1855 classification

A classification of the vineyards of the Médoc (but including Château Haut-Brion in Graves) and Sauternes drawn up for the Exposition Universelle de Paris in 1855 which graded estates into various numbered Crus (from Premier to Cinquième) on the basis of the prices their wines fetched at the time. Other than the elevation of Château Mouton-Rothschild from Deuxième to Premier Cru status by Presidential Decree in 1973 the classification has remained unaltered since. Consequently, its relevance as a guide to quality in the present day is hotly contested. The 1855 classification, however, continues to have an important influence on the marketing and judgement of Bordeaux wines.


A geographical indication of a wine region controlled by specific boundaries and laws. Restrictions within appellations might include what grapes may be grown, yield levels, alcohol levels amongst other factors which may affect the quality of the wine.


The French word for an oak cask or barrel usually made of French oak, and 225l in size.

Biodynamic Viticulture

Like biodynamic agriculture in general, biodynamic grape-growing stems from the ideas and suggestions of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), which predate most of the organic movement. The principles and practices of biodynamics are based on his spiritual/practical philosophy which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature. The practice is increasingly more popular in the wine world.

Blanc de Blancs

Any white wine made entirely from white grapes could be described as Blanc de Blancs. It is most notably, and usefully, seen on Champagne bottles, where wines are usually made from a mixture of white and black grapes, to indicate that the wine is 100% Chardonnay producing a fresher zippier style of Champagne.

Blanc de Noirs

A white wine made entirely from black grapes. A rare concept most commonly found in Chamapagne.

Champagne Cognac

Nothing to do with Champagne, the sparkling wine. The word 'champagne' is an old form of the modern French word 'campagne' or simply countryside, and so is not limited to the sparkling-wine-producing area east of Paris The two areas of Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne lie at the very heart of the Cognac region, in Charente, north-east of Bordeaux, producing some of the most complex and fine brandies. A blend of Grande and Petite Champagnes is called Fine Champagne.


What the English call red wine from Bordeaux. The word drives from the French word 'clairet', now used to denote a style of dark rosé (also from Bordeaux).


A French term which refers to a specific, walled vineyard.


Crianza Riojas spend at least a year in oak with a further year's bottle ageing before release.


A French word literally meaning growth and used to refer to specific vineyards.

Côte d’Or

The 'golden slope' of Burgundy that forms the heart of the region. A long escarpment which forms part of the eastern edge of the 'massif central'. It extends from the outskirts of Dijon south to Santenay encompassing most of Burgundy's most famous and most reputable vineyards and villages. It is sub-divided into the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune.

Demi Muid

A 600 litre oak barrel of a type used in Burgundy.

Duty and VAT

Once Duty and VAT have been paid, wines are said to be in free circulation, and can be moved freely around the country.

En Primeur

En Primeur describes unfinished wines offered prior to bottling for later delivery. Bordeaux wines are offered in May and June of the year following the harvest, and these are then made available to ship from the Spring two years later. Burgundy is generally offered in early January about sixteen months after the harvest. At this point many of the whites and some of the reds will be finished and in bottle, while others will be bottled between then and the end of the year.


Garagiste wines emerged in Pomerol and St Emilion during the 1990s following the success of Le Pin. They are often highly constructed wines from very small vineyards, very low yields, highly extracted and given plenty of oak treatment. Produced in tiny quantities and scoring well with some influencial reviewers, they sell for high prices and some are very collectable. They are not all universally admired, sometimes being criticised for lack of typicity or any sense of terroir or origin.

Grand Cru

A French quality designation for the best vineyards in a particular region. In Burgundy it is a level above Premier Cru and wines will be named solely after the vineyard rather than the village. Indeed many villages have tried to trade on the names of their most famous vineyards by tagging them onto the village name - so Gevrey added 'Le Chambertin' to become Gevrey Chambertin, Chambolle added 'Le Musigny' to become Chambolle Musigny, Vosne added 'La Romanée' to become Vosne Romanée, and as the boundary of the two villages of Puligny and Chassagne goes though the middle of the Grand Cru 'Le Montrachet', they both added it. Nuits Saint Georges famously has no Grands Crus, but still added the name of the 'Les Saint Georges' vineyard to what was previously just 'Nuits'. Elsewhere the denomination is less specfic, or the vineyards bigger - in Alsace for example, and in Champagne the designation Grand Cru applies to whole villages rather than individual vineyards.

In Bond

Wines lying in bond are held in duty suspended warehouse, so that they are not subject to Excise Duty and VAT until moved into free circulation. If such wines are exported, there is nothing more to pay in the UK. If they are required Duty Paid in the UK, Excise Duty and VAT on the purchase price at the current prevailing rates will appy. Lea Sandeman offers En Primeur wines 'In Bond' meaning that the cost of shipping the wines to the UK is included in the price.

Late Harvest

A term applied to wines made from grapes left on the vine longer than usual. Late harvest is usually an indication of a sweet dessert wine. Late harvest grapes are often more similar to raisins, but have been naturally dehydrated while on the vine.


Refers to deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate, or are carried by the action of "fining", to the bottom of a vat of wine after fermentation and ageing.

Left Bank

An unofficial term used to describe the wines of the Médoc and Graves (ie. those of the left bank of the Gironde and Garonne rivers). This is the part of Bordeaux where Cabernet Sauvignon is, usually, the most important grape variety.

Malolactic Fermentation - MLF

A natural winemaking process which comes after alcoholic fermentation in most red wines and many whites. It is the process whereby harsh malic acid is converted into softer lactic acid.

