The main grape used for Sherry production. Also used sparingly in the New World where it never seems to perform as well.
Passe-tout-grains (pahss too gran)
Usually called "Bourgogne Passe-tout-grains." A blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir (at least 33%) from southern Burgundy, France. A rarity that is worth trying when you find it.
The Italian name for a wine making technique. The grapes are dried (traditionally on straw mats) after picking until they turn to raisins. The result is a much higher sugar ratio in the grapes. Mostly used for dessert wines like Vin Santo and Reccioto della Valpolicella, but also used to make the dry red wine Amarone della Valpolicella. In France wines made with this technique are called Vin de Paille, literally "Straw Wine".
The process of sterilizing liquids by heating. Rarely used for fine wines, but still used for some simpler wines, especially if they contain residual sugar.
One of the principal wine growing towns in the Haut-Medoc, in Bordeaux, France. This is the home of the First Growths: Mouton, Lafite and Latour.
Pedro Ximenez (peh'-dro hee-meh'-nez)
A wine grape grown primarily in Spain, with some plantings in Argentina and Australia as well. Throughout Spain it is used to make rather simple white wines. It is also used to make Sherry like wines around the world. In the actual Sherry producing region of Spain it is becoming increasingly rare, in favor of the Palomino grape, and is usually used for blending. It is often called PX.
A wine producing region in Spain, just west of Barcelona. Most of Spain's sparkling wine, Cava, is produced here. There has been an explosion of red wines produced in the area, many from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. The well known producer Torres is one of the leaders in the region, as well as Jean Leon who helped to made Spanish Cabernet popular in the US.
Used by some wine tasters to describe the abundant floral quality of some white wines. It should be used exclusively for those aromas that derive from the grape itself (primary aromas).
A French term for a wine that has some, but very little sparkle. It is for wines that are less sparkling than what the French call "Petillant," and the Italians call "Frizzante".
The French term for a wine that is slightly sparkling. Equivalent to the Italian term "Frizzante".
Petit Verdot (peh-tee vair-doe)
One of the blending grapes used in Bordeaux, France. Added to Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot based wines for its tannins. In the New World it is sometimes bottled as a separate varietal, especially in Argentina.
Petite Sirah (peh-teet see-rah)
A wine grape found primarily in California. Once thought to be related to the Syrah grape of the Rhone Valley in France, it is now known to be the grape Durif. It has been said that this grape is "neither petite, nor Syrah." It yields wines with a deep color that tend to be rather simple and tannic, but enjoyable young.
Petrus, Chateau (peh-troos)
A wine of the Pomerol region of Bordeaux, France. In 1855 when the region was being classified, Pomerol was on the wrong side of a river, without a bridge. The result is that the Pomerol region has never been classified. If it had, Petrus would certainly be the highest rated wine in the region. With only 4,000 cases produced a year, Petrus is consistently one of the most expensive and sought after wines in the world. Usually made from 100% Merlot (a small amount of Cabernet Franc is planted, and is used only when needed). One can not write of Ch. Petrus without mentioning Jean-Pierre Moueix (mo-ex), whose guidance over the past four decades has turned this nearly obscure vineyard into the powerhouse it is today.
Wine makers, and wine writers often talk about the total acidity (TA) in a wine. It is only half the story. pH is the meassure of how strong the acid is in wine. The lower the number, the stronger the acid. A wine with a low TA may still taste tart if the pH is low enough. To be confusing pH is essentially backwards when talking about acidity (the higher the number, the more alkaline, the opposite of acidity, a solution is). pH is literally a measurement of the number hydrogen ions a solution contains. In dry table wine the range, very generally, is around 3.1 - 3.6.
