Wine Glossary

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There are 58 names in this directory beginning with the letter M.
Macebo (mah-cah-beh'-oh)
The principal white wine grape of the Spanish Rioja region where it is known locally as Viura. Simple and crisp with a floral quality, this grape helped revolutionize the white wines of the Rijoa region by replacing the easily oxidized Malvasia grape.

Macon (mah-cawn)
A major town in southern Burgundy, France, that has lent its name to a wide region, the Maconnais. Most of the wine produced is white, fresh, simple and made from Chardonnay.

Maconnais (mah-cawn-nay)
See above.

Madeira (muh-deh'-rah)
A Portugese island in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Morocco. The fortified wines from this region are unique in that they are purposefully baked and oxidized, prior to bottling. In times gone by this was accomplished by shipping the wines on a sailing vessel, the longer the journey the better, although today modern techniques favor specially designed heating tanks. Since the wine is in contact with oxygen from inception, it turns a dark brown color, the process of which is known for all wines as "maderization" or one would say the wine has "maderized." The wines are made in several styles, and are usually labeled with the name of the grape variety used. Sercial is the driest style, and is usually served before a meal. Verdelho is a bit sweeter, and a great accompaniment with cream soups. Boal, or Bual is noticeably sweet, and Malmsey is the sweetest and is usually served after a meal. Madeira was once a very popular wine. In the 19th century it was the most popular wine in the US. Towards the end of the 19th century, the twin plagues that devastated Europe, oidium and phylloxera, did not skip the island of Madeira. In the process of replanting, and re-inventing themselves, Madeira producers started to use a single grape variety, Tinta Negra Mole, for all the wines, while still labeling them with the original grape names to indicate style. This not only led to confusion, but a noticeable decline in quality. Since entering the European Common Market in 1986, Madeira has had to conform to the European labeling laws, which require at least 85% of the grape mentioned on the label. This has led to a resurgence in planting of the original grape varieties. Madeira is almost certainly the longest lived of all wines. I have had many examples form the early 19th century that were in fine shape. The cost of these ancient wines are surprisingly reasonable, and you should never pass up the opportunity to try one. Beware of the word "Solera" on the label, as this means that only a drop or two of wine from the date listed are actually in the blended wine itself.

Maderized
A wine tasting term for a wine that has been affected by oxidation. In extreme examples the wine (usually white wine) has begun to turn brown. This process is identical to the browning that occurs in an apple that has had a bite taken out of it. The term comes form the wines of Madeira, which are very brown, due to a great deal of oxidation, and being baked.

Magnum
A large wine bottle, which holds the same as two normal bottles. The larger the bottle, the slower the wine ages. A magnum is the perfect size for aging great red wines, as it ages the wine slowly, but not too slowly.

Malbec (mahl-bec)
One of the red wine grapes of Bordeaux, France (where it is called cot or pressac). While it is rarely used for more than adding a bit of color, it is one of the five grapes allowed, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot. South of Bordeaux is the region of Cahors where Malbec is the chief grape used in what historically has been called their "black wine." Argentina is the new champion of Malbec, where it is one of the most important grapes planted.The great popularity of Argentine Malbec has resulted in the region of Cahor copying the New World style, an unprescedented turn of events.

Malolactic Fermentation
A secondary fermentation that changes the tart malic acid (found in green apples) into the softer lactic acid, found in milk. Common in red wine, but used almost exclusively in Chardonnay for white. One of the byproducts of this process is a chemical called "diacetyl" which is responsible for the buttery taste of some wines. Often abbreviated ML.

Malvasia (mah-vah-zee'-ah)
Since ancient times this has been an important grape throughout the Mediterranean. In recent years it has become less popular and is increasingly being replaced by fruitier, lighter white wine grapes. The distinct amber color of wines made from this grape are a reminder of how easily it becomes maderized. In fact this is the grape known in Madeira, Portugal as Malmsey. Italy is the final bastion for this grape, where it is used to make sweet wines, or when blended with Trebbiano, to make dry whites such as Orvieto and Frascati.

Manzanilla (mahn-thah-nee'-yah)
One of the styles of Sherry. Very dry, and some say, almost salty.

Marc (mar)
The French word for pomace (the solids left after making wine). Also a brandy distilled from pomace (eau-de-vie de marc). In Italy the brandy is known as Grappa.

Margaux (mar-go)
The southern most (and hence lightest) of the quality wine producing regions of the Haut-Medoc, in Bordeaux, France.

