Wine Characteristics

WineAperitif Wine
One meant to be served before a meal as an appetizer.

Blanc de Blancs
White wine made from white grapes; this French phrase usually refers to sparkling wine made from fine Chardonnay grapes. A few table wines also carry this name.

Dry or lacking sweetness, used in reference to sparkling wines. This is the driest type of champagne normally sold; see also "extra dry."

Dessert Wine
A term formerly used to indicate sweet wines, such as sherries, ports, and muscatels, that are fortified with brandy to bring them up to an alcohol content of around 16 to 18 percent. (See "fortified.") Now, the meaning is more precise: a wine to be served with desserts or by itself after a meal. Dessert wines today include such sweet wines as Muscat Canelli and "late harvest" White Riesling, which have alcohol contents as low as just 10 to 12 1/2 percent.

Dry Wine
One lacking sweetness, with most or all of its sugar converted into alcohol by fermentation. Most table wines are dry to fairly dry--to complement the flavors of most foods prior to the dessert course.

Extra Dry Wine
Term used on a label to indicate that a sparkling wine is slightly sweet (contradictory but true!). See also "brut" and "sec."

Flavored Wine
"Pop" wines are often flavored with citrus or other fruit. Vermouth is flavored with herbs and spices. Only natural flavors may be added to wine under Federal regulations.

Wine in which fermentation was stopped and the alcohol content increased by the addition of grape brandy. This process is used for sherries, ports, and other wines whose alcohol content reaches 16 to 18 percent--sometimes even more in very sweet wines.

In the United States, our generic wines borrow European names which have specific meanings in their own countries but not here. Examples include burgundy, Chablis, Rhine wine, and sauterne. Many wineries are phasing out such labels in favor of more descriptive and accurate names (see "varietal"). However, it's likely that burgundy (for an inexpensive red wine) and Chablis (for an inexpensive white) will be in use in America for quite some time.

Late Harvest
A wine made from grapes picked after their juices are extra sweet and concentrated (see "Botrytis").

One carrying a name originated by a specific winery - essentially a brand name. Examples include Paul Masson's "Emerald Dry," Gallo's "Tryolia," and Christian Brothers' "Chateau LaSalle."

A French word meaning "dry"; however, when applied to champagne it has come to indicate a medium sweet one (see "extra dry").

Still Wine
Any non-sparkling wine.

Table Wine
Red, white, or pink wines of 11 to 13 percent alcohol, suitable for serving with food.

Term used to indicate that a wine is made predominantly of the grape variety named on the label. For example, Zinfandel wine is supposed to be made from Zinfandel grapes. A new Federal law now specifies that a minimum of 75 percent of a varietal wine be made from the grape listed on the label.

Vintage Wine
Wine from a single year named on the label, rather than a blend from several years. Vintage wines are necessarily good; there are fine years, average years, and poor years for most wines.

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