A small insect that was responsible for the most devastating plague in wine history. A native of North America, the phylloxera louse is happy to live off the leaves of the native North American grapes. It was accidently exported to Europe where it found a new type of grape to live off of (vinifera). Instead of the leaves, it found that the roots of this new type of grape was a delicacy. It so liked the roots of vinifera that it changed its life cycle to exclude males and the winged form of the insect, learning to specialize as a female only, root eating monster. This made phylloxera much harder to detect, and to destroy. The late 19th century saw this insect spread throughout Europe, and even to the wine making regions of the New World, where it nearly wiped out the wine making industry. Many solutions were tried, but it was the grafting of native North American root stock (which is resistant to the bug) to the vinifera grape vines that finally was found to be effective. This technique is used world over to this day. Phylloxera is much controlled except in areas where through greed, ignorance or accident, root stock that is not resistant is used. Such was the case in California in the 80s and 90s where phylloxera was found to be rampant in the famous vineyards of Napa Valley and elsewhere, primarily due to the wrong choice of root stock.
Pichon-Longueville, Chateau (pee-shoh'n long-veel)
A Second Growth vineyard in the village of Pauillac, in Bordeaux, France. Until the mid-nineteenth century this was a huge vineyard, but it was divided, with part going to the sisters (see below) and this part going to the son. Because of the potential of confusion with its sister vineyard, this property is often called Pichon-Baron. A Cabernet Sauvignon based wine, it is usually of a style somewhat more tannic than its sister vineyard or its adjacent neighbor, the First Growth, Ch. Latour.
Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Chateau (pee-shoh'n long-veel coh'n-tess duh lah-lahnd)
A Second Growth vineyard in the village of Pauillac, in Bordeaux, France. It is often considered to be better than its peers and is given the unofficial designation "Super Second." Adjacent to its brother vineyard (see above) this wine is often called Pichon-Lalande to reduce confusion. A greater proportion of Merlot, and the more southernly vineyard, make this wine softer than Pichon-Baron, or even other wines in the region.
Piedmont / Piemonte (peed-mont / p'yay-mon'-the)
One of the most important wine producing regions in Italy. Situated in the northwestern corner of the country, up against the Alps. This is the home of the intense red wines Barolo and Barberesco, as well as the refreshingly light sparkling wine Moscato d'Asti and the well known sparkler Asti Spumante. Piemonte is the Italian name for the region.
A tiny, but very famous German wine making town. With steep, rocky vineyards that overlook the Moselle River, the Rieslings produced here are among the world's best. The renown Groldtropfchen vineyard is located in this village.
Pineau des Charentes (pee-no day shah-rahn't)
A somewhat obscure sweet, fortified wine made in the Cognac region of France. It is made by adding Cognac to unfermented grape juice (instead of partially fermented wine).
Pinot Blanc (pee-no blahn)
A relative of the Pinot Noir, this white grape is planted in abundance in Alsace, France; California and Oregon. At one time this grape was found in the vineyards of Burgundy, along side Chardonnay. While Burgundy platings are now rare, it would seem that much of the Pinot Blanc taken from Burgundy to be planted elsewhere, is actually Chardonnay. This is specially true in Italy, where producers of Pinot Blanco are pleasantly surprised to find they have the better selling Chardonnay planted instead, and have rushed to change the name of their wines. The wines made from Pinot Blanc tend to be very crisp due to high acidity.
Pinot Grigio (pee'-no gree-d'jo)
The Italian name for the grape and wine produced from the Pinot Gris grape. Most of this popular wine is rather bland and uninspiring.
Pinot Gris (pee-no gree)
A relative of the Pinot Noir grape this "grey" member of the family is important in Alsace, France, where it is known as Tokay d'Alsace and in Germany where it is called Rulander, and in Italy as Pinot Grigio. The Alsatian examples are the richest and most flavorful, eclipsing the Pinot Grigio of Italy.
Pinot Meunier (pee-no muh-n'yay)
A cousin of the Pinot Noir grape, and like Pinot Noir, one of the red wine grapes used in Champagne. Curiously it is rarely mentioned in Champagne where nearly half the vineyards are planted to Pinot Meunier.
