Swiss Wine Regions

Glossary of 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.

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

Pinot Gris

Called Malvoisie in Valais, this grape has nothing to do with any of the Malvoisie varieties of the Muscat family and is another of the mutations of Pinot Noir. A vine grown in many of the Swiss areas, in Valais, Pinot Gris produces a fine sweet late harvest wine with honey overtones.

Gouais Blanc

A promiscuous grape. Not good for much, but with a long, long line of descendents, including the noble Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Possibly from Croatia, it’s called Heunisch Weiss in Central Europe.

The name Gouais is comes from ‘gou’, which is a scornful word from old French referring to its standing as the grape of the peasants. Very prevalent in the Ile-de-France and in the Champagne during the Middle Ages and perhaps brought into Valais by the descendants of the Ligurians.

Acidic and with little residual sugar, it’s primarily used to blend with low acidic wine to give it a bit of liveliness. Ampelographic studies in the old vineyards of Oberwallis have found a red Gwäss with the same characteristics as the white Gwäss. Almost abandoned, it survives in Haut-Valais hiding under the alias of Gwäss, thanks to Mr. Josef-Marie Chanton, http://www.chanton.ch/home.html

Müller-Thurgau

Developed in Germany by Prof. Müller (from Thurgau), this early maturing white grape variety is one of the principal white grapes cultivated in German-speaking Switzerland. Produces elegant, aromatic wines when grown in cool temperate climates. In warmer locations these qualities tend to be masked by a certain heaviness and lack of acidity.

In vino veritas.

Pliny the Elder

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