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Wine Glossary: M

While tasting wine across Washington state, here are some terms you may come across:

Maceration - During fermentation, the process of the steeping of the grape skins and solids in the wine, where alcohol acts as a solvent to extract color, tannin and aroma from the skins.

Magnum - An oversize bottle that holds 1.5 liters, twice the size of a regular 750 ml bottle.

Malbec - A red-wine grape used, both in California and France, and other parts of the world, for blending in many Bordeaux wines, where its intense color and extracts add to the wine's body; also used as primary grape in the inky red wines of the Cahors region of France and in some Argentine reds. Malbecs can be fairly deep in color with dark berry flavors and a fair amount of tannin.

Malic - Used to describe the green apple-like flavor found in young grapes which diminishes as they ripen and mature.

Malolactic Fermentation - A secondary fermentation occurring in most bottled wines, this process converts the naturally occurring malic acid into softer lactic acid plus carbon dioxide gas, thus reducing the wine's total acidity. Adds complexity to whites such as Chardonnay and softens reds such as Cabernet and Merlot.

Marsanne - Excellent white-wine grape from the Rhone Valley of France, that produces medium-body to rich wines, and now enjoying some successful plantings in California regions.

Master of Wine - A title bestowed by the Institute of Masters of Wine which was founded in 1953 in England,and is an exclusive organization requiring those qualified to pass a rigorous three-day exam. Part of the exam includes blind-tasting about 36 wines with the aim of correctly identifying them. A person with this title may put the abbreviation M.W. after his or her name.

Matchstick - Descriptive of the odor of sulphur dioxide gas, not unlike the smell of burnt matches and found, very occasionally, in negligible amounts trapped in bottled white wine. With careful decanting can be dissipated.

Mead - A wine common in medieval Britain and Europe, made by fermenting honey and water.

Meager - Descriptive of a wine that is somewhat insipid, that lacks body and depth.

Meaty - A red wine that is sturdy, full-bodied, and chewy.

Mercaptan - Unpleasant, sulphur-like rubbery smell that may be present in very old white wines.

Meritage - An invented term, used by California wineries, for Bordeaux-style red and white blended wines. Combines "merit" with "heritage."

Merlot - Very good red-wine grape that produces smooth, plummy, mellow reds, often a key component of Bordeaux blends, and in California successfully grown as a varietal of its own accord. Black cherry and herbal flavors are also typical.

Methuselah - An extra-large bottle holding 6 liters; the equivalent of eight standard bottles.

Microclimate - Refers to the climate within a small, defined area, possibly different from the area directly surrounding this area that can dramatically affect the character of the wine produced there.

Mid-Palate - When you take a sip of good wine there is often a sequence of flavor and texture impressions, of which the mid-palate is the impression registered as you hold the wine in your mouth for a moment but before you swallow.

Mulled Wine - Any red wine, served hot, that has been mixed with any combination of sugar, fresh orange or lemon, even fresh apple, spices, usually including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Murky - Mainly a fault in red wines that are lacking brightness; somewhat swampy.

Muscat - Ancient, aromatic white wine grape with a very extended family and said by some to be the ancestor of most other vitis vinifera grapes, which produces fruity, softly perfumed wines, some fine Italian sparkling wines and some enticing dessert wines from Austria and other parts of the world.

Must - Mixture of grapes - grape juice, skins and pulp that is fermented into wine.

Musty - Having a stale, moldy or mildewy smell. The result of a wine being made from moldy grapes, stored in improperly cleaned tanks and barrels, or contaminated by a poor cork.

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