Wine Glossary

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There are 49 names in this directory beginning with the letter R.
Racking
An important step in wine making. The transfer of the young wine from one barrel, where it has thrown some sediment, to a new barrel, leaving the sediment behind. Not only does this help to clarify the wine, it is an opportunity for the wine to come into contact with air. A certain amount of oxygen is required at this stage of a wine's development, in order to produce necessary aromas (secondary aromas). Racking must be conducted carefully, as too much oxygen will be more harmful than beneficial for the wine. Heavy red wines may be racked 3 or four times. Lighter reds and whites may only be racked once or twice.

Rainwater
Once a trademark for a particular Madeira, it is now a generic term for a lighter, not too sweet, style.

Rancio (rahn'-see-o)
In an odd twist in wine jargon, this term, which literally means "rancid" in Spanish is used used to describe the browning effect, and nutty taste that wines take on when purposefully exposed to air during aging. It is not considered a negative trait in these wines. Madeira is one such wine, and it has lent its name to the term "maderized' which has a similar meaning, but is used with a negative connotation for wines that were not meant to be oxidized. Common sense would dictate that these two terms are reversed, and yet, this is how they are used. Tawny Port, Marsala and Banyuls are all wines that could be described as rancio.

Ratafia (rah-tah-fee'-ah)
Any of several aperitifs made by adding brandy to unfermented grape juice. The best known example may be the Pineau de Charentes of the Cognac region, although Ratafias are found in the Champagne and Burgundy regions of France as well.The name is said to come from the tradition of toasting the ratification of a new treaty with such a concoction.

Rebe (reh'-buh)
The German word for "vine." Hence the name of the grape Sheurebe which was created by a man named Sheu.

Recolte (reh-colt)
The French word for "harvest," or "harvesting." A similar word seen on some French wine labels is "Recolant" which refers to the fact that the wine maker has harvested their own grapes, and as such the wine is estate bottled.

Rehoboam (ree-o-boa-em)
An oversized bottle that holds six regular bottles of wine.

Remuage (rem-you-ah'j)
The French term for "riddling." The practice of turning and inverting bottles of sparkling wine, made in the champagne method, over a period of a week or more, until the sediment has all collected in the neck of the bottle, for easy removal.

Reserva (reh-zehr'-vah)
A red wine that has been aged for at least 3 years before release, at least one of which must have been in a barrel. For rose and white wines it is 2 years and six months in wood.

Retsina (ret-see'-nah)
For millennia the Greeks have added pitch (pine resin) to their wine to help preserve it from bacterial spoilage. While this seems odd in a time of high technology, it was the technology of the time. Retsina is the direct decedent of these wines, and is still flavored with pitch to this day. The white or rose wines are an acquired taste, but are quite popular among those who grow up with the flavor. For the rest of us, well it is an acquired taste.

Rhein (rine)
The German spelling for the Rhine River.

Rheingau (rine'-gao)
Historically one of the highest quality German wine producing regions. The Rhine River flows primarily northwest through Germany, except for here, where it takes a southwest course for about 20 miles. It is the direction of the river that allows the vineyards to have a south facing view, critical for ripening the grapes in this cold growing region. Here you will find Johannsberg, a region that for the US is literally synonymous with Riesling. The influx of faster maturing and easier to grow grapes has not reached this part of Germany, as it has in so much of the country. Instead, Riesling continues to be the primary grape of the region, which in no small way helps to define the quality of the wines. Critics charge that the wines of the region have been declining in quality as producers rush to meet the demand for their wines. In 2000 the German government made a stab at correcting the problem by assigning a new vineyard classification system (Erstes Gewächs), not unlike that used in the Burgundy region of France. Critics now point out that the system is less then effective as it gave 33% of the vineyards the superior rating (as compared to Burgundy where 3% of the vineyards are Grand Cru and 11% Premiers Cru).

Rheinhessen (rine-hess'-en)
The largest of Germany's wine regions. You will find very little Riesling here, with the wines being made primarily of Muller-Thurgau and or Sylvaner. As with so many large growing regions around the world, the emphasis here is on quantity over quality.

Rheinpfalz (rine'-fal'tz)
One of the Anbaugebiete (specified wine regions) of Germany, and the most up and coming. Also referred to simply as the Pfalz, and sometimes known in English speaking circles as the "Palatinate." Stretching for 50 miles, just north of Alsace from the French, German border, the Phalz produces red and white wines of distinction. Pinot Noir, known as Spatburgunder in German, is the red wine grape of the region, where it produces a very light styled wine. Riesling is king here, but Muller-Thurgau is a close second, with a variety of other grapes constituting 60% of the vineyards. While the second largest German region by size, it may be the largest by volume of wine produced. The words Phalz and Palatinate both derive from the Latin "palatium", meaning palace. The Roman emperors constructed their imperial residences on a hill in the region 2000 years ago, and the name still sticks.

Rhine Wine
It would seem obvious that this phrase relates to those wines made in the Rhine Valley of Germany; however, in a never ending attempt to confuse consumers and to belittle the place names of Europe, under US law a Rhine Wine can be any white wine with less than 14% alcohol.

