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Wine Terms Starting With The Letter 'A'

A.O.C.
Abbreviation for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, (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).
A.P. number
Abbreviation for Amtliche Prüfungsnummer, the official testing number displayed on a German wine label that shows that the wine was tasted and passed government quality controlstandards.
ABC
Acronym for "Anything but Chardonnay" or "Anything but Cabernet". A term conceived by Bonny Doon's Randall Grahmto denote wine drinkers' interest ingrape varieties.
ABV
Abbreviation of alcohol by volume, generally listed on awine label.
AC
Abbreviation for "Agricultural Cooperative" on Greek wine labels and for Adega Cooperativaon Portuguese labels.
ATTTB
Abbreviation for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a United States government agency which is primarily responsible for the regulation of wines sold and produced in the United States.
Abboccato
An Italian term used to describe full-bodied wines with medium-level sweetness
Abfüllung (Erzeugerabfüllung)
Bottled by the proprietor. Will be on the label followed by relevant information concerning the bottler.
Acescence
Wine with a sharp, sweet-and-sour tang can be described as having acescence. The acescence characteristics frequently recalls a vinegary smell.
Acetic Acid
All wines contain acetic acid, or vinegar, but usually the amount is quite small—from 0.03 percent to 0.06 percent—and not perceptible to smell or taste. Once table wines reach 0.07 percent or above, a sweet-sour vinegary smell and taste becomes evident. At low levels, acetic acid can enhance the character of a wine, but at higher levels (over 0.1 percent), it can become the dominant flavor and is considered a major flaw. A related substance, ethyl acetate, contributes a nail polish-like smell.
Acidic
Used to describe wines whose total acid is so high that they taste tart or sour and have a sharp edge on the palate.
Acidification
The addition of acid to wine by a winemaker. The goal is to balance the wine’s soft components (sugar, alcohol and fruit). It is legal in some areas—such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Australia and California—to correct deficient acidity by adding acid. When overdone, acidity leads to unusually sharp, acidic wines. It is illegal in Bordeaux and Burgundy to both chaptalize (add sugar to) and acidify a 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.
Acids
Acids give wine tartness. Several acids are in the grape before fermentation, and others arise afterward. Acids often make a wine seem “crisp” or “refreshing.”
Acrid
Describes the harsh, bitter taste or pungent, nose-biting odor caused by excessive amounts of sulfur added during winemaking. When used properly, sulfur dioxide plays a beneficial role in winemaking; it kills unwanted organisms, protects wines from spoilage and cleans equipment.
Adamado
Portuguese term for a medium-sweet wine
Aeration
This process of encouraging a wine to absorb oxygen is also called breathing. Simply pulling the cork out of a bottle may not allow for sufficient air contact; decanting or even swirling the wine in a glass are preferred methods. The goal is to allow the wine to open up and develop, releasing its aromas into the air. Ten to 30 minutes of aeration can help open tight young red wines that are meant to age. Some wines can also develop off odors or a bottle stink that blows off with a few minutes of aeration. Since older (15-plus years) red wines are more delicate and can lose their fruit during aeration, aeration is not recommended; the wines can evolve quite quickly in the glass.
Aftertaste
The taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is tasted, spit or swallowed. The aftertaste or "finish" is the most important factor in judging a wine's character and quality. Great wines have rich, long, complex aftertastes.
Ageworthy
Describes the small number of top wines that have sufficient flavor, acidity, alcohol and tannins to gain additional complexity with time in the bottle. Most popular wines are meant to be enjoyed shortly after release and will only diminish with age.
Aggressive
Unpleasantly harsh in taste or texture, usually due to a high level of tannin or acid.
Aging
Storage in barrels, tanks or bottles for a period of time allows wine components to knit together or harmonize and develop additional complexity, sometimes referred to as secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors.
Aging barrel
A barrel, often made of oak, used to age wine or distilled spirits.
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."
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
Used to describe a wine that has too much alcohol for its body and weight, making it unbalanced. A wine with too much alcohol will taste uncharacteristically heavy or hot as a result. This quality is noticeable in aroma and aftertaste.
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.
Allier
A forest in France that produces oak used for wine barrels.
