet expressing its full range of aromatic qualities. Before it can express itself fully, this wine needs to be left to age. A closed up wine develops unusually weak aromas for its quality or its terroir. Occasionally, a wine goes through a phase when it is less expressive with regards to expectations of a specific vintage or quality; so it is described as being 'closed up'.
Describes a very astringent wine, which gives the impression of significant dryness in the mouth. A synonym of abrasive.
A white grape variety from South West France that grows in Bordeaux and is well known in Cognac. It produces wines that are lively, fruity and aromatic in their youth.
Describes a complex wine, at once in terms of its pronounced color, strength and the diversity of its aromas. The concentration of a wine is often the result of a long maceration process during fermentation. It is made possible when the grapes are fully ripe and have a high tannin concentration.
Named Bachique in reference to Bacchus, these gatherings of professionals and wine enthusiasts strive to promote the viticulture or oenology of an appellation or wine region. The members of these associations protect the folklore of their Medieval origins during inauguration ceremonies in the twenty or so guilds that are registered in Bordeaux.
A fungicide used to treat the vine, like the Bordeaux mixture with its typical blue color, a mix of copper sulphate and slaked lime, diluted in water. It is an effective solution against mildew, a fungal disease that occurs on the vine, caused by Plasmospora viticola.
The taste of cork is transferred to a wine by low quality corks or poor hygiene during bottling. It may occur even if the winemaker respects the most rigorous bottling processes.
A process that involves bursting open the grapes after destemming to prepare the release of the juice they contain. This was performed using the feet before the invention of efficient machinery.
Decanting involves transferring the contents of a bottle into a decanter. The process should be stopped as soon as solid matter deposits that have formed during the wine's bottle ageing process appear in the neck of the bottle. During decanting, slight oxygenation occurs, which allows the bouquet to develop. For old wines, decanting should be brief in order to protect the entire volatile and fragile bouquet.
Solid particles contained in the wine, especially old wines (they can be removed during decanting. See Decanting).
Separating the stalks (the stems of the bunches) from the grape berries before they are placed in the fermentation tank. Can help avoid vegetable flavors and rustic or harsh tannins.
A developed wine is one that has gone beyond its optimum stage of development. Having reached its peak, a wine then becomes developed. Its aromas fade, its color turns brown and veers towards orange for red wines, and brown or chestnut for white wines.
The removal of all the buds or burgeoning branches that could create too much weight on the vine (detrimental to harvest quality)
This is a wine whose components have become out of balance. Its components no longer complement each other. For example, a white wine whose acidity is too high (due to unripe grapes) or whose tannins are too harsh (excessive barrel fermentation time). In Bordeaux, as there is a long history of blending various grape varieties with complementary characteristics, the wines are usually well-balanced.
The withdrawal of the right to call a wine with an appellation of origin name; so it is henceforth sold as a 'table wine' or 'vin de table'. This process is normally implemented when the wine presented for AOC approval does not meet the conditions required by the decree of the relevant AOC.
Used to describe a wine that contains less than 4 grams of residual sugar (sugar that has not been fermented by yeasts) per liter.
Elephant hawk moth
This large moth (65 mm) is a lepidoptera insect from the Sphingidae family. Its polyphagic caterpillars, which appear from July to September, attack vine leaves.
A term used to describe a family of aromas that recall burnt, cooked or smoked notes (from the Greek pyros, meaning fire).
A French term used to describe the relative proportions of different grape varieties at a wine estate. In Bordeaux, encepagement is related to the different parcels of land depending on the soil, micro-climates and sun exposure. It also varies depending on the style of wine required.
A French term for the removal of the buds or branches from the base of the vine stock or unwanted shoots from the ground.
What is produced when alcohol and acid are combined. Can bring about complex and delicate aromas during the maturation and ageing processes.
A fat wine has substance and sweetness (though it might be perfectly dry). Its viscosity is down to its alcohol content, but especially glycerol, which is produced by yeasts during fermentation
Describes wines expressing elegance and lightness, in contrast to tannic strength or structure.
There are two types of fermentation for a wine. Alcoholic fermentation, brought about by yeasts, during which sugar is transformed into alcohol. Malolactic fermentation follows
Fête de la Fleur
Each year in the Bordeaux area, wine guilds celebrate the flowering of the vineyard.
