Wine Dictionary D to F

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Decanting: A technique that removes sediment from the wine before drinking. After allowing the sediment to settle by standing the bottle upright for the day, the wine is poured slowly and carefully into another container, leaving the sediment in the original bottle.

Degree Days: A method of classifying the climate based on the number of days the temperature is within a range that vines can grow.

Délestage: The French term for racking and returning a wine back to the tank.

Delicate: Used to describe light to medium-weight wines with good flavors. A desirable quality in wines such as Pinot Noir or Riesling.

Demeter: A non-profit organization that promotes and certifies biodynamic farming.

Demi-Muid: A French term for 600-liter capacity oak barrels, typically used in the Rhône Valley.

Demi-sec: A misleading term, which describes a medium-sweet Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec, and Doux.

Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca.): One of Spain’s regulatory classification systems, created in the early 1990s, and the highest given to a wine region. Rioja and Priorat are the only two Spanish wine regions to have earned the D.O.Ca.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (D.O.C.): The Italian system for defining wine regions and wine names. In addition, the D.O.C.G. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita) covers regions willing to submit their wines to tougher requirements, including tasting approval.

Dense: Describes a wine that has concentrated aromas on the nose and palate. A good sign in young wines.

Depth: Describes the complexity and concentration of flavors in a wine, as in a wine with excellent or uncommon depth. Opposite of shallow.

Destemming: The process of removing the grape berries from the stems once the grapes have been harvested and brought into the winery.

Desuckering: The removal of young, non-fruit-bearing shoots from a vine.

Deutscher Tafelwein: A wine classification within Germany’s lowest level of wines, Tafelwein; it indicates that the grapes were grown in Germany.

Devatting: An oxidative winemaking process – after the cap of grape musts, skins, seeds, and stems forms on the top of a vat of fermenting wine, the wine is drained through a valve at the base of the tank into another vat and reserved, while the remaining solids are allowed to drain for a few hours. The reserved wine is then pumped back into the original tank over the top of the drained skins, seeds and stems. The purpose is to increase the extraction of color, flavor, tannins, and aromas from the solids, as well as aerate the fermenting wine. See Délestage.

Developing: Refers to a wine that is starting to show signs of age in flavor, aroma, or color.

Dirty: Covers any and all foul, rank, off-putting smells that can occur in a wine, including those caused by bad barrels or corks. A sign of poor winemaking.

Disgorge: The process by which final sediments are removed from traditionally made sparkling wines prior to the adding of the dosage.

Disjointed: Describes wine with components that are not well-knit, harmonious, or balanced.

Diurnal Temperature Difference: The difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures, which can affect the speed of ripening and grape quality.

Dolce: The Italian term for sweet.

Dosage: In bottle-fermented sparkling wines, a small amount of wine that is added back to the bottle once the yeast sediment that collects in the neck of the bottle is disgorged.

Double-Blind: See Blind Tasting.

Douro: A river in Portugal as well as the wine region famous for producing Port wines.

Doux: Describes a sweet Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec, and Doux.

Drip Irrigation: An irrigation process associated with grape growing. Hoses with individual spouts for each vine deliver precise amounts of water, drop by drop. This saves water and allows grape growers to carefully control the water vines receive in dry areas.

Dry: Having no perceptible taste of sugar.

Dry (Sparkling): A misleading term, which designates a fairly sweet Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec, and Doux.

Dry Farming: An agricultural technique that prohibits irrigation.

Drying Out: Losing fruit – or sweetness in sweet wines – to the extent that acid, alcohol, or tannin dominate the taste. At this stage, the wine will not improve.

Dumb: Describes a phase young wines undergo when their flavors and aromas are undeveloped.


Early Harvest: Describes a wine made from early-harvested grapes, usually lower than average in alcoholic content or sweetness.

Earthy: Describes wines with aromas or flavors reminiscent damp soil or earth.

Ébourgeonnage: The French term for debudding vines.

Éclaircissage: The French term for green harvest or crop thinning.

Edelfäule: The German term for Botrytis Cinerea, or Noble Rot.

Eiswein: Wine made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. Since only the water in the grapes freezes, the super-concentrated grape pulp produces a wine that is very sweet and often high in acidity. Eiswein is an official German classification; such wines from other regions are called ice wine.

Elegant: Describes balanced, harmonious, refined wines; subtle rather than a highly-extracted blockbuster.

Élevage: The French term for the progression of wine between fermentation and bottling. See Raising.

Empty: Similar to hollow; devoid of flavor and interest.

En Primeur: Also known as “futures” in the American market.The en primeur offerings are a winery’s first offer of a particular vintage, when the initial price is set and offers buyers the opportunity to purchase wines before they are released.

Enologist: A scientist involved with winemaking.

Enology: The science and study of wine and winemaking. Also, known as Oenology.

