Wine Vocab – Know the Lingo

Ever gone to a wine tasting and wondered what the heck the salesmen was talking about when they dropped words like terroir, vintage, or tannins? What if you haven’t experienced a ‘Jammy’ or ‘acidic’ wine? Never fear! We at Half-Past are more than happy to be your translators!

Check out this epic graphic from our friends at with some common terms you might hear: (They also have a wonderful article on this same topic that you should read: Click Here! )

*p.s. Terroir is pronounced ‘tear-woh’ or ‘tear-woar’*********


But wait there’s more!

ABV: Literally ‘Alcohol By Volume’  and is listed as a percentage on all bottles.

Aeration: “Letting the wine breathe.” Wine once opened needs a bit of airtime for all of the flavors to “wake up.” Some use aeration devices like aerators or decanters/carafes to help the wine have access to oxygen but an easy way is to pour a glass and calmly wait. Some wines like deep red blends need almost 3 – 6 hours before all the flavors become pronounced. If you like these wines then a decanter or carafe is a good investment.

AOC:Appellation d’Origine Controlee – French wine law standards and regulations. If the wine has this label on the bottle it means the wine meets the french wine law standards.

Appellation: the geographic location or region of where the wine grapes in the bottle were grown and harvested.

AVAs: American Viticultural Area – the areas/ regions in the USA that grow grapes for wine and produce wine.

Bouquet: The smell of wine which can be specific to the winemaker’s style or production.

Brut: The dry style of Champagne or bubbly wine – Check out our post on Bubbly wine to know specific terms that apply to sparkling wines. Click here! 

Cru: The french wine vocab word for a region of quality wine grapes. You will see this term on french wine bottles to convey the wine quality.

Cuvee: refers to the quality grape blend in the juice used to make the wine. Usually means that the wine is made from a blend of grapes that was highly scrutinized so you know it will be great quality.

DOC: Italian wine laws that dictate wine quality and standards (nearly all European wine making countries have there own version of ‘AOC’ or ‘DOC.’ DOCG appears on only the best Italian wines because the G stands for Guarantee. 


Fermentation:  When the yeast reacts with the sugar in the wine to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. This is the magical formula that turns grape juice into wine!

Fortified Wine: Regular wine that has been enhanced by adding spirits. This means the wine has extra alcohol and is meant to be served in smaller portions than the typical 5oz glass. Examples: Sherry, Madeira, Port, and many dessert wines.

Grape Must: Literally smashed grapes. Grape juice that is still sitting with its stems, grape skins, and seeds. It’s like grape mash before they strain the juice or the winemaker won’t strain the juice to add grape skin color to the wine.

Hectare: metric unit that translates to 2.471 acres. This is how the industry measures the size of vineyards.

Hectoliter: metric unit that translates to 26.42 gallons. This is how the industry measures wine produced by each vineyard/producer.

Meritage: A great quality American red blend wine that is meant to mimic the grape blend and style of a French Bordeaux red blend. Grapes in this blend include: Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

Minerality: The presence of sulfur compounds and minerals in the wine. This makes a wine taste ‘earthy,”chalky,’or just plain rock-like. Don’t be turned off by this though because wines with this trait have amazing flavor profiles on the palate.

Noble Rot/Botrytis cinerea: This is a special mold that grows on grapes. This mold makes the grape skins more porous (it makes small wholes in the grape skins) which makes the grape juice more concentrated because the water of the grape evaporates in the sun. These moldy grapes are then made into wonderful sweet wines like Sauternes.

American Oak vs European Oak: 

*Wine can be aged/fermented in large Oak barrels. These wooden barrels add flavors and sometimes more tannins to the final wine* 

American Oak: tends to add flavors of coconut, vanilla, or even a ‘woody’ flavor. This oak can be almost half the price of European Oak.

European Oak: tends to add flavors of vanilla, winter spices like cloves, and again a wood-like sensation.

“Oaky” – Oaky wines, like most Chardonnays,  in our experience make a wine taste buttery, rich, and intense. It’s almost like an overwhelming wood flavor if done wrong. Oak and wine balance is like an art and some winemakers do it better than others so keep tasting new wines!

Toasted Oak- Winemakers can choose to ‘toast’ their wine barrels before adding in the grape juice. They torch the wood until it looks like bread toast. Toasting can range from light toast to straight up charred. This can give the wine flavors of caramel, spices like cinnamon, coffee, and smoke.


Oxidation: When wine meets oxygen or air. For our science lovers, this event means a chemical reaction starts to take place in the wine (Which is why cork-care and wine storage is SO important). In simple terms, wine that gets too much air slowly to turns to vinegar. However, don’t confuse this word with aeration. 