A mechanical process which involves eliminating particles in suspension from the wine. Filtration is a delicate operation that requires dexterity and sensitivity. Excessive filtering can actually strip the wine. Many producers in Bordeaux have turned away from filtration and only carry out fining to ensure the wine retains its complexity.
The quality of a delicate and elegant wine whose balance creates a velvety harmony of flavors and aromas.
A procedure that involves adding a protein substance to a wine, which floculates with particles in suspension that compromise the clarity of a wine and bring them to the bottom of the tank or barrel. Egg whites are still used to fine wines in barrel at the most important Bordeaux estates.
A pasteurization process that eliminates acetic and lactic bacteria, as well as other yeasts which can cause faults such as dominant leather, plastic or chemical aromas in the wine. If it is not modified, the process involves bringing the wine to approximately 72° in a very short time (20 to 30 seconds), then cooling it just as quickly.
Yellow pigments in the skin of white grapes which give color to a wine during fermentation, after maceration. For red wines, they are known as anthocyanins. These red or mauve pigments from grape skins contain a colorant.
A tactile sensation (sweet, salty, acid or bitter) that is produced in the mouth by food or drink.
In the vinification of red wine, this is produced as a result of gravity during devatting.
A small fly with a brown body measuring around 3 mm in length known as Drosophila melanogaster, which brings about an acid rot inside the vine. The affected bunches give the must in the tank an unpleasant bitterness or may cause acetic spoilage.
Describes a red wine with a powerful and pronounced tannin structure on the palate. In Bordeaux, wines are produced by blending varieties that are high in tannins; so they are full-bodied.
Describes a very small wine production. This expression was coined in the early 1990s in Saint-Emilion, to describe Château Valandraud. Its 0.6 hectare parcel which was tended like a garden was instantly a big hit with wine critics. Produced without any major resources, in a makeshift setting (a garage), these wines have a connection with haute couture prototypes.
The character of a wine that is rich in alcohol but not spirity, in contrast to a heady wine. Often produced during warm and sunny vintages.
Gouleyant (easy drinking)
From the old French term "goule" which refers to the mouth and throat. A characteristic of a light, supple wine that is easy to drink and should be enjoyed while it produces fruity aromas. An easy drinking wine is also soft, pleasant and smooth.
A method used during the phylloxera crisis which involves attaching a rootstock that is resistant to phylloxera to a local scion. The scion gives the wine its character. The rootstock is just a base.
A word that describes the variety of the Vitis vinifera vine that produces the grape. The wines of Bordeaux are distinguished by the blending of several different grape varieties, which improves their balance, harmony and aromatic complexity.
This process involves removing the leaves covering the bunches of grapes to improve the ripeness of the berries, and reduce the risk of certain diseases (unwanted rot). Whether it is performed by hand or by machine, this work has an impact on the quality of the finished product during the harvest.
A stabiliser for coloring substances in red wines. This natural gum derives from acacia trees, and reduces the rasping sensation of astringency in red wine, leaving it with more roundness. Another benefit
An aroma found in a wine with a mineral character, reminiscent of warm flint, the smokiness of burnt powder, or the warmed flint stone used to sharpen tools.
A vine stock pruning method that leaves a single horizontal branch (the spur), such as in Bordeaux. Each year, a long branch with 6 to 10 buds is conserved, and this will be fixed into place during pruning to ensure it remains horizontal.
This bottle size is 37.5 cl, and contains 3 glasses of wine. The format is popular among on-trade wine professionals.
Describes a wine that lacks body, it is often very tannic and/or acidic. This is due either to an excessively long barrel or tank fermentation, or excessive acidity (the result of a premature decision to harvest the grapes).
The act of picking the grapes when they reach full ripeness. The date of the harvest is a critical time for any winemaker. In Bordeaux, the harvest begins when three indicators come together
Describes odors or aromas which recall dried hay, tobacco or fresh grass (a negative connotation because it derives from grapes that have been harvested before they have ripened correctly).
Describes a wine that leaves no after-taste that may suggest any sort of fault. It is also said to be clean or straightforward.