Almacenista
Spanish term for a Sherry producer who ferments and matures the wine before selling it to a merchant
Altar wine
The wine used by the Catholic Church in celebrations of the Eucharist.
Alte Reben
German term forold vine
Amabile
Italian term for a medium-sweet wine
American Oak
An alternative to French oak for making barrels in which to age wine. Marked by strong vanilla, dill and cedar notes, it is used primarily for aging Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel, for which it is the preferred oak. It's less desirable, although used occasionally, for Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. New American oak barrels can be purchased for about half the price of French oak barrels.
American Viticultural Area (AVA)
A delimited, geographical grapegrowing area that has officially been given appellation status by the Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Two examples of AVAs are Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.
American Viticultural Area (Ava)
A delimited, geographical grape-growing area that has officially been given appellation status by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Two examples are Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.
Amontillado
Amontillado is a category of Sherry which begins aging in the same manner as a fino Sherry, with a flor yeast cap to protect from oxidation and keep the wine fresh-tasting, but amontillado is then exposed to oxygen, allowing the wine to darken, becoming richer than a fino but still lighter than an oloroso.
Ampelography
The study of and identification of grape varieties.
Anbaugebiet
A German wine region. Anbaugebiet are further divided into bereicheor districts.
Ancestral Method
An inexpensive but risky and difficult-to-control method of producing sparkling wine, and almost certainly the oldest, in which the primary fermentation is stopped before completing, and a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, ending when the yeast cells deplete the supply of residual sugar. There is no dosage, or sugar addition, to kick-start the secondary fermentation, and the wine is not disgorged to remove any sediment or lees remaining afterward.
Annata
Italian term for avintage
Anthocyanins
The pigments found in red grape skins that give red wine its color.
Aperitif
A wine that is either drunk by itself (i.e. without food) or before a meal in order to stimulate the appetite.
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Appassimento
Italian term for drying harvested grapes, traditionally on bamboo racks or straw mats, for a few weeks up to several months to concentrate the sugars and flavors. This process is used in making Amarone, Recioto and Sforzato.
Appearance
Refers to a wine’s clarity, not color. Common descriptors refer to the reflective quality of the wine; brilliant, clear, dull or cloudy for those wines with visible suspended particulates.
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC or A.O.C.)
The French system of appellations, begun in the 1930s and considered the wine world's prototype. To carry an appellation in this system, a wine must follow rules describing the area the grapes are grown in, the varieties used, the ripeness, the alcoholic strength, the vineyard yields and the methods used in growing the grapes and making the wine.
Aroma
Aromas are smells, which originate with the grapes, in contrast to bouquet, which defines smells acquired during bottle-aging. In the process of sensory evaluation, purists also discriminate between wine’s aroma (smells sensed by sniffing the wine through the nose) and its flavor (smells sensed via the mouth).
Aromatic
Describes a wine with intense, often floral, aromas. Particularly aromatic varieties include Gewürztraminer, Muscat and Viognier.
Aspersion
The process of using water sprinklers to protect budding vines from late-spring frosts. The sprinklers are turned on just as temperatures dip below freezing, forming a protective barrier of ice that shields young vine buds from colder temperatures.
Assemblage
French term for blending various lots of wine before bottling, especially in Champagne.
Astringent
Describes wines that leave a coarse, rough, furry or drying sensation in the mouth. Astringency is usually attributed to high tannin levels found in some red wines (and a few whites). High tannin levels are frequently found in Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Aszú
Turkish dessert wine classification for Tokaji made from individually picked, botrytized grapes.
Auslese
German classification based on the ripeness level and sugar content of the grapes. Auslesen are made from individually-selected bunches of very ripe grapes that have higher sugar concentrations than those selected for spätlesen, but lower than those selected for beerenauslesen. Auslesen are nearly always sweet wines but can be fermented in drier styles.
Austere
Used to describe relatively hard, high-acid wines that lack depth and roundness. Usually said of young wines that need time to soften, or wines that lack richness and body.
Awkward
Describes a wine that has poor structure, is clumsy or is out of balance.
Azienda agricola
Italian term for a winery that only produces wine from its ownestate vineyards
Azienda vinicola
Italian term for an estate that makes wine from both its own vineyards and from purchased grapes

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