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Glossary of terms used in wine and wine making.

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Term Definition

Abbreviation for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, literally a wine whose Appellation is of controlled origin, as specified under French law. The AOC laws specify and delimit the geography from which a particular wine (or other food product) may originate and methods by which it may be made. The regulations are administered by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, or INAO.

A.P. number

Abbreviation for Amtliche Prüfnummer, the official testing number displayed on a German wine label that shows that the wine was tasted and passed government quality control standards.


Means 'bottled by', and will be followed on the label by information regarding the bottler. Related terms include erzeugerabfüllung and gutsabfüllung.

Acetic acid

This volatile acid is one that contributes to the acidity of a wine. In small amounts it can also 'lift' the palate and accentuate aroma and flavour. In excess it produces a vinegary taste. It may also be the product of bacterial spoilage, which is how wine turns to vinegar if left unprotected from such bacteria.


A group of bacteria that oxidatively convert wine to vinegar (ethanol into acetic acid) through an aerobic (oxygen present) fermentation.

Acid blend

A generic name for any commercially available blend of acids (usually citric, tartaric, and possibly malic) sold for the acidification of homemade wines.


The quality of wine that gives it its crispiness and vitality. A proper balance of acidity must be struck with the other elements of a wine, or else the wine may be said to be too sharp - having disproportionately high levels of acidity - or too flat - having disproportionately low levels of acidity. A wine's acidity should be detectable as a sharpness in the mouth, particularly around the front sides of the tongue. It should be neither too obvious nor absent. It provides a refreshing sensation in white wines, and balance in reds. Its absence makes a wine dull and 'flabby' - a defect in any wine, but a disaster in sweet wines which to me become undrinkable without balancing acidity. Too much acidity can make a wine difficult to drink. There are many acids in a wine, but the principle ones are acetic, malic, tartaric, lactic, citric and carbonic acid.


A tasting term for a wine with overly pronounced acidity, this is often apparent in cheap red wines.


The process of incorporating air into a wine, must, or juice. Usually through splashing while racking, sparging with air, or simply by stirring a container very vigorously. This is sometimes done to "blow off" undesirable aromas such as hydrogen sulfide or to give an initial dose of oxygen to a fermentation just getting under way.


A tasting term for the taste left on the palate after the wine has been swallowed. The persistence of the aftertaste - the length - may be used as an indicator of the quality of the wine.

Aging barrel

A barrel, often made of oak, used to age wine or distilled spirits.


There are many different compounds that may be described as 'alcohol'. Here we are referring to ethyl alcohol, the product of alcoholic fermentation of sugar by yeast. It's presence is measured in percent volume or "proof".

Alcoholic fermentation

The action of yeast upon sugar results in its conversion to ethyl alcohol, with carbon dioxide as a by-product. Fermentation will often start naturally with yeasts on the grapes, but cultured yeasts may be added. The process generates much heat, and temperature control during alcoholic fermentation can have a significant effect on the style of wine produced. The process will cease either when all the sugar has been consumed, or more likely when the increasing alcohol content of the fermenting solution kills the yeast, or when the external temperature drops too low. It may also be arrested by adding sulphur or by fortification with spirit.


The wine producing region of Alsace in France primarily produces white wines. Its wines, which have a strong Germanic influence, are produced under three different Appellation d'Origine Contrôlées (AOCs): Alsace AOC for white, rosé and red wines, Alsace Grand Cru AOC for white wines from certain classified vineyards and Crémant d'Alsace AOC for sparkling wines. Both dry and sweet white wines are produced, and are often made from aromatic grapes varieties. Along with Austria and Germany, it produces some of the most noted dry Rieslings in the world, but on the export market, Alsace is perhaps even more noted for highly aromatic Gewürztraminer wines. Because of its Germanic influence, it is the only region in France to produce mostly varietal wines, typically from similar grapes as used in German wine.

Altar wine

The wine used by the Catholic Church in celebrations of the Eucharist.

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