French Wine A-Z Dictionary

By: Genevieve Mc Carthy / Last updated: February 25, 2024

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


Welcome to the “French Wine A-Z Dictionary,” your ultimate guide to unraveling the wonders of French wine, where every sip tells a story steeped in age-old “terminology” that often intrigues even seasoned enthusiasts. Embark on a sensory journey as we traverse the picturesque landscapes of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhône, and beyond, where the unique terroir weaves its magic into each bottle of wine. This comprehensive A-Z dictionary is your key to unlocking the enigmatic world of French wine, demystifying everything from grape varieties to the intricacies of winemaking techniques.

Whether you find yourself swirling a glass like a pro or are just venturing into the realm of wine appreciation, this blog promises to be your sommelier companion. Immerse yourself in captivating stories behind the prestigious appellations and legendary châteaux, and learn the art of harmonizing these liquid treasures with delectable cuisine. Let our shared passion for the grape guide you as we explore the depths of this rich heritage and culture, savoring every drop of knowledge along the way. So, raise your glass with us to uncork your curiosity, and together, let’s toast the extraordinary experiences that await in the world of French wine! Santé!

  • Ampélographie – The study and identification of grapevine varieties.
  • Aperitif – A pre-meal drink, often a light and refreshing wine
  • Armagnac – High-quality grape brandy from Gascony
  • Appellation d’ Origine Contrôlée – Controlled Appellation of Origin, i.e., a quality designation, confirming where the wine is from and with a set of rules related to vinification and viticultural practices for each “AOC.”
  • Alcool – Alcohol
  • Assemblage – Refers to the winery’s blending of various grape varieties or plot-specific wines (already vinified) to make the final wine
  • Bâtonnage – Stirring the lees (sediment) in barrels to enhance wine texture.
  • Barrique Bordelaise– Bordeaux Barrel, 225 liters
  • Bénédictine – Herb liqueur originally made by Benedictine monks
  • Bière – Beer
  • Blanc de BlancsChampagne made entirely with Chardonnay grapes.
  • Blanc de Noirs – Champagne made from the red Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier
  • Bouchon – Cork, the closure used in wine bottles
  • Bouquet– the aroma of the wine
  • Brut– Dry
  • CalvadosApple brandy made in Normandy
  • Carafe – A decanter used to aerate and serve wine
  • Caudalie – A unit used to measure a wine’s aftertaste, named after researcher Joseph Caudalie
  • Cave– Wine cellar
  • Carte des Vins – Wine menu
  • Cépage – Grape varietal
  • Château – A castle or estate, often used to denote a winery.
  • Chaptalization – The process of adding sugar to grape must to increase alcohol levels in the wine
  • Cidre – Cider
  • Claret – British (incorrect) coined word for red wine from Bordeaux
  • Climat – “Climate” refers to the “terroir” of the wine (the relationship between the grapes, soils, weather conditions, etc.)
  • Clos – A walled vineyard or enclosed plot of land.
  • Collage– Fining/ clarifying
  • Cognac – Grape brandy made in the Cognac town and region.
  • Côte – Hillside or slope; often used in vineyard names like “Côte d’Or.”
  • Crémant – French sparkling wine made in the same method as Champagne but from different regions
  • Crème de cassisBlackcurrant liqueur often added to white wine (to make a “Kir”) or champagne (to make a “Kir Royal”)
  • Cru – Vintage vineyard
  • Curaçao – Orange liqueur
  • Cuvée Prestige – A winery’s flagship wine or top-tier blend, often representing their best expression.
  • Cuvier-The fermentation room in a winery
  • Dégorgement– “Degorging” refers to the final step in making champagne style (Méthode Traditionelle), whereby the yeast deposits at the top of the bottle are frozen and removed before corking. Depending on the wine style, liqueur de triage might be added.
  • Dégustation– Tasting (can be used for wine, cheese, cognac, etc.)
  • Délestage – Racking or “rack and return” method during fermentation to increase aeration.
  • Demi-sec– Off-dry (medium sweet) wine style
  • Domaine– Wine estate
