Primer B

Learn wine vocabulary thanks to this primer specially designed by the Bordeaux Wine School.



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.

Ban des vendanges

A French term used for the official opening of the harvest period.


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.

Barrel/tank fermentation

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.

Baumé scale

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.

Berry set

In the vine's vegetative cycle, berry set occurs in June when flowering has finished and lasts around 10 days

Bitartrate sediment

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).

Bordeaux mixture

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.

Botrytis cinerea

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'.


See Tertiary aromas

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.

Bud break

The buds swell to show the first leaves and future branches.


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.