A term to describe a sweet white wine that is unbalanced due excess sugar and a lack of acidity. The heavy sugar expression is reminiscent of honey.
Refers to a lack of water and the reaction of the vine plant. Hydric stress blocks the vegetative cycle, imparting color changes, defoliation, sugar progression or even a drop in yield during some periods of heatwave.
Institut National des Appellations d'Origine; a public body responsible for setting out and controlling the regulations for the production of AOC and AOVDQS wines.
Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin at the university of Bordeaux; a multidisciplinary research, higher education and vine and wine development organization.
In full bloom / open
A wine that is balanced, at its very best. Just like in a floral sense, it refers to a wine whose bouquet is at its peak. A wine at the peak of its ageing process, its point of balance, right before it begins its decline.
An approval process for a wine which, following a series of analyses and professional tastings, succeeds in achieving Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status. The wine can then be sold under this Appellation.
An enzyme secreted by Botrytis cinerea which causes grey rot or noble rot to appear on the grape. It oxygenates the polyphenols which brings about a change of color in the must during crushing and pressing, which causes quality problems.
A technique that involves reproducing the vine by planting a branch that is still attached to the parent plant and exposing the tip of the branch. Once it has grown roots, the new plant has the same characteristics as the rootstock to which it was attached (layering is a type of plant propagation).
Deposit formed by the sediment of dead yeasts when they have finished playing their role in the fermentation process. Some wines are aged on lees to enrich their aromas. Lees can also stabilise wines, which explains why maturation on lees is becoming more and more popular in Bordeaux.
A wine with legs or tears leaves tear-shaped traces down the sides of the glass, which express its glycerol content. This unctuosity is an indicator of grape ripeness, smoothness or fat, and consequently a high alcohol content.
Describes a wine with little color and little body but one that is balanced and pleasant. Generally, a wine that should be enjoyed in its youth. For example, a Bordeaux Clairet.
Describes a fresh, pleasant and light wine that has a slight, but not excessive, acidic flavor. Less acidic than 'nervy' and more than 'refreshing'.
Describes a wine whose aromas leave a pleasant and persistent impression after tasting. We can also say that the wine has good length. (Synonym
An action which involves leaving the grape must in contact with the solid parts of the grape (skins) to extract the desired components such as tannins, aromas and color.
Describes a wine that during its excessive ageing process it has acquired a madeira-like taste and an amber color. A maderized wine is a wine that has reached the end of its life.
A red variety grown throughout the Bordeaux region. It is sometimes known as Cot, and likes warm terroirs. It produces dark wines. Their main aromas are violet and plum. Their tannin structure is significant.
Malic acid. An acid that is found naturally in many wines, and is transformed into lactic acid during malolactic fermentation.
Naturally present in grape juice, malic acid may cause instability in a wine as a result of bacterial fermentation. Winemakers can bring about a second malolactic fermentation process to transform malic acid into lactic acid, and round out the tannins in the wine. Biological deacidification brings greater suppleness to the wine.
The complete series of procedures starting after malolactic fermentation right up to bottling. In maturing a wine, the idea is to stabilise and clarify it, but also to bring about complex aromas which improve its quality and richness. Maturation in oak barrels is very commonly used in the production of fine Bordeaux wines.
Describes a wine, especially an aged wine, in which the various characters mingle harmoniously together to form an even and balanced wine.
A French term that describes a small bottle of wine containing 5 cl, ideal for an introductory tasting. These wine bottles are usually available in hotels, planes, trains and other boutiques. It is an object for consumption, but can also be highly prized as a collector's item.
A disease caused by a parasite fungus which attacks the green parts of the vine, especially the leaves.
A tasting term to describe a wine that has a family of aromas similar to stone, such as limestone, flint, earth, schist, graphite or sun-warmed pebble aromas. On the palate, this creates a sensation of 'liveliness'. Saline notes are often described as mineral.
Applies to sweet wines which contain less natural residual sugar than sticky wines. This French term can also be used to describe a dry wine whose fat dominates its acidity.
