Sunday, September 20, 2015


UC (Fr.) Short for Union Coopérative or other titles
denoting a local or regional cooperative.
UC DAVIS The University of California’s oenology
department at Davis.
ULLAGE (Fr.) 1. The space between the top of the
wine and the head of the bottle or cask. An old
bottle of wine with an ullage beneath the shoulder
of the bottle is unlikely to be any good. 2. The
practice of topping off wine in a barrel to keep it
full and thereby prevent excessive oxidation.
ULTRAPREMIUM A marketing term for a quality
UMAMI,UNAMI The fifth basic taste (after sweetness,
sourness, bitterness, and saltiness is the eastern concept of umami (asatisfying taste of completeness prompted by the amino acid glutamate, hence the use of monosodium
glutamate as a taste enhancer in Chinese cuisine).
Umami dates back to the early 1900s, but was given
scientific credence in 2002, when Charles Zuker and
Nick Ryber identified a taste receptor in the palate
for amino acids. The concept of umami as a basic
taste is contested by some scientists who argue
that it is artificial and created out of a complex
continuum of perceptions. Other scientists claim that
this explains all basic tastes, including sweetness,
sourness, bitterness, and saltiness. Still others
propose further basic taste sensations, such as the
taste of free fatty acids and the metallic sensation.
UNDERTONE A subtle and supporting characteristic
that does not dominate like an overtone. In a fine
wine, a strong and simple overtone of youth can
evolve into a delicate undertone with maturity,
adding to a vast array of other nuances that give
the wine complexity.
UNGENEROUS A wine that lacks generosity has little
or no fruit and also far too much tannin (if red) or
acidity for a correct and harmonious balance.
UNRIPE ACID Malic acid, as opposed to tartaric
acid or ripe acid.
UPFRONT This term suggests a wine with an
attractive, simple, immediately recognizable quality
that says it all. Such a wine may initially be
interesting, but it will not develop further and
the last glass would say nothing more about its
characteristics than the first.
UVAGGIO (It.) Wine that has been blended from
various grape varieties.
VA The abbreviation for volatile acidity.
VA LIFT A winemaking “trick” whereby the volatile
acidity is elevated to enhance the fruitiness of wine,
but it is never allowed to rise anywhere near the
level where the wine becomes unstable. Acceptable
only in wines that are ready to drink, since this
phenomenon does not improve with age.
VALUE-FOR-MONEY The difference between
penny-saving and penny-pinching, true value-formoney
can exist in a wine that costs $50 (or fifty
pounds, euros, et. al.) as much as it can in one
that costs $5, and the decision whether to buy will
depend on how deep your pocket is. It is,
however, facile to ask if the first wine is 10 times
better than the second. You can still get value-formoney
when buying a house for $1,000,000, but
will it be ten times better than a $100,000 property?
VANILLA,VANILLA-OAK Often used to describe
the nose and sometimes the palate of an oak-aged
wine, especially Rioja. It is the most basic and
obvious of oak-induced characteristics.
VANILLIN An aldehyde with a vanilla aroma that is
found naturally in oak to one degree or another.
The unique and distinctive character of a single
grape variety as expressed in the wine it produces.
VC (Sp.) Short for vino comarcal, which literally
means a “local wine” and can be compared to the
vin de pays of France.
VDL A common abbreviation of vin de liqueur, a
fortified wine that is normally muted with alcohol
before fermentation can begin.
VDLT (Sp.) Short for vino de la tierra, which
literally means a “country wine,” but is closer to
the VdQS of France than its vin de pays.
VDN A common abbreviation for vin doux naturel.
This is, in fact, a fortified wine, such as Muscat de
Beaumes de Venise, that has been muted during
the fermentation process, after it has achieved a
level of between five and eight percent alcohol.
VDQS A common abbreviation for vin délimité de
qualité supérieure, which is a quality-control system
below AOC, but above vin de table and vin de pays.
VDT (It.) Short for vino da tavola. Supposedly the
lowest rung in Italy’s appellation system, it does,
however, in practice, encompass some of the
country’s greatest wines.
VEGETAL Applied to wines of a certain maturity,
often Chardonnay or Pinot, that are well rounded
in style and have taken on a bouquet pleasingly
reminiscent of vegetation, rather than fruit.
VENDANGE TARDIVE (Fr.) Late harvest.
VÉRAISON (Fr.) The ripening period, during which
the grapes do not actually change very much in
size, but do gain in color (if black) and increase in
sugar and tartaric acid, while at the same time
decreasing in unripe malic acid.
