The Wicklow Wine Company

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Welcome to our Wine 101

Whether you’re just getting started with wine or work in the industry, this page contains many useful resources that will round out your wine knowledge. Let’s get started!

Wine Basics

Most wine is made with grapes, but they’re not like the ones you find in the grocery store. Wine grapes (latin name: Vitis vinifera) are smaller, sweeter, have thick skins, and contain seeds. There are over 1,300 wine grape varieties used in commercial production but only about 100 of these varieties make up 75% of the world’s vineyards. 

Find out more about the basics of wine (and which ones to try) in the following sections:

Wine knowledge

Wine and Food
pairing guide

Wine label guide

Price guide

Wine words

Wine and Food Pairings

There is only one rule for pairing wine with food: Drink whatever wine you enjoy drinking with whatever food you have chosen to eat. While we realize this probably contradicts what you have heard about pairing wine with food, so let us explain.

Over the past few decades the emphasis on black and white rules that dictate that only certain colors or styles of wine can go with certain kinds of food has gotten out of control. This pressure has caused unneeded anxiety among wine drinkers, when the reality is that many of the food pairing rules we have been told are so important, such as you should only drink white wine with fish, are actually bollocks. So, out with the old wine and food pairing guide, and in with something easy that will work for you.

Drinking wine should always come with no judgments.

So the traditional thought process goes, we’re not supposed to pair something like fish with a red wine, because a red will dominate the delicacy of the fish. But in fact, people have proven that what we might consider an overpowering red, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot, can actually be just as pleasurable to drink while eating the fish as a white wine. It all depends on what the flavors are in the dish and how everything plays off each other.


The pressure we experience to pair wine with food comes from nostalgia. We are so ingrained to believe that red wine must go with meat and white wine must go with fish, that for many of us, it’s hard to break this habit, and that’s ok too. If you enjoy the process of pairing wine this way, by all means ignore our advice. As we always say, wine is about your experience, not anyone else’s.

However, if you find the revelation liberating that many different colors of wine can go with food depending on its flavors, but still want a model for selecting wine, we suggest selecting wine based on things like the people you’re going to be drinking with, why you’re drinking with them, and the season.

Wine and Food Pairings

There is only one rule for pairing wine with food: Drink whatever wine you enjoy drinking with whatever food you have chosen to eat. While we realize this probably contradicts what you have heard about pairing wine with food, so let us explain.

Over the past few decades the emphasis on black and white rules that dictate that only certain colors or styles of wine can go with certain kinds of food has gotten out of control. This pressure has caused unneeded anxiety among wine drinkers, when the reality is that many of the food pairing rules we have been told are so important, such as you should only drink white wine with fish, are actually bollocks. So, out with the old wine and food pairing guide, and in with something easy that will work for you.

Drinking wine should always come with no judgments.

So the traditional thought process goes, we’re not supposed to pair something like fish with a red wine, because a red will dominate the delicacy of the fish. But in fact, people have proven that what we might consider an overpowering red, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot, can actually be just as pleasurable to drink while eating the fish as a white wine. It all depends on what the flavors are in the dish and how everything plays off each other.

wine and food pairing wine 101
The pressure we experience to pair wine with food comes from nostalgia. We are so ingrained to believe that red wine must go with meat and white wine must go with fish, that for many of us, it’s hard to break this habit, and that’s ok too. If you enjoy the process of pairing wine this way, by all means ignore our advice. As we always say, wine is about your experience, not anyone else’s.

However, if you find the revelation liberating that many different colors of wine can go with food depending on its flavours, but still want a model for selecting wine, we suggest selecting wine based on things like the people you’re going to be drinking with, why you’re drinking with them, and the season.

Types of Wine labels

Wines labeled by grape variety

When you see a wine labeled with “grape” words like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, then it’s labeled by grape variety. There are hundreds (actually, thousands) of different wine varieties and it’s possible to label a wine with more than one grape.

Wine labeled by variety doesn’t guarantee that the wine is 100% of the listed variety. Each country has their own set of minimum requirements to label wine by variety which is most of the time between 80-85%.

