Wine glossary

Definition and usage of terms used in the cold-climate wine industry


ABV – Abbreviation of alcohol by volume, generally listed on a wine label.

AOC – Abbreviation for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, (“Appellation of Controlled Origin), as specified under French law prescribing the geography a particular wine and methods used to make it. (See U.S. equivalent, “appellation of origin”).

appellation of origin – An appellation of origin is used in labeling a finished wine and can justify a higher price point. Under U.S. regulations, an appellation of origin applies generally only to grape wines and is either a mandatory or optional declaration on a finished wine’s label that it meets all requirements “governing the composition, method of production and designation of wine produced in the labeled appellation area.” (See “AVA”).

AVA – American Viticultural Area. A specific type of appellation of origin (see “appellation of origin”). Sub-AVA appellations can exist within larger, regional AVA appellations: e.g., The Napa AVA is a sub-appellation of the North Coast AVA. The Stags Leap District AVA is a further sub-appellation of the Napa AVA.


blanc – French term for a white wine or grape. Not capitalized unless used in the label name.

blind tasting – Tasting and evaluating a wine without knowing which it is.

brut – An unsweetened, extra dry sparkling wine. 


cane pruning – Cutting back canes from a vine's previous year's growth during pruning, leaving only the desired number of buds that will form the coming season's grape producers. 

Pruning video  

cask – A wood barrel, most often made from oak, used for fermentation and/or aging.

cider – Apple wine made from crushed apple must. In the U.S., sometimes referred to as “hard” cider to distinguish from apple juice, a convention started during, and lingering long after, U.S. Prohibition. In this context, cider is not to be confused with spiced apple drink nor beer enhanced with apple juice or apple fermentation.

champagne flute – A long-stemmed glass with a tall, narrow bowl on top designed for drinking sparkling wines.

champagne-style –  A method of sparkling wine production formerly classified in the European Union as Méthode Classique (formerly classified as Méthode Champenoise). Also known as “Traditional Method” or “classical style,” the method requires winemakers to follow a strictly prescribed set of guidelines that range from how the grapes are picked and handled to the data included on their labels. 

Charmat method A sparkling wine production method in which the cuvée is mixed and fermented in pressurized steel tanks before being strained and bottled, as opposed to the traditional and pét‑nat methods, in which fermentation takes place in the bottle. Named for Eugène Charmat and also known as the “tank method,” Charmat production requirements are less labor-intensive and can get sparkling wines to market more quickly than the traditional method. 

cold-hardy – A horticultural term used to describe plant capable of surviving climates that experience subzero temperatures. The cold-hardy Frontenac family of hybrid wine grapes, for example, have been known to continue thriving and producing in locations where winter temperatures have reached -30°F (-34°C) or lower. 

cordon – One of the horizontal, woody “arms” at the top of a grape vine trunk. Canes growing from a cordon sprout buds that form the vine’s grape-producing flower clusters.

cultivar –  Plant produced by selective breeding and cultivated for human use, as opposed to grape varieties found growing wild.  

cuvée – A French term literally translated as “vat” or “tank,” but more often used in reference to a specific batch of wine the winemaker is blending. 


disgorgement – The use of a sparkling wine’s own pressure in the bottle to expel sediment from its neck that accumulated during primary fermentation and riddling. Many winemakers today first freeze the neck, which helps sediment come out as an intact plug. Liquid lost during disgorgement is replaced during dosagebefore the bottle receives its final, mushroom-shaped cork and wire cage. Some effervescent wine production methods do not require disgorgement.

dosage –  A mixture called the liqueur d’expéditionadded back to a bottle of sparkling wine after disgorgement and prior to sealing it with its mushroom-shaped and wire cage. (See “liqueur d’expédition”)    

dry – In general, a term describing wines that are not sweet in taste. In regard to sparkling wine, relative dryness before bottling is termed “Brut” (no added sugar), “Extra Dry” (little sugar), “Sec” (more sugar than Extra Dry), “Demi Sec” (more sugar than a Sec). 


Edelweiss Large-clustered, white-seeded table grape with a wine Concord-like flavor introduced by the University of Minnesota in 1977. Also a highly favored grape used for wine. 

enophile – The American English variant of oenophile. A wine aficionado or connoisseur.

enology – The American English variant of oenology. The study of aspects of wine and winemaking.

ethyl acetate -- A sweet, vinegary smell that often accompanies acetic acid. It exists to some extent in all wines and in small doses can be a plus. When it is strong and smells like nail polish, it's a defect.

estate winery – A U.S. farm licensed to produce and sell wine on-site, sometimes also referred to as a farm winery.

extra-brut – A very dry sparkling wine. 

extra dry – A sparkling wine sweeter than a brut. 


farm winery – (See “estate winery.”)

finings – Substances added at or near the completion of wine processing, to remove of organic compounds, improve clarity and/or adjust flavor or aroma.

foxy – A term once used to describe the earthy taste and aroma of North America’s “fox grapes” (V. labrusca). The term foxy is commonly used today to describe any taste or aroma associated with North American vinifications distinct from those of traditional European wines. 

fruit wine – A fermented alcoholic beverage made from fruits other than grapes.

force carbonation method – Use of an external source of carbonation to introduce bubbles into a wine or beer rather than relying on fermentation. Sometimes referred to as the “soda style” of sparkling wine production. 

