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Wine Books by
Stephen Reiss
 
Wine Glossary
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T
To: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


T-Budding

A vineyard management term. The root of a vine takes decades to grow and can be very extensive. If a vine is in place, but no longer a desirable varietal, for whatever reason, just the top can be replaced, and the roots left intact by a grafting process known as T-Budding. The old vine is removed just above the soil line. The new graft is inserted into a T shaped incision made into the remains of the old vine. The process is quick and successful.


Table Wine

A US legal term that encompasses all wines that are between 7% and 14% alcohol.

The term is used in Europe to mean a wine that was not made under the rules of any specific controlled area. Winemakers who are interested in pushing the boundaries of wine production in their area often can only bottle their wines as the local equivalent of table wine. Since some of these wines are of very high quality, and can command higher prices than the usual wines from the region, it can be a very confusing term.

Table Wine can be either:

  • Most Wines (in the US)
  • A wine of lower quality or distinction
  • A wine of distinction that does not conform to a standard
  • French: vin de table
  • Italian: vino tavola
  • German: Tafelwein

Tafelwein (tah'-fel-vine)

German for "Table Wine."


Tank

A large container for making or storing wine. Wood was a traditional material for centuries, but that was replaced by cement tanks which in turn have largely been replaced by stainless steel, with modern temperature controls. Some wine, such as Pinot Noir, can still benefit from the proper use of classic wooden, open topped tanks. Also called a vat.


Tannin

Those compounds responsible for the bitter and astringent tastes in wine. They are found primarily in the skin and seeds of the grape, as well as stems (which are not always included in the wine making process). Because white wines have little to no contact with these parts of the grape, white wines have little tannin. Aging in oak barrels can also add (oak) tannin to wines. Tannin is required for aging red wine. Not all tannic red wines will age well, but few red wines without strong tannins will age well either. Technically the tannins are known collectively as "phenolic compounds."


Tar / Tarry

Some wines have a dark flavor that wine tasters call tar. It is not the overwhelming stench of a tarred road, rather it is a flavor so dark, that only tar seems to fit. Rhone wines can have this, as well as the Barolos of Italy. If it is too pronounced it is not a positive thing.


Tart

A wine tasting term for a wine that is noticeably acidic. As long as the acid is not overwhelming, it is only tart. A stronger acid flavor would be harsh and a very strong acid flavor would be sour. Dessert wines are often sweet/tart as the acid and residual sugars balance each other.


Tartar

Tartaric acid is the main acid in wine. Some of it can crystalize in a chilled wine. Since the crystals are unsightly, and can cause concern for the consumer, some white wines in particular are cold stabilized to remove the crystals before the wine is released. The crystals are flavorless and tasteless.


Tastevin (tahst-van)

A flat, usually silver, cup that was once used to taste and evaluate wine. Since it is flat like a saucer, it is almost useless for smelling the wine. The bottom of the shiny container has a series of bumps, designed to shine light through the wine at various angles at once. In the dimly lit cellars, it was difficult to determine the clarity of the wines without this tool. Clarity is less of an issue than it used to be in wine, and glasses are much more effective, so the tastevin has mostly been relegated to novelty. The exception is Burgundy, France where it is still traditional. Beware of a wine steward wearing one of these on a chain around their neck. Chances are this person is attempting to hide their lack of knowledge behind a facade of snobbery.


Tastevinage (tahst-vee-nahj)

There is an organization in Burgundy, France, composed of wine lovers and professionals, called the Chevaliers du Tastevin. This group blind tastes a series of wines, and those considered worthy are given their seal of approval, the "Tastevinage." The label is elaborate and easy to spot, but the wines may or may not be of distinction.


Tavel (tah-vel)

A dry rose wine from the Rhone region of France. Produced primarily from the Grenache grape, many consider this to be one of the most successful rose wines made.


Tawny Port

A Port that has been aged in a barrel instead of a bottle. The process allows the wine to take on a nutty aroma, and to loose its red color over time (turning a tawny brown). The best examples are usually labeled in decades, such as a 10-year-old, 20-year-old or 40-year-old. Inexpensive tawny ports may be a blend of red and white port, and do not resemble the real thing in any way. The US and Australia make fortified wines that they continue to label "Port" and the tawny versions of some of these are a relative bargain.


Tears

Another name for "legs." A much over used and meaningless wine tasting term. It refers to the streams that are seen on the side of the glass after swirling. While too many so called experts explain this as being related to the body, or the amount of glycerin in the wine, it is actually a function of the alcohol, and has no relation to the quality of the wine at all.


Terroir (tair-wah'r)

While this literally means "soil" in French, it has many more implications. It may also be used to mean the surrounding weather patterns such as the english language term "microclimate." For some the term may mean how typical the wine is of the region the "expression of terrior." Like many French wine tasting terms this one has been adopted by English speaking wine professionals, although it is no more easily defined when used in English. It is often used in conjunction with the French word for "taste" as in "gout de terroir."


Tete de Cuvee (tet duh coo-vay)

Literally, French for "head blend." The term is unofficial, but is often used to mean the top of the line from any Champagne house. For example Dom Perignon is the tete du cuvee from Moet.


Thief

A glass or metal tube used to extract wine from a barrel. The French call it a "pipette."


Thin

A wine tasting term for any wine that has little flavor. Technically it is used for a wine that has little dry extract (what is left after you remove all the liquid).


Thompson Seedless

The green grape found in the grocery store. It is often called a 3-way grape because it is used for table grapes, raisins and wine. The wine that is made from it tends to be without distinction. It is the base of many wines in the US that are called "chablis" (Chablis actually being a region in France). In Australia, where it is called Sultana, it is responsible for simple, but delicious fortified wines. Because it is a 3-way grape, Thompson Seedless is the most planted grape in California. French Colombard is the most planted wine grape, but some years more wine has been made from Thompson Seedless.