 

Wines labeled by region

(aka “vin de terroir”) Wines like Bordeaux, Chablis, Chianti, Sancerre, and Rioja are labeled by region. This style of labeling is used mostly in old world wine countries (Europe). Regional labeling likely came from a time when many different varieties grew together in the same vineyards and were blended together into wine.

Each wine region dictates what grapes can be used in the regional wine. So, in order to know what’s inside one of these regionally labeled wines, you’ll want to do a little research. For example, Chablis in France grows Chardonnay, and Chianti in Italy specializes in Sangiovese.

 

Wines labeled by Name

The last common style of wine labeling includes wines using a made-up or fantasy name. More often than not, named wines are unique blends invented by the wine producer. You’ll also find named wines common in regions that do not allow the use of certain grapes in their regional wine (but still grow them). For example, Tuscan wines made with French-origin grapes including Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet are not allowed to be labeled as an Italian regional wine. (This is how the first Super Tuscan wines came to be!)

Named wines are often blends or unusual wines that don’t fit the wine laws of a particular region. In most cases, you’ll find the unique details about the wine on the winery’s website.

 

Price Guide

How much should we expect to spend on decent wine? In our estimation the average price of a good quality wine is in between €15-€20. That doesn’t mean you can’t find quality wines for under €15 or even less than a €10 sometimes. You need to keep your eyes open and ask for advice from your local wine merchant, taste before you buy if you can get a chance with them. Here at The Wicklow Wine Company we are able to show you a wide selection of wines under €15 you can try and decide you like it or not and make your purchase than. Our Coravin system helps you to taste almost anything from our portfolio.

Cheap wine

Cost: €10-15

The first step up from the baseline are value wines. On the lower side of the value spectrum are the wines that usually have a dollop of residual sugar to make them more palatable. On the higher side of the value spectrum is where you’ll find the beginnings of quality. The higher tier value wines are mostly from large, well-known wineries that focus on good baseline quality wine for everyday drinking. There are also a few wines from economically depressed wine regions or made from esoteric varieties such as Greek Agiorgitiko or French Carignan. Many value wines are varietal wines from single vintages with grapes sourced from larger regions.

Good wine

Cost: €15–20

This is the sweet spot for most wine buyers. You can find quite a number of decent varietal wines from good large-production wineries. In our opinion, the good wines within this category show the beginnings of typicity in wine (e.g. “a Cabernet Sauvignon that tastes like Cabernet Sauvignon” etc) and are labeled with a slightly more focused region (e.g. Burgundy vs Bordeaux). Unoaked white wines are generally higher quality at this price point than red wines because oak barrels cost money and red wine grapes typically cost more per ton (save for Chardonnay).

Ka’Mancine Beragna – one of The Wicklow Wine Company’s  direct import from Liguria. Very rare grape variety, Rossese.

High quality wine

Cost: €20–30

Wines with identity, character and attention to show the terroir the grow. The premium wine category seem to be the true start of high quality wine production. There will be some exceptional finds with high ratings in this category (particularly on good vintages) and you’ll find more wines from focused regions (e.g.Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Tuscany, etc ). Most of the varieties used to make these exceptional wines have great ageing potential, ideal choices for someone who’s looking for that special bottle to open up on that special occasion to share the experience with friends, family or with some other wine enthusiasts.

Premium wine

Cost: €30–60

Exceptional quality, excellent-tasting, cellar-worthy wines from famous, highly rated and respected producers. Beyond this price point is where wine prices become a diminishing return to buy wines from in-demand wine regions (e.g. Burgundy, Rioja, Tuscany, Porto) or in-demand wineries.

Luxury wines with prestige

Cost: €60–120

This will get you excellent wines from any of the top wine regions of the world from producers with very high reputation and ranking. Big names, prestiges wines, unique aging requirements and in-demand wine varieties. This price range could get you into some luxurious experience. Essential to have a right meal or food pairing with most of these wines to have an even more memorable experience.

