Swiss Wine Regions

A

A.O.C.

French. Abbreviation for Appellation d’origine contrôlée (controlled designation of origin)

A.P. number

German. Abbreviation for Amtliche Prüfnummer which is Germany’s attempt to reduce massive confusion generated from most German wine labels. It is a unique, official number designating region, village, estate, unique bottling number, and year of tasting (usually the year after the vintage).

Acid

There are four major acids found in wine: tartaric, malic, lactic and citric. Acid is identifiable by the crisp, fresh character it imparts to a wine’s palate. Too much can lead to a sharp, sour taste; too little can leave a wine flabby and out of balance.

Acidity

The quality of tartness, sourness and sharpness that gives wine its crispiness and vitality. A proper balance of acidity must be struck with the other elements of a wine, or else the wine may be said to be too sharp (having disproportionately high levels of acidity) or too flat (having disproportionately low levels of acidity).

Acrid

A tasting term for wine with too much acidity.

Aftertaste

A tasting term for the taste left on the palate after wine has been swallowed.

Aging barrel

A barrel, often made of oak, used to age wine or distilled spirits.

Alcohol

Ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH) is produced by the action of natural or added yeast on grape sugars during fermentation.

Altar wine

The wine used by the Catholic Church in celebrations of the Eucharist.

Alternative wine closures

Various substitutes used in the wine industry for sealing wine bottles in place of traditional cork closures.

American hybrid

Grape varieties which have been crossbred from American and European vines.

Ampelography

The branch of botany concerned with identification and classification of grapevines. Traditionally this was done by comparing the shape and color of vine leaves and grape berries. It has been revolutionized by DNA fingerprinting.

Amphora

A type of ceramic vase, used for transporting and storing wine in ancient times.

Angel’s share

The portion of a wine in an aging barrel that is lost to evaporation.

Anthocyanin

Phenolic pigments that give red wine its color.

Appellation

A recognised wine-growing region.

Aroma

The smell of a wine. The term is generally applied to younger wines, while the term bouquet is reserved for more aged wines.

Ascorbic acid

A natural component found in wine that is sometimes added to prevent oxidation occurring. If ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) has been added, the wine label will show Antioxidant 300 added.

Astringent

Describes a harsh, dry, mouth-puckering sensation, usually due to high levels of tannin or acids present in red wines (and some whites).

ATF

Abbreviation for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a United States government agency which is primarily responsible for the regulation of wines sold and produced in the United States.

Austere

Generally meant to indicate a wine that has flavors that are closed. In other words, without strong recognizable varietal or oak characters.

B

Balance

The harmonious relationship of the components of wine (acid, fruit, tannin, alcohol, etc.) resulting in a well proportioned, or well balanced, wine.

Barrel

A hollow cylindrical container, traditionally made of wood staves, used for fermenting and aging wine. Today these may be of cement, plastic, stainless steel or oak. Oak barrels allow the wine to mature and breath while adding natural tannin and flavors such as vanilla or toast. Sometimes called a cask.

Barrique

The French name for a 225 litre Bordeaux-style barrel (Bordeaux hogshead). Will yield 24 cases of 12 bottles each.

Baum

A measure of the sugar concentration in the juice or wine.

Beeswing

A light sediment, chiefly mucilage, a gummy substance obtained from certain plants found in Port.

Bentonite

A type of clay used in wine clarification.

Berthomeau Report

Commissioned by French Ministry of Agriculture to better position the wine industry for the future.

Biodynamic wine

Wines produced by the principles of biodynamic agriculture, a method of organic farming.

Bitterness

One of the main taste sensations, usually detected at the back of the tongue after swallowing. Phenolic substances are the main source of bitterness in wine, and come from wood (oak) and the grape.

Glossary by Letter

  • A (21)
  • B (36)
  • C (38)
  • D (17)
  • E (8)
  • F (24)
  • G (5)
  • H (7)
  • I (4)
  • J (2)
  • K (1)
  • L (10)
  • M (25)
  • N (5)
  • O (10)
  • P (23)
  • Q (1)
  • R (13)
  • S (31)
  • T (21)
  • U (2)
  • V (22)
  • W (11)
  • Y (2)
  • Z (1)

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Syrah

A classic red grape variety transplanted from the Côtes-du-Rhône area, Syrah is still somewhat of a rarity here and is grown mainly in Valais and on well-exposed slopes. It produces a spicy, deeply colored, elegant tannic wine that ages well.

Rèze

Rèze is an extremely rare white variety found only in Valais. Not often produced as a varietal, Rèze is blended with other Vieux Plants of Valais. Rèze was also used to make the historic “vin des glaciers”, an amber colored wine produced in Val d’Anniviers using the solera technique.

No longer done today, one method in the past was to store Rèze in larch wood barrels, which gave the wine resinous flavor similar to the Greek Retsina, and masking some grape flavor.

Bernarda

An old vine, but you won’t find it for sale anymore. However it’s being experimented with by Jean Nicollier (I’m searching for more references). The Bernarda is a Prié blanc from the Val d’Aosta that may have come into Switzerland over the St. Bernhard pass, and hence the name.

Wine comes in at the mouth And love comes in at the eye; That's all we shall know for truth Before we grow old and die. I lift the glass to my mouth, I look at you, and sigh.

William Butler Yeats

Swiss Alps, cows, wine bottle and large clock face in Bern, Switzerland

Fine Swiss Wine

Discover Switzerland’s odd grapes, small producers, and eclectic tastes