Acetic - A term with a negative connotation in wine referring to a sharp vinegary taste and smell. This occurs as a result of the presence of acetobacter, a bacteria that naturally converts wine to vinegar in the presence of oxygen.
Acetic Acid - The chief volatile acid in wine. The flavor of wine is improved by small amounts but vinegary flavors are the result of larger quantities.
Acidification - A process practiced in warm areas whereby a winemaker adds acid to grape must before fermentation to counteract naturally low acid levels.
Albariza - A white-surfaced chalky-looking soil found in the Sherry-producing region in southern Spain. Contains large amounts of limestone mixed with clay and sand.
Alcohol - A colorless, volatile, flammable liquid that is the intoxicating constituent of wine, beer, spirits, and other drinks. Alcohol is also used as an industrial solvent and as fuel.
Amarone - The most famous dried grape wine in Italy that is produced from the same grape varieties and in the same zones as Valpolicella. High quality grape bunches are dried, or raisined, often allowing Botritis to form on the grapes. The grapes are then pressed and fermented to dryness, resulting in an intense, highly alcoholic wine with somewhat oxidative qualities that vary depending on the presence of noble rot.
Amelioration - A term literally meaning improvement, it is a euphemism for chemical intervention in winemaking. This refers to techniques used in areas where nature is deficient. This includes chaptalization, the addition of sugar for the purpose of raising the alcohol level, and acidification.
American Viticultural Area (AVA) - The American Viticultural Area is the American controlled appellation system. Defined as a specified grape-growing region, distinguished by geographical features, the boundaries of which have been recognized and defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). For example, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, and Santa Ynez Valley are all AVAs.
Anbaugebiet - The term for appellation or wine region in Germany. Each anbaugebiet is divided into Bereiche, or districts. Bereiche are then broken up into Grosslagen.
Appellation - An official geographically-based designation for a wine.
Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) - The French appellation system that controls and designates wines, spirits, cheeses, and other foods of distinct geographic regions in France.
Aroma - A broad term describing the smell of a wine, or the smell that is derived from grapes.
Aromatized Wine - A wine that has been flavored by one or more aromatic substances such as anise, strawberries, orange peel, elderflowers, wormwood, quinine, and pine resin. These wines are usually fortified. Vermouth, Retsina, and Lillet are examples.
Assemblage - The blending of base wines to create a final cuveé, or blend. This is a crucial part of the Champagne vinification process.
Astringency - A sensation of puckering or drying of the mouth’s tissues. Puckering is a tactile response to compounds such as tannins.