French Wine Glossary

ABV: Abbreviation of alcohol by volume, generally listed on a wine label.

Acescence: Wine with a sharp, sweet-and-sour tang can be described as having acescence. The acescence characteristic frequently recalls a vinegary smell.

Anthocyanins: Chimical elements contained in the grapes skins wich give the color to the wine.

AOC or AOP: Abbreviation for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée or Appellation d’Origine Protégée, (English: Appellation of controlled origin), as specified under French law. The AOC laws specify and delimit the geography from which a particular wine (or other food product) may originate and methods by which it may be made. The regulations are administered by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO).

Aperitif: A wine that is either drunk by itself (i.e. without food) or before a meal in order to stimulate the appetite.

Appellation: A geographically delineated wine region.

Aromatic: A wine with very noticeable and distinctive aromas

Balthazar: A large bottle containing 12 litres, the equivalent of 16 regular wine bottles.

Ban de Vendange: The official start of the harvest season in France.

Barrique: The French name for a 225 litre Bordeaux style barrel (Bordeaux hogshead). Will yield 24 cases of 12 bottles each.

Biodynamic Viticulture: Like biodynamic agriculture in general, biodynamic grape-growing stems from the ideas and suggestions of Rudolf Steiner (1861.1925), which predate most of the organic movement. The principles and practices of biodynamics are based on his spiritual/practical philosophy which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.

Blind tasting: Tasting and evaluating wine without knowing what it is.

Bottle: A bottle is a small container with a neck that is narrower than the body and a “mouth.” Modern wine bottles are nearly always made of glass because it is nonporous, strong, and aesthetically pleasing.

Brawny: Taste descriptor for hefty, Herculean red wines usually young and full-bodied. The strength of brawny reds does not equate eloquence.

Breathing: The interaction between air and wine after a wine has been opened. Breathing may take place while the wine is decanting.

Capsule: The plastic or foil that covers the cork and part of the neck of a wine bottle.

Carbonic maceration: Whole, uncrushed grapes are fermented in a sealed vat containing a layer of carbon dioxide. This results in fruity, soft and distinct red wines. These wines have little tannin and are immediately drinkable. This is the method used throughout France’s Beaujolais region.

Cave: Place where the wine is stored. Traditionally built under the house to get freshness ( 12°C)

Cépage: French term for grape variety. When it appears on a wine label it will usually refer to the varietals used to make the wine.


A wine shed, or other storage place above ground, used for storing casks, common in Bordeaux. Usually different types of wine are kept in separate sheds.[2] The person in charge of vinification and ageing of all wine made at an estate, or the chais of a négociant, is titled a Maître de Chai.[3] The New World counterpart to the chai may be called the barrel hall.[4]

Champagne flute: A piece of stemware having a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl on top.

Chaptalization: The practice of adding sugar to the grape must prior to fermenting, to compensate for low sugar content in the grapes.

Château: Generally a winery in Bordeaux, although the term is sometimes used for wineries in other parts of the world, such as the Barossa Valley.

Clairet: A French term for a wine that falls between the range of a light red wine and a dark rosé

Claret: British name for Bordeaux wine. Is also a semi-generic term for a red wine in similar style to that of Bordeaux.

Coates Law of Maturity: A principle relating to the aging ability of wine that states that a wine will remain at its peak (or optimal) drinking quality for as long as it took to reach the point of maturity. For example, if a wine is drinking at its peak at 1 year of age, it will continue drinking at its peak for another year.

Commercial wine: A mass produce wine aimed for the wide market of wine drinkers made according to a set formula, year after year. These wines tend to emphasis broad appeal and easy drink-ability rather than terroir or craftsmanship.

Tire-bouchon: Corkscrew

Cordon training: A method of vine training. Unlike cane pruning where the trunk itself is the only permanent, inflexible piece of the vine, cordon trained vines have one or two woody arms extending from the top of the trunk. These are then spur pruned.

Côtes: French term for the hillside or slopes of one contiguous hill region.

Coteaux: French term for the hillside or slopes of a hill region that is not contiguous.

Country wine: A quality level intermediate between table wine and quality wine, which in France is known as vin de pays and in Italy as Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) . Also a synonym for Fruit wine.

Crémant: French sparkling wine not made in Champagne region.

Cru: A French term that literally means “growth”. May refer to a vineyard or a winery.

