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An Introduction To Common Wine Making Terminology

wine making terminologyIf you’re just getting started as a do it yourself vintner using wine making kits, one thing you’ll find is that there’s a lot of unfamiliar terminology. There is admittedly a certain amount of jargon that goes along with the hobby, but since the end result is so worthwhile it definitely behooves you to learn the terms of the trade. Keep reading for a rundown of some of the most common wine making terminology; you’ll be talking like an expert vintner in no time.

For more information, check out our complete Glossary of Wine Making Terminology.

Know Your Wine Making Vocabulary

    • Acetification: This is the natural souring of wine as it turns into vinegar, caused by acetobacter (an organism which produces acetic acid naturally as a byproduct of its metabolism). Simply put, it’s not desirable unless you’re trying to make vinegar rather than wine.


    • Acid: All wine contains a certain amount of natural acids from the grapes, and achieving the right balance of acidity is essential to making a good quality wine. Too little acid and the wine will taste flat; too much and it’ll be unpleasantly tangy. Sometimes, you may want to add tartaric acid (or an acid blend) to give your wine the acidity it needs to be at its best.


    • Airlock: This is a device used to keep oxygen from entering your fermentation vessel while allowing the carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation process to escape. It’s an essential part of anyone’s wine making supplies; oxygen can quickly spoil your wine.


    • Alcohol by volume (ABV): This is a measure of the alcohol content of wine, given as a percentage.


    • Brix: A measurement of the sugar content of wine calculated by measuring the specific gravity of the wine as compared to water.


    • Carboy: A glass or plastic vessel used for fermentation.


    • Fermentation: The process by which yeast digests the sugars in your soon-to-be wine, converting it into alcohol. Without fermentation, there’s no wine.


      • Fining: The process of removing particulates suspended in wine; also known as clearing.


    • Geranium: This type of spoilage is caused by sorbic acid; the telltale sign is a distinct geranium-like odor.


    • Hydrometer: An instrument used to measure the sugar content (Brix) of wine.


    • Lees: Yeast and other sediment deposited in your wine during the fermentation process. This sediment generally settles on the bottom of the fermentation vessel and is separated from the wine during racking.


    • Must: The juice and other ingredients used to make wine; until it’s wine, it’s must.


    • Racking: This is the process of siphoning off wine from the fermentation vessel to avoid getting sediment in the finished wine.


    • Stuck fermentation: A relatively common problem often caused by temperatures that are too warm or too cool. The yeast cease fermentation, leaving the vintner with a partially-fermented wine.