VERMOUTH An aromatized wine. The name
vermouth originates from Wermut, the German for
wormwood, which is its principal ingredient. The
earliest examples made in Germany in the 16th
century were for local consumption only, the first
commercial vermouth being Punt-é-Mes, created
by Antonio Carpano of Turin in 1786. Traditionally,
Italian vermouth is red and sweet, while French is
white and dry, but both countries make both styles.
Vermouth is made by blending very bland base
wines (they are two or three years old and come
from Apulia and Sicily in Italy and Languedoc-
Roussillon in France) with an extract of aromatic
ingredients, then sweetening the blend with sugar
and fortifying it with pure alcohol. Chambéry, a
pale and delicately aromatic wine made in the
Savoie, France, is the only vermouth with an
official appellation.
VIERTELSTÜCK (Ger.) A small oval cask with a
capacity of 300 liters (80 gallons).
VIGNERON (Fr.) Vineyard worker.
VIGNOBLE (Fr.) Vineyard.
VIGOR Although this term could easily apply to
wine, it is invariably used when discussing the
growth of a vine, and particularly of its canopy. In
order to ripen grapes properly, a vine needs about 8
square inches (50 square centimeters) of leaf surface
to every gram of fruit, but if a vine is too vigorous
(termed “high vigor”), the grapes will have an
overherbaceous character, even when they are
theoretically ripe.
VIN DE CAFÉ (Fr.) This category of French wine is
sold by the carafe in cafés, bistros, and so on.
VIN DE GARDE (Fr.) Wine that is capable of
significant improvement if it is allowed to age.
VIN DE GLACE (Fr.) French equivalent of Eiswein.
VIN DE GOUTTE (Fr.) Free-run juice. In the case of
white wine, this is the juice that runs free from the
press before the actual pressing operation begins.
With red wine, it is fermented wine drained off
from the manta or cap before this is pressed.
VIN DE L’ANNÉE (Fr.) This term is synonymous
with vin primeur.
VIN DE PAILLE (Fr.) Literally “straw wine,” a
complex sweet wine produced by leaving latepicked
grapes to dry and shrivel in the sun on
straw mats. VIN DE PAYS (Fr.) A rustic style of country wine
that is one step above vin de table, but one
beneath VdQS.
VIN DE TABLE (Fr.) Literally “table wine,” although
not necessarily a direct translation. It describes the
lowest level of wine in France and is not allowed to
give either the grape variety or the area of origin on
the label. In practice, it likely consists of various
varieties from numerous areas that have been
blended in bulk to produce a wine of consistent
character, or lack thereof, as the case may be.

VIN D’UNE NUIT (Fr.) A rosé or very pale red
wine that is allowed contact with the manta or cap
for one night only.
VIN GRIS (Fr.) A delicate, pale version of rosé.
VIN JAUNE (Fr.) This is the famous “yellow wine”
of the Jura that derives its name from its honeygold
color that results from a deliberate oxidation
beneath a sherrylike flor. The result is similar to
an aged Fino sherry, although it is not fortified.
VIN MOUSSEUX (Fr.) This literally means “sparkling
wine” without any particular connotation of quality
one way or the other. But because all fine sparkling
wines in France utilize other terms, for all practical
purposes it implies a cheap, low-quality product.
VIN NOUVEAU (Fr.) This term is synonymous with
vin primeur.
VIN ORDINAIRE (Fr.) Literally “an ordinary wine,”
this term is most often applied to a French vin de
table, although it can be used in a rather derogatory
way to describe any wine from any country.
VIN PRIMEUR Young wine made to be drunk
within the year in which it is produced. Beaujolais
Primeur is the official designation of the most
famous vin primeur, but export markets see it
labeled as Beaujolais Nouveau most of the time.
VINIFICATION Far more than simply describing
fermentation, vinification involves the entire
process of making wine, from the moment the
grapes are picked to the point at which the wine
is finally bottled.
VINIMATIC This is an enclosed, rotating
fermentation tank with blades fixed to the inner
surface, that works on the same principle as
a cement-mixer. Used initially to extract the
maximum color from the grape skins with the
minimum oxidation, it is now being utilized for
prefermentation maceration.
VINO DA TAVOLA (It.) Vin de table, table wine.
VINO DE MESA (Sp.) Table wine, vin de table.
VINO NOVELLO (It.) The same as vin primeur.
VINOUS Of, or relating to, a characteristic of wine.
When used to describe a wine, this term implies
basic qualities only.
VINTAGE 1. A wine of one year. 2. Synonymous
with harvest: a vintage wine is the wine of one
year’s harvest only (or at least 85 percent
according to EU regulations) and the year may be
anything from poor to exceptional. It is, for this
reason, a misnomer to use the term vintage for the
purpose of indicating a wine of special quality.