The French term 'muid', which means cask, derives from the Latin word modius, which means main measurement. This old barrel measuring unit varied according to regions, following a decree by Henri IV, who ruled that 1 muid would be equivalent to 200 pints in Saint-Denis or 300 pints in Paris, which is almost 280 liters. Nowadays, the demi-muid used for transporting wines and alcohol is a thick container that holds 500 to 650 liters.
A white Bordeaux grape variety that produces very fragrant wines that recall freshly-squeezed orange juice and musk.
Describes an aroma similar to musk. Can be found in Bordeaux wines made from the Muscadelle grape variety and in the bouquets of ageing red wines.
Describes a wine that makes an impression on the palate with well-defined characteristics and high yet not excessive acidity.
A young wine, at the time when fermentations have finished. By extension, it is also used to describe a wine that has recently been released for sale, which has the characteristics of a young wine, especially in terms of primary aromas (fruity, floral). In Bordeaux, rosé wines are sold in their youthful prime.
The work of the Botrytis cinerea fungus on Sémillon and Sauvignon berries, with the effect of dehydrating the fruit and concentrating their sugars. The noble rot phenomenon is required in the production of fine Bordeaux sweet wines.
Used to describe a wine that has been matured in barrels. It often appears alongside a toasted bread note in young Bordeaux wines that have been aged in barrels, and gradually transforms into vanilla, mocha, chocolate or coconut. Oaky aromas derive from the tannins in the barrels during the maturation process.
A wine technician with a Diplôme National d'œnologie in France. Oenologists are responsible for making wine and supervising vinifications, but also providing advice to producers and merchants. Oenologists are the only people who can legally perform certain practices during wine production (treatments, filtrations).
A person who loves wine and everything surrounding it, whether they are a connoisseur or not. Every oenophile comes across Bordeaux wines at some point in their lives.
Oidium / powdery mildew
A vine disease caused by a small fungus that creates a grey color and drying phenomenon on the grapes; can be treated with sulphur.
The result of the presence of oxygen in the air on the wine. It is a risk before fermentation (it spoils the grape's aromatic components), and also can occur during fermentation (a change in color and bouquet). But during barrel maturation in an oxygen-free environment, the pores in the wood allow a tiny amount of oxygen into the wine which helps to stabilise the color and develop aromatic complexity. This is controlled oxygenation.
The replacement of posts that have been damaged by inclement weather or machines, replacing and retightening wires.
Past its best
Describes a wine that has spent too long in a cellar, and has lost all of its qualities. It is worn out, at the end of its life.
Patron saint of winemakers
Celebrated on 22 January with parades and other festivities, St Vincent, protector of vineyard laborers, is a symbol of fortune and prosperity for the upcoming vintage. The story goes that this deacon and martyr from Zaragossa in the 4th century used the French word for wine, "vin", in his first name.
A wine at its peak has acquired maximum quality, and is about to begin its decline. The peak of a Bordeaux wine depends on the richness of its tannins, natural acids and aromatic components.
A phrase right before fermentation begins that involves macerating the grape berries at a low temperature away from the air, in order to activate the first aromas. A standard fermentation process follows, with oxygen provided for the yeasts, which transform the sugar from the grapes into alcohol.
Describes the length of flavors and aromas in a wine. Long aromatic persistence is a positive sign of a wine's power.
An aphid which between 1860 and 1880 destroyed the Bordeaux and European vineyards, killing all the vinestock roots. This plague devastated European viticulture. Owing to a grafting technique using resistant American rootstock, the vineyards were re-established in the early 20th century.
A popular French nickname for an ordinary wine. This term was entered into the dictionary of the Académie Française in 1935, and it has three possible origins. The Greek word pino meaning to drink, a certain Jean Pinard from the 17th century, or indeed a derivative of pineau, a Burgundian grape variety. The word pinard was also used to describe a comforting companion for infantrymen in the trenches during the First World War.
Molecules that form inside plants from sugars. Contained inside grape skins, pips and stalks, and responsible for tannins and color in the wine. Known for their natural antioxidant properties and medicinal benefits, the riper and healthier the grape, the more its molecules benefit the structure of the wine and its polyphenol properties.
Solid parts of the grape which are pressed at the end of the alcoholic fermentation process. The press wine is richer and less harmonious than the free-run wine. It used for blending.