Enophile: A lover of all things vinous.

Estate: A property of land which may include vineyards.

Estate-Bottled: A term once used by producers for those wines made from vineyards that they owned and that were contiguous to the winery “estate.” Today it indicates the winery either owns the vineyard or has a long-term lease to purchase the grapes.

Esters: The fragrant chemical compounds responsible for the aromas and flavors found in food and wine.

Eszencia: The Turkish dessert wine classification for Tokaji made from the free-run juice of individually picked, botrytized aszú berries.

Ethyl Acetate: A sweet, vinegary smell that often accompanies acetic acid.

Extra Brut: A dry Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec, and Doux.

Extra-Dry: A misleading term, which designates a relatively sweet Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec, and Doux.

Extra-Sec: See Extra-Dry.

Extract: Richness, depth, and concentration of fruit flavors in a wine.


Fading: Describes a wine that is losing color, fruit or flavor, usually as a result of age.

Fat: Full-bodied, high alcohol wines low in acidity give a “fat” impression on the palate.

Feinherb: An unregulated German term for wines that are off-dry.

Feminine: Describes wines with qualities such as smoothness, roundness, gentleness, finesse, elegance, and delicacy.

Fermentation: The process by which yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Field Blend: When a vineyard is planted to several different varieties and the grapes are harvested together to produce a single wine, the wine is called a field blend.

Fifth-Growth: See Classified Growth.

Fighting Varietal: This term was coined in the 1980s to describe a new category of wines, labeled as varietals but priced nearly as inexpensively as generics.

Fill Level: The amount of wine in a bottle is gauged by its height in the bottle. Common descriptors are good fill, high shoulder (the wine level is even with the sloping part of the bottle just below the neck), or low shoulder.

Filtration: The process by which wine is clarified before bottling.

Fining: Part of the clarification process where elements are added to the wine, like egg whites and gelatin, to capture the solids prior to filtration.

Finish: A measure of the taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is tasted. Great wines have rich, long, complex finishes.

Fino: Fino is the driest classification of Sherry wines.

First-Growth: See Classified Growth. They are Château Haut-Brion, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux and Château Mouton-Rothschild.

Flabby: Describes a wine that is unbalanced due to insufficient acidity, lacking backbone.

Flat: Describes a wine that is dull in flavor and unbalanced due to insufficient acidity. Can also refer to a sparkling wine that has lost its bubbles.

Flavors: Odors perceived in the mouth

Fleshy: Describes a wine with good extract and a smooth texture. The sensation of drinking the wine recalls biting into ripe, fleshy fruit such as a plum.

Flight: A set of wines that are compared and contrasted with one another.

Flinty: A descriptor for extremely dry white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, whose bouquet can be reminiscent of flint struck against steel.

Flor: The Spanish term for a cap of yeast that forms over Sherry wine as it ages in the barrel, protecting the wine from oxidation.

Floral/Flowery: Literally, having the characteristic aromas of flowers. Mostly associated with white wines.

Flowering: The emergence of tiny blossoms on grapevines in late spring.

Fortified: Describes a wine whose alcohol content has been increased by the addition of brandy or neutral spirits.

Foudre: A large wooden vat, popular in France’s Rhône Valley, significantly larger than typical oak barrels, often with the capacity to hold more than a thousand liters of wine.

Fourth-Growth: See Classified Growth.

Foxy: Describes the unique musky and grapey character of many native American labrusca grape varieties.

Free-Run Juice: The juice released by a pile of grapes as their skins split under their own weight before they are mechanically pressed.

French Oak: The traditional wood for wine barrels, which supplies vanilla, cedar and sometimes butterscotch flavors. Used for red and white wines. Much more expensive than American oak, new French oak barrels can cost twice as much as new American barrels.

French Paradox: Despite a high-fat diet, the French have low rates of coronary heart disease. An explanation may be found in scientific evidence that points to the benefits of moderate wine consumption.

Fresh: Having a lively, clean and fruity character. An essential for young wines.

Frizzante: The Italian term for sparkling wines with lighter effervescence and fewer bubbles than found in ordinary sparkling wines.

Frost: Subfreezing temperatures, which can damage or kill vines, are especially harmful in the early spring after bud break.

Fruit Set: In late spring or early summer, fertilized flowers swell into tiny bunches of grapes.

Fruity: Having the aroma and taste of fruit or fruits.

Full-Bodied: A rich, extracted wine with a mouth-filling sensation of weight or mass.

Fumé Blanc: A name created by Robert Mondavi to describe dry Sauvignon Blanc.

Fût de Chêne: The French term for oak barrel.

Futures: A wine sold to consumers several months, sometimes years, before its release. The initial futures offering is touted as a lower price than will be offered when the wine officially hits the market. See En Primeur.