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California Reds
Wine Glossary M-R

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The process of soaking the skins of red grapes in their juice to dissolve the skin's color, tannin and other substances into the juice.

Average, overall weather conditions in a wine-growing region, such as Napa Valley, California, or Champagne, France.

A red grape varietal known as L'Etranger in France, where it is generally used as a blending grape. In Argentina and California, it is sometimes made as a varietal wine. Malbec grapes are very large for wine grapes, and are delicious as table grapes.

Malic acid   
The organic acid found in apples, grapes and wine. Malic acid is converted to lactic acid during malolactic fermentation.

Malolactic fermentation   
A bacterial fermentation that converts harsh malic acid into softer lactic acid and carbon dioxide. Performed on all red wines to increase stability, and performed on some white wines to increase complexity and add the buttery component diacetyl.

A very light, refreshing sherry from San Lucar de Barrameda in Spain, named for its apple-like characteristic.

In wine, the integration of the components of blended grapes or wines or of additions to wine, such as dosage or sulfur dioxide, to form a more pleasing combination.

The aging period at the winery during which the wine evolves to a state of readiness for bottling. Also the ongoing development of fine wines during a period of bottle aging.

A wine that has reached its optimum point during aging, and exhibits a pleasing combination of aromas, flavors and bouquet.

A term to indicate slight sweetness in wines that are not quite dry.

Medium sweet   
A term to indicate the perceived level of sweetness in wines that are not fully sweet.

Fine red wine grape widely planted in Bordeaux and California. Often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.

The unique climate of a subsection of a wine region.

Methode Champenoise
The bottle-fermentation method of making Champagne and other sparkling wines that are released for sale in the same bottle in which the secondary fermentation took place.

The climate in and around the grapevine's canopy.


Exhibiting aromas or flavors that suggest minerals.

Grapes, containers or corks that have developed mold transmit this "off" odor to the wine they contact.

The juice and pulp produced by crushing or pressing grapes. Used until the end of fermentation, when it is then called wine.

A wine lacking distinctive or recognizable flavor and/or odor. A common descriptor of ordinary blended wines.

New oak

A term used to indicate barrels that are brand new.

Noble rot
See Botrytis cinerea

Exhibiting aromas or flavors that suggest nuts, desirable in dessert or aperitif wines such as sherry.

Toasty, smoky or vanilla smells and flavors contributed by the oak during barrel aging.

Sensations caused by the volatile components of wines, including aroma, bouquet and "off" odors.


Very slightly sweet.

Off flavors
Undesirable odors perceived by the mouth.

Off odors

Undesirable odors perceived by the nose from a variety of possible sources.

Old vines

An unregulated term for grape vines whose fruit quality is presumably good because the vines are old and produce little crop.

A general breakdown of wine kept too long in cooperage or bottle; oxidized.

The changes in wine caused by exposure to air.

Wine changed by contact with air, usually producing undesirable color and flavors; over-aged.

A term used as a synonym for "mouth," or to refer to the characteristics of a wine that manifest in the taster's mouth.

Having aromas or flavors that suggest fuel.

The measure of acid strength; the lower the pH, the higher the acid strength.

A parasite louse that feeds on the roots of vitis vinifera grape vines, resulting in the vines' death.

Pinot Noir

A red wine grape that is the basis of the famous wines of Burgundy, France. Also widely planted in California's cooler growing regions and Oregon and Washington.

Showing aromas or flavors that suggest ripe plums.

A textural descriptor for wines that feel luxurious in the mouth.

A complex group of organic chemicals that includes wine's tannins.

The solid residue left after pressing, made up of skins and seeds.

A fortified dessert wine made in several styles. Authentic port is from the Douro River Valley of Portugal.

Potassium bitartrate

The crystals that sometimes precipitate in bottled wine, but which are normally removed by cold-stabilization. Made of the same compounds as Cream of Tartar.

A descriptor that indicates an impression of strength and intensity.

In methode Champenoise, refers to the first batch or press juices collected after the free-run juice.

To exert pressure on grapes or must to extract their juices; also the mechanical device used to do this.

Press juice

The juice obtained by pressing, as opposed to free-run juice.

A descriptor indicating a wine that is attractive for its delicacy and finesse.

Primary aromas
Fresh aromas in wine that derive from the varietal used to make the wine.

Prise de Mousse
A French term for the second fermentation of methode Champenoise, executed in the bottles in which the wine is sold. Literally, "catch the foam."

The tactile sensation of highly tannic wines; astringent.

The flesh of the grape (or other fruit).

Pump over
To circulate fermenting juice of red wines from the bottom of the tank over the skin cap that forms during fermentation to ensure optimal extraction and prevent bacterial spoilage.

Punch down
To push the skin cap down into the fermenting juice to ensure optimal extraction and prevent bacterial spoilage.

Larger oak barrels, usually 135 gallons.

The indentation in the bottom of some wine bottles.

The degree of excellence of a wine, often judged by complexity, harmony and intensity.

Pumping wine from one container to another to clarify it by leaving the sediment behind.

An instrument to estimate the sugar content of grape juice by measuring the bending of light passing through it.

A geographical area less specific than a district, but more specific than a country.

A Spanish red wine from Rioja that is aged at least 1 year in barrel and 2 years in bottle before release.

Reserve wine
In methode Champenoise, wine that is held to be blended into the cuvees of future vintages.

Residual sugar
Sugar remaining in the wine after fermentation, often referred to by winemakers as "RS".

A descriptor of wines that offer an abundance of flavor, texture or other sensory perceptions.

In methode Champenoise, turning bottles of sparkling wine to collect the sediment on the closure for removal during disgorging.

A descriptor for wines that seem neither flat nor angular, related to the wine's structure.

The astringent sensation in the mouth.

A general style of red port wines that encompasses character ports, vintage port, young ruby ports, and others. All are rather sweet.

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