A wine produced by pressing the pomace after devatting (see Devatting). The various presses are selected and a specific volume decided upon by the oenologist will be blended with the free-run wine (see Free-run wine).
Press (pneumatic or hydraulic)
A winemaking tool used to extract grape juice by pressing the fruit. The hydraulic press applies vertical to pressure using a mobile wattle which is manoeuvred using a hydraulic leveller, whereas the pneumatic press applies horizontal pressure against a press-cage using a pocket filled with air or compressed air.
A procedure involved in the making of white wines that involves pressing the grapes to extract the juice (white). In the vinification of red wines, it is performed on the solid parts of the grape at the end of the alcoholic fermentation process.
Primary aromas are those that pre-exist inside the grape and are revealed during fermentation. They give each grape variety an olfactory characteristic. For example, Sauvignon has a primary aroma that recalls boxwood in the wines of Bordeaux; Cabernet Sauvignon expresses blackcurrant bud or licorice sticks. Merlot evokes strawberry. Primary aromas usually evoke floral, fruity, or vegetable notes.
In Bordeaux a 'vente en primeur' is the sale of a grand cru classé wine before the final product has been finalised. The wines are then matured for 18 months in barrels inside the storehouses. This tradition ties the Château to the merchant. The Château ensures that its cash flow is guaranteed and buyers can obtain a discount on the final price of the wine, which is only marketed two years later.
Cutting back the vine branches to regulate and balance the growth of the vine. Pruning also helps to keep yield under control (also known as load). Pruning has a direct impact on the volume of the harvest, and as a result, of the quality and concentration of the grapes.
Takes place at the start of fermentation. Aims to provide the oxygen required for efficient multiplication of the yeasts. The must is pumped from the tank at the bottom and, after it has been aired, returns to the tank at the top. Additional benefit
An ancestral technique used once alcoholic fermentation has begun, to mix the 'cap' (solid particles on the surface) with the liquid juice inside the tank. The aim is to oxygenate the fermenting must and promote the optimal extraction of tannins.
The action of transferring a wine from a barrel to another barrel to separate the lees and encourage clarification through settling. During racking, the sulphur content is monitored and corrected to avoid the risk of bacterial contamination. Racking provides a controlled amount of oxygen and produces wines with greater aromatic complexity.
Drying grapes naturally in the air to produce sugar concentration inside the berries. Produces wines that are less syrupy than when noble rot is used.
Used to describe a very astringent wine. It's tannin structure is pronounced or rustic. On the astringency scale, rasping is stronger than unripe and weaker than inky.
The changes in a wine stored in bottle with no air contact. It helps to produce subtle and sought-after aromatic components such as truffle in fine Bordeaux wines. When an old bottle is opened, fusty aromas may be expressed, but these can be eliminated by decanting the wine for a short time.
Describes a slightly, but not unpleasantly acidic wine that creates a sensation of mouthwatering freshness prized for its thirst-quenching aspect.
Describes a wine with a pronounced color that is generous and powerful while remaining balanced.
The surface area of wine in contact with air inside a glass. The color of a wine is its general apperance, while the rim shows its reflections. During a tasting, the glass is tilted to enlarge the rim in comparison to the core, and the wine's color palette can be seen in natural light on a white background. The thicker the wine, the more acidic the wine, and the more its brightness is revealed, its ability to reflect the light.
Ripeness determines when the grower decides to harvest the crop. At that point, the ripening process has finished.
A vegetative period for the vine, during which the sugar content inside the grape berries increases, and it gains other quality components that help reduce its acidity. This period occurs right before the harvest. The University of Bordeaux is renowned for research into the ripening process, especially in terms of tannins, in order to prevent the production of excessively harsh or tannic wines during difficult vintages.
Describes the smell of overripe wines made from grapes affected by noble rot. Expresses the aromas of oven-roast fruit, citrus peel, dried fruit or toasted bread.
Describes a wine whose suppleness, smoothness and body create a pleasantly round sensation on the palate.
A process that involves separating the young wine from the solid particles that remain when fermentation has finished (skins, pips). Solid particles are then pressed separately and produce a more tannic wine, some or all of which may be blended with the wine that has already been run off (Synonym
A process that involves extracting some of the juice at the start of the fermentation process to make rosé wines or Clairets.
