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Wine Glossary and Trivia 


Acidity – one of the five basic elements of wine; refers to the tartness of the wine resulting from the fruit acids in the grapes.  Acid stabilizes wine and brings out its flavor and character by balancing the sugars.  Acid also interacts with food to enchance flavors and counterbalance spiciness.

Alcohol – another of the five basic elements of wine, alcohol is a byproduct of the fermentation process.  Most wines are between seven and fifteen percent alcohol.  Alcohol affects the flavor of the wine and must be in balance with the other elements.

Aging – the process by which wine oxidizes (reacts to oxygen) at a slow rate.  Too much oxidization can spoil the wine.

AVA (American Viticultural Area) – a region with unique grape growing conditions, soil, and climate which is recognized by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Appellation – basically synonymous with A.V.A., but can also be used to describe a unique region that is not legally recognized.

Astringent – a puckering or drying effect that is created by the tannins in wine.

Balance – a balanced wine is one in which all five major elements are in proper relation to one another.  No single element should dominate; all the elements should complement one another.

Blending – mixing two or more wines to create a more pleasing blend.  However, not all wines with more than one grape variety are blends.  Sometimes the grapes are crushed and fermented together to create a mix that is not considered a blend.

Body – the substance or feel of the wine, or the perception of weight on the palate.  Fully body is desirable in reds but not in lighter white wines.

Bouquet – the aroma of mature wine.  It should indicate the wine’s grape variety, origin, age, and quality.

Brix – a measure of the sugar content in the grapes that is used to estimate what the alcohol content of resulting wine would be.  Higher sugar means a higher resulting alcohol content.

Complexity – harmonious flavors and aromas which complement the overall balance of the wine.

Decant – to carefully pour an aged wine from the bottle into a decanter, to avoid stirring up the sediment and clouding the wine.

Dry – a wine that is not sweet (has little or no residual sugar). “Off dry” means the wine has a small amount of residual sugar.

Finish – also called aftertaste, this is the flavor left in your mouth after swallowing or tasting.  The finish of a good wine may be described with terms like long, smooth, or rich.

Flat – a wine that lacks proper acid and is dull or flavorless.

Fortified – wines to which brandy or other spirits have been added.  Fortification stabilizes the wine and prevents further fermentation.

Free Run – juice from the crushed grapes before pressing.

Ice Wine – wine that is made from grapes which have frozen on the vine.

Late Harvest – wine made from grapes picked after the usual harvest date.  These grapes will have a higher sugar content due to their increased time on the vine, so late harvest wines are usually sweeter.

Lees – spent yeast and grape solids that have settled to the bottom of the tank or barrel.

Malolactic Fermentation – secondary fermentation that converts malic acid into lactic acid.  This softens the wine by reducing overall acidity.

Microclimates – localized climate conditions that affect the quality and character of the grapes and the wine they produce.  For example, a particular slope or valley.

Must – crushed grapes and/or their juice, ready to be fermented or in the process of being fermented.

Noble – indicates inherited status and quality in grapes and wines.  A noble grape variety produces good wine almost wherever it’s planted.  A noble wine is one which is easily recognized as superb.

Noble Rot – a beneficial fungus mold (botrytis cinerea) that attacks certain ripe grapes.  It perforates the skin, shrivels the grapes, and concentrates the sugars and flavors.

Nose – overall fragrance of the wine.

Oxidation – the process that occurs when wine is exposed to air.  Too much oxidation, through faulty winemaking or a leaky barrel or cork, can prematurely age the wine, or can cause it to lose its freshness.

Phylloxera – a [est that attacks the roots of grape vines, weakening and eventually killing them.  Grape vines native to North America are immune to phylloxera, so grafting onto native American rootstock avoids the deadly pest. 

Pomace – spent skins and solids left after the juice has been pressed; usually returned to the vineyard as fertilizer.

Racking – a method of clarifying wine by moving it from one container to another, leaving any sediment behind.

Residual Sugar – sugar remaining after fermentation.

Sediment – natural deposit or residue in red wine that accumulates in the bottle during the aging process.  Sediment can add body and complexity to a wine, but should be removed through decanting before you drink the wine.

Sparkling wine – bubbly or “carbonated” wine resulting from trapped carbon dioxide gas which is created during the fermentation process.  Sparkling wine is commonly referred to as “champagne”, but technically the term “Champagne” can only be applied to sparkling wine which is made in the Champagne region in France.

Sugar – occurs naturally in grapes and is intensified by the growing and ripening process.  The higher the sugar content, the higher the potential alcohol content of the wine.

Tannins – naturally occurring compounds in grape skins, seeds, stems, and barrel oak.  Tannins taste astringent (make your mouth pucker), work as a natural preservative during the aging process, and give red wines much of their character.

Terroir – (Tair-wahr) French for “soil”; implies that the soil and other characteristics from a vineyard or microclimate imbue its grapes with a unique taste and character.  Terroir is the sum total of all the things the winemaker cannot change or affect.

Varietal Wine – wine that takes its name from the grape variety from which it is made.

Viniculture – the science and study of winemaking.

Vinifera – traditional wine grapes of the Old World, many of which have been successfully transplanted to the New World, and produce our best wines.  There are many varieties of the species vitis vinifera.

Viticulture – the science and study of grape growing.

Vintage – the harvest of grapes and the year of harvest.  If a vintage date is given on a bottle, it refers to the year the grapes were harvested, not the year the wine was bottled.

Yeasts - tiny, single celled fungi which feed on grape sugars, create alcohol (with the help of enzymes), and release carbon dioxide.  The winemaker selects the type of yeast carefully, since yeasts can vary in quality and flavor.  When the yeast cells run out of food, the fermentation process ends, and the spent yeast settles to the bottom of the barrel.

History of wine bottles


The first winemakers in Egypt stored wine in clay bottles sealed with wax, resin, or cork. The Romans invented glass blowing, and discovered that glass bottles were better for storing wine since they didn’t affect the flavor, and you could easily see the contents of the bottle.  By the 17th century, glass blowing techniques had developed enough that standard size bottles could be made, and easily fitted with cork stoppers.


Wine Trivia


  • One ton of wine grapes can produce 178 gallons of juice
  • The average U.S. adult consumes 2.5 gallons of wine per year
  • Washington State ranks second in the nation in wine production
  • There are more than 450 wineries in Washington, with more being added every year
  • Wine production contributes $3 billion to the state’s economy each year
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