Common Wine Terms

Glass of Wine

Still Wines (non-sparkling): Includes red, white and rosé--which can be dry (no residual sugar), semisweet and sweet.

Sparkling Wines: Includes French Champagnes as well as effervescent wines from other parts of the world.

Fortified Wines: Includes sherry and port, which have been augmented with a dose of brandy or other spirit.

Aromatic Wines: Vermouth or something similar that has been flavored with ingredients like herbs or spices.

Vintage Wine: Wine that is made with 95% of the grapes harvested in a specific year; the year or "vintage" is indicated on the wine label.

Non-vintage Wine: Wine made from the juice of grapes harvested from several years; there's no year noted on the label of such wine.

Blush Wines: Blush wines are made with red grapes, but the juice has had only the briefest contact with the grape skins, which produces pale pink wines.

Wine Name/Varietal: The standards for naming a wine vary by country of origin. In the U.S., wine producers may name a wine for its predominant grape variety if the wine meets two requirements of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF): 75% of the grapes in the wine must be of the variety stated on the label, and the appellation of origin must appear on the label.

Growing Region: American Viticultural Area: "Appellation of origin" is a geographical term that indicates where the grapes are grown. An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a more specific area that meets certain federal regulations. To include an AVA on a U.S. wine label, 85% of the grapes in the wine must come from the indicated AVA. If two AVA’s are listed on the label, one is a sub-appellation of the other.

Alcohol Content: For excise tax purposes, according to U.S. wine law, the percentage of alcohol in table wine must fall between a minimum of 7% and a maximum of 14%. The alcohol percentage must be printed on the label.

Reserve: Though the term has no legal status, it sometimes denotes wine made from the premium grapes of a particular vintage.

Vineyard Designated: According to U.S. law, 95% of the grapes in a wine must come from one particular vineyard in order for a producer to include the vineyard designation on the label.

Unfiltered: The word "unfiltered" on a wine label indicates that the wine has not been filtered at any time during production.