Pinot Noir (pee-no n'wahr)
One of the most important red wine grapes in the World. At home in Burgundy, France, it is also found throughout the New World. In California many of the best examples are found in Santa Barbara county. Oregon too boasts exceptional Pinots, and New Zealand is proud of their up and coming contributions. It is also used to make high quality sparkling wines in Champagne and elsewhere. By pressing very gently, the red color which comes from the skins of the grape, does not leech into the juice, allowing sparkling wines made with Pinot Noir to remain relatively clear. Rose Champagne is usually (but not always) made by adding red wine at the end of the process. Pinot Noir tends to be high in acid, and low in tannin, which makes it easier to enjoy in its youth, and one of the best wines to enjoy with food. Pinot Noir is a very hard grape to grow, and a very hard wine to make. This makes vintage fluctuations common, as well as less than stellar results from some producers, even in good years. The movie Sideways propelled the grape to Superstardom, raising prices and leading to a trend in California for making blends with 25% of other grapes while still (legally) labelling it as Pinot Noir.
An important grape in South Africa. The result of crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault (which is known as Hermitage in South Africa).
A large oak barrel that is tapered at the ends. At 522.5 liters or 138 gallons it is about twice the size of the average barrel. Used primarily for Port.
A French term, it means a wine that has begun to sour. In English the term is "Pricked".
A confusing term. It means either the addition of substances such as calcium sulfate before fermentation in order to increase acidity, or calcium carbonate to reduce acidity. Since both of these are a white powder that is added to a liquid, as is plaster, it may explain the term, but not why it can mean two potentially opposite results.
A common slang term for bulk or jug/box wines.
All of the seeds, skins, pulp and stems left over after fermenting and pressing the red wine. The French call this "Marc" and distill it into a brandy by the same name. The Italians call this brandy "Grappa."
A wine producing village in Bordeaux, France. Unique among French wine producing regions, this one has no classification system. In 1855 when most of Bordeaux was being classified, Pomerol was less accessible than it is now, and was largely ignored. The wine makers of the region have resisted classification ever since. The home of the very expensive and renown Ch. Petrus, Pomerol may be one of the highest average quality regions in Bordeaux. The wines here are produced primarily from Merlot, with varying amounts of Cabernet Franc added when the vintage calls for it.
A well known wine producing village in Burgundy, France. Situated at the northern end of the Cote de Beaune, it produces primarily red wines from the Pinot Noir grape.
An odd looking glass or ceramic wine drinking vessel from Spain. It is shaped like a bag with two horns. The one end is wider, to allow pouring in the wine. The other end is a spout. The drinker raises the Porron high over their head and allows the stream to run down into their mouth. More for celebration than everyday use, it is now seen mostly at festivals for the delight of the tourists.
A sweet red wine that is made by adding neutral grape spirit (brandy) to the unfinished wine. This is the process known as "fortification." Port is made in several styles.
Vintage Port is made in years that are exceptional. It is bottled young, and ages in the bottle for decades. An aged Vintage Port throws a good deal of sediment and must be decanted before serving.
Late Bottled Vintage Port is aged for several years in a barrel before it is bottled. It is a short cut method that allows the wine to be served with a minimum of fuss. It never will have the complexity of a fine Vintage Port, nor the price.
Character Port is a house style that is not vintage dated. It is a simple, inexpensive style that will not improve with age. The label will not say "Character Port," it will have a brand name instead.
Tawny Port has been aged in a barrel for a number of years (usually listed on the label). As the Port throws sediment, it is racked into a new barrel, leaving the sediment behind, as well as the coloring agent. The result is a lightly brown (tawny) colored wine that is nutty and complex. 10, 20 and 40 year old Tawnies are common.
There is also a White Port made from white wine grapes. It is a drier, aperitif style. It is rarely seen in the US.
Outside of the European Economic Community, which controls the legal use of the term Port, there are several Port style wines made in a similar fashion. Australia and the US are both producers of these Port styled wines.
The legal name for Port exported to the US, in order to reduce confusion with US made port style wines. It must appear somewhere on the label. The exception is for Port that is bottled in England prior to export to the US.
A red wine grape popular in Austria. It has no connection to Portugal at all.
Pouilly-Fuisse (poo-yee fwee-say)
A Chardonnay based white wine from southern Burgundy in France. Once very popular in the US.
Pouilly-Fume (poo-yee foo-may)
A dry white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire region of France.