Iconic wine

Cost:€120+

The pinnacle of wines, wineries, and micro sites of the world (Perrier-Jouet ‘Belle Époque’ Blanc de Blancs, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Chateau Margaux, Dom Perignon, Vega Sicilia

Fortified Wines

A fortified wine is a delicious, viscous wine-based sipping treat that is often enjoyed as a drink before or after dinner. They are are fortified by the addition of extra alcohol in the form of brandy or spirits to bring them up to an alcohol content of 18%–20%. The original use of fortification was to preserve the wine, as casks of wine were prone to turn to vinegar during long sea voyages. Technically, by adding alcohol to the wine it stops the action of the yeast and prevents further fermentation, thus preserving some of the sugar from the grapes. The spirit added might also enhance the wine’s natural flavors. The liquor is added to the base wine during fermentation. Sherry, Port and Madeira from Spain and Portugal, vins doux naturels from France and Marsala from Sicily are all fortified wines you might have heard of. If the extra alcohol is added after fermentation, a dry fortified wine such as Sherry is the outcome. Fortified wines are not distilled, though some people mistakenly categorize them as a liquor. This is particularly true of vermouth, it is likely the result of its use in making martinis. They are rich in sugar, flavour, and alcohol.

These are the most well known fortified wines you should know about:

Madeira wine (Madeiran)

Madeira wine is a fortified wine made in the Madeira Islands. The wine is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif, to sweet wines more usually consumed with dessert. Madeira is deliberately heated and oxidised as part of its maturation process, resulting in distinctive flavours and an unusually long lifespan once a bottle is opened.

Marsala wine (Italian)

Marsala wine is a wine from Sicily that is available in both fortified and unfortified versions. It was first produced in 1772 by an English merchant, John Woodhouse, as an inexpensive substitute for sherry and port, and gets its name from the island’s port, Marsala.The fortified version is blended with brandy to make two styles, the younger, slightly weaker Fine (feeneh), which is at least 17% abv (alcohol by volume) and aged at least four months; and the Superiore (supereoreh), which is at least 18%, and aged at least two years. The unfortified Marsala wine is aged in wooden casks for five years or more and reaches a strength of 18% by evaporation.

Vermouth (Italian)

You know about absinthe, right? How it’s supposed to make you hallucinate because of that magical ingredient, wormwood? (It doesn’t). Turns out “vermouth” is actually named for wormwood, one of its historic ingredients (the German for wormwood being “wermut,”). Vermouth is a fortified wine flavoured with aromatic herbs and spices (“aromatised” in the trade) using closely guarded recipes (trade secrets). Some of the herbs and spices used may include cardamom, cinnamon, marjoram and chamomile. Some vermouth is sweetened; however, unsweetened or dry, vermouth tends to be bitter. The person credited with the second vermouth recipe, Antonio Benedetto Carpano from Turin, Italy, chose to name his concoction “vermouth” in 1786 because he was inspired by a German wine flavoured with wormwood, an herb most famously used in distilling absinthe. However, wine flavoured with wormwood goes back to ancient Rome. The modern German word Wermut (Wermuth in the spelling of Carpano’s time) means both wormwood and vermouth. The herbs were originally used to mask raw flavours of cheaper wines, imparting a slightly medicinal “tonic” flavor.

Historically, the way vermouth was flavored categorized it as either red (associated with Italy) or white/dry (associated with France). Carpano Classico is the classic red vermouth (Antonio Carpano is thought to have come up with the term “vermouth”), with dark, rich flavors like cocoa, wine, spice, toffee, herbs, etc., all intermingling with a slightly bitter edge. Carpano Antica is the classic recipe “alla vaniglia,” or with vanilla added.) Dolin Blanc, on the other hand, is a classic French white vermouth made with herbs and botanicals from the Chambery region of France. And Noilly Prat’s Extra Dry vermouth combines 20 herbs and spices for a complex, floral, fruity (and fully clear) vermouth with a bracingly dry finish. And then there are vermouths like Carpano’s Punt e Mes, which actually has a bittersweet flavor profile likening it to bitter amaros.

Mistelle (French)

Mistelle (Italian: mistella, French: mistelle, Spanish: mistela, from Latin mixtum “mix”) is sometimes used as an ingredient in fortified wines, particularly Vermouth, Marsala and Sherry, though it is used mainly as a base for apéritifs such as the French Pineau des Charentes. It is produced by adding alcohol to non-fermented or partially fermented grape juice (or apple juice to make pommeau). The addition of alcohol stops the fermentation and, as a consequence Mistelle is sweeter than fully fermented grape juice in which the sugars turn to alcohol.

