Some Interesting Wine Terms and Facts


The scientific description of the vine’, according to The Shorter Oxford Dictionary. But the term is sometimes used today to refer specifically to the study of grapes.


This herb (Pimpinella anisum; in French, anis) originally came from Asia Minor and is found throughout the Mediterranean countries. It is used in the making of a range of liqueurs in many countries. A 16th century writer recommends it as follows, ‘good against belchings and upbraidings of the stomacke’,


Throughout history a search has been made for the love potion or creator of sexual desire and guarantee of satisfactory performance – and some revolting concoctions have been evolved. But, scientifically, there is no such thing. As a wise physician commented, what a fairly high protein diet, convenient circumstances and the presence of an attractive person of the required sex cannot accomplish, will not be achieved by anything out of any bottle.


South African method of measuring the sugar content or ripeness of the grapes. It is measured with a saccharometer, calibrated so as to show the density of the liquid – the saccharometer floats in the must and the level of the liquid is read against the degree on the instrument. One degree Balling equals 1% total extract, this consisting of sugar, acid and other non-sugar extracts.


The flattish, flagon-like bottle that is used for many of the Armagnacs.

Blaxland, Gregory

One of the pioneers of the Australian wine business. Sometime between 1816-18 he planted vines in the Parramatta Valley, that he had brought from the Cape of Good Hope. In 1822 he shipped a pipe of red wine, fortified with brandy, to London: this was awarded a Silver Medal by the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in 1823. In 1828 he was given the gold ‘Ceres Medal’. His work on grape varieties was of the greatest importance in these early days.


The dumpy green flagon-like bottle used for the finer wines of Franconia in Germany, the Maerwein of Neuweier in Baden, and for some Chilean white wines. The name is supposed to derive from the wineskin in which wines were once carried; other associations include the carrier-bag used by German housewives, and the scrotum of a goat. Modified versions of the bocksbeutel are used for other wines from various regions.


Store for wine in the sherry district of Spain.

Busby, James (1801-71)

Possibly the best-known name in the history of Australian winemaking. Born in Edinburgh, he came to Australia in 1824 with his father, an engineer and surveyor. He had already made up his mind that the country was ripe for development as regards vines: he had actually studied vines and winemaking in France so as to fit himself for what he felt was his life work. An area on the Hunter River, later known as Kirkton, was made available to Busby, where good wine was made from the vines cultivated there. Busby then began to publish, as well as teaching viticulture and his books exerted great influence. The most famous of them, published in 1830, contains the famous quotation ‘The man who could sit under the shade of his own vine, with his wife and children about him, and the ripe clusters hanging within their reach, in such a climate as this (New South Wales) and not feel the highest enjoyment, is incapable of happiness and does not know what the word means.’

Subsequently, Busby travelled in the French and Spanish vineyards, writing about the vines he studied there, and which he tried to import to Australia. He only had a moderate success, because many of them were lost due to lack of care. Later, Busby became British Resident in New Zealand and finally returned to England, apparently dissatisfied with his achievements. These, however, were great in his time and have resulted in the establishment of many of the traditions of Australian winegrowing.


Most of the main wine and spirit regions have their own individual types of cask, although the size and proportions of these are now usually controlled by legislation. Sometimes, however, these names vary and local names for casks of different sizes are found everywhere. The German name for a cask is fass. .


Term used by Spanish producers of sparkling wine, meaning that the wine has been made by the Champagne method and so is of superior quality.


This appliance is part of the basic equipment in many wineries today. Essentially, the wine is spun in it so that any ‘solids’ may be removed and thereby any risk of certain undesirable conditions arising is minimised.


The Minister of Agriculture of Napoleon I who, although he did not invent the system of adding sugar to the must of wine in cool vineyards where fermentation might be difficult in all but exceptional years, gave his name to the first decree whereby musts in such vineyards were authorised to receive sugar.

Charmat method

Monsieur Charmat, at the beginning of the 20th century, perfected and commercialised the system whereby a quality sparkling wine may be made in a sealed vat (cuve close); thereby saving time, money and labour. The best known wine made by this process is Veuve du Vernay, produced by Charmat’s own fi rm. Many good sparkling wines are made by this method, including those that would not improve with the longish maturation involved with the Champagne method.


The 60 fl.oz (1.75 litre) bottle now becoming popular for ready-to-drink Chianti.