Residual Sugar: It’s just it sounds. Leftover sugar that remains in the wine after it is done fermenting. *If an wine is ‘DRY’ then there is no sugar left in the wine.*

Sediment: Residual organic particles found in the bottom of wine bottles as the wine ages. That is why we DO NOT drink the last few sips of any older/well aged bottle of wine. It will be bitter and sandy. 

Varietal: The species of grape found in the wine. Examples are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.

Vinified:  The process of wine being created by the fermentation of grapes


We hope this glossary helps you to navigate the wine world with ease! Let us know if there was a word we left out or a topic that you need clarification on.


*Wine Sign image credit to Nan Palmero

*Wine rack image credit to Joe Bowen




Boston Wine Expo

This weekend, Half Past Wine-O-Clock braved the sub-zero streets of Boston on a day-long adventure to the 25th annual Wine Expo. It was our first time attending, and we have plenty of advice to anyone thinking of going, or hoping to get the most out of their visit!

First and Foremost…Know how to Taste!

You don’t have to be a wine tasting expert by a long shot. Most of what you’ll do is swish, sniff, taste, and say the same bland phrases: “mm…wow…that’s nice…very interesting….” These phrases – genuine or not – will satisfy the wine salesperson.

But enough about how your tasting should satisfy someone else – don’t forget that you want to get the best flavors out of this tasting, too! To do this, you have to have a basic idea of how to navigate a tasting, so both you and your palate will last more than a few tables!

Check out our articles on what order to drink wines in so their flavors come across best, and the lesser-known essentials of attending a wine tasting, such as what shoes to wear.

After all, we don’t want all the wines tasting the same, or for you to tire before you discover the best wines the Expo has to offer!

The Price is Right! ….. or is it? 

The Boston Wine Expo is far from a budget friendly affair. Tickets go on sale online around November and continue all the way until expo day in February. However, waiting to buy your tickets will cost you – as it does with most conventions. The early bird general tickets started at $89 dollars for just Saturday  admission. The expo lasts all weekend so 2-day passes are even more. They also sell V.I.P tickets, anniversary tickets, and admission to any seminars or guest speakers are sold separately.  Special tickets can get up to over $200 with the individual seminars ranging from $35 to $125 each. Plan accordingly! Our team did not buy into any of the seminars but they had incredibly experienced wine makers who were speaking this year so if you are willing to go the extra mile we suggest checking out the list of guests.

What to Expect when Expo-ing:



Trade Tickets vs General Admission

The Half Past team was lucky enough to enter the Expo with trade tickets, which allowed us in around three hours earlier than the general public. Things beforehand were a lot quieter, and for one reason: networking.

The beginning part of the Expo is all about chatting, networking, and discovering new people as well as new wines. It’s a time to learn about the region, winery and vineyard narratives, and the wine makers – as well as to share about your own interests and mission, to see if things line up.

After the trade hours, the general public joins the party. It can get a lot more hectic after this, but there is still plenty of wine (and food!) to be tried and tasted. During general admission, there’s a lot less talking and a lot more drinking, so if you’re coming with your heart set on the wine rather than the wine makers, this is your time to shine!

However, we’d still recommend coming as early as admission allows (around 1pm) in order to ensure you spend less time in line and more time with wine!

Go with a Goal

You have to know what you want out of the Wine Expo before you go because believe us, everyone there has a plan! Whether that plan is to learn about new wines, buy a few cases of new wines, or just drink, a plan is necessary!

The majority of wines present at the Expo are looking for a distributor in Massachusetts. This means many of the wines you are going to try are not currently available in your state. So if you’re going in the hopes of finding wines you can bring to your next party or serve with dinner, you’re going to want to aim for tables that advertise that they can be found locally or who don’t mention their dreams of finding a Massachusetts distributor. Avoid tables advertising small out-of-state wineries or wines from countries like Israel whose wines aren’t commonly found in grocery stories or the local packie.


Get those Cards!

Okay, so you’re not a wine distributor in the greater Boston area. But you still like wine and you’re here, so why not collect some cards? Whether you’d like to actually network, or just liked the wine, snag a card to keep up-to-date on the great vines you tried! This is a great way to keep track of the wines you enjoyed, remember which ones to find on social media, and keep track of what is sold in Mass or when it will be coming!


Be Adventurous!

The expo will have wines you have never seen before made from grapes you can’t pronounce – let alone knew existed– so come with a open mind and palate. Trying these new wines will help you find a new favorite and help strengthen your palate. For example, the Half-Past team got to taste meads from Slovakia, wonderful white wines from the Ribolla Gialla (Rebula) grape grown in Slovenia, learn about the wine making regions in the Israeli dessert, and got to take part in a fun photo shoot to help advertise for Troublemaker wine. #kissatroublemaker

Watch out for wild salesmen

There will be plenty of booths and tables even lounges that have absolutely nothing to do with wine. If you can tell from the floor map pic above- the expo will try to sell you cars, jams, artisan cheeses, chocolates, local restaurant passes, even food truck locations, but the worst of all are the hotel/vacation salespeople. It may look fun spinning their ‘Price is Right’ like wheels in order to land on a free dream vacation but they will keep you there for at least 15 to 30 minutes in order to get you sign up for a vacation club or membership. Salespeople will come right out to you on the floor and try to persuade you back to their tables so do your best to stop them in your tracks. We got stuck talking to some vacation salesmen for a least 10 minutes before he realized we did not qualify for his vacation membership.

