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Term Definition

A term for a wine made from fully ripened grapes. Kabinett is the lowest of the 5 levels of ripeness and may be dry ('Trocken') or off-dry ('Halbtrocken'). The subsequent levels are (in inreasing ripeness): Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese.


See Pinot Blanc

Late harvest

(aka Vendange tardive)

Wines that are produced using grapes that have been harvested later than the normal harvest. These will usually be sweeter wines.


(aka Tears)

When you swill the wine around the glass, sometimes some drips fall from the top of the glass: which look like rain drops falling down a window pane. These are the 'legs' or 'tears'. These normally suggest either high alcohol or some sweetness left in the wine.


Pronounced: Mal-beck

(aka Cot, Côt)

A black grape which produces velvety, concentrated wines with high alcohol. It is usually blended, but is famous for being the dominant grape in two places: Cahors (South-West France) and Argentina (especially the Mendoza region). It often produces rustic wines, sometimes with limited ageing possibilities.

Malolactic fermentation

(aka MLF, ML, secondary fermentation)

The process of turning harsh malic acids (found in green apples) into softer lactic acids (found in milk). Once a wine has undergone MLF it is creamier.

This is a necessary process for red wines, but is optional for white wines: it softens the wine by reducing acidity, but also reduces some of the fruit character so is less refreshing. MLF is common practice in cooler areas (e.g. Burgundy) but rare in hot areas like Australia and California. Malolactic fermentation imparts flavours such as butter and hazelnut.


See Pinot Gris


The process of maturing a wine - can be in a barrel, stainless steel vat or even within the bottle.

To survive medium or long-term ageing, a wine needs high tannin, acidity or alcohol. But, they must also have fruitthat will develop into interesting flavours.

Potential changes during maturation are effects from the barrel (e.g. gaining oak characteristics), effects from oxygen (improving the wine's character), development of the flavours.


Used primarily in California, this term is used to describe wines that are blended from two or more grape types that are found in Bordeaux: that is, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Malbec.


Pronounced: Merr-low

Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is the great grape of Bordeaux (France). While Cab Sauv adds structure in the form of harsh tannins, Merlot adds some softness: making them one of the greatest combinations. It is also easier to grow as it ripens earlier (the longer a grape is on the vine, the more chance of something bad happening to it) and it is happier in cooler climates. The warmer the climate that it is grown in, the more alcohol it tends to have. Due to it being less tannic, wines with a high Merlot content can also be drunk earlier (because they don't need time to soften the tannins).

In Bordeaux it is usually mixed with Cabernet Sauvignon to give the wines added structure and tannin (which allows to age). As a general rule, wines made on the left bank (southern Bordeaux) contain a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (meaning the wines need to age before they are at their best); while the right bank (northern Bordeaux) wines contain a higher percentage of Merlot (making them more drinkable at a younger age). However, this is a very simplistic generalisation. The best examples of wines with high Merlot content are found in Pomerol (Bordeaux, France) - for example Chateau Petrus.

Merlot has also made a name for itself as a varietal (meaning non-blended), especially in the US.

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