Palate: The flavor or taste of wine; also, referred to as different sections of taste in the mouth.
Passe-Tout-Grains: A red Burgundy made from Pinot Noir blended with Gamay.
Passito: An Italian term literally translated as sweet, describes wines that have been made from dried grapes, in the appassimento method.
Peak: The time when a wine tastes its best (very subjective).
Perfumed: Describes the strong, usually sweet and floral aromas found in some wines, particularly white wines.
Pétillant: A French term for lightly sparkling.
pH: An indication of wine’s acidity expressed by how much hydrogen is in it.
Phenolics: Tannins, color pigments and flavor compounds originating in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes. Phenolics, which are antioxidants, are more prevalent in red wines than in whites.
Phylloxera: A microscopic insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots.
Physiological Ripeness: See Polyphenolic Ripeness.
Piedmont: An area northwest Italy known for Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto, and Moscato.
Pierce’s Disease: A bacterial disease, frequently spread by insects such as glassy-winged sharpshooters and blue-green sharpshooters, kills vines within a few years of infestation.
Pigéage: The French term for Punch-Down.
Pinot Blanc: A white grape popular in Alsace, Germany, and elsewhere.
Pinot Gris: Also, called Pinot Grigio, this is a grayish-purple grape that yields a white wine with a refreshing character.
Pinot Noir: The prime red grape of Burgundy, Champagne, and Oregon.
Pinotage: A hybrid between Pinot Noir and Cinsault that is grown almost exclusively in South Africa.
Pip: Another term for a grape seed.
Plateau: The time during which a wine is at its peak.
Plonk: British slang for inexpensive wine; also, used to describe very low-quality wines.
Polyphenol: Responsible for skin pigment, tannins, and flavors – all of which fall under the category of flavonoids – as well as resveratrol.
Polyphenolic Ripeness: Also, known as physiological ripeness, is the concentration of polyphenols in grape skins, seeds, and stems, in contrast to the traditional form of measuring ripeness based on sugar content.
Pomace: The mass of grape solids – skins, stems, and seeds – remaining after pressing (for whites) and after the wine has been drained from the fermentation vessel (for reds).
Port: A sweet, fortified wine made in the Douro Valley of Portugal and aged in the coastal town of Vila Nova de Gaia; variations include Vintage, Tawny, Late Bottled Vintage, Ruby, White, and others.
Potent: Intense and powerful.
Powdery Mildew: See Oïdium.
Prädikatswein: German quality classification indicating wines with distinction and including Germany’s best wines.
Premier Cru: Refers to a top tier in a Cru system. In Burgundy, it is second to grand cru.
Premier Cru Classé: See First-Growth.
Press: After fermentation, the mixture of red grape juice, skins, lees and other solids is pressed to separate the juice from the solids.
Press Wine/Pressing: The juice extracted under pressure after pressing for white wines and after fermentation for reds.
Private Reserve: This description, along with Reserve, once stood for the best wines a winery produced, but lacking a legal definition many wineries use it or a spin-off (such as Proprietor’s Reserve) for rather ordinary wines.
Produced and Bottled By: Indicates that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled at least 75 percent of the wine in the bottle.
Pruning: The process of trimming the vine.
Pruny: Describes a wine having the flavor of overripe, dried-out grapes.
Puckery: Describes highly tannic and very dry wines.
Pump-Over: Also, known as remontage, the process of pumping red wine up from the bottom of the tank and splashing it over the top of the fermenting must.
Punch-Down: Also, known as Pigéage, the process of breaking up the thick layer of skins, stems, and seeds that forms at the surface of fermenting red wine and submerging it during fermentation to extract color, tannins, flavor, and aromas from the grape solids.
Pungent: Having a powerful, assertive smell linked to a high level of volatile acidity.
Punt: The dimple or indentation in the bottom of a bottle, originally meant to strengthen hand-blown glass containers. Bottles of Champagne and sparkling wines, which must withstand extra pressure, have especially deep punts.
Qualitätswein Bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA): German quality classification meaning quality wine from designated cultivation areas. Producers may add sugar to these wines when grapes don’t meet the minimum levels of natural ripeness at harvest time. Usually a producer’s basic level wine, inexpensive, and meant for everyday drinking, though there are some exceptions.