Vins doux naturels (French)

Vins doux naturels are lightly fortified wines typically made from white Muscat grapes or red Grenache grapes in the south of France. These are the oldest fortified wines of all, and although they’ve fallen out of the spotlight, you should do yourself a favor and hunt some down (we by the way have some in stock). Vin doux naturel is a style that gives winemakers a lot of room to experiment. Sure, the variety of grape is central to any good wine, and we know how terroir lends perspective, while aging brings deeper layers of nuance. With VDNs, though, controlled exposure to air and sunlight affects the outcome even further. The resulting flavors cover a wide range, from honeyed stone fruit to herb-dried apricot and rich blueberry jam.

At the same time, there’s a deep-rooted history and tradition to these wines. To this day, they’re only produced in a small stretch of protected areas in France, and under particular regulations — as is the case with Cognac and Armagnac. There’s also a key process in their production that sets them apart — a little thing called mutage. Mutage is the thing that makes these fortified wines fortified, and it’s been utilized for over 700 years. We can thank a scholar and doctor by the name of Arnau de Vilanova, who discovered the technique way back in 1285. Once again, we find that scientists, academics and medical professionals are star players in the creation of delicious beverages.

As the name suggests, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Muscat de Rivesaltes and Muscat de Frontignan are all made from the white Muscat grape, whilst Banyuls and Maury are made from red Grenache. Regardless of the grape, fermentation is stopped by the addition of up to 10% of a 190 proof (95%) grape spirit. The Grenache vins doux naturels can be made in an oxidised or unoxidised style whereas the Muscat wines are protected from oxidation to retain their freshness.

Sherry (Spanish)

Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez, Spain. The word “sherry” itself is an anglicisation of Jerez. In earlier times, sherry was known as sack (from the Spanish saca, meaning “a removal from the solera”). In the European Union “sherry” is a protected designation of origin; therefore, all wine labelled as “sherry” must legally come from the Sherry Triangle, which is an area in the province of Cádiz between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. There are three grape varieties authorized for the production of Sherry: Palomino, Muscat of Alexandria (also known as Moscatel) and Pedro Ximénez. The latter two grapes are mainly used for sweetening purposes, and Palomino is by far the dominant grape in the region.

After fermentation is complete, sherry is fortified with brandy. Because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. In contrast, port wine (for example) is fortified halfway through its fermentation, which stops the process so that not all of the sugar is turned into alcohol.

Sherry is produced in a variety of styles:

Fino – the freshest and most delicate of sherry styles, weighing in at around 15% alcohol,

Manzanilla – fino-style sherry from the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Because the more humid environment these wines are typically lighter and even fresher than fino, often with a distinctive salty tang,

Amontillado – is an amber-coloured sherry that is nutty and complex because it has been aged oxidatively it will last for longer once opened,

Palo Cortado – sort of half way house between a fino and an amontillado, Palo Cortado is the result of a fino sherry losing its flor, a popular style nowadays,

Oloroso – brown-coloured sherries, which develop in barrel often for many years. The result is a complex, rich, nutty style of sherry with aromas of old furniture and raisins which are dry,

Pedro Ximenez – made from air-dried grapes, with fermentation stopped early by the addition of spirit, Pedro Ximénez is a remarkably viscous and amazingly sweet, it tastes like liquid Christmas cake,

Cream – more commercial products that have been sweetened by the addition of Moscatel or Pedro Ximénez. Cream sherry is always sweet.

Port wine (Portugese)

Port wine (also known simply as Port) is a fortified wine from the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet red wine, but also comes in dry, semi-dry and white varieties. There are several different kinds of port, but the 2 primary styles of Port include a red Port with more berry and chocolate flavors (and slightly less sweetness), and a tawny-colored Port with more caramel and nut flavors (and more sweetness).

Fine aged Vintage Port or 30+ year Tawny Port have an even wider array of subtle flavors including graphite, green peppercorn, hazelnut, almond, butterscotch and graham cracker.

One of the most important qualities of true Port is the unique blend of Portuguese indigenous grapes. Port grapes include Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cão, and there are said to be at least 52 varieties!

