French terminology

French wine industry terminology, with most accents and other characters .. work in progress ..

– A –
acide malique  
malic acid.
acide tartrique  tartaric acid.
acidité vive  lively, fresh acidity.
agrafe  a u-shaped metal staple used to hold the cork in place during second fermentation of some prestige champagnes.
agrumes  citrus.
aiguille de pin  pine needles.
amer ou amére  bitter.
amertume  bitterness.
ananas  pineapple.
anis étoillé  star anise.
argile  clay.
argilo-calcaire ou argileux-calcaire ou terre blanche  clayey-limestone, has an important role in thermo-regulation (reflects heat keeping the soil cool), and water supply (acts as a water retentive reservoir up to a point, and then freely drains away any excess supply).  The term equates to marl, which is a mixture of 30-60% clay and 60-30% limestone.
argilo-limoneux  clayey-silt (alluvial).
argilo-siliceux  clayey-sand.
arôme (nm)  aroma.
arriére goût ou déboire  aftertaste with a disagreeable dimension.
arrosage  spraying.
assemblage  a blending of a various vats of wine, or of various varieties.
averse de grêle  hail storm.

– B –
 pruning term related to the Taille de la Marne in use in the Champagne region, where a previous year’s mature cane is left vertical with a small number of buds towards its furthest end from the soil – helps defend against frost damage in the Vallee de la Marne.
baie de sureau  elderberry.
barrique  Bordeaux name for a 225 litre barrel.
battonage  lees stirring.
Beaujolais Nouveau  wine of the current vintage that can be commercialised until 31 August of the following year.
Beaujolais Primeur  wine of the current year that can be commercialised via the trade until some date in the Spring following that vintage.
béton  concrete.
beurrée  buttery, buttered.
biodynamique  biodynamic.
biologique  organic.
boisé  translates as wooded or woody. This term is used in the production of VS Cognac and relates to the use of oak chips.  There is more than one explanation and/or depth of explanation of what it means … (1) WSET, Distilling Knowledge …use of oak chips is traditional practice to give an oakiness to a spirit destined for VS style, faster than in barrel – this means added colour and softening of the edge of a young Cognac; (2) Nicholas Faith, Guide to Cognac and Other Brandies …boisé – use of oak chips soaked in old Cognac, it  is traditional practice, to speed the ageing process and give a false impression of additional age, normally added to cognac within the first 2 years… …boisé can also compensate for any lack of character in cognacs left in cask for long periods… … few admit to using it; (3) Brandy Classics …rather than caramel, boisé is a more natural way of adding colour to a cognac, it is made by lengthy boiling of oak chips in cognac to produce a dark syrupy liquid.  It adds colour to a cognac but can give a slightly bitter flavour. This disappears with time, and the result is a more intense flavour and richness, but only careful use will achieve this. (4) BNIC regulations make no formal reference to boisé, but …oak infusion for final adjustment… is permitted.
bouchon  cork or stopper (or traffic jam when in France).
bouchon à vis ou capsule à vis  (nm) screw cap.
bouchonné  corked, from TCA contamination (a discussion in French…)
bouillie bordelaise  Bordeaux mixture, a fungicide used against all mildews, consisting of copper sulphate and slaked lime.
bourgeon ou yeux  bud.
brut de cuve  unfinished vat sample.