Rhone (rone)
One of the largest rivers in western Europe, its valley is the home to one of the most important wine regions of France. In the northern end of the French Rhone Valley we find Cote-Rotie and its intense Syrah based wines. Just a stones throw south, the white grape Viognier is at home in the town of Condrieu. Hermitage is further south, and further south still is Chateauneuf-de-Pape with its 13 allowable grape varieties. France is not the only country that the Rhone flows through, or the only one to make wines in its valleys. The Swiss too count the Rhone as their own, and produce wines all along its banks.

Ribera del Duero (ree-bair'ah del doo-eh-ro)
While this wine region in Spain is not well known among many wine lovers, it is the home of two of Spain's greatest producers, Vega Sicilia and the Alejandro Fernandex, maker of Pasquera. The region is in the north of Spain at 2600 feet, along the Duero River, the same river that will become the Douro in Portugal on who's banks the grapes for Port are grown. The red wine grape here is the Tempranillo, which is also responsible for the high quality of Spain's most famous red wine, Rioja. Tempranillo is known locally as Tinta del Pais. The incredible quality of Vega Sicilia has in the last few decades prompted more producers and consumers to pay attention to this high altitude treasure.

Rice Wine
Made throughout Asia, and best known as the Japanese Sake, this is not a wine at all. The first criteria for wine, both legally and from the point of view of quality, is to be made from grapes. This is not to say that a wonderful beverage cannot be made from rice, it simply should not be called wine.

Richebourg (reesh-boor)
A Grand Cru red wine vineyard in the commune of Vosne-Romanee, in Burgundy, France. Even among its peers of Grand Cru vineyards, this is one of the best known.

Riddling
One of the steps to making sparkling wine in the champagne method. The practice of turning and inverting bottles over a period of a week or more, until the sediment has all collected in the neck of the bottle, this allows the sediment to be easily removed. Known in French as "remuage." Once done exclusively by hand, it is now largely done by machine.

Riesling (rees-ling)
One of the greatest white wine grapes. Found originally in Germany, and still the most important quality grape there, it has now made its way around the world. Riesling makes wines that are fruity, but well balanced with acidity. This makes for long lived white wines, and some of the best sweet wines in the world.

Rioja (ree-oh-ha)
One of the best known wine production regions in Spain. Red wines are made from Tempranillo and Grenacha (the Grenache of France). Whites are primarily made from Viura. The region is proud of its heritage, which dates back to the 19th century when groups of wine makers from the Bordeaux region of France settled here, trying to escape phylloxera. The insect finally made its way south of the border to Spain, but not before the Bordelais has made their mark. Because of the hot weather the wines can suffer from being baked before and during vinification. This led to inconsistent quality, and damaged the reputation of the region. Enter modern wine making techniques, along with temperature controlled vats, and Rioja is undergoing a renaissance of sorts. This is doubly true for the white wines which were once brown and maderized, but are now fresh and fruity.

Riperia
The most common species of native North American grape vine. Because it is highly resistant to phylloxera it is often used to create new crosses of root stock.

Riserva (ree-zair-vah)
In Italian wine laws this term can only be used for wines that have been aged for a period before release. The length of time varies by region. It is three years for Chianti Riserva, but five for Barolo or Brunello Riserva. Unlike the Spanish term, Italian wines do not necessarily have to be aged in barrel to qualify for Riserva.

Rivesaltes (reev-sahlt)
A town just north of the French, Spanish border that has lent its name to a variety of fortified dessert wines from the region. Some are sold as "Muscat de Rivesaltes" and are made from that grape. Others are simply sold as "Rivesaltes" and may be made from the grape Grenache, in a semi successful imitation of Banyuls.

Rkatsiteli (ruh-kat'-see-tel'-ee)
Practically unknown to wine lovers in the US, this was once the second most widely planted white wine grape, and third of any grape in the world (after the equally unknown Airen of Spain which was once the most planted grape of all, but still remains the most planted white grape). Since the fall of the Socviet Union the plantings have dropped significantly, it no longer even makes the top 10. Almost exclusvely found in Russia and Bulgaria.

Robe (roab)
A French wine tasting term. Usually translated to mean color, it seems to also refer to the overall appearance of a wine.

Robust
A commonly used wine tasting term which belongs to the group of terms I would suggest you avoid. Anthropomorphic and vague, it seems to be used for a wine that is not showing any signs of fault, and is high in dry extract (rich and mouth filling). It is not clear if this term applies to or alludes to the amount of tannins in the wine. It is also not clear if it indicates quality or just the "weight" of the body of the wine.

Romanee-Conti (roh-mah-nay cohn-tee)
A Grand Cru red wine vineyard from Vosne-Romanee in Burgundy, France. Considered by some to be the finest of the elite group of Grand Crus. With only 600 cases made in a good year it is one of the most collectable and expensive French wines. Completely owned (a monopole) by the Domain de Romanee-Conti (DRC).

