A.O.C AOC wines are those that are grown on specific land parcels based on the concept of terroir. These wines meet the production criteria established by INAO and made official by production regulations. Based on the concept of “local, honest, consistent winemaking practices” AOC wines are produced on the most prestigious terroirs. Their production regulations are more strict that those for the VDQS designation and include the following: designated production area, low maximum yields, varieties used, minimum alcohol content, cultivation techniques, tasting criteria and sometimes even specific aging conditions. All wines that can claim the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée designation must undergo analysis and tasting to be officially approved by INAO. AOC wines are unique products of their terroirs, their grape varieties and the talents of their winemakers. France has approximately 400 AOC wines, and there are also AOC brandies such as Cognac, Armagnac, Mirabelle de Lorraine and Calvados. Today, AOC wines account for approximately 40% of the total volume of wine produced in France, compared to 30% in 1990 AOVDQS See V.D.Q.S.
ACERBIC Said of a wine that is harsh and raw due to excessive tannins and acidity. Since acidity and astringency reinforce each other, an acerbic wine is out of balance. It lacks smoothness and roundness.
ACETIC SPOILAGESynonym of ASCESCENCE
ACIDITY If present but not excessive, acidity contributes to a wine’s balance by providing freshness and liveliness. When acidity is too high, however, it becomes a flaw, rendering the wine biting and raw. If, on the other hand, it is too low, the wine is limp and lifeless. Acidity is largely determined by the metabolism of the grapevines. Tartaric, malic and succinic acids are the main acids found in grapes that are also present in wine.
AGED Term that has multiple meanings but generally refers to a wine that is at least several years old and has been barrel-aged then aged in the bottle as well.
AGGRESSIVE Overly forceful such that it permeates the mucous membranes in an unpleasant manner. This can be a result of excess acidity or acidity reinforced by overly firm tannins.
ALCOHOL The most significant component in wine after water, ethyl alcohol gives wine its warming properties. If it is too dominant, the wine produces a burning sensation on the palate. Alcohol also participates in creating the smoothness of wines and balances their acidity.
ALCOHOL CONTENT The wine’s level of alcohol, which is expressed in percentage by volume.
ALIGOTÉA white grape variety from Burgundy that produces “Bourgogne Aligoté" wine designed to be consumed young offerring pleasant citrus aromas.
ALTESSE A white variety that produces the delicate "Roussettes de Savoie" wines.
AMBER After a long period of aging, or if prematurely oxidized, white wines develop amber hues, turning deep gold with dark brown glints. In sweet wines, this color is a sign of long bottle aging and is very desirable.
AMPELOGRAPHY Science focused on grapevines and their structure, growth patterns and origins.
AMPLE Said of a well-balanced wine that provides a full, long-lasting sensation on the palate.
AMPLE Said of a robust wine that is full on the palate.
APPEARANCE The term for the how wine looks when examined.
APPROACHABLE Said of a supple, pleasant wine that slips easily over the palate. In French such a wine is called coulant, literally “flowing”.
ARAMON Red grape variety found in the Mediterranean Midi, which rose in popularity following the phylloxera epidemic, but has since become more obscure. It is no longer used for making fine wines.
AROMA The combination of primary odors in a young wine (as opposed to bouquet, the odor acquired after aging). There are two types of aromas. - The primary or varietal aromas that already exist in the grape. They impart their distinctive fragrance to the wine. For example, Sauvignon Blanc imparts notes of boxwood and occasionally smoke, Muscat offers highly characteristic notes of wild fruit and orange, Cabernet Sauvignon offers green pepper, Pinot Noir imparts raspberry, blackcurrant and cherry, and so on. These primary aromas generally evoke flowery, fruity or vegetal scents. Synonym: varietal aromas. - Secondary aromas, or fermentation aromas, are produced by yeast during primary or malolactic fermentation. These include odors of banana, nail polish, fruit drops, and even candles, wax, wheat, brioche, fresh butter and crème fraîche. -The term tertiary aromas can also be used to refer to the bouquet, the aroma that a wine develops during bottle aging in an anaerobic environment. The most well known tertiary aromas are truffle, chocolate, mocha, coconut, cake, honey, marzipan, and animal scents such as fur, leather and musk.
ARRUFIAC Delicate white grape variety that is used to make some wines in Béarn (Southwestern France).
ASCESCENCE Condition caused by bacteria that creates a “sour” wine when oxygen is present. To prevent this bacterial problem, sulfites should be used or wine should be carefully kept out of contact with air. This is one of the purposes of ullage, or topping up.
ASTRINGENCY The quality of being slightly bitter and harsh on the palate, this often is a characteristic of young tannic reds that need time to become more rounded. The sensation of astringency occurs because tannins block the action of proteins in the saliva, making the gums and internal surfaces of the teeth dry and grainy. Astringency is based on the character of a wine’s tannins and generally diminishes with age. If a wine’s tannins are strong but full, its structure will soften with age and become much more enjoyable.
AUSTERE Said of a wine that does not yet have a bouquet and lacks rich aromas.
AUXERROIS A grape variety from Lorraine that is also called Alsace-Pinot and Alsace-Klevner; also another name for Malbec in Cahors.