– C –
 juniper, juniperus oxycedrus, a species of juniper common to the Mediterranean region, ranging in size from shrub to tree. The extract from twigs has an aroma of thick sweet wood bonfire smoke, used in some shampoo, probably with some antispetic properties.. 
cahier des charges 
caillotte  hard compact chalk.
caillouteux  stony, pebbly.
calcaire  limestone.
calcaire asteries  limestone with fossil starfish inclusions.
caniculaire  heat wave.
canneberge  cranberry.
cannelle  cinnamon.
capiteux  heady, intoxicating.
capsule à vis ou bouchon à vis  screw cap closure.
cardamome  cardamon.
cassis  blackcurrant; cassis is often used to imply a concentrated rich aroma/flavour of blackcurrant, in this case crème de cassis should be used, instead.
caudalie  the duration of the finish in seconds, after spitting/swallowing, commonly short at < 6 seconds, medium  at >6<12 seconds and long >= 18 seconds.
causse limestone plateau.
cave  cellar.
caviste  cellarman, wine merchant
cep (de vigne)  vine stock.
cépage  grape variety.
cerise  cherry.
chaîne d’embouteillage et d’étiquetage  bottling and labelling line.
chalereux  heat, as in alcoholic.
changement climatique (les effets du ..)  climate change (the effects of ..).
chapeau  crust, head of fermenting must.
charnu  fleshy.
charpenté  structured.
chef de culture  vineyard manager.
chêne  oak.
cire d’abeille  beeswax.
citronelle  lemon balm.
citron  lemon.
citron vert   lime.
climat  vineyard, or a terroir-specific site within a vineyard.
climatique  climate.
clos  a walled vineyard.
clou de girofle  clove.
coeur de cuvée  in terms of champagne production, the cuvée is the first 2050 l of juice from the pressing of 4000 kg of grapes, the coeur or heart of the cuvée is the juice from the centre of that pressing, and is regarded as the best of the best quality juice.
coing  quince.
collage  fining.
coller (vt)  to fine.
collerette  neck band or label.
coiffe  metal cap atop a sparkling wine cork, to stabilise the muselet or wire cage which fits over the top.
compote (nf)  stewed fruit.
confit  candied, conserve.
coriandre  coriander.
corsé  full-bodied, robust.
côt  spur.
côte (côteaux)  slope(s), hillside(s).
coup de patte (nm)  a helping hand .. in the winery.
  mature wood retained after winter pruning following the current vintage, either cane or spur.
croupe  slope, fig. rump.
cru  a vineyard officially classified as being of some extraordinary quality.
cru artisan  a classification for wines considered to be of a quality just below cru bourgeois. See 1, 2.
cru bourgeois  prior to 2003 (complete history), a 3-step cru bourgeois quality system existed – Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, but this was disputed at the 2003 reclassification, and acrimoniously abandoned in 2007.

Between 2007 and 2009 there was a grower initiative instituted by l’Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc, to introduce qualitative evaluation to determine award of (plain) Cru Bourgeois status for a particular wine for the vintage. This system was ratified by the authorities in 2009, with publication each September, starting 2010, of wines meeting the Cru Bourgeois requirements.

A replacement three level system, of Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, will be technically valid from the 2017 vintage, but not unveiled publicly until 2020.  This means that, theoretically, 2017 will be the first vintage evaluated according to the new system. Let us hope that it does not end up in the courts again.
cuir  leather.
cumin  cumin.
curretage – a vigilant growing season pruning system attempting to deal with vine trunk disease.
cuvage  fermentation.
cuvaison  generally refers to red wine making, it is the period of contact between skin, pips and juice, spanning the period from pre-fermentation cold soaking maceration (~13-15C), through alcoholic fermentation, to post-fermentation warm maceration, ie all processes prior to pressing.
cuve  vat of stainless steel, unless otherwise noted.
cuve de béton  concrete vat.
cuve en acier  inox, stainless steel vat.
cuve résine  fibre glass vat.
cuvée  a blend, or in terms of champagne production the first 2050 l of juice from pressing 4000 kg of grapes, it is regarded as the best quality juice.
cuverie  vat/fermentation cellar.
cuvier inox thermo-régulé  temperature controlled stainless steel vat.
cuvier en pierre  concrete vat.

– D –
débourbage  post pressing gravity settling of solid materials (les bourbes) in the juice, and then running the clear wine off; can be accelerated by chilling or adding pectinolytic enzymes to reduce juice viscosity.
décanter (v) to settle, in order to clarify, so by gravity.
dégustation de vins  wine tasting.
délestage  pumping over, or rack and return.
demi-muid  a wooden barrel, a half hog’s head, of about 600 l capacity.
demi-sec  medium dry.
dépôt   sediment.
dioxyde de carbone  carbon dioxide, CO2.
doux  sweet.
dur  hard, as in tannins.
durable  sutainable.