Drinking for Drinking’s Sake

If you’re hoping to try wines for the sake of just spending a day drinking wine…arrive after 2pm, ready to push and shove your way to the front of a crowd of eager winos. The late afternoon/early evening time frame is when the real drinking begins. The lines get significantly longer, and the wine makers’ talks get significantly shorter. There’s a lot more pouring and gulping than earlier in the day, where conversation and wine history prevailed. By the late afternoon, the men and women manning wine stations will stop guiding you through their flights of wine, and rather ask you “what you want” so you can cut right to the chase – because there’s a lot of people with empty glasses waiting behind you!


The Half-Past Team wishes all you wineos the best of luck when navigating your wine conventions and we hope you share your experiences with us!



8 Reasons to Drink Today



Today Feb. 18th 2016 is National Drink Wine Day!!!

Now run to the nearest liquor store, vineyard, classy wine selling establishment, Whole Foods, or to your secret stash and pop a cork!

There are PLENTY of good reasons to have a glass of wine today. In celebration, in memorium, inside me just because, regardless of whatever reason(s) you choose for today, half-past wants to share a few great reasons with you.


1) Wine is HEALTHY for you! (wait whaa?)

NO REALLY. Kristen’s wine class all had to write research papers on the multiple health benefits of wine. Here’s a few fun facts she found.

Wine contains an antioxidant compound called Reservatrol. It’s found in primarily red wine because this compound is found in grape skins. It is a promising compound that has been linked to preventing heart disease, anti-inflammatory effects, anti-viral, and can help prevent cancer. The American Hearth Association still suggests one glass of red wine a day. (Web MD)

Don’t forget the power of Sangria either! Did we mention our friends at Mija?


Mija Sangria is GOOD for you and tastes AMAZING even for your friends who aren’t quite into wine yet. Check out the details that we found on the website: “Mija Sangria is packed with antioxidants – 3 times as many as a glass of red wine – from super fruits like pomegranate, açaí and blood orange. ” 

That’s right folks! This healthy and fabulous sangria can be found at Whole Foods and Wegmans so grab it for tonight!

2) CHEERS to YOU today!

Half Past KNOWS that too many of you are running around not taking the time to celebrate yourself. Raise a glass today just for YOU. We bet that you have accomplished more than you think, probably conquered some demons, maybe are in process of getting somewhere great, or even just survived the day. Who cares! Glasses up to all of you. #selflove.



3) Company is coming…. get the glasses out!

The Half Past ladies are personally having a movie night to celebrate tonight with wine pairing snacks and chocolates. That means company! Who are you with tonight? Chilling with the parents, maybe a significant other, your best friends, working late with some coworkers, you and the dog? If we count correctly that’s more than one person so you OBVIOUSLY need some wine to go around. Spread the love!


4) Sip away the work day

Wine does a great job at helping us forget about our stressful work day or just a stressful day in general. Grab something smooth or maybe a bubbly to get your mood going in a different direction. You conquered today! Take one from Frozen and LET IT GO.


5) Get your game up!

So sometimes a glass or two gives you that confidence you didn’t have 5 minutes ago. That’s fine. We all need a little push to help us talk to that cutie at the other end of the bar. Or maybe you just want some help being a little more like yourself (you know that person you are inside)  Raise ’em up! Go get them!


6) Can’t stop on the clock!

Okay maybe you are a normal person who does have the time to let loose on a Thursday. Which is most people anyways. At least multitask? Work it and celebrate at the same time! One glass won’t stop your work flow especially when you drink it slow. So break time is wine time. Grab a glass to keep you sane for the rest of day.


7) Wine pairs well with everything.. literally.

We don’t care what you are eating or doing tonight for plans. We know there’s a wine that pairs well with it. Check out our post about pairing wine with comfort foods … or with food in general….  As proof that wine goes will with everything, here’s a wine that obviously paired well with Beyonce



 8) No mixers or chasers required.

You need to have a glass tonight to celebrate the fact that wine is ready to drink straight out the bottle. No juice chasers or margarita mixes needed here which means you save money!  Instead of wasting money on juices, coconut cremes, sodas, or little Hawaiian umbrellas, you can save that cash to buy another wonderful bottle of wine. Wine that’s beautiful on it own needs to be tasted. SOON.parttumblr_nj04o19xCw1ql5yr7o1_500

So party hard, winos, whatever your occasion!