Wine terms


Clicking on the letters above will take you to the appropriate part of the list.



ABV – Alcohol by volume. The standard way of indicating alcohol levels in wine.

AOCappellation d’origine contrôlée – ‘controlled designation of origin.’ The French geographical certification system, guaranteeing the origin of a particular product. This also almost always includes other requirements in addition being from the specified region. The AOC system covers wine, but also other forms of food, including cheese, meat and certain types of honey.


AVA – American Viticultural Area. Essentially, the American version of the AOC and similar systems. AVAs, however, tend to be much less prescriptive, relating only to geographical location. AVA rules do not cover types of grapes, allowable yields or winemaking methods. Similarly, for most AVAs, only 85 percent of the grapes used in a wine need to come from the AVA for the classification to be used. 



beer – an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grains. Who’d want to drink that?

biodynamic – a method of organic agriculture developed by Rudolf Steiner which integrates organic farming techniques with a spiritual element that seeks to channel and draw upon ‘astral energy’.



chaptalisation – the process of adding sugar to unfermented grape must to increase the alcohol content. Named after the French chemist Jean-Antoine Chaptal. Permitted in general in the EU, but may be forbidden by particular country or regional rules.

cheese – a traditional accompaniment to wine.



DACdistrictus Austriae controllatus. An Austrian regional appellation, somewhat similar (in concept, if not details) to the French AOC.




élevage – the term for the process of development or maturation wine undergoes from the time of fermentation to bottling. This can include barrel-aging, blending of varietals, filtering, and so forth.


fining  – a process used to clarify and treat wine. A substance (such as albumen, or bentonite) is added to the wine, causing other substances, such as tannins or phenols, to precipitate out of the wine, which can then be removed. This clarifies the wine, but can also change the aroma, taste and mouth-feel of a wine.












KMWKlosterneuburger Mostwaage; Klosterneuburg Must Weight.  Austrian system for measuring sugar content in grape must, given in °KMW (degrees KMW).



Landwein – ‘Land wine’. The Austrian equivalent for a wine with protected geographical indication.

lees – the dead and residual yeast that precipitates out of the wine, and is usually removed. In some wines, and most notably in Champagne, the wine is left on the lees for some time, adding a toasty / bready element to the wine.



malolactic fermentation – a secondary fermentation undergone by red wines and some white ones that converts malic acid to lactic acid.  In white wines, malolactic fermentation usually yields a ‘buttery’ taste, as in fuller-bodied chardonnays.

must – the ‘raw’ grape juice, combined with the seeds, pulp, etc. that wine is fermented from.

must weight – an indication of the sugar content in grape must. Sugar content, in turn, is an indication of how alcoholic the final wine will be, if all the sugar were to be completely fermented to alcohol.



natural wine – an approach to wine that, while lacking an official definition, is organic in the vineyard, and advocates minimal to no intervention in the wine-making process. For example, natural (wild) yeast is used instead of commercial, cultured yeast, and fining and filtering is not carried out on the wine.



orange wine – wine made with grapes typically used for white wine, but in contrast to white wines, are left in contact with the skins, for weeks or even months.  This tends to give fuller body and more intense nose and palate. Although relatively new in terms of recognition, orange wine is actually a very old wine-making method.

organic – an agricultural practice that avoids the use of ‘artificial’ fertilizers, pesticides and so forth, relying instead on crop rotation, biodiversity, integrated pest management and ‘natural’ fertilizers and pesticides. What legally qualifies as ‘organic’ produce (including grapes) varies based on locality and regulations.

organoleptic – the properties of a food or drink experienced by the senses. For wine, this usually refers to aroma and taste, but also includes mouth-feel.



PDO – protected designation of origin. Category in EU food and wine regulations that indicates a traditional food or drink from a specific region.  Defined by the EU (in part) as ‘produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area, using recognized know-how.’  In wine, this category underlies the AOC and similar designations.

PGI – protected geographical indication. A lower category in EU food and wine regulations, defined by the EU (in part) as ‘agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area.’



Qualitätswein – ‘Quality wine’, wine in the German and Austrian wine classification systems that comes from a particular region, and meeting certain specifications in terms of must weight.



racking – the process of moving wine from one container (barrel, fermentation vat, etc.) to another. The purpose of racking is to separate wine from the lees. However, it also has other effects, as exposing the wine to some oxygenation, which can help soften tannins.

ripeness – In the vineyard, grape growers and wine makers try to balance two types of ripeness, physiological and sugar. Physiological (or phenolic) ripeness relates to the maturity of the grape in terms of skin, seeds and so forth. Physiological ripeness is related to flavour – a less ripe grape will give ‘greener’ flavours. Sugar ripeness is, as its name suggests, about the sugar levels in the grape. This in turn is related to both acidity and alcohol levels in the wine that results. The complicating factor is that while these two forms of ripeness are correlated, they aren’t directly linked.



sturm – The Austrian name (meaning ‘storm’) for semi-fermented wine, which is a cloudy, sweet, alcoholic drink drunk around the time of the grape harvest. YUM!  Sturm is known elsewhere in German-speaking areas under different names, such as Federweißer (among other things) in Germany itself. Brilliant stuff.



typicity – what a wine of a certain classification and region ‘should’ taste like. Failure to display typicity will probably result in a wine being denied a particular classification.







wild yeast – also known as ‘natural yeast’. The yeast found naturally growing on grapes in a vineyard. This can be used to ferment the must into wine, but tends to be a more unpredictable process than using cultured yeast.







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