Pourriture Noble (poor-rit-ch'yer no-bluh)
French for "Noble Rot" a term for Botrytis Cinerea. The special mold that is responsible for many of the world's greatest dessert wines. It creates micro lesions in the skin of the grape, and then removes the water from the inside the grape. The result is fruit with a much higher ratio of sugar, suitable for creating sweet wines. The mold can also be harmful when it attacks dry wine vineyards (it is usually called Gray Rot when it is a pest).
A wine producing region in eastern Italy for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines.
Premier Cru (preh-m'yay crew)
French for "First Growth." In Bordeaux, France, it refers to the very top estates. In Burgundy, France, it refers to those vineyards that are distinctive enough to be listed on the label, but not great enough to stand on their own (as are the Grand Cru vineyards).
A piece of wine making equipment used to press the juice out of the grapes. In the case of red wine this is done after fermentation.
When making wine, the juice that is extracted without pressing is of the highest quality, and is called "free run." In order to extract the rest of the juice, the grapes must be pressed. This is often done multiple times. Each succeeding press yields juice of a lower quality. The term "Press Wine" is mostly used to connote this lower quality juice.
In order to make an inexpensive wine from expensive grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, or Chardonnay, the grapes must be pressed many times in order to increase the quantity produced. In some cases, only this press wine is used, the first press and free run juice being used for higher quality wine. Since this press wine is often bitter, it becomes necessary to leave a small amount of sugar in the wine to hide the bitterness.
A French term for wines that are consumed shortly after harvest. The best known example is Beaujolais Nouveau.
A red wine grape found in Italy. It was thought for some time that this was the origin of the Zinfandel grape of California. Current DNA methods suggest that the Primitivo may actually have come from the Zinfandel, rather than the other way around.
A period in US history that outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages, by the 18th amendment to the US Constitution. It lasted from 1920 until 1933 when it was repealed by the 21st amendment to the US Constitution. During this period the consumption of alcoholic beverages doubled. Because of the great profits to be made, bootlegging and smuggling became common, and a great deal of violence was introduced into American society.
A method of expressing the alcohol content of spirits. Wine has the actual percentage listed. In the US proof is double the percentage of alcohol. So a 100 proof spirit, contains 50% alcohol. In Great Britian it would be 57.06% by volume. This is an important distiction, because Scotch Whiskey imported into the US will say 80 proof when it has 40% alcohol, but the same whiskey in Great Britain will only say 70 proof.
A white wine grape of Italy. In the US it is best known as a sparkling wine made from the same grape. In Italy the wine may be sparkling, lightly sparkling, or even still.
A huge wine making area in the south of France. The emphasis tends to be on quantity more than quality, with over 40 million cases produced each year.
One of the most important steps in vineyard management. Conducted during the dormant period in the vineyard. The goal is to shape the vine for the coming growing season, with a specific goal in mind. The goal may be to increase or decrease the amount of grapes to be produced, or to make the grapes easier to harvest by machine, or a host of other considerations.
Puligny-Montrachet (poo-lee-n'yee mohn-rah-shay)
A white wine making village in the Cote de Beaune in Burgundy, France. The famed vineyard Montrachet straddles this town, and Chassagne-Montrachet, both of which have appended the famous vineyard names to their own.
The center of the grape where the juice is. It is surrounded by the skin of the grape, where tannin, and in the case of red wines, the coloring agents are found. The pulp in turn surrounds the seed, or pip, which is also a source of tannin.
The indentation in the bottom of a Champagne bottle. Originally designed to strengthen the bottle, so that it could withstand the internal pressure of the sparkling wine, it is now found on many wine bottles. It not only increases the strength, but it makes it easier for the bottle makers to stack the bottles on end.
In the traditional production of Tokaji Aszu wine of Hungary, baskets of very ripe grapes, effected with botrytis, are added to the base wine to sweeten it. The baskets are themselves known as puttonyos, and the label of the wine indicated how many puttonyos have been added. Three was common for the drier styles, with five being used in the swetest. Six puttonyos wines exist, but are nearly legendary. There also exists an even more legendary wine, Essencia which is made entirely from the puttonyos grapes. In modern Tokaji Aszu puttonyos exits as a term only, and it is now grams per liter that are the actual measurement.