Méthode Traditionnelle

The best but most laborious method for producing sparkling wine. It involves re-fermenting the wine and a period of ageing on the lees in the bottle. It is the method used in Champagne, all appellation controlée sparkling wines, Cava and most decent fizzes from the New World. It was historically called the Méthode Champenoise but the use of that term is restricted only to Champagne, hence Méthode Traditionnelle (sometimes rendered, in the New World, into English as the Traditional Method).


Typically, but not exclusively, refers to sparkling and Champagne wines made of a blend of numerous different years so as to create the 'house style' and maintain this even throughout lacklustre individual years.

Old Vines - Vieilles Vignes

Typically increased levels of concentration and quality of a wine due to increased stress and lower yields. However there is no specific law denoting use of the term or age whereby a vine becomes 'old'.

Parker points/scores & Parkerisation

Robert Parker is the single-most important wine critic in the world. His 100 point rating system has been much criticised and much copied. Such is his influence on buying habits that the suggestion exists that wine estates may be tempted to alter the style of their wines to suit Robert Parker's tastes - more fruit, more extract, more oak but, arguably, less subtlety and less authenticity. Wines awarded 100 points by Robert Parker sell and re-sell for very high prices and become very collectable.

Premier Cru

A quality designation for French vineyards that indicates a generally higher quality of wine than the average. In Burgundy it is a level below Grand Cru but above 'village' wines.

Premier Grand Cru Classé

A quality designation peculiar to Bordeaux. It describes the five châteaux at the top of the 1855 classification - Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut Brion. It is, also, used to describe the top wines of St Emilion, where there are two classes of Premier Grand Cru Classé - 'A' and 'B' - with the 'A' class applying just to Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc.


The term Reserva on a bottle of Spanish wine refers to the ageing period prior to release. In Rioja, a Reserva must be aged for a minimum of three years before release with at least one of those years spent in oak casks. A Gran Reserva must at least five years old with a minimum of two years in oak.

Right Bank

An unofficial term used to describe the wines of the St Emilion, Pomerol and their satellite regions (ie. those of the right bank of the Dourdogne and Gironde rivers). This is the part of Bordeaux where Merlot is the dominant grape variety, supported by Cabernet Franc, with Cabernet Sauvignon usually playing a minor role.


Italian Riserva wines will have been aged longer before release. The precise lengths of time vary from region to region.

Stelvin closure

The most popular brand of screw top for wine bottles.

Super Second

An unofficial term applied to Deuxième Cru Bordeaux's which rival Premier Cru Bordeaux's in quality and, sometimes, price.

Super Seconds

These are wines of the left bank of Bordeaux that are classified as secondary in relation to the five famous 'first growths'. These wines are typically more affordable than those five first growths, but of an excellent quality, and often too an excellent investment opportunity. Wines include Cos d'Estournel, Montrose and Leoville Las Cases to name a few.

Super Tuscan

Super Tuscan wines emerged in the 1970's and 80's as wine makers found it preferable to step outside the restrictive DOC Chianti regulations and produce better wines which sold, only, as vino da tavola but which attracted critical attention and, often, commanded high prices. Apart from using more than the 70% maximum (at the time) of Sangiovese, the Super Tuscan movement also saw greater use of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. More recent changes to the Chianti regulations now mean that most Super Tuscans qualify to sell as Chianti although some producers still choose to remain outside the appellation.


Tannins are the harsh bitter compounds found in the skins, pips and stalks of the grape, and can also be introduced from oak. In large amounts they can make a wine difficult to drink, but when in balance they are the muscle of the wine which enables the wine to age and evolve.


Being without a literal translation into English, it is often difficult to describe the meaning of the word 'terroir'. It is a French term which describes the many influences which impact on the flavours within a wine and these are specific to where the vines grow, especially soil, climate, micro- and meso-climate, whether there is a slope and the aspect of any slope. Simplified, it is terroir which is responsible for the differences between, for example, Chardonnay grown in Puligny Montrachet and Viré Clessé and so too Australia.


Wine sold under the name of one specific grape from which it was made.

Village wine

In Burgundy a wine named soley or principally after its village might be referred to a "village" wine. The term is used to differentiate such wines from the higher level Premier Cru. It is not a quality designation, as such, and the term will not appear on the label.


The vintage of a wine is, simply, the year that the grapes were picked. Other than with Vintage Port and Champagne, the presence of a vintage on the label, in itself, implies no extra quality or attributes. Vintages are important, firstly, in telling how old a bottle of wine is but, mostly, because climatic and other conditions vary from year to year. Among the more collectable wines of the world, the vintage can make quite a difference to a wine's character and price. At a more "everyday" level, whilst it is of note, the vintage of a wine is usually less critical.

Vintage Champagne

Champagne is one of the few wines where the presence of a vintage on the label is an indicator of better quality. Most Champagnes are non-vintage blends offering a consistent House style that varies little from year to year. The best wines, from the best vintages, however, are aged longer and bottled as single-vintage wines. They are, generally, richer and more complex Champagnes and will develop well with further ageing.

Vintage Port

Only the very best Ports are used to make Vintage Port. Once bottled, after two years in oak, Vintage Ports are capable of ageing and improving for many decades. Their longevity makes Vintage Ports ideal Christening presents. The more reputable Houses only produce Vintage Ports in the best vintages, rarely more than three times a decade and, by convention, never in successive vintages. Generally, all the major Houses will "declare" a Vintage for the same year, but there are occasional differences. Vintage Ports should not be confused with Late Bottled Vintage Ports which are, still, the product of one vintage but made for more immediate consumption.