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP): Former German quality classification meaning quality with distinction and including Germany’s best wines.
Quinta: The Portuguese term for estate.
Racking: The practice of moving wine from one container to another for aeration or clarification, leaving sediment behind.
Racy: A tasting term referring to a style, rather than a smell or taste, generally marked by lively acidity and light juiciness.
Raisiny: Having the taste of raisins from ultra-ripe or overripe grapes.
Raw: Young and undeveloped. A good descriptor of barrel samples of red wine. Raw wines are often tannic and high in alcohol or acidity.
Recently Disgorged: Indicates that the lees have been removed from a sparkling wine just prior to release.
Recioto: Extremely concentrated Italian wine made from grapes that have been dried or raisined in special drying rooms for a few months after harvest before being crushed.
Récolte: The French term for harvest. Can also be used as a word for Vintage.
Recorking: The practice of replacing corks that have become fragile during extended cellaring. Once the old cork is removed, the bottle may be topped up with wine from the same or a similar vintage and a new cork inserted.
Reduced: Describes a wine that has not been exposed to air and has developed stinky aromas due to reductive chemical reactions (as opposed to oxidation).
Reductive: Refers to winemaking practices that reduce a wine’s exposure to oxygen, such as the use of stainless steel tanks and inert gases to minimize contact with air.
Refractometer: A handheld instrument that gauges grapes’ ripeness by measuring the ratio of sugar and other solids in the grape juice.
Rehoboam: Oversized bottle equivalent to 4.5 liters or six regular bottles.
Remontage: The French term for Pump-Over.
Remuage: See Riddling.
Reserva: A quality classification in Spain. Red reservas must be aged at least three years, with a minimum of one year in oak.
Reserve: An unregulated term on U.S. wine labels; sometimes indicates the best wine of the lot, sometimes over-zealous marketing.
Residual Sugar: Unfermented grape sugar in a finished wine.
Resveratrol: Polyphenol found in grape skins and wine as well as in other foods such as peanuts, blueberries, and cranberries.
Retronasal Passages: The retronasal passages are the airways that connect the nose and the mouth. Also, home to a dime-sized patch of nerve endings called the Olfactory Epithelium.
Rhône: A river southwest France surrounded by villages producing wines mostly from Syrah; the name of the wine-producing valley in France.
Rich: Describes wines with generous, full, pleasant flavors, usually sweet and round in nature.
Riddling: In making sparkling wine, the process of moving the sediment remaining in the bottle from the second fermentation to rest in the neck of the bottle for easy removal.
Riesling: Along with Chardonnay, one of the top white grapes in the world; most popular in Germany, Alsace, and Austria.
Right Bank: Refers to the wine regions to the immediate east of the Gironde river in Bordeaux. The Right Bank comprises the wine regions of St. Emilion, Pomerol, and other neighboring areas.
Rim: Where the wine meets the edge of the glass, useful in describing color variation in a wine.
Rioja: A well-known region in Spain known for traditional red wines made from the Tempranillo grape.
Ripasso: The Italian term for a process in which dried grapes or leftover grape skins are added to a fermented wine for a period of maceration to increase its intensity, flavor, alcohol, and color.
Ripe: The stage at which the grapes’ many components have reached maturity.
Riserva: The Italian term indicating that the wine has been aged for an extra period prior to release.
Robust: Describes a wine that is full-bodied, intense, and vigorous; can be a bit overblown.
Rootstock: Disease-resistant native American grapevine grown specifically to provide a root system on which to graft Vitis vinifera varieties. Most of the world takes these measures to prevent attacks of Phylloxera.
Rosado: The Spanish term for Rosé.
Rosato: The Italian term for Rosé.
Rosé: Rosés, also known as blush wines, range in color from muted salmon-orange to bright pink. These wines are made from red grapes, colored through limited skin contact or, in rare cases, the addition of small quantities of red wine.
Roto-Fermentor: A programmable, mechanized fermenting tank that rotates on an axis to mix the cap and grape must during fermentation to facilitate extraction of color, tannins, and flavor.
Rough: Describes the drying, gritty, or furry mouthfeel associated with higher levels of tannins and coarse tannins.
Round: Describes a texture that is smooth, not coarse or tannic.
Rustic: Describes wines made by old-fashioned methods or tasting like wines made in an earlier era.