Margaux, Chateaux (mar-go)
A First Growth Bordeaux, France, producer, from the town of the same name. Sometimes used as an example of the why not to rely on the 1855 classification to rate wines. While the wines form this property are now as good as a First Growth should be, this could not be said during the 60s and early 70s. The winery had run into disrepair, but since it was listed as a First Growth in 1855, there was no way for consumers to know that it was a poor example of what should have been a great wine. Turned around in the late 70s and early 80s by its current owners, Margaux is once again a First Growth in more than name. Cabernet based, like the other First Growth wines of the region, Margaux tends to be softer than some of its northern counterparts.

Margret River
An important wine region in Western Australia. Newer than many other regions in Australia, it has the advantage of not having to overcome tradition and so the wines tend to be of a more modern style.

Marsala (mar-sah'-lah)
Often relegated to the kitchen, this is the best known fortified wine of Sicily, Italy. While still popular as a cooking ingredient, it has not kept up with current taste for fortified wines. The wine itself is usually vinified dry, and a sweeting agent "mosto cotto (cooked must) is added to give it the distinctive brown color and flavor.

Marsanne (mahr-san)
A white wine grape of the Rhone Valley, France. It is noticeably earthy and richer than most other white wine grapes.

Mataro
Another name for the grape Mourvedre (see below).

May Wine
A relatively rare German white wine that has had the herb woodruff added to it, and then sweetened.

Mazis-Chambertin (mah-zee sham-bair-tan)
A Grand Cru red wine vineyard in Burgundy, France. Allowed to add the name of its famous neighbor, Chambertin, to its own because of its proximity and high quality.

Mazoyeres-Chambertin (mah-z'oy-air sham-bair-tan)
Another of the Gevery-Chambertin Grand Cru Burgundies that is allowed to append the Chambertin name to its own. Usually sold as Charmes-Chambertin.

McLaren Vale
A high quality wine growing region in the Southern Vales region of Australia.

Medoc (meh-doc)
A wine growing region in Bordeaux, France. The Medoc is split in two, with the Haut-Medoc (upper Medoc) being the southern portion, and the higher quality of the two (in fact most of the highest quality Bordeaux red wines come from the Haut-Medoc). The remaining portion, the Bas-Medoc (lower Medoc) is rarely seen on wine labels, the term Medoc itself being more common.

Mercurey (mair-coo-ray)
A wine producing commune in the southern Burgundy region of France. Specifically located in the Cote Chalonnaise, it is the best known red producer in the region. The red wines are made from Pinot Noir, and the tiny amount of white made, is from the Chardonnay grape.

Merlot (mair-lo)
One of the best known red wine grapes. Often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. In the Haut-Medoc region of Bordeaux, France, it is second to Cabernet Sauvignon; but, across the river in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol it is the primary grape. It ages somewhat more quickly than Cabernet Sauvignon, because it is lighter in tannins. The grape famously took a hit in popularity after the movie Sideways.

Methode Champenoise (meh-toh'd shahm-peh-n'wahz)
The Champagne method for making sparkiling wines. First a dry, still wine is made. It is then bottled. A small amount of sugar and yeast is added to the bottle, which is then sealed. The yeast turns the sugar into carbon dioxide, heat and alcohol. The carbon dioxide dissolves in the wine, making the wine bubbly. Once the process has finished, the bottle of wine still has the sediment from the yeast in it. Through a process known as riddling, the bottles are slowly turned upside down (over a period of weeks or months) until the sediment is in the neck of the bottle. The neck is then plunged into a very cold salt water solution, which freezes a bit of the wine around the sediment. The bottle is opened and the chunk of ice, complete with all of the sediment, is removed. The bottle then needs to be refilled to replace the lost wine. At this point some Champagne is added, along with a solution of sugar, which will determine the final sweetness and style of the wine.

Methuselah / Methuselem
An oversized bottle used for Champagne. It holds eight normal bottles.

Meursault (muhr-so)
A popular wine producing village of Burgundy, France. Located in the Cote de Beaune, it produces primarily white wine from the Chardonnay grape. A small amount of red wine is produced from Pinot Noir.

Microclimate
In meteorological terms this is the effect of geography on weather on a very small scale. In wine tasting, this term, like the French term Terrioir (see gout de terrior) has been expanded to include the geology as well as geography of any given area. In total it refers to the different conditions any individual vineyard may face. The vineyards of Burgundy, France are a living example of this effect. While many of the vineyards are tiny, they each have a taste characteristic that is noticeably different from their neighbor.

Mildew
The same fungus that plagues home owners can be found in the vineyard, with the same undesirable results. There are two types in the vineyard, "downy" and "powdery." It is the powdery type that is known as oidium and devistated the vineyards of Europe in the late 19th century. It is now controlled by the careful use of powdered sulfur or copper sulfate in the vineyard.