A French term used to describe vine branches cut off during the year and collected after pruning. In Bordeaux these are used to barbecue meat (the classic 'entrecôte aux sarments'). They may also be buried in the rows of vines to produce organic fertiliser, or ground and burnt.
Also known as fermentation aromas. These are produced by yeasts during fermentation. These aromas evoke banana, nail varnish, boiled sweets (after alcoholic fermentation), as well as candles, wax, wheat brioche, or even fresh butter or crème fraîche (after malolactic fermentation).
A procedure that occurs before fermentation involving the separation of the must and particles (soil particles, leaf and pip debris) to prevent unwanted vegetable flavors. This stage, which involves decanting the grape juice before it begins fermenting, is usually performed by transferring the must from one tank to another.
Poor development during grape flowering. It is caused by a variety of factors (rain, cold weather), and has a major impact on yield, but also affects the regularity of grape berries on a bunch.
Describes a pleasantly moelleux wine that is velvety on the palate. The smoothness of a wine recalls a sweet, therefore sugary sensation. Dry wines are smooth, rather than lively or nervy.
These wines are pressurised with the CO2 that is generated during the fermentation process, and kept inside the wine by placing an airtight seal on the bottle. European regulations have laid out a coding system for these wines depending on the volume of gas and the pressure exerted. A semi-sparkling wine contains 2 to 4 g of CO2 per liter while a sparkling wine has a gas content of more than 4.5 g per liter.
The woody part of the bunch; in modern winemaking it is separated from the berries before fermentation. The stalk produces 'green' and rustic tannins which are incompatible with the elegance of Bordeaux wines.
Split oak wood that is used for the production of barrels. The origins of the stavewood have an impact on the style of wine produced.
A wine is described as still when it has finished its fermentation and there are no longer any more carbon dioxide bubbles on its surface. More generally, a still wine simply refers to a wine that is not sparkling.
Describes the overall impression of a wine or one of its elements (color, bouquet, taste, etc.) that has no flaw or uncertainty.
The information 'Contains sulphites' has been compulsory on all labels since 2005 for wines whose sulphur content is more than 10 mg/l, owing to its allergenic character. Sulphur is a stabiliser with antioxidant and antiseptic properties, and has been used in winemaking since the 18th century. It is impossible to make a wine that is completely free of sulphur as small quantities are produced naturally during fermentation.
A legally controlled process during which a small amount of sulphurous gas (sulphur dioxide or SO2) to enable vinification or maturation without the risk of bacterial contamination and to promote stability during maturation.
Sulphur's antiseptic and antioxidant properties have been recognised throughout the history of winemaking, as it fights against bacteria and other yeasts which may damage the wine. The idea traditionally is to burn a sulphur wick in empty, clean barrels before they are used again (we now use sulphur in a liquid or powder form).
Describes a smooth wine in which the moelleux aspect dominates the astringency. It is obtained by brief barrel or tank fermentation and has a fluid and light texture. Can generally be drunk young.
Describes a white wine rich in residual sugar (natural, non-fermented sugar). Syrupy wines are very fat on the palate. The sweet white wines of Bordeaux are among the most highly reputed in the world. They can achieve exceptional aromatic intensity and sweetness.
This category of wines Sans Indication Géographique (SIG) has been known as Vins de France since 1 August 2009. These wines may be blended from different grape varieties, regions and vintages, and sold under a brand name. A sub-section of the Vin de France with grape variety and vintage specification was invented to add value to these everyday drinking wines.
Substances found inside grapes that give the wine its structure, ageing potential and gustatory properties (astringency). They combine with color pigments in red wines (anthocyanins). These molecules are also antioxidants, which explains their role in preventing certain cardiovascular diseases with moderate consumption ('French paradox').
Tartaric salt crystals that are sometimes found in bottles. They do not affect the wine in any way. This precipitation is brought about by thermal shock. Prior treatment for the wines using cold temperatures prevents this precipitation inside the bottle. It is carried out by the oenologist.
An acid which is specific to vines and is created inside young leaves and green berries. During the harvest, its content is between 5 to 7 g/l. Its name derives from the tartar deposit which forms inside containers such as tanks or barrels However when it is well-managed during vinification, it gives character to the wine while preventing the risk of deposit inside the bottle.
