A.B.V.

Abbreviation of ‘alcohol by volume’. It is normally listed on a wine label in percentage format to let you know how much alcohol is in the bottle you’re about to drink. 


Acidity

Acid is present in all grapes and is an absolutely essential part of any wine. It can be detected by the sharp, crisp character it gives wines. It is responsible for making a wine taste fresh and is an important balance to any sweetness.


Autolytic

Wine described as having an 'autolytic' character have a yeasty or bread-like smell or taste. Often this comes from ageing the wine on its lees. 


Balanced

When a wine has all its essential components (acid, tannin, sugar and alcohol) in harmony, so that one component does not overwhelm any of the others. 


Barrel

Barrels in winemaking are usually made from oak - either French or American - and are often used to age wine or sometimes as a container for fermentation. American oak tends to impart a stronger, sweeter flavour than French oak. Either can be toasted before use to bring a different dimension, but the most common distinction made between barrel types is between old and new. New barrels can overwhelm the natural flavour of the wine if they're overused, so older ones, or a mixture, are often preferred. 


Barrique

A special type of barrel. These are the ones we (mainly) use at London Cru. Barriques have a capacity of 225 litres and are relatively tall. Although they are all a set size, the term barrique does not indicate whether it is old or new oak, or the level of toasting inside. 


Biodynamic Wine

Biodynamics is a farming practice that advocates harmony between the earth, the vine and the cosmos. Its theories hail from anthropologist Rudolph Steiner who proposed that everything is connected and cyclical when it comes to agriculture. Proponents of this system say that their wines are more stable and are truer expressions of their vineyard. Some of our growers use biodynamic practices, but whether this is what makes their grapes so good, or whether they are just good growers anyway, is open to debate. 


Blend

Individual wines can be blended together to make something with better balance. Blending might be between wines made from different grape varieties, grown in different vineyards, harvested in different years, or treated differently during the winemaking process.


Body

Term to describe the weight of a wine in the mouth. Full-bodied wine is heavier, with more power, more alcohol, tannin and flavour. Lighter-bodied wine is more delicate.


Cap

The thick layer of stems, seeds and skins that sits at the top of a wine when it is fermenting. 


Corked

Cork taint is a specific wine fault caused by a fungus which can lie hidden deep within cork bark. Its effects can range from the barely detectable to the severe. At the less serious end of the scale, it’s often difficult to say for certain that something is amiss without opening a second bottle for comparison. The fruit flavour of the wine may appear dull and muted, and the wine may finish short. In more severe cases, the wine will smell distinctly musty and, in extreme instances, of rotting cardboard or like a mouldy dog.


Cuvée

A French term for a particular batch, blend or type of wine. 


Débourbage

This is a French term for something called ‘settling’, where particles settle to the bottom of a liquid. Mainly used in white wine production after pressing and before fermentation.


Dry

A wine is dry if it contains little or no residual sugar. A common mistake is to believe that a wine is not dry if it tastes of sweet things, such as fruit. The flavour of the wine is unrelated to whether a wine is dry or not. As a rough guide, the vast majority of wine is actually dry. 


Fermentation

Ethanol fermentation is the biological process by which sugar is converted by yeast into cellular energy. Byproducts of this process are carbon dioxide and ethanol. What this means practically is that fermentation in wine transforms sweet grape juice into dry, alcoholic wine.


Horizontal Tasting

A tasting of wines from the same year, but from multiple producers. Usually organised around a theme such as grape, region or style.


Lees

The particles that settle at the bottom of a tank or barrel after fermentation or ageing. Usually made up of dead yeast cells and grape fragments. Leaving it to age on these lees can impart additional complexity to the finished wine.


Malolactic Fermentation

This is a process in winemaking by which tart malic acid in wine is converted to softer, lactic acid. Malic acid is a bit like the acid you get in a sharp green apple, whereas lactic acid is the one you get in milk and cheese. This transformation occurs after the main ethanol fermentation, with the introduction of a naturally occurring bacteria. It happens in nearly all red wines, and some white wines.


Must

Freshly pressed, sweet grape juice, prior to fermentation and its transformation into wine.


Oenology

The study of wine, i.e. wine geekery.


Oenophile

A wine aficionado.


Oxidised

When a wine has been exposed to oxygen for too long. This can happen during the winemaking process, or if it has been stored incorrectly and the closure has failed. It’s why your wine starts to taste like vinegar after a few days of being left open.


pH

The scale used to measure acid. The lower the number, the more acidic it is.


Punt

The indent in the base of a wine bottle. Contrary to the seeming belief of many big-brand marketing departments, a deeper punt does not equal a better wine.


Racking

Also known as soutirage (if you’re French). Moving wine from one barrel to another using gravity, rather than a pump. You rack wine during its production to move it off its lees.


Sommelier

A specialist waiter in a restaurant, who oversees the wine list and advises customers on wine choices.


Tannin

A bitter compound that naturally occurs in the skins, seeds and stems of a grape. They give wines dryness and structure, and can add complexity. Tannins are also an antioxidant, working to protect the wine as it ages. Tannins can be detected in many wines - they feel grainy and drying on your gums.


Terroir

A French term which doesn't have a single direct equivalent in English. It refers to the combination of factors that influence the quality and character of wine in a particular area or vineyard, including soil, climate and grape variety. If a vineyard or region is said to have good terroir, it means that it is all of those factors are favourable for the production of good wine. 


Vertical tasting

A tasting of the same wine, but from different vintages, alongside one another.


Vintage

The year a particular wine’s grapes were picked. If a wine is 'non-vintage' it means it is made up of a blend of wines from different years, and not that it is of lesser quality. Most Champagne, for example, is non-vintage. 


Winery

Not a wine shop, but a building in which wine is made.


Winemaker

A person who lives in a winery (see above) and occasionally makes wine.