Tignanello (tee-n'ya-nell'-oh)

An Italian wine made in the Chianti region by the well known Antinori firm. Since its inception in 1971, this wine has broken tradition with the Chianti region and produced a wine of character that does not follow the rules. The wine tends to be mostly Sangiovese, as is Chianti, but without the white wine in the blend that softens Chianti. The addition of Cabernet Sauvignon takes this wine even further from its Chianti roots.


Tokay / Tokaji (toe-kay)

The great wine of Hungry, made from the Furmint grape. Tokaji Furmint is dry, and rare outside the region. Tokaji Szamorodni is a bit sweeter, but no less rare. Tokaji Aszu is the sweet version, and the one most likely to be found in the US. It is made slightly different than other dessert wines. Baskets of very ripe grapes, effected with botrytis (which reduces the amount of water in the grape, making it sweeter), are added to the base wine to sweeten it. The baskets are themselves known as puttonyos, and the label of the wine will indicate how many puttonyos have been added. Three is common for the drier styles, with five being used in the swetest. Six puttonyos wines exist, but are nearly legendary. There also exists an even more legendary wine, Essencia which is made entirely from the puttonyos grapes.


Tokay d'Alsace (toe-kay d'al-zass)

The local name for Pinot Gris in Alsace, France. Some Alsatian wines are bottled with the name Tokay. Do not confuse this with the Hungarian wine of the same name. There is no relation either to the grape or the wine. The EEC now stipulates that the name Pinot Gris must also appear on the bottle to help reduce confusion.


Tonneau (tuh-no)

A measure of wine in Bordeaux, France equivalent to 100 cases (1200 bottles). The term is not used much any more, as most wine makers simply talk about cases or bottles.


Topping

The winery practice of replacing evaporated wine in the barrel. The "head space" is also called "ullage." This is an important step to reduce the oxidation of the wines, and to ensure quality.


Touraine (too-rehn)

A wine producing region in the Loire Valley of France. The well known Vouvray is made in this region. More red and rose is made here than elsewhere in the Loire, and it is primarily made from Gamay and Cabernet Franc. The white wines are based on Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.


Transfer Method

One of the more economical (and common) ways to make a sparkling wine. The wine is placed in a closed bottle, to allow yeast to make the bubbles, as in the champagne method, but then the bottles are opened, and all "transferred" into a tank to be blended. This blend is then filtered (as opposed to riddling in the champagne method) and rebottled. A key phrase on the bottle may be "Fermented in the bottle" as opposed to "Fermented in this bottle" which can only be said of wine made in the higher quality champagne method. Champagne from the Champagne region can not be made via the transfer method.


Treading

This is the classic image of a group of people stomping on grapes. The technique (almost extinct now) was used to crush the grapes, to improve the color of the wine and to speed the start of fermentation, rather than to press the juice out of the grapes, as many people may think. It was particularly important for making Port, which is deeply colored, and benefited greatly from the technique. Some Port producers still hold to the tradition, but most opt for modern wine making techniques which yield similar results, with greater control.


Trebbiano (treh-bee-ah'-no)

The white wine grape responsible for more wine than any other (there are other varieties that have more plantings, but the yields are so high, this one makes the most wine). Throughout Italy Trebbiano seems to pop up in a vast majority of white wines. Often blended with grapes that have more character, Trebiano's main claim to fame is that it is easy to grow, and it yields more wine per vine than almost any other grape. The wines it makes tend to be thin, and boring. It is for exactly this reason that in France (where it is called Ugni-Blanc or Saint-Emilion) the grape is used as the base for Cognac, and Armagnac and other brandies. Trebbiano has spread to most major wine making regions of the world to the dismay of critics everywhere. Because of the huge number of names for this grape, some wine makers may not even know that they are using Trebbiano.


Trentino-Alto Adige (tren-tee'-no ahl'-to ah'-dee-jay)

The northernmost of Italy's wine producing regions. A large amount of red wine is made here as well as whites, and even sparkling wines. This is a huge region with a great many wines and a great many grape varieties.


Troken (traw'-ken)

The German word for "dry." Legally it means a wine that has less than 1% residual sugar. The Germans have been experimenting more with drier wines, to give them more universal appeal, and to match more cuisines. Halbtroken, meaning "half-dry" has also become popular.


Trokenbeeranauslese (Traw'-ken-bear'-en-ouse'-lay-zuh)

The top German wine. Sweeter and more expensive than any other of the QmP class. The English language term would be "Individual Berry Special Select Late Harvest." The grapes must not only be late harvested, but they must be dried (troken) to an almost raisin state before picking. This intense dessert wine, which is usually abbreviated to TBA, is only made in very special vintages, often less than once a decade. It ages unbelievably well. I have tasted 40 year old examples that still seemed to be quite young.


Trotanoy, Chateau (troh-tahn-wah)

One of the top producers in the Pomerol region of Bordeaux, France. Considered, unofficially since there is no official classification in Pomerol, to be second only to Ch. Petrus. The 2,000 or so cases of this wine produced each year is made primarily from Merlot.


Tuscany (tuss-can-ee)

A wine region in central Italy that extends from the city of Florence to the south. Some of the best known Italian wines come from this region. Notable are the Chianti wines, and Brunello di Montepulciano. The rising trend to create Cabernet Sauvignon based, or blended wines, has led to the unofficial designation "Super Tuscans" for these expensive and much sought after wines. Sangiovese (or Brunello as one of the clones is called) is the important red wine grape of the region. Malvasia is the important white for quality, and Trebbiano for quantity.


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