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Wine Education

Wine Terms and Wine Lingo

Learning some wine terminology is often the first step to increasing your wine knowledge. Use our list below to help you along as you encounter new wine lingo.

Acids
Acids give wine tartness. Several acids are in the grape before fermentation, and others arise afterward. Acids often make a wine seem "crisp" or "refreshing."

Appellation of Origin
You might see this phrase on a wine label. It denotes the place where most of the grapes used in the wine were grown. An appellation of origin can be the name of a country, state, county or geographic region. Federal regulations require that at least 75 percent of the grapes must be grown in the named appellation of origin.

Astringency
The degree of astringency (how much a wine makes your mouth pucker) depends upon the amount of tannin a wine has absorbed from the skins and seeds of the grapes. A moderate amount of astringency is desirable-it creates a lovely flavor-in many red wine types.

Balance
A wine has balance when its elements are harmonious; when no one part dominates. Acid should balance against sweetness; fruit should balance against oak and tannin; alcohol balances against acid and flavor.

Body
It's all about how thin or thick the wine feels in your mouth. "Light body" connotes a thin feeling in your mouth. "Medium body" means that a wine is full-flavored, without being too heavy. "Heavy body" means the wine has a robust, round, and very rich feel.

Bouquet
Smells that result from a wine's aging process. Bouquet can also describe a wine's overall smell.

Brix
A standardized scale to measure the sugar content in grapes before fermentation. Most table wines are harvested between 19 degrees and 25 degrees Brix.

Cellar
A storehouse or storeroom used specifically for holding wine. Long ago, wine was best kept in underground cellars. Modern methods of insulation and temperature control have transformed the job of storing wine, making it possible for wine "cellars" to be above ground as well. Wine is best stored horizontally in a dark place with minimal temperature fluctuation. The optimal temperature for storing most wines is between 45°F and 65°F. Check out Serving and Storage for more details.

D.O.C
Abbreviation for the Italian "Denominazione di Origine Controllata." This name on a label means the wine was grown and produced within a certain limited area in a regulated way (specific grape varieties used, growing method, winemaking method, aging, etc.). Various regulations and standards for each Italian D.O.C. are determined by producers within that zone, with oversight from Italy's national wine committee.

D.O.C.G.
Similar to D.O.C., with the "G" standing for "Garantita" or Guaranteed. This certification is also administered by the local producers, but is even more strict than the D.O.C. Traditionally considered the best of the best, the D.O.C.G. classification is reserved for a small portion of all wines from Italy.

Fermentation
This is the way in which grape sugar is converted to ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide, thereby converting grape juice into wine.

Finish
The finish is the overall taste that remains in your mouth after you've swallowed the wine; it's the length and pleasantness of the aftertaste. A well-balanced, full-bodied wine usually has a long finish, while a well-balanced, light-bodied wine has a shorter finish.

Legs
You've seen them-the drops of wine that creep down the side of the wine glass. A higher alcohol content means thinner legs flow back into the wine after you swirl the glass.

Malolactic Fermentation
Also called "secondary fermentation." The sharp malic acid in wine converts to lactic acid and carbon dioxide, thereby decreasing tartness and creating buttery aromas.

Mouthfeel
The various sensations - thick or thin, round or lean - a wine can create while in the mouth.

Nose
Many wine lovers prefer to say nose, but what they actually mean is the smell or aroma of the wine. The nose of a wine is best sensed by smell just after you swirl the wine in your glass. Check out How to Taste Wine to learn more about the classical process of wine tasting.

Residual Sugar
Often referred to as RS, it is a measure of the amount of sugar remaining in the wine after fermentation stops. RS is usually measured in grams of sugar per liter or milliliter of wine, and it indicates how sweet or dry a wine is.

Sommelier
(So-mel-YAY) The French word for wine steward. Many fine restaurants have a Sommelier to assist guests in choosing a wine from the menu.

Tannins
Naturally occurring substances found mostly in grape skins, seeds and stems. They can give young wines a mouth-puckering bitterness and astringency, but some tannins are desirable in red wines to give them structure.

Varietal
The varieties of grape from which the wine was made. You might be familiar with many of these: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Moscato, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.

Vintage
The year in which the grapes used to make the wine were harvested.

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