– E –
ébourgeonnage  dis-budding.
échantillon  sample, eg as in spirit miniature.
écouler (vt)  to run off, eg liquid from solids.
éffeuillage  de-leafing.
éggrapage  de-stemming, also see érafler
élevage  the period between the end of the alcoholic fermentation and bottling, including MLF, clarification, filtering, blending and ageing in some vessel.
eleve en fut de chene  matured  in oak barrel, cask, or other oaken vessels.
empyreumatique  this term characterises the family of burnt notes eg tobacco, roasted, caramel, toast, dark chocolate …
en primeur  BBR explain this quite well. There is resistance to the use of this system, most notably Chateau Latour, which withdrew after the 2011 vintage.
enherbé  herbaceous growth between vine rows.
épice  spice.
épicé  spicy.
équilibrée  balanced.
érafler   to de-stem, also see éggrapage.
érafloir  destemmer.
étiquette  label.
evaporation sous vide  evaporation under pressure, a process by which water can be removed from juice or must.
extraite  extract.

– F –
fenouil  fennel.
fermage  tenant farming.
fermentations alcooliques bloquées  stuck fermentation.
fermentation malolactique  malolactic fermentation.
fermentation naturelle  spontaneous fermentation.
fève (de cacao)  cocoa bean.
feuille  leaf.
feuillette  Chablis name for a 132 litre barrel.
filtration sur terre  filtration using diatomaceous earth, aka kieselguhr filtration.
finale (nf)  finish.
fleur de sureau  elderflower.
floraison  flowering.
foudre  a large wooden vat (stands on its end, and is wider at its base than  at the top) or barrel, typically of oak. They are much larger than a barrique, ranging from 1500-35000+ litres, and are typically used for slow and gentle ageing. They can achieve venerable age, when well maintained. If a foudre is new, the relatively low surface area to volume ratio ensures that the oak has a low-key impact, alternative woods include chestnut.
fouler (vt)  to crush.
foulage  crushing.
fraise (nf)  strawberry.
framboise (nf)  raspberry.
francs de pied  (planting) ungrafted vines.
fruit de la passion (nm)  passion fruit.
fruits a noyau  stone fruit.
fruité  fruity.
fruit vert  underripe.
fût a generic name for a large wooden barrel or cask, typically fût de chêne.

– G –
(nf)  scrub, herbs, typically sage, thyme, rosemary, lavender, savoury, pine …
gaz carbonique  
carbonic gas ie CO2.
gel (m)  frost.
genévrier (nm)  juniper.
gingembre  ginger.
gousse de vanille (nf)  vanilla pod.
goût de lumière  lightstruck, the degradation of a wine caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, with symptomatic aroma and flavour profiles including wet cardboard or wet wool; the effect can occur in wines bottled in both clear and green glass.
goyave (nf)  guava.
grappe (nf) cluster, bunch  ~de raisins bunch of grapes.
gras  fat, as in a full viscous mouthfeel of eg a Sauternes.
gravelle (nf)  gravel
graviers  gravelly soil.
greffe (nf)  graft.
greffer (vt)  transplant, graft.
grêle (nf)  hail.
grès  (nm)  sandstone
grillé  grilled.
griotte morello cherry (a sour cherry, very dark skinned).
groseille à maquereau (nf)  gooseberry.
groseille rouge (nf)  red currant.
guêpe  wasp.

– H –
herbacé  herbaceous.
herbeux  grassy.

– J –
jus (de citron)
  (lemon) juice.

– L –
liège cork (the material, not the closure, see bouchon)
lies  lees.
lieu-dit  a name given to a terroir-specific area of vineyard.
limoneux  alluvial or ‘silt’ deposits (rather than wind-blown deposits known as loess), for example, sablo-limoneux = a sandy-alluvial soil.
limpide  limpid, clear.
liquoreux  sweet, rich.
longeur  length.
lutte raisonnée  a vineyard management system where the grower only uses chemical treatments when essential, and selectively ie only where needed within a vineyard.

