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Wine Dictionary Terms: A Wine Glossary to Learn Wine Terminology: Wine Terms - A


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Acetaldehyde
Primary flavor component of Flor Sherry. A particularly mean, chemical-smelling, fruity liquid found on the shelves of organic chemistry laboratories, and never to be opened. Pure acetaldehyde has a sickening-sweetish-perfumey odor that is better left under the cap. One smell gives me an instant headache just behind my right eye which doesn't go away for hours.

Acetic Acid
Chemical name for the major component of vinegar. Acetic acid is produced in wine from alcohol by acetic acid bacteria in the presence of air. Acetic acid is the major volatile acid that occurs in foods, and its presence is usually considered to be evidence of bacterial spoilage. The taste and flavor is quite fruity and, to be fair, it must be admitted that small amounts of acetic acid and its esters are natural flavor components of a great many fruits and fruit juices.

Acidity
The sour or tart taste in wine and other food. The primary natural acid in grapes and wine is Tartaric acid; the second most abundant is Malic acid. Acidity contributes to the keeping ability of fine wine.

Aftertaste
The "shadow taste" remaining in your mouth just after swallowing a sip of wine. Important in wine tasting because it can reveal an extra attribute or fault which might not otherwise be obvious.

Aging
Term describing the storing of wine under certain specific conditions for the purpose of improving the wine. Aging of wines (usually red wines) for long periods in oak barrels adds oak-flavor and makes the wine more complex. Aging of wines (either red or white) in bottles develops a pleasing taste and odor characteristic called "bottle bouquet."

Alcohol
the sine qua non of wine, its affects run from the obvious to the not so obvious. Alcohol doesn't just provide the kick it gives texture ("body"), flavor (roundness and sweetness) and vinosity (makes it smell and taste like wine) as well as providing balance and a certain chemical and physical stability to wines. The primary alcohol is known as ethyl alcohol or ethanol, but there are dozens of other so-called "higher" alcohols which though in minute quanitites provide hundreds of flavors.

Aleatico
A wine grape usually used for sweet dessert wines because of its pungent, Muscat-like flavor. Some Italian Vin Santos are made from this variety.

Alicante Bouchet
A red wine grape, originally from Spain, used in France's Burgundy region to add color to Burgundy blends. Also used in central California for table wines, although these are generally of lower quality and price.

Aligote
A white wine grape used in various blends in many countries but best known for its fruity, light wines from Burgundy in France.

Alsace
One of the more famous of European wine regions, located in eastern France, on the border with Germany. Visitors to Alsace notice street signs which were obviously translated between French and German more than once. Indeed, the region historically has belonged to whichever nation won the most recent war. The wines of Alsace today are of very high quality, invariably white and produced only from noble varieties. These include Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, and Muscat. The wine town of Colmar is the commercial hub of the region.

Amontillado
One of the major types of sherry from Spain. It has bigger body, with more color and flavor than Fino, and can be equally dry, or somewhat sweet.

Aperitif wine
Any wine served before a meal. Traditionally, aperitifs were vermouths or other similar wines flavored with herbs and spices.

Appearance
A term used in sensory evaluation of wine to describe whether a wine is crystal clear (brilliant), cloudy, or contains sediment. It has nothing to do with the color of a wine.

Appellation
Term used around the world to define the vineyard location where the grapes were grown for a specific wine. In the U.S. a wine whose label states "Napa County" (the appellation) must have been made at least 85 percent from grapes that were grown in Napa County.

Appellation controlee (AC/AOC)
French wine laws that dictate which varieties can be planted and which production methods can be used in specific wine regions. These tight controls are not a guarantee of quality, unfortunately.

Appellation d'Origine Controlle
A series of laws, born in France early in the twentieth century which have brought order out of the chaos which existed in the wine industry before that time. These laws control virtually everything related to the growth and production of wine in a given region. For example, the region's boundaries are specified as well as the permitted grape varieties which may be used, the maximum tonnage, minimum grape ripeness (eventual alcohol content), viticultural and vinicultural practices allowed and labelling rules. Any wine labelled with a given Appellation must comply with all the various regulations defining that appellation's wines. The "AOC," as it is called, guarantees to the consumer that rigid growing and winemaking rules are followed and, therefore, allows the consumer to know what he is buying. All wine producing countries of the world now have their own versions of AOC laws.

Aramon
A European wine grape best known not for its wine quality but for its original use as a parent in producing the hybrid rootstock AXR-1. AXR-1 was the predominately used rootstock in California's coastal counties during the middle 1900's until a new biotype of the Phylloxera root aphid defeated it in the late 1980's. AXR-1 is no longer recommended for planting in California, and never was recommended in Europe. The Aramon, however, is grown in southern France, producing ordinary wines.

Armagnac
A district in southwestern France which is known, not for the grapes which are grown for table wine, but those grown for distilling into brandy. The brandy produced is called Armagnac (in addition to its brand, or shipper's name). Although Cognac and Armagnac are produced by identical processes, the styles and qualities offen differ. Armagnacs often seem rougher and not so smooth as equivalently priced Cognacs. Perhaps it is the soil and climate differences, perhaps the blending.

Armillaria
A soil fungus, harbored by oak roots which is particularly devastating to grape vines. If a grower plants new vineyard in a field which had previously held oak trees, he must fumigate the soil prior to planting, lest the residual Armillaria (Oakroot Fungus) kill his new vines within a year or two!

Aroma
that portion of the smell of a wine derived specifically from the grape variety,such as Cabernet-Sauvignon or Chardonnay, as opposed to that portion of the smell derived from other sources (see Bouquet).

Astringency
Sensation of taste, caused by tannins in wine, which is best described as mouth-drying, bitter, or puckery.

Auslese
German word meaning "selection." In German wine law, auslese has a specific meaning which requires that the wine be made only from selected bunches of grapes with a sugar content of between 20% and 25%. These grapes are often infected with Botrytis Cinerea (noble rot) which tends to further intensify the sugars and flavors and thus it's quality. This sweet wine is often categorized as a dessert wine.

Austere
the more prestigious châteaux wines of PauiIlac and St. Julien are sometimes referred to thusly. It implies a sensation of pleasant bitterness from Tannins. Think of crisp lemonade as opposed to cola or country well water as opposed to soft tap water. Beaujolais, Lietfraumilch, or most American Jug wines would not be considered austere.