Ruby Port

Ruby Ports, so named for their distinct ruby color, are young, approachable wines with fresh, fruit-filled aromas and an equally nimble palate presence. These wines are wallet-friendly, entry-level Ports made from a mix of both grapes and vintages. They’re aged for a total of three years and are quite popular. Ruby Ports are intended to be consumed young and enjoy a remarkable food-pairing versatility.

Tawny Port

A Tawny Port is a blend of older-vintage wines and displays a rich amber color. Tawnies typically fall on the slightly sweeter side of the spectrum. As a tawny port spends more time in oak, its color starts to fade from ruby red to more ruby-orange or a “brick-red,” often reaching a deep amber or mahogany color by the time it’s matured. As the aging process continues, a Tawny will taste nuttier and will develop the rich flavors of caramelized figs, dates, and prunes, compared with the fresh-fruit character of Ruby Port. On the label, the age is most commonly designated as 10, 20, or 30 years. These year designations represent the average age of the various vintages used in the Tawny Port blend, not the exact years the wine has been aged as a whole. Tawny Ports come in three different styles:

A Colheita Port – is made from grapes that were all harvested in the same year.

A Crusted Port – is an unfiltered tawny that develops visible sediment, “crust,” and needs decanting before serving.

Indicated Age Tawny Ports – are designated as being 10, 20, 30, or 40 years old; the number indicates the minimum average age of the wines used in the bottle.

Vintage Port

A Vintage Port is a Port that is made of blended grapes, usually from various vineyards, which are all from the same vintage year. Historically, Vintage Ports are only declared every three out of 10 years on average. The best grapes, from the best vineyards in the best years, come together to create a quality Vintage Port. These Ports typically spend about 6 months in oak and then go unfiltered into a bottle for further aging. This extended aging is typically to the tune of another 20 years or more! As a direct result of long-term aging, a pretty heavy layer of sediment forms, and Vintage Ports require decanting and a good bit of aeration before they’re consumed. If Ruby Ports are the entry-level Port, then Vintage Ports represent the upper echelon both in style and cost. A classification that is common to mistake with the “Vintage Port” designation is the Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port. This particular style of Port is made with grapes from a single vintage, but it has aged in oak only four to six years before it is bottled and released.

White Port

As the name implies, White Port is derived from white grape varietals and can be made in both very dry to semisweet styles. White Port is typically fruitier on the palate and a bit fuller-bodied than other fortified white wines. Often served as an aperitif, this particular Port has found favor as a gin replacement when served as a “Port and Tonic” on the rocks.

Moscatel de Setúbal (Portugese)

Moscatel de Setúbal is a Portuguese wine produced around the Setúbal Municipality on the Península de Setúbal. The wine is made primarily from the Muscat of Alexandria grape and typically fortified with aguardente. The style was believed to have been invented by José Maria da Fonseca, the founder of the oldest table wine company in Portugal dating back to 1834.

Above: Madeira fortified wine

Above: Spanish Vermouth

rasteau vin doux naturel

Above: Vin doux naturel

Above: Pedro Ximenez Sherry

Above: Vintage Port wine

Above: White Port wine

Acidity: Identified as the crisp, sharp character in a wine. The acidity of a balanced dry table wine is in the range of 0.6 percent to 0.75 percent of the wine’s volume.

Alcohol by volume: As required by law, wineries must state the alcohol level of a wine on its label. This is usually expressed as a numerical percentage of the volume. For table wines the law allows a 1.5 percent variation above or below the stated percentage as long as the alcohol does not exceed 14 percent. Thus, wineries may legally avoid revealing the actual alcohol content of their wines by labeling them as “table wine.”

Alcoholic Fermentation: Also called primary fermentation, this is the process in which yeasts metabolize grape sugars and produce alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat. The final product is wine.

Appellation: Appellation Defines the area where a wine’s grapes were grown, such as Bordeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin, Alexander Valley or Russian River Valley. Regulations vary widely from country to country. In order to use an appellation on a California wine label, for example, 85 percent of the grapes used to make the wine must be grown in the specified district.

Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP): This is the European Union’s new designation, meant to replace the old Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (French) for recognition across the member states. It was officially adopted in January 2016.

Balance: A wine is balanced when its elements are harmonious and no single element dominates. The “hard” components—acidity and tannins—balance the “soft” components—sweetness, fruit and alcohol.