– M –
macération carbonique
 carbonic maceration.
maceration pelliculaire  pre-pressing maceration of white grapes on the skins at low temperature, to extract flavour precursors, can be done under a CO2 blanket.
macération semi-carbonique  semi-carbonic maceration.
machine à vendanger  mechanical harvester.
maladie du blanc ou oidium   powdery mildew.
maquis (nm)  scrub, gnarled undergrowth.
marmelade  stewed fruit.
mélange (nm)  a blend (of vareties).
menthe  mint.
méridional(e)  ou du sud  southern.
méthode ancestrale  see pétillant naturel.
miel  honey.
mielleux  honeyed.
mildiou  downy mildew.
millésime  vinatage year.
moelle (de citron)  (lemon) pith.
moëlleux  from moelle or marrow, meaning full of marrow, soft, softness; so it is a textural term, as well as indicating medium-sweet in the context of wine.
moisi  mouldy, musty.
moissure (nf)  mold.
moka  mocha.
molasse  shallow marine deposits of sandstone, shale and conglomerates.
moût de raisin  grape must, essentially alcoholic grape juice with solids.
mûr  ripe.
mûre ou mûre sauvage  blackberry.
mûrir (vt) to ripen.
muselet  wire cage restraining a sparkling wine cork, also see coiffe.
mutage  adding alcohol to arrest fermentation, eg vin muté.

– N –
noix de muscade  
non filtré  
berry set.

– O –
(nf)  smell.
ou maladie du blanc  powdery mildew.
ortie  nettle.

– P –
pain grillé  
toast (also see rôtie).
(nm) palate.
pamplemousse (m)  grapefruit.
par gravité  
gravity fed.
pente  slope.
pétillant  lightly sparkling.
pétillant naturel
ou pét nat  (aka méthode ancestrale) is a sparkling wine made by bottling still fermenting wine must, so retaining the CO2 gas produced. The wine may be released with sediment, or disgorged off the sediment. Bottle variation is intrinsic to the process.
piéce  Burgundy name for a 228 litre barrel.
pied (de vigne)  vine, lit. vine head, used in planting density ie pieds à l’hectare, also pied de celeri ou laitue – head of celery or lettuce.
pierre à briquet  flint.
pierre à fusil  gun flint, a romantic term for sulphur.
pigeage  punching down.
pivoine  peony
pointu(e)  sharper, thinner, (higher) acidity.
poivre  pepper.
poivron rouge ou vert  red or green pepper.
porte-greffe  root stock.
pourriture aigre  sour rot, when birds, insects or hail damage grape skins, allowing bacteria to enter and turn the juice to vinegar. Try sniffing plums that have wasp damage, with browning flesh around the points of entry.
pourriture noble   noble rot, botrytis, botrytis cinerea.
presser (vt)  to press.
prestige cuvée  ou tête de cuvée  the top quality level of a Champagne house’s range eg Dom Perignon (the first such cuvée), Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, Cristal ..
prix de sortie  opening price.

– R –
(nm)  grape.
rancio  an oxidised profile – melted butter, nutty, walnuts, candied and cooked over-ripe fruit, rich fruit cake.
rebêche  in champagne production, refers to any excess juice extracted after the permitted juice of 2550 l has been run off. It cannot be used in champagne production, and may be sent to distillation.
recolté (nf)  harvest.
régisseur (nm)  estate manager.
réglisse (nf ou nm)  liquorice.
pumping over.
rendement (nm)  yield.
romarin (nm)  rosemary.
rôti  roast.
(nf)  slice of toast (also see pain grillé).

– S –
 sandy soil.
sablo-limoneux  sandy-alluvial soil.
safran  saffron.
saignée  when starting 
a black grape fermentation, some juice is run off (which goes to making rose), to increase the ratio skin:liquids, with the aim of developing a more concentrated red wine.
saline  salty.
sans année  non-vintage.
sans millésime  non-vintage.
sarment  vine shoot.
sarriette  savoury, the herb, part of the garrigue herb ensemble.
sauge   sage.
saveur (nf)  flavour.
sec  dry.
sec tendre  off dry.
selection de grains nobles  botrytis (aka noble rot) infected grapes, which lose water and shrivel as a result. This concentrates sugars, acids, and aroma and flavour precursors, enabing the creation of a characterful sweet dessert style of wine.
senteur (nf)  perfume.
 a soil composed of clay, flint, limestone and silica (sand).
soufre  sulphur.
sous vide concentration  vacuum concentration, the removal of water or any desirable component, depending on filter pore size, including alcohol.
soutirage  racking off the lees.
stockage (du vin)  (wine) storage facility.
sucrosité  sweetness.
sulfate de cuivre  copper sulphate.
sulfite  sulphite.
sur lattes (horizontal storage) on racks. Typically referred to when speaking of ageing on the lees, during the second fermentation of a sparkling wine.
sur lie  ageing on the lees.
surmaturité  over-ripe