  • Dosage – The addition of a small amount of sugar or wine to adjust the sweetness of Champagne after disgorgement.
  • Égrappage – The process of removing stems from grape bunches before crushing
  • Elevage – Ageing (wines)
  • Encépagement – The grape varieties that comprise the vineyard
  • En Primeur – “Futures”; when a wine is sold while still in barrel, this is de rigueur in regions like Bordeaux.
  • Foudre – A large wooden vat used for aging and fermenting wines.
  • Fût– Oak cask
  • Grand Cru– Important growth refers to the finest wines and vineyards. The term is used differently from region to region in terms of wine classification.
  • Guignolet – Cherry liqueur
  • Macération – Maceration is the process of soaking grape skins with juice to extract color and flavor.
  • Macération Carbonique – Carbonic maceration, a winemaking process that enhances fruitiness.
  • Magnum – A large bottle holding 1.5 liters of wine, equivalent to two standard bottles.
  • Marc – similar to Grappa or Orujo
  • Marqué au Fer – A branded mark on a wine barrel to identify the producer or origin
  • Méthode Champenoise – Traditional method for producing sparkling wine, including Champagne.
  • Méthode Traditionnelle – The traditional method of making sparkling wine, as used in Champagne
  • Millésime – the vintage year (for wines)
  • Mise en Bouteille au Château – Bottled at the estate, indicating the wine was produced and bottled on-site
  • Mousse – Champagne and sparkling wine’s foam or head.
  • Mousseux – Sparkling
  • Moût – Grape must
  • Nez – The aroma or nose of a wine, referring to its scent or bouquet.
  • Napoleon –Brandy classification is given to Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados
  • Pét-Nat (Pétillant Naturel) – A naturally sparkling wine bottled before fermentation is complete.
  • Phylloxera– Nasty insect (a kind of plant lice) responsible for devastating vineyards by eating the vine roots.
  • Pourriture noble – “Noble rot” refers to the process of making sweet wines like Sauternes.
  • Premier Cru – “First Growth” refers to a high wine classification in regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy
  • Pressoir – A wine press used to extract juice from grape berries
  • Remuage – “Riddling,” the process of turning the champagne bottles (Méthode Traditionelle) slightly while they are upside down in the “Pupitres”.
  • Ricard – Aniseed aperitif
  • Rosé – Pink wine made from red grape varieties, with limited contact between the grape skins and the juice.
  • Sauternes – A sweet white wine from Bordeaux, known for its botrytis-affected grapes.
  • Sec– Dry
  • Soutirage – “Racking,” a winery task that involves transferring the wine from one barrel to the next to separate it from its lees.
  • Sur Lie – The practice of aging wine on its lees (sediment) to enhance complexity and flavor.
  • Tanin – Tannin
  • Terroir – The interaction of various elements of a wine ecosystem such as the climate, microclimate, soils, grape varietals, and of course, the winemaker’s skill.
  • Veraison – When the grapes change color, for example, from green to red. This is the final ripening stage, usually in August, depending on the wine region.
  • Vieillissement – Aging, the period during which wine matures in bottles or barrels.
  • Vigne – Grapevine
  • Vigneron – A winegrower or grape grower, often used to describe small, independent producers.
  • Vignoble – Vineyard
  • Vin – Wine
  • Vin Blanc – White wine
  • Vin Chaud – Mulled wine
  • Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieur (VDQS) – Mid-level wine classification, lower than AOC wines but higher than Vin de Pays or Vin de Table wines.
  • Vin de Pays – a higher quality classification than “Vin de Table”; this translates as country wines.
  • Vin de Table – Table wine, the lowest quality classification of French wine.
  • Vin Jaune – A unique style of oxidative yellow wine from the Jura region.
  • Vin Rosé – Rosé wine
  • Vin Rouge – Red wine
  • Viniculture – The art and science of grape cultivation and winemaking.
  • Vitis Vinifera – The species of grapevine used in most wine production.


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Genevieve Mc Carthy

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