A bottle used in the Jura for vinsjaunes. Such as Chateau-Chalon. It is dumpy, with squarish shoulders, and holds about 22 fl.oz (63 cl).


Vine disease.

Coffey, Aeneas

An Irishman, an excise officer in Dublin, who patented a type of still, in 1831, that bears his name. This is the Coffey, patent or continuous still, whereby the process of distillation, formerly only possible in the pot still, was able to be carried on quickly, on a large scale and at a fairly reasonable cost.

Columella, Lucius Junius Moderatus

His dates are uncertain, but he flourished about the middle of the 1st century A.D. Born in southern Spain, possibly in Cadiz, it is not known when he went to Italy, but he died in Tarentum. He is known today for his works De Arboribus (On Trees) and Re Rustica (Of Country Things). The latter includes an important section on the cultivation of the vine, pruning, grafting and general care. His possible knowledge of Spanish viticulture and viniculture makes this of great interest. As what he wrote had a subsequent effect on vines and wines in Italy.

Conseja Regulator

The controlling body of a Spanish wine region.


Italian wine producers grouped themselves together into consorzio so as to supervise and control winegrowing and making. The different groups were each known separately as a consorzio, a term that might be translated almost by the old term ‘guild’. Today the trade associations have either assimilated or bypassed the consorzio in many instances, but their work is of great significance and members are highly influential in establishing standards and maintaining quality traditions. The consorzio of the various wine regions have done valuable work in establishing traditions and maintaining the quality of their wines. In some instances, however, certain large-scale producers have decided to withdraw from the local consorzio, because they feel they can sell wines more effectively if they act independently.


Portuguese term for everyday red or white table wine – the type made at the estate for current consumption.


French for ‘hillsides’, as in Coteaux du Layon, the hillsides along the River Layon. Wines from such slopes are usually of better quality than those of vineyards on flat land.


Vine disease, when the grapes fail to plump out and eventually drop off.


The U.K. Customs levy duty on goods being brought into the country; whereas the Excise levy duty on liable goods which are produced in the U.K.


This verb is not often used nowadays, but it signifies ‘to blend’. For example, in the 19th century, claret might be ‘cut’ with the darker, weightier wines of Spain, giving it a false ‘body’ and obvious crude appeal.


Large cask of the Rioja region in Spain, containing 5,499 gallons (25,000 litres).


La cuve is the vat: la cuvee is the vat’s contents, hence a particular lot or portion of wine. The word cuvee is also sometimes used rather loosely to indicate a blend in relation to certain wines blended at the time they are first made. For example. In Champagne it may be said that a certain blend of wine is a successful cuvee. In Champagne, too, the first 440 gallons (2,000 litres) of juice extracted from the regional type of press are known as the vin de cuvee. Tete de cuvee is an expression sometimes seen on labels and refers to the wine selected as being the best from a particular lot of a specific property.

Cuve close

The method of making sparkling wines by putting them into a sealed vat (cuve close). so that the carbon dioxide gas cannot be given off at the time of the second fomentation, but is retained in the wine. It saves time. Money and labour. .


These are found in both red and white wines. They may appear as tiny shining splinter-like attachments to the cork, or else be seen in the bottle. They are tartrates, precipitated at some stage by the wine and it is no use trying to tell people that their presence is indicative of quality – the ignorant resent them being there and tend to send the wine back. Careful decanting can, of course, prevent them getting into anyone’s glass and, as even the greediest is not likely to suck the cork, their being on it does not matter. They cause trouble to wine merchants, most of whose customers like their wines ‘star bright’. They do not realise that, every time a wine is put through a filter, something of its quality and delicacy, as well as the actual ‘bits’ is removed. However the presence of tartrates is both a sign of quality and a harmless indication that the wine in which they appear has not been filtered, treated and. Generally rendered insipid so as to satisfy those who are offended by the slight deposit – just as our squeamish ancestors used tinted glasses to shield from their eyes the presence of flyers in white wines.


This word is accepted by the latest edition of The Small Oxford Dictionary, so I suppose I have to accept it as well. But I find it a silly and affected term (see vigneron). Its definition is ‘style of cooking’, but in so many instances the words ‘cookery’, ‘recipes’ or ‘gastronomy’ might be used instead. If, as is possible, the word cuisine is intended to indicate the difference between ordinary home cooking and (often supposedly) French chef cookery, then I can understand. But far too often the word carries the implication haute cuisine which, to me, is something totally different from the attempts to reproduce certain classic French recipes in the limitations of a family kitchen, often with substitute ingredients. As always, the use of a word that is unpretentious is to be preferred to one that suggests any form of superiority on the part of the speaker or writer.