Romanee-Saint-Vivant (roh-mah-nay san vee-vahn)
A Grand Cru red wine vineyard from Vosne-Romanee in Burgundy, France. Adjacent to Romanee-Conti and Richbourg this vineyard is nearly as large as both of them combined. Perhaps it is its size, or the neighborhood it is in, but this vineyard is rarely accorded the attention of the other vineyards of Vosne-Romanee. A total of approximately 2,500 cases are produced each year.

Romanee, La (roh-mah-nay)
A Grand Cru red wine vineyard from Vosne-Romanee in Burgundy, France. Incredibly small, even by Burgundy standards, this celebrated vineyard only produces enough grapes to make about 300 cases of wine a year. This is the true "smallest appellation in France" a accolade often mistakenly given to Chateau-Grillet in the Rhone.

Rosé (ro-zay)
The French word for "pink" and the wines that are close to that color. Rosé wines suffer from an image problem. It may be that white wine and red wine drinkers feel that rosé does not fit either niche, rather than being a bridge between them. It may also be that the sweet and simple rosé wines from the 60s and 70s made people think that all rosé wines are as uninspiring. Certainly the "white zinfandel" and blush wines made in the US haven't helped the reputation any (even if they are rarely called rosé wines). In fact there are dry rosés such as the famed Tavel and Lirac of the Rhone Valley in France that deserve more recognition. Served well chilled, these wines are great for hot summer days or picnics where a heavier red or white wine would simply be too much. Many regions of the world produce rosé wines, and many of them are best enjoyed locally. Certainly there are many rosé wines that are easy to dismiss, but it is a shame to dismiss the entire class out of hand. Technically these wines are also known as blanc de noirs (white from black). Like many styles, Rosé has had a resurgences of popularity of late.

Roses
Many a traveler has photos of roses planted at the end of a row of vines. The usual explanation is that these flowers are decorative and traditional. The truth is that roses are the canary of the wine world. Roses are very susceptible to oidium (powdery mildew) and when they exhibit signs of this fungus, the grapes are sprayed to stave off infestation.

Rosso (ross'-oh)
Italian for "red" and used as part of the name for some red Italian wines.

Rosso di Montalcino (ross-oh dee mon-tahl-t'chee'-no)
The lighter version of the Italian wine Brunello di Montalcino, made from the same grapes, in the same vineyards, but without oak (or in fact any) aging.

Rotten Egg
The odor of hydrogen sulfide (the additive to household gas that allows you to smell it escaping). Rare in wine, and most unfortunate when it occurs. Almost always attributed to poor handling of grapes and the wine during production.

Rotwein (rot-vine)
The German term for red wine.

Rouge (rooj)
French for "red." Red wine would be "vin rouge."

Rough
A wine tasting term for a wine that is astringent and tannic out of balance. Mostly a term for young wines. Rough wines rarely soften enough with age to be really enjoyable. By the time the roughness has gone, so has all of the fruit.

Round
A wine tasting term applied to a wine that is well balanced. Often used as in "a well rounded wine."

Roussanne (roo-sahn)
A white wine grape from the Rhone Valley in France. Almost completely replaced by Marsanne in the region, it is still found in blends with the richer Marsanne, where it adds a subtle complexity to the wines.

Roussillon (roo-see-yawn)
The wine region just north of the Spanish border around the city of Perpignan. Even though the region is lumped together to form Languedoc-Roussillon, it has a very distinct character of its own. The people of the region consider themselves Catalans, an ethnic identity that extends south of the border as far as Barcelona in Spain. This is the home of the fortified wines Rivesaltes and the rare and incredible Banyuls. A great deal of simple table wine is also made here, most of it using Cinsault as the base, along with Grenache and even Syrah and Mouvedre in the blend.

Ruby Cabernet
An American cross between the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault grapes. It was supposed to be a commercial alternative to the slow ripening Cabernet when it was created at UC Davis back in 1948, but it turned out to be rather disappointing. Very little of this grape is still planted in California, and what remains has been relegated to making bulk wines in the Central Valley.

Ruby Port
A wood port, meaning it has aged in a barrel for some time, usually three years. The term is rarely used anymore, and when it is, it may mean a blend of red and white ports served as an aperitif in the cafes of Europe.

Ruchottes-Chambertin (roo-shot sham-bair-tan)
A Grand Cru red wine vineyard from Gevery-Chambertin in the Burgundy region of France. At eight acres, it is not the smallest Grand Cru vineyards, but it may be one of the least known. About 1,000 cases of wine produced a year.

Rudesheim (roo-dess-heim)
A small wine producing town in the Rheingau region of Germany. The Rieslings from the area are popular with tourists who flock to the picturesque town which goes out of its way to accommodate the throngs.

Rülander (roo-lahn-der)
The German name for the Pinot Gris grape.

Rully (ro-lee)
A small red and white wine producing town in Burgundy, France.

Ruwer (roo-ver')
A tributary of the Moselle River, and part of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. Little wine is produced here, although it can be of very high quality, and the river is not much more than a stream.


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