The combination of gustatory and aromatic sensations. Flavors are the tactile and physical sensations that occur in the mouth. Aromas are only the olfactory sensations perceived either by the nose (olfaction) or by the mouth (retro-olfaction).
A technique that allows the winemaker to control and manage the temperature of the tanks during fermentation. This technique revolutionised vinification when the impact of temperature on yeast metabolism was understood. Ideal temperatures for alcoholic fermentation
Terroir (taste of)
This is an aromatic expression associated with the components in the soil. It gives the wine its own specific characteristics, typical of the terroir where the grapes were grown. For example, Pomerol's violet aroma.
They describe the bouquet, the fragrant complex that a wine develops during its bottle ageing process in an oxygen-free environment. The best known tertiary aromas are truffle, leather, mocha, coconut, pastry aromas (cake, honey, marzipan), and above all animal notes (fur, leather, musk).
Describes a wine with a pronounced color that gives a sensation of heaviness and thickness on the palate.
Describes a wine whose robe is no longer crimson, ruby or garnet. The orangey tile-red glints are produced when the wine has aged significantly. A wine at its peak usually has some tile-red glints.
Tirage des bois (removing the wood)
A manual viticulture procedure that involves removing the shoots that have been cut off the vine stock during the pruning season. These shoots are piled up between the rows before being ground up and often scattered in the vineyards to provide natural organic fertiliser. They may be bound together in bundles to be used as fire wood.
Describes a wine that has undergone a treatment that has destabilised it, for example immediately after racking (change of oak barrel), after filtering or transportation. It is therefore more difficult to taste.
In Bordeaux, this is a barrel that can contain 900 liters, and is the equivalent of four 225 liter barriques. It is the unit of volume for bulk wine transactions, especially when merchants purchase wine from producers through brokers.
An procedure that involves filling up barrels or tanks during the maturation of wines in order to avoid oxidation.
A white grape variety which is relatively rare in Bordeaux but more common in South West France and Cognac. It produces a lively, nervy wine with little ageing potential. It provides acidity to blends in some Bordeaux AOC wines.
Vinification procedure that involves placing the harvested grapes into a vinification tank in which maceration and alcoholic fermentation will take place.
Aromas that belong to the vegetable family such as hay, green pepper or licorice. When they are too pronounced, the wine is described as a vegetal wine. They are usually the result of prematurely harvested grapes.
A vegetative phase in the life cycle of the vine which is crucial for the wine. It is achieved when the grape turns from green to yellow for white grapes, and from black to red for red grapes. At veraison, the berry has reached its maximum size and begins ripening. It increases its sugar content and decreases its acidity. The date of the harvest is usually 45 days from mid-veraison.
Vin de pays (or IGP)
The label Vin de pays was created at the end of the 1960s to enhance the value of production that fell outside the AOC. Since 2009, they have been registered as Indication Géographiques Protégée (IGP) by the European Commission, a symbol of tighter international protection. These round and fruity wines are marketed by growers, cooperatives and other merchants under a commercial label or estate name.
All the procedures regarding wine production, from when the grapes enter the storehouse to maturation and bottling.
A botanical term that describes the species from which all vine varieties in Europe originate.
Produced by acetic, formic and carbonic acids during alcoholic fermentation. It is necessary for the development of the bouquet and the structure and development of the wine.
A wine is well-structured when it has a good constitution, with richness and tannins, in contrast to a watery, or thin wine. A well-structured wine usually has good bottle ageing potential.
Place where the wine is stored and matured during the ageing process (in tank or barrel), away from other buildings.
Wine with good ageing capacity
Describes a wine with the potential to be aged in bottle in order enrich its bouquet and its complexity. Many Bordeaux wines have a long ageing capacity owing to the fine quality and complexity of their components (acids, tannins, color, aromas).
Wine without IG
(previously Vins de Table) This category of wines with protected origin but no geographical indication was created by the OCM (Organisation Commune du Marché vitivinicole) in 2009. Blends between different producing regions are possible. The label must include the name of the Country "Vin de France" and may also feature the grape variety and vintage to improve its communication with the consumer.