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Wine Glossary

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See Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.

Acetic Acid
Acetic acid contributes to the acidity of a wine. In low quantity it can lift the aroma and flavour of the wine. However if the quantity is excessive then it can give the wine a taste of vinegar. If bacteria contaminate the wine then if it is left unprotected from these bacteria then the wine will turn to vinegar.

Yeast requires the presence of acid in order to perform a healthy fermentation. Different acids are found in different fruits and also during the fermentation process. There are many different acids in a wine but the main ones are: citric acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, lactic acid and carbonic acid.

A wine's acidity should be detectable as a sharpness, a crispiness and vitality in the mouth, especially around the front sides of the tongue. Acidity must be balanced with the other elements of a wine, or else the wine may be too sharp - having too high levels of acidity - or too flat – having too low levels of acidity.  It gives white wines a refreshing sensation, and gives a balance in red wines. Low acidity makes a wine dull and 'flabby' and is disastrous in sweet wines. Too much acidity can make a wine difficult to drink.

A tasting term for a wine that is too acidic, often found in cheap red wines.

Exposing a wine to air prior to drinking it. The usual intention is to allow off-odours to escape from an older wine, or to soften the harshness of a younger wine. See How to Serve Wine for more information.

Aerobic Fermentation
Fermentation carried out in the presence of air. This is usually the first part of the fermentation process. See How to Make Wine for more details.

The taste left after the wine has been swallowed or spat out. The persistence of the aftertaste (the length) can indicate the quality of the wine.

Letting a wine sit for months to years, to allow its flavor to properly develop. Aging is often done in oak barrels or in glass bottles.

A simple plastic or glass device used when fermenting a wine to keep airborne contamination away from the fermentation jar whilst still allowing gas to escape. Also called a bubbler. See Wine Making Equipment for details and a picture.

The spirit produced during fermentation. Generally wines have an alcohol content of between 8% and 16% by volume. Specifically the term ‘alcohol’ refers to ethyl alcohol, the product of alcoholic fermentation of sugar by yeast.

Alcoholic fermentation
Yeast acts on sugar and results in its conversion to ethyl alcohol, with carbon dioxide as a by-product. Fermentation will often start naturally from yeasts on the grapes acting on the sugar inside them, but cultured yeasts may also be added. The fermentation process ends when either all the sugar has been converted, or more often when the increased alcohol content of the fermenting solution becomes too high and kills the yeast.

A descriptor for wines that give you the impression of being full and expansive in your mouth.

Anaerobic Fermentation
Fermentation carried out in the absence of air. This is usually the second part of the fermentation process. See How to Make Wine for more details.

See Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.

A geographical term that identifies where the grapes of a wine were grown.

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée
A French term that is often abbreviated to AC or AOC. It is the highest classification for French wine. By law, these wines must be produced from grapes grown within a geographically defined area, comply with regulations concerning grape varieties, yields, alcohol content etc. Although AOC classification means these features are guaranteed, it is not a guarantee of quality.

The smell of a wine. The term aroma is generally applied to younger wines, while the term bouquet is reserved for more aged wines

Ascorbic Acid
Usually called Vitamin C, it is used to combat oxidation of a wine.

A tasting term that describes when the mouth dries caused by tannin, acid, or the combination of both.

The first impression you get when you taste a wine. A wine’s attack is usually sensed in the front of your mouth, especially at the tip of your tongue, which is usually the first place the wine touches.


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