Wondrous Words Wednesday: wine

This week’s words all come from The Merlot Murders by Ellen Crosby. I read this book as part of the ‘Wine’ theme for One! Two! Theme! Challenge, and as I wrote two weeks ago, I decided to list the wine/oenology/wine tasting words in a post of their own. There were so many that I only put here the most interesting ones! (See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!)


Then she would take me out in the fields where she taught me about the cycle of véraison, or ripening, as the grapes developed into mature fruit.

The word is already defined in that sentence, and is not on my dictionary, but I still looked for something more. And here it is:

Véraison: n. A stage in the ripening process of grapes. It is the relatively short period during which the firm, green berries begin to soften and change colour.
*Definition from Wiktionary

I also found the Wikipedia article on véraison very helpful: “Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur at veraison.”


She chose instead to tell her young daughter that the sun and the rain gave the grapes an indefinable quality known as goût de terroir, which means literally “the taste of the land.”

Again, the definition is right there, but I also found this:

Terroir: n. (French) Having a taste of the earth or soil. Gout de terroir describes the characteristic aromas and flavors of wine from grapes grown in a particular vineyard or region, incorporating the contributions of both soil and climate to the wine’s unique style.
*Definition from St. Kathryn Cellars glossary

I also found this interesting article on the NYT on the issue.


Our new vintner seemed like the kind of guy you’d hire as a bouncer at a night club.

Vintner: n. a wine merchant

Wikipedia adds that “In some modern use, in particular in American English, the term is also used as a synonym for winemaker”, which sounds more like the way the term is used in the book


The motor on the destemmer’s broken.

Destemmer: n. derivative of destem
Destem: v. to remove the stem  from (a fruit or vegetable)
*Definition from Dictionary.com

When I first saw this word, I thought it was some kind of machine bearing the name of its inventor. Only after seeing it again and again did I understand that the word was a derivative from de-STEM.


In the United States we name our wines by varietal, not region.

Varietal: adj. (of a wine or grape) made from or belonging to a single specified variety of grape.

Also check the definition by St. Kathryn Cellars glossary: Technical term meaning “type of wine grape.” Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are all varietals.


“What’s next?”
“Merlot. We’re doing a vertical tasting.”

Vertical tasting: n. a tasting of different vintages of one particular wine.
*Definition from Definitions.net

I gave you the best definition I found online, but the author explains it very well too:

As opposed to a horizontal tasting, which features the same wines from a region or a varietal — such as Virginia Cabernet Sauvignons from the same year — a vertical tasting featured the same wine from the same winery, but grown in consecutive years. It was an ideal way to educate people because it became immediately apparent how the weather affected the way the same vines could produce such different wines from one year to the next.


(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com unless otherwise stated.)


9 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: wine

  1. Wow, what an education you are getting about the wine industry. A book I’m reading now talks a lot about architecture, so I’m learning all of that vernacular. That’ll be my Wondrous Words post next week.

  2. I knew most of those words because my nephew is a wholesale wineseller. The concept of vertical tasting is new to me, though. Sounds like fun! And I’ve never heard of véraison.

  3. @ Julie: I’ll be sure to read your post, then. I’m waiting for a book that should have plenty of architectural terms in it, but it’s been lost in the mail 😦

    @ Joy: I’ve never tried a wine tasting, vertical or horizontal…

    @ Bev: that’s the point, I read this book because everyone said the author got her wine words and ideas right! And it was good to learn about these things through a novel rather than a coursebook.

    @ BermudaOnion: thank you! I hope to be able to work themes into Wondrous Words posts more often…

  4. This is a great theme to learn about! I admit I love wine, but know nothing about it. I especially like the idea of gout de terroir, it’s a nice thought, isn”t it?

  5. @ Joanna: I know very little about wine too, that’s why I chose this theme. It’s a very wide theme, though, and hard to tackle!
    To me, it was interesting that “gout de terroir” at the beginning was a bad thing (wine tasting as soil?) and then moved to a different, very positive meaning.

  6. Ah, fabulous theme. I knew most of these words being rather entranced with wine. I long to try a vertical tasting of a pinot or champagne some time- that would be amazing! Veraison and destemmer were new for me.

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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