Blending: Wines are blended for many reasons. To make a more harmonious or complex wine, wines with complementary attributes may be blended. For example, a wine with low acidity may be blended with a high-acid wine or a wine with earthy flavors may be blended with a fruity wine. To create a uniform wine from many small batches is another goal, since grapes from different vineyards, stages of the harvest and pressings are frequently vinified separately and the small batches differ slightly. Red Bordeaux offers a prime example; five different grapes may be used, each contributing its own nuances to the blend.

Château: French term for “castle.” In the wine world, it translates loosely as “estate.” However, in France, the term is protected.

Corked: Describes a wine having the off-putting, musty, moldy-newspaper flavor and aroma and dry aftertaste caused by a tainted cork.

Cuvée:  A blend or special lot of wine.

Decanting : A technique that removes sediment from wine before drinking. After allowing the sediment to settle by standing the bottle upright for the day, the wine is poured slowly and carefully into another container, leaving the sediment in the original bottle.

Dry: Having no perceptible taste of sugar. Most wine tasters begin to perceive sugar at levels of 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent.

Fruity: Having the aroma and taste of fruit or fruits.

Grand Vin: The premier cuvée made by a winery. Grand vin, or “great wine,” is an unregulated term frequently used in Bordeaux to indicate that a wine is the best of multiple wines made at a given winery.

Harvest: The process of picking the grapes, whether by hand or machine. Also the time period when the grapes are picked; usually September through October in the northern hemisphere and March through April in the southern hemisphere.

Ice wine: A dessert wine made from frozen grapes.

Mature: The stage at which the wine will not gain any additional complexity with further bottle aging and is ready to drink. Also describes grapes when they are fully ripe.

New World: The New World is comprised of countries that have started producing wine more recently than the countries of Europe, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.

Noble Rot: Also known by its scientific name, Botrytis cinerea, noble rot is a beneficial mold that grows on ripe wine grapes in the vineyard under specific climatic conditions. The mold dehydrates the grapes, leaving them shriveled and raisinlike and concentrates the sugars and flavors. Wines made from these berries have a rich, complex, honeyed character and are often high in residual sugar. Noble rot contributes the unique, concentrated flavors in such wines as BA and TBA Riesling from Germany, Sauternes from Bordeaux, Aszu from Hungary’s Tokay district and an assortment of late-harvest wines from other regions.

Noble Varieties: Considered the classic grape varieties, originating in the Old World, which have the ability to make outstanding wines. Reds include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Syrah (Shiraz in the Southern Hemisphere). Whites include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gerwürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.

Old World: The Old World refers to the countries of Europe where winemaking dates back centuries. The Old World was once associated primarily with traditional winemaking techniques, while the New World was known for modern winemaking, though those stereotypes are no longer as accurate.

Oxidized: Describes wine that has been exposed too long to air and taken on a brownish color, losing its freshness and perhaps beginning to smell and taste like Sherry or old apples. Oxidized wines are also called maderized or sherrified.

Phylloxera: Tiny aphids or root lice that attack Vitis vinifera roots. The vineyard pests were widespread in both Europe and California during the late 19th century, and returned to California in the 1980s.

Reserve: A quality classification. The term indicating that the wine has been aged for an extra period of time prior to release. Wines must be aged at least a couple of years, with a minimum of one year in oak. 

Rich: Describes wines with generous, full, pleasant flavors, usually sweet and round in nature. In dry wines, richness may be supplied by high alcohol and glycerin, by complex flavors and by an oaky vanilla character. Decidedly sweet wines are also described as rich when the sweetness is backed up by fruity, ripe flavors.

Rosé: Rosés, also known as blush wines, range in color from muted salmon-orange to bright pink. These wines are made from red grapes, colored through limited skin contact or, in rare cases, the addition of small quantities of red wine.

Rustic: Describes wines made by old-fashioned methods or tasting like wines made in an earlier era. Can be a positive quality in distinctive wines that require aging. Can also be a negative quality when used to describe a young, earthy wine that should be fresh and fruity.

Sherry: Sherry is a fortified wine made in Jerez, Spain, most often from the Palomino grape but also from the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel varieties. Following fermentation, the wine is fortified with distilled wine spirit, up to the minimum strength of 15.5 percent alcohol. The fortified wine is then usually aged in oak barrels arranged in a solera system of multiple vintages, and which may include more than a hundred vintages of Sherry blended together. Sherries may be classified by their quality, age, sweetness and or alcohol contents into categories which include fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso, cream, etc.