Cru Bourgeois: A classification of Bordeaux wine estates in the Medoc that were not part of the originally 1855 Bordeaux classification.

Cru Classé: A French term for an officially classified vineyard or winery.

Cuvaison: The French term for the period of time during alcoholic fermentation when the wine is in contact with the solid matter such as skin, pips, stalks, in order to extract colour, flavour and tannin.[5] See also maceration.

Cuvée: French term, meaning vat or tank. On wine labels it is used to denote wine of a specific blend or batch.

Cuverie: French term, along with cuvier that refers to the building or room where fermentation takes place. Essentially, the room, building, grange, barn, garage or shed, or other building, used for “making wine.” When the grapes are first picked, they arrive at the cuverie.

Debourbage: Refers to a process in which the must of a white wine is allowed to settle before racking off the wine, this process reduces the need for filtration or fining.

Decanting: The process of pouring wine from its bottle into a decanter to separate the sediment from the wine.

Dessert wine: Varies by region. In the UK, a very sweet, low alcohol wine. In the US by law, any wine containing over 15% alcohol.

Eau-de-Vie: French term for a grape-derived spirit such as brandy. Its literal translation is “water of life”

Egrappage: The French term for destemming. Destemming is removing stems prior to pressing and frementing the grapes and their juice. Stems have a significant amount of coarse and often green tannin undesirable in the finished wine.

Élevé en fûts de chêne: French phrase that may appear on wine labels to denote that the wine has been aged in oak barrels.

Élevage: French term that describes the historical role that negociants play in the winemaking process-roughly translating as “bringing up” or “raising” the wine. Traditionally negociants would buy ready made wines after fermentation, blend and then store the wine before bringing them to the market.

En primeur: A system commonly associated with Bordeaux wine where the previous year’s harvest is available for contract sales several months before the wine will be bottled and release.

Encépagement: French term for the proportion of grape varieties used in a blend.

Fine wine: The highest category of wine quality, representing only a very small percentage of worldwide production of wine.

Fortified wine: Wine to which alcohol has been added, generally to increase the concentration to a high enough level to prevent fermentation.

French Paradox: An 1991 episode of the American news program 60 Minutes that documented the low mortality rate from cardiovascular disease among the French who had a high-alcohol, high-cholesterol and low exercise lifestyle in contrast to the high mortality rate among Americans with a relatively lower cholesterol, low alcohol and more exercise lifestyle.

Fruit wine: A fermented alcoholic beverage made from non-grape fruit juice which may or may not include the addition of sugar or honey. Fruit wines are always called “something” wines (e.g., plum wine), since the word wine alone is often legally defined as a beverage made only from grapes

Grand cru: French term for a “Great growth” or vineyard. In Burgundy, the term is regulated to a define list of Grand cru vineyards.

Grand vin: French term most often associated with Bordeaux where it denotes a Chateau’s premier wine, or “first wine”. On a wine label, the word’sGrand vin may appear to help distinguish the wine from an estate’s second or third wine.

Horizontal wine tasting: A tasting of a group of wines from the same vintage or representing the same style of wine (such as all Pinot noirs from different wineries in a region), as opposed to a vertical tasting which involves of the same wine through different vintages. In a horizontal tasting, keeping wine variety or type and wine region the same helps emphasize differences in winery styles.

Jeroboam: A large bottle holding 3-5 litres, the equivalent of 4-6 regular wine bottles.

Late harvest wine: Also known as late picked, wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer than usual. Usually an indicator for a very sweet or dessert wine.

Lie: French term for the dead yeast and sediment of wine also known as lees.

Liquoreux: French term meaning “liqueur-like” used to describe dessert wine with a luscious, almost unctuous, quality.

Magnum: A bottle holding 1.5 litres, the equivalent of two regular wine bottles.

Methuselah: A large bottle holding six litres, the equivalent of eight regular wine bottles.

Mis en bouteille au château: French for “bottled at the winery”, usually in Bordeaux.

Moelleux: French term usually used to describe wines of mid level sweetness or liquoreux.

Mousse: The sparkling effervescence of a wine. In the glass it perceived as the bubbling but the surface of the glass can affect this perception. Premium quality sparkling wine has a mousse composed of small, persistent string of bubbles.

Nebuchadnezzar: A large bottle holding 15 litres, the equivalent of 20 regular wine bottles.

