Whether you’re new to wine or just learning, these basic terms will help you navigate the space more intelligently. If you’d like us to add more terms to our glossary, just contact us and we’ll make sure to get them on the list.
- Acid/ Acidity: Acids, primarly citric, malic and tartaric, occur naturally in wine and, in the proper proportion, are essential ingredients, giving the wine character and helping it age. As a rule, cool regions produce wines that are hight in acidity, while warm regions produce wines that are low in acidity
- Alcohol: The alcohol present in wine, ranging from about 6.5 to 14 per cent.
- Appellation Contrôlée (AC or AOC, French): Part of French law that guarantees that a wine comes from where the label says it does, that it is made from specific grapes and that it is produced in a certain way.
- Aroma: The smell of a wine. As the wine matures and takes on more complex characteristics, the term can change to “bouquet”.
- Balance: Good balance refers to a wine in which the acids, tannins, alcohol, fruit and flavour are all in pleasing proportions.
- Barrique (French): The regular Bordeaux oak barrel of 225 litres.
- Blanc (French): White.
- Blending: A wine can be blend of different varieties, different vintages, different areas and even different barrel.
- Blind Tasting: A tasting of wines where all clues as to the wines’ identities including the labels and shapes of the bottles are obscured from the tasters.
- Body: Term used to describe the weight and the structure of a wine.
- Bouquet: The scent of a wine that develops as it ages and matures.
- Demi-Sec: Fairly sweet
- Brut: The term given to a dry sparkling wine.
- Cave (French): Cellar.
- Cepage (French): term for grape variety.
- Chambrer (French): To allow a wine gradually to reach room temperature before drinking.
- Château (French): Term given to a wine-growing property.
- Clos (French): An enclosed vineyard, used particularly in alsace and Burgundy.
- Cru (French): A growth or vineyard.
- Cru Classé (French): A term which translates into English as “classed growth”. in 1855, 61 red wines of the Médoc (including one from graves: Chateau haut-Brion) were classified as “cru classé”, which were divided inti five ranks determined by price (and therefore, in theory, quality), ranging from “premier cru” (first growth) down to “cinquième cru” (fifth growth). At the same time, the sweet white wines of Sauternes were divided into three categories: “premier grand cru, premier cru and deuxième cru”, or first great growth, first growth and second growth. Although now hopelessly outdated, these classifications do still denote a lot of prestige to a property and its wines. In 1955, also in Bordeaux, the wines of St-Emilion were similarly classified into three ranks “premier grand cru classé, grand cru classé and grand cru”, while “grand cru classé (without subdivisions) has also been used since 1953 for red wines of Graves and, since 1959, for white wines of that area.
- Cru Bourgeois (French): The term given to Médoc wines categorised just below those of cru classé status.
- Cuvée (French): A blended wine or a special selection.
- Domaine (French): Property or estate.
- Doux (French): Sweet.
- En Primeur (French): The system whereby each spring, following the vintage, the Chateaux of bordeaux reveal the opening prices of their new wines. Customers pay in advance for these wines through wine merchants and take delivery of them after bottling some 18 months later. this method ensures that customers get the wines that they want, and almost always at the most advantageous prices. Prices rarely fall after the opening offer.
- Grand Cru (French): Term used for top-quality wines in Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy and champagne.
- Label: It’s everything you need to know about a wine. most wine laws insist that labels reveal the following: the wine’s name, the size of the bottle, The wine’s vintage, The wine’s alcoholic strength, The producer’s name and address, The wine’s quality level.
- Mis en bouteille au château (French): The wine was bottled at which it was made.
- Moelleux (French): Sweet.
- Mousse (French): The satisfying froth that fizzes in a glass of champagne or sparkling wine as it is poured, savoured and drunk.
- Mousseux (French): Sparkling.
- Pétillant (French): Slightly sparkling.
- Récolte (French): Crop or vintage.
- Rouge (French): Red.
- Sec (French): Dry.
- Sommelier (French): A wine waiter.
- Terroir (French): At its simplest, the word means “soils”, but winemakers use it to refer to the differing types of soil, climate, drainage and position of a vineyard.
- Varietal: a wine named after the grape from which it is made.
- Vendange (French): The harvest or vintage.
- Vendage Tardive (French): late harvest.
- Vigneron (French): Vine grower.
- Vin de pays (French): country wine of a level higher than table wine.
- Vin de table (French): Table wine. Not the highest quality wine.
- Vin doux naturel (French): A fortified sweet wine.
- Vin ordinaire (French): Basic wine not subject to any regulations.
- Vinification: The process of making wine.
- Viticulture: The cultivation of grapes.
Sizes of Champagne Bottles
Sizes of Champagne bottles:
Split 187 ml.
H-bottle .375 ml.
Bottle 750 ml.
Magnum 2 bottles
Jeroboam 4 bottles
Rehoboam 5 bottles
Methuselah 7 bottles
Salmanazar 10 bottles
Balthazar 13 bottles
Nebuchadnezzar 16 bottles
Reference Map of French Wines
Use the map below to understand where French wines are cultivated throughout the country.
South of a line running roughly from Wissembourg,- in northern Alsace to Nantes at the southern edge of Brittany, there is scarcely a department in France where vines are not cultivated. Alsace, Champagne, the Tours and Bordeaux regions, Burgundy, the Rhône valley, Languedoc, Provence… one is spoilt for choice over which wine trails to follow.
The roads that wind through the vineyards which give the countryside its special charm are bordered by signs offering wine for sale and free sampling of the producers’ wares. Why not take up the invitation? Changing your wine-shopping habits like this, you will be buying a few bottles of good wine that you know something about. You’ll have the pleasure of talking to the grower, who will be delighted to show you around and offer you a taste of his wine. And when you get back from your holidays or your weekend, you’ll enjoy opening, in the company of friends or family, a bottle that you have sought out yourself and are proud to have unearthed.
So let’s go! En route!