VITICULTURE Cultivation of the vine. Viticulture is
to grapes what horticulture is to flowers.
VITIS VINIFERA A species covering all varieties of
vines that provide classic winemaking grapes.
VIVID The fruit in some wines can be so fresh, ripe,
clean-cut, and expressive that it quickly gives a vivid
impression of complete character in the mouth.
VOLATILE ACIDS These acids, sometimes called
fatty acids, are capable of evaporating at low
temperatures. Too much volatile acidity is always a
sign of instability, but small amounts do actually
play a significant role in the taste and aroma of a
wine. Formic, butyric, and proprionic are all
volatile acids that may be found in wine, but acetic
acid and carbonic acid are the most important.
VOLATILE PHENOLS Almost one-third of all French
wines tested have volatile phenols above the level
of perception, so they are clearly not always bad.
Some volatile phenols such as ethyl-4-guaiacol
(smoky-spicy aroma) and, to a lesser degree, vinyl-
4-guaiacol (carnation aroma) can actually contribute
attractive elements to a wine’s bouquet. However,
volatile phenols are generally considered to be
faults, and the amount of ethyl and vinyl phenols
present in a wine is increased by harsh methods
of pressing (particularly the use of continuous
presses), insufficient settling, use of particular
strains of yeast, and, to a lesser extent, increased
skin-contact. Ethyl-4-phenol is responsible for the
so-called Brett off-aromas (stables, horsey, sweatysaddles—Brettanomyces), while vinyl-4-phenol
has a Band-Aid off-aroma.
VOLUPTUOUS A term used to describe a succulently
rich wine, often a red wine, which has a seductive,
mouthfilling flavor.
VQPRD A common abbreviation for vin de qualité
produit dans une région délimitée.
VR (Port.) The abbreviation for vinho regional, the
lowest rung in Portugal’s appellation system. A VR
can be compared to the regional vin de pays
category in France.
WARM,WARMTH Terms suggestive of a goodflavored
red wine with a high alcoholic content; if
these terms are used with an accompanying
description of cedary or creamy, they can mean
well-matured in oak.
WATERSHED A term used for an area where water
drains into a river system, lake, or some other
body of water.
WATERY An extreme qualification of thin.
WEISSHERBST (Ger.) A single-variety rosé wine
produced from black grapes only.
WINE LAKE A common term for the EU surplus
of low-quality table wine.
WINKLER SCALE A term synonymous with the heat
summation system.
WOOD LACTONES These are various esters that are
picked up from new oak; they may be the source of
certain creamy-oak and coconutty characteristics.
WOOD-MATURED This term normally refers to a
wine that has been aged in new oak.
YEAST A kind of fungus that is absolutely vital in
all winemaking. Yeast cells excrete a number of
yeast enzymes, some 22 of which are necessary to
complete the chain reaction that is known as
YEAST ENZYMES Each yeast enzyme acts as a
catalyst for one particular activity in the fermentation
process and is specific for that one task only.
YEASTY This is not a complimentary term for most
wines, but a yeasty bouquet can sometimes be
desirable in a good-quality sparkling wine,
especially if it is young.
YIELD 1. The quantity of grapes produced from a
given area of land. 2. How much juice is pressed
from this quantity of grapes. Wine people in Europe
measure yield in hl/ha (hectoliters per hectare—a
hectoliter equals 1,000 liters), referring to how much
juice has been extracted from the grapes harvested
from a specific area of land. This is fine when the
amount of juice that can be pressed from grapes is
controlled by European-type appellation systems, but
in the New World, where this seldom happens, they
tend to talk in terms of tons per acre. It can be
difficult trying to make exact conversions in the field,
particularly after a heavy tasting session, when even
the size of a ton or gallon can become quite elusive.
This is why, as a rough guide, I multiply the tons
or divide the hectoliters by 20 to convert one to
the other. This is based on the average extraction
rates for both California and Australia, which makes
it a good rule-of-thumb. Be aware that white wines
can benefit from higher yields than reds (although
sweet wines should have the lowest yields of all)
and that sparkling wines can get away with relatively
high yields. For example, Sauternes averages 25
hl/ha, Bordeaux 50 hl/ha, and Champagne 80 hl/ha.
ZESTY A lively characteristic that is suggestive of
a zippy tactile impression combined, maybe, with a
distinctive hint of citrus aroma.
ZING, ZINGY, ZIP, ZIPPY Terms that are all indicative
of something that is noteable for being refreshing,
lively, and vital in character, resulting from a high
balance of ripe fruit acidity in the wine.
VIN DE PRESSE (Fr.) Very dark, tannic, red wine
pressed out of the manta or cap, after the vin de
goutte has been drained off.


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