Négociant: French for “trader”. A wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name.

Noble rot: A fungal virus brought on by Botrytis cinerea that result in dehydrated and shriveled grapes that are high in concentrated sugar. Noble Rot grapes are an essential component of many Austrian and German wines.

Nose: The aroma or bouquet of a wine.

Oenophile: A wine aficionado or connoisseur.

Oenology: The study of aspects of wine and winemaking.

Organoleptic: A winetasting term for anything that affects one of the main senses such as smell. An example would be an affliction of the common coldor being in a room with someone wearing an overwhelming amount of perfum

Plan Bordeaux:A proposal for enhancing the economic status of the wine industry in Bordeaux.”.

Premium wines: A subjective term to describe a higher quality classification of wine above every day drinking table wines. While premium wines maybe very expensive there is no set price point that distinguishes when a wine becomes a “premium wine”. Premium wines generally have more aging potential than every day quaffing wines.

Punt: The indentation found in the base of a wine bottle. Punt depth is often thought to be related to wine quality, with better quality wines having a deeper punt.

Redox: A term describing the reductive-oxidative way that wine ages. As one part gains oxygen and becomes oxidized, another part loses oxygen and becomes reduced. Early in its life, a wine will exhibit oxidative aromas and traits due to the relatively recent influence and exposure of oxygen when the wine was barrel aged and/or bottled. As the wine ages and is shut off from a supply of oxygen in the bottle, a mature wine will develop reductive characteristics.

Rehoboam:A large bottle holding 4.5 litres, the equivalent of six regular wine bottles.

Reserve:A term given to wine to indicate that it is of higher quality than usual.

Sack:An early English term for what is now called Sherry.

Salmanazar: A large bottle holding nine litres, the equivalent of 12 regular wine bottles.

Selection de grains nobles: A sweet botrytized wine made in the French region of Loire Valley

Semi-generic: Wines made in the United States but named after places that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau require be modified by a US name of geographic origin. Examples would be New York Chablis, Napa Valley Burgundy or California Champagne.

Sommelier: A wine expert who often works in restaurants.

Soutirage: French term for racking.

Sparkling wine: Effervescent wine containing significant levels of carbon dioxide.

Split: A wine bottle that holds approximately 6 oz (175-187 mL) or one-fourth the equivalent of a typical 750 mL bottle; a single-serving.

Tastevin: A silver, shallow cup used for tasting wine.

Typicity: A term used to describe how well a wine reflects the characteristics of its grape variety and terroir

Ullage: The space between the wine and the top of a wine bottle. As a wine ages, the space of ullage will increase as the wine gradually evaporates and seeps through the cork. The winemaking term of “ullage” refers to the practice of topping off a barrel with extra wine to prevent oxidation.

Unctuous: Said of a wine that has layers of soft, concentrated, velvety fruits. Unctuous wines are lush, rich, and intense.

Vendange tardive: French term denoting a late harvest wine.

Vertical wine tasting: In a vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery are tasted, such as a winery’s Pinot Noir from five different years. This emphasizes differences between various vintages for a specific wine. In a horizontal tasting, the wines are all from the same vintage but are from different wineries or microclimates.

Vieilles vignes: Literally “old vines” in French, sometimes written as an acronym V.V. It’s used for vines trunks which are more than 40 years old.

Vigneron: French for vine grower.

Vignoble: French term for a “vineyard”

Vinous: A term used to denoting anything relating to wine.

Vintage: Vintage is the process of picking grapes and creating the finished product. A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year.

Wine: An alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of unmodified grape juice.

Wine cave: A subterranean structure for storing and aging wine.

Wine label: The descriptive sticker or signage adhered to the side of a wine bottle.

Wine lake: Refers to the continuing surplus of wine over demand (glut) being produced in the European Union.

Wine tasting: The sensory evaluation of wine, encompassing more than taste, but also mouthfeel, aroma, and colour.

Xylem: The woody tissue of a vine, inside of the vascular cambium layer, that includes heartwood and sapwood, which transports water and nutrients from the roots towards the leaves.

Yeast: A micro-organism present on the skins of grapes that reacts with the sugars inside and results in the production of ethyl alcohol during a process called fermentation.

Yield: A measure of the amount of grapes or wine produced per unit surface of vineyard.

Zymology: The science of fermentation in wine