Single Vineyard: A bottling whose grapes hail from one particular vineyard or site. They are often regarded superior to their multi-vineyard counterparts.

Skin Contact: Refers to the process of grape skins steeping in juice or fermenting must to impart color and flavor to the wine.

Stale: Wines that have lost their fresh, youthful qualities are called stale. Opposite of fresh.

Super Tuscan: Wines from Tuscany made using international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah rather than relying primarily on local varieties such as Sangiovese. Although their quality can be outstanding, these wines must be labeled with the lower levels of Italy’s classification system, Vino da Tavola or Indicazione Geografica Tipica, since they do not conform to Tuscany’s traditional winemaking practices.

Sweet: Sweet describes the sugar content in a wine, found at higher levels in late-harvest and sweet wines. Not to be confused with fruity wines. Most people begin to perceive sweetness at concentrations of 0.3 to 0.7 percent residual sugar.

Table Wine: Still wines containing 7 percent to 14 percent alcohol. The term is also a quality classification in many European Union countries, indicating the lowest level of quality: Vin du Table in France, Vino da Tavola in Italy and Tafelwein in Germany.

Tannins: The mouth-puckering polyphenols, most prominent in red wines, that are derived primarily from grape skins, seeds and stems, but also from oak barrels. Tannins are an important component of a wine’s structure and texture, and act as a natural preservative that help wine age and develop.

Tartaric Acid: The principal acid in grapes and wine; contributes to taste and stabilizes color. Unlike malic acid, tartaric acid does not decline as grapes ripen. Tartaric acid can precipitate out of solution in bottled wine to form harmless tartrate crystals resembling shards of glass.

Terroir: A term describing the interaction of soil, climate, topography and grape variety in a specific site, imprinting the wine and making each wine from a specific site distinct. Derived from the French word for earth, “terre.”

Varietal: Refers to a wine labeled with a single grape variety. Used predominantly in the United States and Australia, the term “varietal” denotes a wine named after and made from a single grape variety. For example, “The popular varietal is served in many restaurants” and “The herbal aromas of this Sauvignon Blanc are varietally correct.” For varietal bottling, a minimum of 75 percent of that wine must be made from the designated grape variety. The term is frequently misused in reference to a grape variety itself.

Variety: A variety refers to the grape itself, whereas the term varietal refers to the wine made from that grape variety. For example, “Chardonnay is an early-ripening variety.”

Vin de Pays: French quality classification meaning “country wine”; it is one level above vin de table.

Vin de Table: France’s lowest level of wine classification, meaning “table wine.” There are no limits on vineyard yields for wines labeled vin de table, and they do not require a vintage date.

Vino de Pago: The highest classification of wine in Spain, requiring that wines be made entirely from estate-grown grapes in addition to the requirements of the Denominatión de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca.) classification.

Vinous: Literally means “winelike” and is usually applied to dull wines lacking in distinct varietal character.

Vintage: Indicates the year in which the grapes were grown. For vintage dated wines made in the United States, 95 percent of a wine must come from grapes that were grown and picked in the stated calendar year. In the southern hemisphere where the grapes may grow in the year preceeding a February through March harvest, the vintage date refers to the year of harvest. Also refers to the time of year in which the harvest takes place.

Viticultural Area: Defines a legal grape-growing area distinguished by geographical features, climate, soil, elevation, history and other definable boundaries. Rules vary widely from region to region, and change often. Just for one example, in the United States, a wine must be 85 percent from grapes grown within the viticultural area to carry the appellation name.

Vitis Labrusca: The species of grape native to the eastern U.S. that includes the Concord and Catawba varieties.

Vitis Vinifera: Classic European winemaking species of grape. Examples include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and most of the famous varieties grown around the world.

Winemaking: Largely synonymous with “Vinification,” winemaking is the process by which harvested grapes are crushed, fermented (and otherwise manipulated through yeast inoculations, temperature control, punch-downs, pump-overs, racking, oak-chip additions, filtering, etc.), aged in barrel, steel tank or other vessel, and finally bottled.