Frontenac– Cold-hardy hybrid red wine grape introduced by the University of Minnesota in 2003..

Frontenac blanc – Cold-hardy hybrid mutation of Frontenac and Frontenac gris discovered by several vineyards in Canada and the U.S. Available commercially since 2012.

Frontenac gris – Cold-hardy hybrid white wine grape introduced by the University of Minnesota in 2003. 

grand cru – A French term literally translated as "great growth" but loosely used to denote wines as from vineyards reputed for high quality. In France the term has restricted use. In Burgundy regulatory guidance defines which vineyards are classified grand cru.

hybrid – In viticulture, any table or wine grape variety produced by crossbreeding two or more Vitis species. 

I / J / K

ice wine – A wine made from frozen grapes or other frozen fruit. Ice wine in the U.S., but icewine (one word) in Canada. Also known as Eiswein (German). 

Itasca– Cold-hardy hybrid white wine grape introduced by the University of Minnesota in 2017.


labrusca – (See “Vitis labrusca”). 

La Crescent – Cold-hardy hybrid white wine grape introduced by the University of Minnesota in 2002. Wine made from La Crescent has flavors of apricot, citrus, and tropical fruit. 

Lacrosse(or LaCrosse) – Cold-hardy, fruity white wine grape developed by Elmer Swenson. Lacrosse vines have been commercially available since 1970. The U.S. Dept. of the Treasury capitalizes the letter C(LaCrosse) in its list of approved wine grape names that wineries are to use in labeling. “La Crosse” is a common misspelling. 

lees – The spent yeast cells contributing to the sediment that accumulates at the bottom of the wine tank or barrel. 

liqueur d’expédition Also called “dosage.” The mixture of wine, yeast, sugar and/or preservative added back to a bottle of sparkling wine after disgorgement to restore its volume prior to sealing it with its mushroom-shaped and wire cage. (See “dosage”) 

liqueur de tirage – Mixture containing still wine, sugar and yeast ensure that a sparkling wine in production ferments in the bottle to desired pressure levels. The carefully calculated mixture may be similar to, but differs in purpose from, the liqueur d’expédition, or “dosage,” used to restore a bottle to its full volume after disgorgement. Both are adjustment practices primarily used in sparkling wine production methods based on in-bottle fermentation. 


Marquette – Widely popular cold-hardy hybrid red wine grape introduced by the University of Minnesota in 2006. 

mead – A wine-like beverage made of fermented honey and water.

Méthode Classique –  A sparkling wine production method formerly classified Méthode Champenoise). (See also “Traditional method.”   

micro-vinification – The process of making a small wine sample rather than a full-scale batch. Also, another name for the sample itself resulting from the process. 

mid palate – The description of a wine’s characteristics while the wine is still in the taster’s mouth and before swallowing.

mousse A French term for the effervescence of a sparkling wine.

must – The juice of freshly pressed grapes containing the skins, seeds and stems of the fruit at the beginning stages of winemaking. The word derives from Latin vinum mustum – literally, “young wine.” 


noble wine grape – One of the Internationally Grown red and white wine grapes from the grouping known as Vitis vinifera – “grapes for making wine.” Sources vary from five to 18 as to the number of grapes that qualify as “noble.” Nine white and nine red grapes typically qualify as noble grapes. Red noble grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Pinot noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Tempranillo. White noble grapes include Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, Gewürztraminer, Moscato, Pinot grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon and Viognier. 

nose – A wine’s aroma or “bouquet.”

oenophile – The British English variant of enophile. A wine aficionado or connoisseur.

oenology – The British English variant of enology. The study of aspects of wine and winemaking.

P / Q

perlageItalian word meaning, “collection of pearls.” Used by some while describing the quality of a sparkling wine’s effervescence. 

perlage system – Any of a number of commercially available innovations used to maintain or even add to leftover sparkling wine during storage after they have been opened.  

pét-nat – A sparkling wine production method whose name is a shortening of pétillant naturel (French for “naturally sparkling”). Predates traditional method and is therefore referred to also as Méthode Ancestrale (“ancestral method”). One of the primary differences from the champagne-style production method is that pét nat-style wines undergo a single fermentation stage in the bottle.


reserve – A term given to wine of higher quality than usual, although has no agreed-upon, official standing or requirement.

residual sugar (RS) – The sugar in a wine left over after fermentation. 

riddling – Turning each upward-angled bottle of sparkling wine during primary fermentation to ensure sediment and lees slide down the bottle’s side to collect at its neck, later removed as a plug during disgorgement. Large wineries may employ a “riddler” to handle tens of thousands of bottles a day, twisting each bottle 1/8 of a turn. Not all sparkling wine production methods involve the riddling process.  

riparia – (See “Vitis riparia”). 


