Acid. In the right proportion, gives many
wines their balance and longevity. Wines without enough acids are often
Alsace. French region bordering Germany best-known for distinctive
whites such as peppery Gewürztraminer.
Appellation. Where the grapes came from. Often, the more specific,
Appellation Controlee. French system that sets rules for
winemaking in geographic areas. A world standard.
Australia. After a decade-long surge, the second-biggest exporter
of wines into the U.S. by volume after Italy.
Beaujolais. French region producing delightful red wine from Gamay
grapes; one of the world's great wine bargains.
Bordeaux. French region best-known for classy reds made primarily
from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Botrytis Cinerea. "Noble rot" fungus responsible for making some
great dessert wines in Sauternes and elsewhere by shriveling grapes and
Burgundy. French region best-known for reds made
from Pinot Noir and whites made from Chardonnay.
Cabernet Sauvignon. Red-wine grape responsible for
famous Bordeaux wines and many California "cult wines."
California. Produces 90% of wines made in the U.S.
and 70% of wines drunk in the U.S. Most important regions: Napa, Sonoma.
Cava. Spanish sparkling wine.
Chablis. French region (part of Burgundy) making
special, seafood-friendly wines from Chardonnay. Used in U.S. to mean
"cheap, generic white."
Champagne. French region making the world's best
sparkling wine from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes.
Chardonnay. Great white grape of Burgundy. No. 1
"varietal" wine in America.
Chenin Blanc. Fine grape for dry and sweet wines.
Sometimes used in U.S. to mean "cheap white," but sometimes a fine varietal.
Chile. Up-and-coming wine exporter best-known for
value-priced Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Classification of 1855. Famous ranking of Bordeaux
wine by "growth" -- based on quality, price and politics -- that's still
Corked. Wine that's tainted by a bad cork. Tends to
smell like wet cardboard or a wet dog.
Cult Wines. Symbol of '90s bubble. Hard-to-find,
excellent, very expensive and generally red California wines more often
bought and sold than drunk.
Disgorge. Process in Champagne in which the sediment
is popped out of the bottle before the final cork is inserted.
DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).
Italian symbol of highest quality, though it can be hit-or-miss.
Dom Perignon. Monk important in early
Champagne-making, though he didn't really "invent" Champagne. Also the name
of a fine, expensive Champagne.
Duboeuf, Georges. French winemaker and brilliant
marketer who did much to popularize Beaujolais Nouveau around the world.
Finish. The lingering taste a wine leaves after you
First Growth. Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, Latour,
Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton Rothschild.
Fortified. Wines with brandy or other spirits added,
such as Port.
French Paradox. "60 Minutes" report on this (1991)
hinted that red wine keeps French healthy. Led to surge in U.S. red-wine
Gaja, Angelo. Great winemaker and trend-setter in
the Piedmont region of Italy.
Gallo, E.&J. World's biggest winemaker (until
Constellation's pending takeover of Australia's Hardy). U.S. firm makes one
of every four bottles sold domestically.
Gewurztraminer. Peppery white wine that's a
specialty of the Alsace region of France.
Gout de Terroir. "Taste of the earth," the notion
that grapes should pass on the natural aspects that are present in a place.
Ice Wine (Eiswein in Germany). Dessert wine made
from frozen grapes. A specialty of Canada.
Labrusca (or Vitis Labrusca). Not Lambrusco, the
inexpensive Italian red, but the kind of vine that produces native American
grapes, such as Concord.
Loire. French region best-known for summery whites.
Magnum. A 1.5-liter bottle that's twice as big as
regular bottles. Bigger still: Nebuchadnezzar, the equivalent of 20 regular
Meritage. Name for red and white blends in the U.S.
made from classic Bordeaux varieties. Rhymes with heritage.
Merlot. Bordeaux blending grape. First bottled as a
U.S. varietal in 1972 by Louis Martini. Top red varietal in the U.S.
Mondavi, Robert. Visionary California winemaker
greatly responsible for U.S. wine renaissance that started in late 1960s.
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. German area best known for flowery
Muscat. Honey-like grape grown all over the world to
make slightly sweet to very sweet wines.
Nebbiolo. Great grape of Barolo and Barbaresco in
the Piedmont region of Italy.
New Zealand. Up-and-coming wine-producing country
best known for its juicy Sauvignon Blancs. Most-talked-about winery: Cloudy
North Dakota. Last state in the U.S. to have a
commercial winery, which opened last year.
Nose. How a wine smells.
Oak. Wood used in winemaking to add complexity and
various flavors to wines often fermented and/or aged in oak barrels.
Parker, Robert M. Jr. Publisher of "The Wine
Advocate." Most powerful wine critic in the world. His 100-point scale
Paris Tasting of 1976. In a head-to-head blind
tasting, French judges preferred American wines, a turning point for U.S.
Phylloxera. Plant louse that kills vines. Devastated
French vineyards in the 19th century, hit California hard recently.
Piedmont. Italian region best known for lusty reds
including Barolo and Barbaresco.
Pinotage. Spicy, unusual red wine of South Africa.
Pinot Grigio. Italian wine -- same grape as Pinot
Gris -- that recently became the most popular imported wine in the U.S.
Pinot Noir. Great red grape of Burgundy. Experts
used to believe incorrectly that the U.S. couldn't make fine Pinot.
Specialty of Oregon.
Port (or Porto). Fortified wine from Portugal.
Qualitatswein Mit Pradikat. Symbol of high quality
on a German label.
Reserve. In some countries, this means wine was aged
longer. In U.S., it can mean that or nothing at all.
Rheingau. German region best-known for Riesling
Rhone. French region best-known for its earthy reds.
Most notable grape is Syrah.
Riedel. Stemware company that popularized the idea
that there is a perfect glass for every wine. Rhymes with needle.
Riesling. Great white-wine grape at its best in
Rioja. Spanish district best-known for woody red
Sangiovese. Great grape of Chianti.
Sauvignon Blanc. White grape that makes grassy dry
wines all over the world. Also used in dessert wines. Same as Fume Blanc.
Sauternes. Great dessert wine from Bordeaux. Most
famous and best: Chateau d'Yquem.
Sediment. Naturally occurring muddy stuff in the
bottom of some bottles, especially old ones. It's harmless.
Shiraz. Australia's signature red-wine grape. Same
Stainless Steel. Wines said to be "all stainless
steel" were fermented in temperature-controlled steel tanks and meant to be
fresh, fruity, aromatic.
Sulfites. Naturally occurring substance also added
to preserve and stabilize wines. Present in virtually all wines. Often
incorrectly blamed for headaches.
Sur Lie. Allowing a white wine to sit on its dead
yeast for a while, often giving it extra complexity and mouthfeel.
Tannins. Naturally occurring substances that give
red wines their backbone and often their longevity. Sometimes cause mouth to
Terroir. The total environment in which grapes grow
-- the soil, the climate, etc.
Turley, Helen. Great American winemaker responsible
for many cult wines.
Tuscany. Region of Italy best known for Chianti and
Brunello di Montalcino.
Varietal. Wine named for a grape type, like
Chardonnay. In U.S., a wine must be at least 75% of a grape type to be
Vinifera (or Vitis Vinifera). Species of vine that
produces classic European wine grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and most of
the wines produced today.
Vintage. Year grapes were harvested. In U.S., 95% of
wine must be from that year's grapes to be labeled that vintage.
Yeast. Naturally occurring substance that creates
fermentation in grape juice to make wine. Sometimes commercial form is used.
Zinfandel. U.S. red grape (originally from Croatia).
White Zinfandel, with juice allowed a little skin contact for color,
outsells red 7 to 1.