In talking about wine, however, the word cuisine has a somewhat sinister implication. “Ce nest que la cuisine’ means ‘It’s just a cooked-up thing’ meaning that the wine has been ‘made’ by some undesirable technical adjustment. Examples of this occur when public demand for something ‘full-bodied’ or ‘big’ causes some producers to distort a wine’s character so as to please a particular market. Souped-up red Burgundies, red Rhones that are described as ‘big and blackstrap’ are typical wines resulting from a little ‘cooking’. There was also one well-known classed growth (see classification) that achieved enormous popularity among people who like aggressive clarets – they usually add ‘with bite’ – because the makers used to concentrate some of the must. The result was a very full, coarse, assertive sort of wine not liked by many lovers of claret; but it made a great deal of money for the owner and certainly provided a type of enjoyment for certain sorts of drinker.


Term used in South Africa to signify a particular variety of vine.


A type of deposit particularly associated with vintage port, but other wines can throw a crust. It has never been defined, but I consider it to be a heavier, bulkier deposit, holding more firmly to the inside of the bottle, than the ordinary sediment. Obviously wines that have thrown a crust must be decanted off this, so that they are bright in the drinker’s glass. The presence of a crust, however, is certainly indicative of a quality wine and also one that has a long life – during which it will ‘feed’ on its crust. Very old wines have sometimes completely consumed and dissolved the crust that was originally in the bottle.

It should be remembered, if one has to handle these old wines, that a hand-blown bottle may be rougher inside – the crust will cling more tightly to it than to a machine-made bottle; also that certain wines, notably port, were at one time put into ‘shot’ bottles (the inside of which was previously pitted with shot) so that there should be a roughness for the deposit to adhere to.

The most important thing with a crust is that it should be allowed to form and hold in the early stages of the wine’s bottle life: sometimes early bottling or another event, or simply the type of vintage, will cause the wine to throw a heavy deposit. The port trade are definite that, if a vintage port is allowed to form its crust tranquilly for the first five years of its life, it can thereafter be moved, even violently shaken up, and the wine will thereafter settle and reform the crust perfectly satisfactorily. But if it is disturbed during the first years, then somehow the crust never seems to form satisfactorily. When the wine is later decanted, it may be found that minute particules of what should have been a firm crust are in suspension in the wine. Nothing can be done about this – even the finest filter will not remove them.

Cyprus Wine Region

Cyprus has a long association with wine and is particularly interesting to winelovers because the Phylloxera has never infected the vineyards, so that the vines are ungrafted. There are several native grapes, of which the Opthalmo and Mavron (black) and Xynisteri (white) are the most notable. Recently the rehabilitation of the vineyards has resulted in certain classic wine grapes being tried. Though it is as yet too early to pronounce on the effects they may have on the wines. Although the most famous traditional Cyprus wine is Commandaria, it is for the fortified sherry-style wines that Cyprus has become the third most important source of supply for wine to the U.K. The bulk of these wines are sweet sherry, but medium and dry wines are also made, the latter even including some made from native flor.

The principal wineries are in or near Limassol, on the south coast, and are huge, very modern concerns. There are three large companies and some smaller ones, each of them making a range of table wines. Most make brandy, some liqueurs and ouzo as well. Red, white and rose table wines of various qualities are made, and recently some petillant wine. In general, the reds are full, rather soft and fairly fragrant, and seem often to taste at their best in a colder climate, such as that of the U.K.; the roses are very much fuller in style than might be expected, also deep in colour. The dry whites can achieve crisp, slightly aromatic quality, a tribute to the skill of those who make them; the sweeter wines are full and fairly scented, not necessarily cloying. Although the wines are good with Mediterranean dishes, they can also be served satisfactorily with stews, meat and fish dishes typical of northern countries. The main wineries are KEO, SODAP, ETKO, LOEL and Haggipavlu for brandy.

Wine from Czechoslovakia

Wine is made in several parts of this country where, in fact, there is an ancient tradition of winemaking. But as yet the Czech wines are seldom seen on export markets. The Slovakian region is generally considered the most important, and the best wines are white. Throughout the country, both red and white wines are made. But the whites would appear to achieve the higher quality.

13. December 2011 by admin
Categories: Wine Dictionary | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Some Interesting Wine Terms and Facts


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