Terms You Need to Know


American Vitricultural Areas. Refers to a naming convention for regions where grapes are actually grown. The best known examples include Bordeaux, Napa and Chianti. Also can be called an appellation. If a wine is labeled as Napa Valley then at least 85% of the fruit must be grown in Napa Valley. If Sonoma County is listed then at least 75% of the grapes must be grown in the named county. Many wine drinkers can use this system to try new wine varietals from famous regions for a fraction of the price. Try a Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon for example. We have a complete, free AVA Guide.


Winemakers generally have two choices when they are deciding what type of yeast to use. They can use the yeast that occurs naturally on the skin of the grapes, or they can purchase yeast which has been created after being isolated in a laboratory. There is some preliminary research from scientists in New Zealand showing that natural yeast causes more vibrant flavors in wine….at this time though adding yeast is still the industry standard across all wine types and locations.


If you’ve ever thought, why can wine seem dry even though it is a liquid…here is your answer: tannins. Higher levels of tannins do a few things for wine, they make it possible for the wine to be aged for a longer time period and they also can be intentionally left higher to encourage the wine to be paired with food as is the custom with some French wine. What tannin actually is, is basically the essentially bitter part of a plant. For our purposes grape seeds and skin have tannins in them, wine makers are careful to remove seeds without crushing the seeds to limit the level of tannins. However, red wine has higher levels of tannins because the wine is essentially soaked with the skin on to help create a darker color.