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Wine Terminology

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Blanc - French word for 'white'.

Blend - The combination of different lots of wine, blending to create a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. A wine may be a blend of different grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, or it may be a blend of the same grape variety from different vineyard sites, or even the same grape variety handled differently in the vineyard or during winemaking.

Bouquet - A word used during tasting to describe the smell of the wine as it matures in the bottle. Aroma indicates the smell of the grape.

Brut - French for 'dry'.

Cabernet franc - Often a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Cabernet franc often has a unique violet aroma and a slightly spicy flavor.

Cabernet Sauvignon - Has deep, rich cassis flavors and is grown in renowned wine regions throughout the world including California, Washington state, Italy, Australia, and Chile.

Champagne - The famous sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France, about 90 miles northeast of Paris. Made in a variety of sweetness levels, champagnes range from bone-dry to sweet in taste. Champagne is generally a blend of three grapes. Two red: pinot noir and pinot meunier, and one white: chardonnay. It is made through a method known as Champenoise: where secondary bubble-causing fermentation takes place inside each individual bottle.

Chardonnay - One of the most popular white grape varieties in America and throughout the New World, as well as the white grape of the Burgundy region of France. Has a full, round body and buttery, apple-like flavors laced with a smokey after taste, which comes from the oak barrels used in the making of most chardonnays.

Corked - The wine tastes of cork, it is unpleasant to smell, taste, and is slightly musty.

Delicate - Used to describe light- to medium-weight wines with good flavors.

Earthy - Used to describe both positive and negative attributes in wine. At its best, a pleasant, clean quality that adds complexity to aroma and flavors. The flip side is a funky, barn yard characteristic that borders on or crosses into a "dirty" flavor.

Elegant - Used to describe wines of grace, balance and beauty.

Finish -The aftertaste. The taste that remains in the mouth after swallowing. A 'long finish' is desired in a good wine. Great wines have rich, long, complex finishes.

Floral - A descriptive term for a wine that has a smell of flowers or meadows.

Graceful - Describes a wine that is harmonious and pleasing in a subtle way.

Grape - A vine fruit mainly used in wine production. Wine grapes are known as varietals - Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon etc.

Grapey - Characterized by simple flavors and aromas associated with fresh table grapes; distinct from the more complex fruit flavors like currant, black cherry, fig or apricot that is found in fine wines.

Madeira - A fortified wine from the island of Madeira which belongs to Portugal but is located off the West African coast.

Marsala - Fortified wines from the western tip of Sicily. As with Sherry and Madeira the flavor comes from oxidation

Merlot - The most widely planted grape in Bordeaux, merlot, a red grape, is also grown in most of the same places as Cabernet Sauvignon. And in fact, the two are often blended. Because merlot in general has somewhat less tannin than cabernet sauvignon, it feels softer on the palate. Its flavors run close to mocha and boysenberry.

Pinot Blanc - One of the white grapes of the pinot family that includes pinot grigio (also white) and the red grapes pinot noir and pinot meunier. While some pinot Blanc can be found interspersed with chardonnay in the vineyards of Burgundy, the grape is more renowned in Alsace. In North America, Pinot Blanc has flavors similar to chardonnay, though the wine is lighter in body and more delicate.

Pinot Grigio - Like Pinot Blanc, one of the white grapes of the pinot family. Loves cold climates. The most renowned pinot grigio come from the northernmost regions of Italy, especially those regions that border the Alps, as well as Alsace. Oregon is emerging as the top state for lively Pinot Gris', which is made with light almond, lemon, and vanilla flavors.

Pinot Noir has a silky texture and earthy taste. Pinot noir, like Riesling, requires a cold climate and its ancestral home is the cool Burgundy region of France. The grape, which is very difficult to grow and make into wine, is also grown in Oregon and California, but rarely elsewhere.

Port - A fortified wine originating in Portugal, also known as Oporto. Port is very rich and sweet. There are a number of different styles. Tawny - aged in wooden barrels. Age (10 years etc.) refers to the average age of the wine in the barrel. Colheita - refers to a port of a single vintage that has been aged in wooden barrels. Vintage port has a specific year that is aged in the bottle; later years bottled, first aged in the barrel but not for as long as a tawny port. Ruby - about three years old, sweet and ruby red colored, usually fruity and ready to drink.

Riesling - The renowned white grape of Germany, Austria and the Alsace region of France. Though it is also popular in Israel, Washington, New York State, and certain parts of California, this grape loves to grow in cold climates and when it does, it has a light peachy/mineral flavor.

Robust - Means full-bodied, intense, vigorous. Possibly a bit overblown.

Rosy - A pink wine that can be made from any number of red grape varieties. Common, in southern France, rosy`s are often made from Grenache. Rosy`s wines, like white wines, taste best served chilled.

Sangria - Sangria is made from red wine, fruit juices, soda water and fruit. Sometimes brandy is added. Sangria Blanco is made from white wine. Both are served cold with ice.

Sauvignon Blanc - The famous white grape of the Sancerre region of France as well as New Zealand. Its wild flavors are often reminiscent of grass, herbs, green tea and limes, often overlaid with a smoky flavor. In California, Sauvignon Blanc takes on green fig and white melon flavors.

Sherry- is wine from the Jerez region of southern Spain. Sherry is made by an extremely complex method of fractional blending called the Solera system. Sherry-style wines are also made in California but they usually do not go through a Solera system and most are sweet.

Smoky - A tasting term used to describe a subtle wood-smoke aroma that seems to pick up a steely or smoky aroma from the earth in which they are grown.

Soft - A tasting term to describe a wine with low acid and gentle tannins.

Syrah (Shiraz) - The classic red grape. The wine often has an unmistakable whiff of white pepper along with wild gamey, boysenberry flavors.

Tart - Sharp-tasting because of acidity.

Tokay is a sweet white wine.

Velvety - Having rich flavor and a silky, sumptuous texture.

Vermouth - A wine based beverage that originated in Italy and is often served as an aperitif.

Zinfandel - The much loved red grape of California. Zinfandel is grown almost no place else in the world. Zinfandel has a thick berry taste that is sometimes described as being chewy. White zinfandel is made when zinfandel grapes are fermented without their dark purple skins.

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