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Glossary

A B C D F G H I L M N O P R S T U V W Z

    ABV (Alcohol by volume)

    Alcohol by volume (ABV) is the measure of an alcoholic beverage’s alcohol content. Wines may have alcohol content from 4% ABV to 18% ABV; however, wines’ typical alcohol content ranges from 12.5% to 14.5% ABV. You can find a particular wine’s alcohol content by checking the label. 


    Acidity

    The acidity of wine may be described in different ways.  Tartness, sourness, crispness, and freshness are some of the common words used to indicate perceived acidity in wines.  Acidity may be measured in two ways.  There’s Total Acidity or TA, which refers to the total percentage of acid in wine (grams per 100 ml).  There is also the pH level, an indicator of the strength of acidity.

    Acidity plays a crucial role in winemaking.  Apart from giving wines a fresh taste, acidity gives wine balance and helps stabilize its color.  The acids in wine also act as natural preservatives and are particularly important during fermentation as high acidity helps inhibit the growth of bacteria that could spoil wine.

    Wine contains different types of acids including tartaric acid, malic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, and acetic acid.  The tartaric and malic acids come from the wine grapes.  The citric acid is generally a commercial additive; wine grapes have very low citric acid content.  Acetic acid is a natural result of yeast fermentation; too much of it leads to the vinegar fault in wines.  Lactic acid is the result of malolactic fermentation in wines and comes from malic acid.

    Wine grapes have different levels of acidity, depending on the wine grape variety (some grapes have naturally high acidity) and the vineyard location (cooler climates mean grapes with higher acidity).

    Aeration

    Aeration is letting wine breathe or letting wine have contact with surrounding air.  Aeration is particularly useful for young, closed-up red wines.  Aeration mellows out and opens up wine.  It softens up the wine's tannins; it alters the chemical compounds in wine and thus affects the perception of tannins.  In sum, aeration helps make tannins seem softer than they are.

    Aeration lets closed-up tannins resolve into more complex aromas.  Through it, inert gases trapped inside the bottle can escape, and carbon dioxide that could be masking the wine’s aromas is removed.

    The length of aeration time required depends on the wine.  Young wines with closed-up, big tannins benefit from at least an hour of aeration, while old wines only need a few minutes.  To aerate closed-up wine, pour the wine into a decanter, carafe or any wide-mouthed container (the wide mouth is necessary to ensure maximum contact with air) and let it sit there for an hour or two.

    The slam dunk decanting method is a particularly useful method of aerating young, closed-up reds with big tannins.  For more information on the slam dunk decanting method, read the post entitled “How to Decant Wine.”

    Aging on lees

    See Sur lie.

    Aglianico

    Aglianico is a dry-climate, late-ripening, highly tannic, highly acidic, black grape variety that thrives in Italy, particularly at the southern Italian regions of Campania and Basilicata.  It is not native to Italy but was brought to the country by settlers from Greece.  Until the fifteenth century when it got its current name, the Aglianico was known as “Ellenico.”  Ellenico is Italian for “Hellenic,” one of the three epochs of ancient Greek art.  It is also generally used as a synonym for “Greek,” indicating that before the 15th century, the Italians were simply calling the Aglianico the “Greek” vine.

    Aglianico grapes are grown and used for winemaking in the Italian provinces of Avellino (particularly in and around the village Taurasi), Benevento, Potenza (particularly in and around the town of Potenza), Matera (specifically in and around the town of Matera), and Salerno.  They are also found in other parts of the world like the United States (California) and Australia.

    Taurasi, Aglianico de Vulture, Aglianico del Taburno, and Falerno del Massico are some of the most well known Italian wines made from Aglianico grapes.

    AOC

    Appellation d’origine controlée


    Appellation

    In the wine industry, an appellation is a distinct, geographically delineated vine-growing and wine-producing area.  The Champagne AOC is an example.

    The appellation classifies wines according to the origin of the grapes used in winemaking.  This distinction is important because of the influence of terroir on grape and (therefore) wine quality.  To put it simply, Chardonnay grapes grown in Champagne, France and Chardonnay grapes grown in Napa Valley, USA are believed to be different.  Consequently, Chardonnay wine from Napa Valley is expected to have different characteristics from Chardonnay wine from Champagne.