Millesime (mee-leh-zeem)
The French term for "vintage," the year of harvest that appears on a bottle.

Minervois (mee-nair-v'wah)
One of the best known red wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France.

Mission
The grape carried by the Franciscan monks to the New World. It is probably the same as the Pais grape of Chile and the Criolla grape of Argentina. Never a quality grape, it has largely been forgotten about and removed from vineyards throughout the New World. A small amount can still be found in California, and the best wines made from it are sweet and fortified.

Mittelrhein (mit' l-rine)
A tiny and very picturesque wine region in Germany along the Rhine River. Most of the wine is white and made from the Riesling grape. It is rarely exported.

Moelleux (m'wah-luh)
A French term for a wine that is ever so slightly sweet. There is no real English equivalent. The term "threshold" is applied in the US to wines that have measurable residual sugar, but do not taste sweet to most people.

Moldy
Just what it sounds like. Wines (usually red) that were affected by mold and used to make wine anyway will have this off taste and odor.

Monopole (mawn-o-pole)
The French term for a vineyard that has a single owner owner, hence a monopoly on that wine. Primarily used in Burgundy, where it is rare for a vineyard to have only one owner.

Montrachet (mon-rah-shay)
A Grand Cru white wine vineyard of Burgundy, France, planted entirely to Chardonnay. The vineyard was much larger in times gone by, but has been broken up into smaller portions over time. Half the vineyard lies in the commune of Chassagne-Motrachet, as do the adjacent Grand Cru of Batard-Montrachet (in part). The other half of the vineyard is in Puligny-Montrachet along with the Grand Crus Batard-Montrachet (in part), Bienvenues Batard-Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet. Montrachet is the source of confusion and error for some wine drinkers. The two towns each appending the name of the vineyard (common in Burgundy) means that some people refer to the wines from the towns collectively as "Montrachet." This can be a costly mistake should you order Montrachet in a restaurant, as the Grand Cru produces some of the most expensive white wine in the world.

Montrose, Chateau (mohn't-rose)
A Second Growth Bordeaux, France property. It is (along with Ch. Cos-d'Estournel) the highest rated vineyard in the village of Saint-Estephe. Keeping with the generalization that the harder wines are in the north of the Haut-Medoc, Ch. Montrose is indeed a harder styled wine. Based on Cabernet Sauvignon, as are all Haut-Medoc wines, this wine will age well.

Morey-Saint-Denis (moh-ray san deh-nee)
A village in the northern end of the Cote de Nuits in Burgundy, France. A producer of very high quality red wines, it is unusual to see the village name on a label. Much of the vineyard land is Grand Cru, and would be sold with the name of the vineyard only. Besides the namesake Grand Cru vineyard, Clos Daint-Denis, Clos de la Roche, Clos de Tart, Clos des Lambray and a part of Bonnes Mares are all found in this tiny village, situated directly south of Gevery-Chambertin. The grape for the reds are Pinot Noir, and a tiny amount of white is made from Chardonnay.

Morgon (mor-gawn)
A wine producing village in the Beaujolais region of France. The wines here are less fruity and more complex than its neighbors. Those who would support the claim that Beaujolais can improve with age, usually point to the wines of Morgon as an example. As with all Beaujolais, the grape for this red wine is Gamay.

Moscato (moss-cah'-to)
The Italian name for the Muscat grape. This is the grape of Asti Spumante, Italian's famous sparkling wine (the drier versions in Italy are far superior to the exported versions). The Italians make a wide range of Moscato wines, some fortified, some sparkling.

Moscato d'Asti (moss-cah'-to dah'ss-tee)
One of my favorite wines, it is often overlooked in the US. Lightly sparkling, lightly sweet, and light in alcohol, this wine is light in everything, except flavor. Made from the Muscat (Moscato) grape in the town of Asti, in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Only the finest grapes go into the production of Moscato d'Asti, with the bulk of them being utilized to make the better known, and fully sparkling, Asti Spumante. Moscato d'Asti, usually just referred to as Moscato, has recently become more popular due to its association with music personalities.

Mosel / Moselle (mo'-zl / mo-zell')
One of the highest quality wine regions in Germany (Mosel is the German spelling). The official name of the wine region is Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, which includes two of the tributaries to the Moselle River. The finest vineyards are found on steeply terraced hills, overlooking the river. The best wines are made from Riesling, but increasing amounts of Muller-Thurgau, Elbling and Kerner are being planted. Some of the best known wine growing regions in Germany can be found here: Zeller Schwarze Katz, Piesporter and the Bernkastler vineyards. The Bernkastler Doctor vineyard in particular is heralded by many as the source of their favorite German wine.