Saint Croix (St. Croix) – Cold-hardy hybrid red grape cultivar produced in 1983 by Elmer Swenson. “Saint Croix” is the preferred usage of horticulture listings, while “St Croix” is the spelling approved by the U.S. Dept. of Treasury for type designations wineries may use in labeling their varietals and blends based on this grape. 

Saint Pepin (St. Pepin) – A cold-hardy hybrid, red wine grape cultivar developed by Elmer Swenson and available commercially since 1983. Considered a “sister grape” of Swenson’s Lacrosse variety produced at the same time, Saint Pepin is also suitable as a seeded table grape. The U.S. Dept. of Treasury has approved the name “St Pepin” for type designations wineries may use in labeling their varietals and blends based on this grape.

sangria – A tart punch made from red wine along with orange, lemon and apricot juice with added sugar.

solumology – The study and science of soils. In viticulture, solumological research involves studying the relationship between certain grape varieties and various vineyard soil types.

sommelier – A wine expert who often works in restaurants.

sparkling wine – In common U.S. usage, the term for all effervescent or “fizzy wines” containing significant levels of bubble-producing carbon dioxide. Some regions of the world (notably France) limit the term’s use to only effervescent wines produced by following specified sparkling wine production guidelines. (For styles of sparkling wine, see “Traditional method,” “Charmat method,” “pét-nat method,” and “forced carbonation method.”)  

spur pruning – A grape vine pruning practice performed on the canes of a cordon trained along a trellis system. Canes of the cordon are cut back to small shoots containing as few as two buds, known as a spur. The season’s new growth develops from the spur’s buds.

still wines – Term used to distinguish non-sparkling wines from sparkling wines. 

T / U

table grape – Grapes generally better suited for eating and less desirable for making wine due to their thinner skins and lower sugar, acid and tannin levels. Desirable traits of table grapes include large, plump, tasty berries with thin skins and small seeds if they have seeds at all. 

tank method – The Charmat Method of sparkling wine production (See “Charmat method”).

tirage– (See “Ligueur de tirage”)

traditional – A sparkling wine production method in which fermentation takes place in the bottle in two stages. Classified asMéthode Classique, the method is governed by strictly defined guidelines for each production process, from grape management and handling to bottle labeling. Formerly classified as Méthode Champenoise. (See also the entries for “Méthode Classique” and “classical style.”) 

Ullage: Refers to the small air space in a wine bottle or barrel. Excessive air in the bottle increases the speed of oxidation.

V / W

varietal –  A wine made primarily from and/or named for a single grape variety as opposed to a blended wine. Used alone as a noun or as an adjective: “Many winemakers begin their careers focused on varietals before they attempt to blend”; or “Marquette makes a fine varietal wine but is also used in blends.”

variety – A specific grape or grape vine whose characteristics distinguish it from other varieties. Despite differences in meaning, often used interchangeably with cultivar. (See “cultivar”). 

vinifera – Used alone (as opposed to Vitis vinifera), vinifera is often a colloquial term used in reference to V. vinifera, traditional winemaking grape varieties. (See “noble wine grape”).

vinification – The process of making wine, as well as another name for the resulting wine. 

vintage – The process of picking grapes and creating a finished product. Vintage wines are from grapes either all or primarily grown and harvested in a specified year.

viticulture – The branch of horticulture study specific to grapes. 

VitisThe general Latin word for any species of grape. Convention of taxonomy requires Vitis vinifera and V. viniferaalways to be italicized.

Vitis labrusca (V. labrusca) – The scientific taxonomical term used in reference to a grape native to eastern North America also known as the “fox grape.” V. labrusca is the origin of many table and wine grape cultivars, including Catawba, Concord and Niagra. Convention of taxonomy requires Vitis vinifera and V. vinifera always to be italicized.

Vitis riparia (V. riparia) – The scientific taxonomical term used in reference to the “riverbank grape” also known as the “frost grape,” a climbing vine widely distributed across central and eastern Canada as well as the northeastern United States. The species is used in cold-hardy grape breeding programs for its ability to withstand cold climate conditions. Convention of taxonomy requires Vitis riparia and V. riparia always to be italicized.

Vitis vinifera (V. vinifera) – The scientific taxonomical term used in reference to V. vinifera, traditional winemaking grape varieties. (See “noble wine grape”). Convention of taxonomy requires Vitis vinifera and V. vinifera always to be italicized 


xylem – The woody tissue of a vine, inside of the vascular cambium layer, that includes heartwood and sapwood, which transports water and nutrients from the roots towards the leaves.


yeast – A micro-organism necessary for fermentation of a must. Yeast present in and added to a must produce ethyl alcohol as they consume sugars in the must. Winemakers chose from a variety of yeasts, each capable of contributing distinctly to the desired final product’s characteristics.