    Terroir is not the only source of the differences among wines from different appellations, however.  Specific appellations also have strict winemaking and viticultural regulations that winemakers in the area need to follow if they want the appellation's name on their wines’ labels.  For instance, sparkling wine from the Champagne wine region can only be called Champagne if it was made through methode Champenoise using appellation-approved grapes grown, trained and pruned using appellation-approved vine growing methods.

    Thus, sparkling wine made from Champagne-grown Chardonnay grapes harvested from vines that had been pruned using the Vallee de la Marne system cannot be called Champagne wine.  Appellation rules dictate that the Vallee de la Marne system of vine training be used only on Pinot Meunier vines.

    Arbane

    Arbane (also known as Arbanne) is one of the grape varieties permitted in the Champagne wine region. This grape variety has distinct, jagged-edged leaves. It also bears green-skinned, loosely bunched berries. Arbane grapes are also characterized by their liveliness, effervescence, tartness, and finesse. Arbane is rare and commonly cultivated even in the Champagne wine region. This grape is highly susceptible to disease and very sensitive to growing conditions. It also has an extremely lengthy growing season and unpredictable yields. It is due to Arbane’s scarcity that Arbane is used mainly as a minor blending grape rather than a principal blending component in Champagne. For example, Drappier produces a non-vintage, four-cuvee Champagne from four grape varieties; each of the four grapes, including Arbane, makes up an equal portion (25%) of this wine. Moutard, however, is an exception. This winemaker makes 100% Arbane varietal wine known as the Champagne Vieilles Vignes Arbane.


    Arneis

    Arneis is a grape variety from Piedmont, Italy. Literally “little rascal” in Piedmontese, Arneis is a difficult vine to grow and handle. Some of the problems associated with Arneis include its low acidity, its tendency to become overripe quickly, its susceptibility to powdery mildew, its low productivity, and its tendency to oxidize quickly. These problems have led to the decimation of the original Arneis vine population. Arneis is important in Piemonte, particularly in Roero and Langhe. In the Roero DOC, it is made into 100% Arneis varietal white wine (the Roero Arneis) and used as a blending grape (2-5%) in red wines. Arneis’ value as a blending grape lies in its aromatic characteristics. Arneis wines typically present the aromas of almonds, peaches, pears and apricots. Arneis is mainly used in the production of dry white wine styles, although it is also used in making passito wine (straw wine). Currently, Arneis vines can be found not only in Italy but also in California, Australia and New Zealand.

    Aroma

    Aroma is the term wine professionals use to refer to a wine’s smell. Aroma can be perceived in two ways – by sniffing and by sipping. In the latter case, contact with body heat releases more aromas from wines, and such aromas are perceived retronasally (or through the retro-olfactory process). There are three major classifications of aromas: varietal aroma (primary aroma), vinous aroma (secondary aroma) and tertiary aroma. Note, however, that when wine professionals talk about “wine aromas,” they are referring only to the first two classifications. The third type is referred to as the wine’s bouquet. For more information on wine aromas, please read the post, “Wine Aromas vs. Wine Bouquet: What is the difference?


    Arvine

    Arvine is a grape variety that is native to Valais, Switzerland.  The present-day Arvine is believed to be a descendant of ancient vines that the Romans initially brought to Switzerland.  It has three variants:  the Grande Arvine (Grande ou Grosse Arvine), the Little Arvine (Petite Arvine) and the Brown Arvine (Arvine Brune). Petite Arvine is the most popular among them; the Petite Arvine alone is still being used in Valais to make wine.  Grande Arvine bears large berries, thus its name.  Grand Arvine wines tend to be intense, heavy and bitter.  Brown Arvine owes its name from its brown branches.  Arvine Brune wines, like Grande Arvine wines, lack harmony and finesse.  It is for these reasons that the cultivation of Grande ou Grosse Arvine and Arvine Brune has been largely abandoned in Valais.  For more information about Petite Arvine, please check the separate entry for this grape variety.

    AVA

    American Viticultural Area. This is the american version of the French AOC.


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