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (mo'z'l sahr roo'-ver)
See above.

Mou (moo)
A French term for a wine that is soft or thin to a fault. Not well known in the US, but a good term to know as there is not really an English equivalent.

Moulis (moo-lee)
One of the smaller wine growing villages in the Medoc district of Bordeaux, France. It is notable as the home of Chasse-Spleen, one of the best known "Cru Bourgeois" (lesser Bordeaux wines).

Mourvedre (moor-ved'r)
One of the red wine grapes of southern France and the Rhone Valley. It is the grape of the very tannic, and darkly colored Bandol (from the south of France). It is these very characteristics that makes the grape important for blending. It is one of the 13 grapes found in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The grape has a following in California where it is used for blending with Syrah or Zinfandel, or even bottled on its own. Sometimes called Mataro.

Mousse (moose)
The French term for the foam found on sparkling wines or beer. Often called "head" in English.

Mousseux (moo-suh)
The French generic term for sparkling wine. Champagne, from the Champagne region is always referred to by name.

Mousy
A wine tasting term for the smell and taste of a particular bacterial spoilage in some faulty wines.

Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau (moo-tohn rot-sheeld)
A First Growth Bordeaux, France property. Rated as a second growth in the 1855 classification, it was elevated by decree in 1973. For many wine enthusiasts, Mouton is best known as the wine with the incredible art labels.With only three exceptions, since 1946 an original work of art has been commissioned for the label. Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol are among the artists who's works have graced the Mouton labels. 1953 was a 100th anniversary label, and 1973 was an homage to Picasso, from the Chateau's collection, to celebrate the elevation of the wine, and to mourn the passing of the artist in that year. The 1977 was the third exception, when the label was a commemoration of the visit of the Queen Mother (of Great Britain). The wine is rightfully as famous as the labels, and like all of the wines of the region, it is based on Cabernet Sauvignon.

Muller-Thurgau (mew'-lair toor'-gau)
The most planted grape in Germany. A cross of Riesling and Sylvaner. The wines it makes tend to be low in acid, and somewhat dull, compared to Riesling. Widely planted in New Zealand as well.

Musar, Chateau (moo-sahr)
A Cabernet Sauvignon based wine from Lebanon. This wine has received much press and critical acclaim over the years. I do not share this opinion, finding the wine to be very expensive, overly hard, lacking in fruit, and having a distinct baked flavor. All or most of these may be blamed on the US distributors and importer, so perhaps the wine shows better in the correct circumstances. It may also be that this is the best wine made in the Middle East, and so allowances have been made by the critics.

Muscadet (mus-cah-day)
A light, dry white wine made around the town of Nantes, France, where the Loire river flows into the Atlantic ocean. Because of the style of the wine, and the geography of the area it is produced in, it is often acclaimed as the perfect accompaniment to seafood. The Sevre-et-Maine appellation is added to the name of the wine made from this smaller delimited area. Once this was a small percentage of the wine made, now most Muscadet exported comes from Sevre-et-Maine. In addition the wine is sometimes aged on the lees (sediment) to add flavor, and this too is noted on the bottle, giving the wine the resulting tongue twister name: Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie. Muscadet is the local name for the grape used, which is known elsewhere as Melon de Bourgogne.

Muscat (moos-cat or muss-cat)
Considered the original wine making grape, and the progenitor of all wine making grapes (of the species vinifera). The grape comes in many sub-varieties and even colors. Nearly every wine making region of the world has some sort of Muscat based wine. The aroma of the grape is distinct, and has lent its name to the word "musk." A list of the Muscat based wines would take pages, the good news is that the word Muscat or Moscatto appears on many of the labels. Almost without exception, Muscat based wines are somewhat, to very sweet. Muscat raisins and table grapes can also be found on occasion.

Musigny (moo-see-n'yee)
A Grand Cru Burgundy, France vineyard. While the red wine is made from Pinot Noir and constitutes by far the largest proportion of the 3,000 cases a year of wine produced from this vineyard, a tiny amount of white wine from Chardonnay is made and labeled Musigny Blanc. This is the only Grand Cru white wine made in the Cote de Nuits. Like all of the Grand Cru reds of Burgundy, this wine is unforgettable in a decent vintage.

Must
The crushed grapes and juice that will be fermented into wine.

Musty
The off smell of a wine that has been in contact with old or poorly cleaned wooden casks. It is similar to a moldy smell, or even the "corked" smell of an off wine. If you experience this smell, and think it may be a corked bottle, try opening another bottle of the same wine, if it still exists, it is likely musty, and not corked.


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