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From terms commonly used on labels to expressions we use in tasting notes — here are a few explained

Alcohol by volume (%)

By law each bottle of wine must state the alcohol present as a percentage of the volume. So 12% abv on a standard 75cl bottle means that 9 centilitres are pure alcohol. To calculate how many units are in a bottle or glass all you have to do is times the strength (abv) by the volume (in ml) and then divide it by 1000. For example: 13.5% alc x 750ml ÷ 1000= 10.13 units.

Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)

e.g. Appellation Bordeaux Contrôlée, as seen on the label. The original quality assurance for wine in France. Many countries such as Italy and Spain have since taken up a similar system of control. This is meant to be a reasonably failsafe way of guaranteeing a wine’s authenticity and quality. Strict regulations have to be adhered to meet the demands of an AOC, the more specific the area of production the more rigorous the controls.


Our creation. Colourful tags that help to define the characteristics (aroma, taste) of a wine in an engaging and succinct manner.

Botrytis Cinerea (Noble Rot)

A fungus that grows on the skins of grapes and feeds on the water within. The resulting shrivelled berries create a unique sweet wine with apricot, honey and cream characters. The most famous examples are Sauternes in Bordeaux and Tokay in Hungary. The conditions for this to happen have to be just right- morning mist from a nearby body of water to encourage the rot, and then sunshine in the afternoon to stop the Noble Rot becoming Grey Rot, which would destroy the grapes.


A long-standing English name for any red wine coming from the Bordeaux region of France.

Cru, Première/Grand (Classé)

A French term (roughly translated as ‘first/top (classed) growth’) to denote that a vineyard or property has been classified as being of particularly good quality. Grand is above Première in terms of rating, and in some areas a Première before the Grand means it is the absolute best, so if you were to see the statement ‘Première Grand Cru Classé’ on a bottle of Médoc wine (Pauillac, Saint-Julien etc.) then it could only be one of four wines, as there are only four properties or Château that are rated that highly. In Bordeaux it is the properties that are classified, and in Burgundy it is the vineyards. See the region descriptions in the Wine Guide to find out more.

Denominación de Origen (Calificada)(DO, DOC)

Spain’s top quality assurance for wine. DOC is reserved for the very best wines. See Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Guarantita) (DOC, DOCG)

Italy’s top quality assurance for wine. DOCG is reserved for the very best wines (e.g. Barolo). See Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.


An increasingly popular tasting term that is not without its critics. Some claim that you cannot detect this quality in a wine or that at the very least it is overused. Vine roots delve deep into a variety of soils and so it is not surprising that trace elements of minerals end up in the grapes themselves. We make free use of it where appropriate, although it is a very general term. It serves more to give an impression of the character of the wine- whether you can detect any mineral-like element is for you to decide.

Noble Rot

See Botrytis Cinerea


It was Louis Pasteur who first noted the effects of oxygen on wine. When a wine is fermenting and ageing it will interact with some oxygen, and this will gradually alter its character in a positive way. Too much however and the wine will spoil and turn to vinegar, so stoppers (cork, screwcap..), sulphite, oak barrels etc. are all used to control this. Some wines (Banyuls/Vin Jaune) are deliberately allowed to interact with more oxygen for stylistic reasons. Typically the term oxidised is used to denote wines that are no longer at their best because of too much oxygen interaction.


A natural substance that is found mainly in red wines and comes from the skins, pips and stems of the grape bunch and/or possibly from oak barrels. When tasting a wine- particularly some young reds like Barolo- it leaves a drying sensation in the mouth, and this is more marked the more tannic a wine is. As white grape juice is typically removed from the skins soon after pressing there is very little found in white wine. It is particularly important for red wines that are destined for the cellar though as, along with acidity, it acts as a natural preservative. So a red wine with lots of tannins could be a result of poor winemaking but is more likely to be because it is designed for further ageing. As a wine ages the tannins start to separate from the liquid and form a solid deposit, or sediment. The wine can then be decanted, and will be much smoother and easier to drink than in its youth.


There is no straight English translation. Basically it is a French term covering all aspects of what can affect a vineyard: topography, soil and climate. Many winemakers think that good wine can be produced anywhere and that ‘terrior’ is some sort of French pomposity. Good wine can be produced in many places, although certainly not all, but where it is produced will affect the final wine.  This is a major reason why many are now exploring different areas for production in ‘New World’ countries such as Chile.

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