– T –
taille  in champagne production, refers to the pressing following the cuvée (the first 2050 l of juice), the taille representing the next 500 l of juice. The juice is fruity with lower acidity and can be used in a blend, or in its own right – producing champagne with a relatively short lifespan. The sum of 2550 l of juice represents the maximum permitted extraction from 4000 kg of grapes. Any juice extraction after that is termed the rébeche.
taille à côts
  head or cordon trained, spur pruned, where with the exception of a small number of short spurs (côts) bearing 2 or 3 buds, all previous seasons’ growth is removed, with the aim of controlling yield. This system is used in Sauternes (alternatively single guyot), where it is known as taille en éventail.
taille courte  severe pruning, synonym for taille à côts.
tanins bien fondus  smooth tannins.
tanins bien intégré  well-integrated tannins.
terra vitis  a production system mid-way between organic and traditional.
tête de cuvée ou prestige cuvée  the top quality level of a Champagne house’s range eg Dom Perignon (the first such cuvée), Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, Cristal ..
texture poudreuse (f)  powdery texture.
thym  thyme.
tilleul  lime tree
toasté  toasted.
tonneau  a volume of 900 litres in Bordeaux, that is 4 barriques.
tonnellerie  cooperage.
torréfaction  roasting; in tasting it is an umbrella term for eg burnt caramel, charred wood, roasted coffee, wood smoke.
torréfié  roasted.
tourbe  peat.
tout court  a blend across lieux-dits from the same vineyard.
transvaser (v)  to decant.
triage  translates as sorting out, in effect the use of multiple picking passes, or tries, to select only the grapes which satisfy a particular ripeness requirement. Triage is also used in hospitals, in the sense that incoming patients are sorted, by the triage reception unit, and sent to their initial care discipline.
trie de nettoyage  a pass usually made through the vineyard to remove bunches affected by grey, rather than noble, rot, or to remove those that are significantly underripe, in relative terms.

– V –
(tanins) veloutés velvety tannins
vendange en vert  green harvest, thinning the (immature) crop.
vendange tardive  late harvest, equating to super-ripe grapes with an extra long hang time, which allows the development of more complex aroma and flavour precursors. Resultant wine styles range of rich and dry, to sweet dessert.
vendangeur, -euse  (nm,f)  a grape picker.
the onset of ripening.
vigneron, -onne (nm,f)  grower, there is no word for winemaker as the belief is that by proper tending the vines, the wine will make itself.
vigne (nf)  vine.
vignoble (nm)  vineyard.
vin clair  in champagne production, a still or base wine awaiting blending with other vins clairs, prior to second fermentation.
vin de comptoir  low quality mass produced wine.
vin de coupage  blended wine.
vin raffiné  fine wine.
vin de France  is wine without geographic indication, it replaced, on 01/08/2009, the classification vin de table.
vin de garde  wine for laying down.
vin de paille  wine made from dried grapes.
vin de soif  easy drinking, thirst-quenching quaffable wine, fruity, lacking complexity, inexpensive eg Beaujolais Nouveau or a basic one-dimensional Chilean merlot.
vin gris  an unofficial term, referring to a very pale rosé wine.  It can be vinified from red grapes, in two ways – either vinified in the white wine manner ie crushing, minimal time on the skins, then pressing and fermentation, or as a byproduct of red wine production, in that a light pre-fermentation pressing is employed to again give a pale juice, which is then fermented separately. The latter concentrates the remaining must which then becomes more coloured, giving a deeper hued red wine.
vin usé  a wine that is too old, in a decline, losing its sensory qualities.
vinification  wine making.
violette  violet (the flower).
viticulture durable  sustainable viticulture.

– Y –
yeux ou bourgeon  bud.

– Z –
zestes d’agrumes séchés  dried citrus peel.
zeste (de citron)  (lemon) zest.

Updated 14/08/19

About citbp

I am interested in everything about wine, from site selection to tasting.
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