Wine Terminology

We created this glossary of wine terminology for all wine lovers, especially our wine students. In this wine dictionary, you can find the most important wine terms and their definitions.

Acidity — The liveliness and crispness in wine that activates our salivary glands. A general term for the fresh, tart, or sour taste due to natural fruit acids in the wine.

Aeration — The deliberate addition of oxygen to round out and soften a wine.

Aging — Holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state. The aging of wine is potentially able to improve the quality of wine.

Alcohol — Ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the product of fermentation of sugars by yeast.

Anosmia — The loss of smell.

Aroma — The smell of wine, especially young wine (different than “bouquet”).

Balance — A term for when the elements of wine – acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol – come together in a harmonious way.

Barrel — The oak container used for fermenting and aging wine.

Barrique — A 225-litre oak barrel used originally for storing and aging wines, originating in Bordeaux.

Bitter — A taste sensation that is sensed on the back of the tongue and caused by tannins.

Blend — The process whereby two or more grape varieties are combined after separate fermentation. A wine made from more than one grape varietal.

Body — A tactile sensation describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth. A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.

Botrytis — A beneficial mold that pierces the skin of grapes and causes dehydration, resulting in natural grape juice exceptionally high in sugar. Botrytis is largely responsible for the world’s finest dessert wines. (see “noble rot”).

Bouquet — A term that refers to the complex aromas in aged wines.

Breathing — Exposing wine to oxygen to improve its flavors (see “aeration”).

Brettanomyce — A wine-spoiling yeast that produces barnyard, mousy, metallic, or bandaid-ish aromas.

Brilliant — A tasting note for wines that appear sparkling clear.

Brut — French term denoting dry champagnes or sparkling wines.

Bung — The plug used to seal a wine barrel.

Bung Hole — The opening in a cask in which wine can be put in or taken out.

Cellar — A basement one or more floors of a building that are either completely or partially below the ground floor, where wine is usually stored.

Chaptalization — Adding sugar to wine before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels. It is illegal in some parts of the world, and highly controlled in others.

Chateau — French for “castle” , an estate with its own winery.

Citric Acid — One of the three predominate acids in wine.

Closed — Term describing underdeveloped and young wines whose flavors are not exhibiting well.

Complex — A wine exhibiting numerous odors, nuances, and flavors.

Cork Taint (Corked) — Undesirable aromas and flavors in wine often associated with wet cardboard or moldy basements.

Crisp — A wine that is appealingly high in acidity.

Cru Classé (Class Growth) — A top-ranking vineyard designated in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855.

Cuvée — A type, blend, or batch of wine, especially champagne.

Decanting — The process of pouring (decanting) the contents from one vessel (typically a bottle) into another vessel (typically a decanter). A great way to enhance the flavour and aroma of wine.

Dry — A wine that is low in grape sugar or sweetness.

Earthy — An odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil.

Enology — The science of wine and winemaking (see “oenology”).

Fermentation — The conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast.

Fining — The addition of egg whites or gelatin (among other things) to clear the wine of unwanted particles.

Finish — The impression of textures and flavors lingering in the mouth after swallowing wine.

Flabby — A wine that lacks acidity.

Flavors — Odors perceived in the mouth.

Fruity — A tasting term for wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit.

Full-Bodied — A wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as “big”.

Green — An overly acidic wine, typically made from unripe grapes.

Hard — A wine with too much tannin and too little fruit.

Harvest — The process of gathering a ripe crop from the fields. In this case that is the grapes.

Herbaceous — A tasting term denoting odors and flavors of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary, etc.)

Hot — A description for wine that is high in alcohol

Ice Wine — A wine made from frozen grapes.

Lees — Sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seed, and other grape matter that accumulates during fermentation.

Leesy — a tasting term for the rich aromas and smells that results from wine resting on its lees.

Legs — The streaks of wine that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. These droplets are occasionally called tears and give some indication of the alcohol content of a wine.

Length — The amount of time that flavors persist in the mouth after swallowing wine; a lingering sensation.

Maceration — The process of allowing grape juice and skins to ferment together, thereby imparting color, tannins and aromas.

Malic Acid — One of the three predominate acids in grapes. Tart-tasting malic acid occurs naturally in a number of fruits, including, apples, cherries, plums, and tomatoes.

Malolactic Fermentation — A secondary fermentation in which the tartness of malic acid in wine is changed into a smooth, lactic sensation. Wines described as “buttery” or “creamy” have gone through “malo”.

Mature — Ready to drink

Midpalate — A tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine when held in the mouth.

Must — Unfermented grape juice including seeds, skins, and stems.

Negociant — French word describing a wholesale merchant, blender, or shipper of wine.

Noble Rot — The layman’s term for botrytis.

Nose — A tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine.

Oak/Oaky — Tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla, baking spices, coconut, mocha or dill caused by barrel-aging.

Open — Tasting term signifying a wine that is ready to drink.

Opulent — A richly flavored wine with a pleasing texture that is well-balanced.

Organic — Grapes grown without the aid of chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.

Oxidized — A wine that is no longer fresh because it was exposed to too much air.

pH — An indication of wine’s acidity expressed by how much hydrogen is in it.

Phenolic Compounds — Natural compounds present in grape skins and seeds.

Phylloxera — A microscopic insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots.

Plonk — A derogatory name for cheap, poor-tasting wine.

Pomace — The mass of skins, pits and stems left over after fermentation. Usually used to make grapa or rakija.

Pruning — The annual vineyard chore of trimming back plants from the previous harvest.

Racking — The process of moving wine from barrel to barrel, while leaving sediment behind.

Riddling — The process of rotating Champagne bottles in order to shift sediment toward the cork.

Rough — The tactile “coarse” sensation one experiences with very astringent wines.

Sommelier — A wine butler which is trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing. Also used to denote a certified wine professional.

Spicy — A tasting term used for odors and flavors reminiscent of black pepper, bay leaf, curry powder, baking spices, oregano, rosemary, thyme, saffron or paprika found in certain wines.

Structure — An ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins.

Smooth — A wine with a pleasing texture and rich mouthfeel. Typically refers to a wine with soft tannins.

Sweet — Wines with perceptible sugar contents on the nose and in the mouth

Tannins — The phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in the mouth.

Tartaric Acid — the principal acid in grapes, tartaric acid promotes flavor and aging in wine.

Terroir — A French term that can be very loosely translated as “a sense of place.” It is the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the creation of the wine. Major components of terroir are soil, topography, and microclimate.

Texture — A tasting term describing how wine feels on the palate.

Typicity — A tasting term that describes how well a wine expresses the characteristics inherent to the variety of grape.

Ullage — The empty space left in bottles and barrels as a wine evaporates.

Varietal — A wine made from just one grape type and named after that grape; the opposite of a blend.

Vegetal — A tasting term describing characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavors of the wine. Bell peppers, grass, and asparagus are common “vegetal” descriptors.

Vineyard — A plantation of grape-bearing vines, grown mainly for winemaking, but also raisins, table grapes and non-alcoholic grape juice.

Vinification — The process of making wine.

Vinology — The scientific study of wines and winemaking.

Viticulture — The science or business of growing wine grapes.

Vitis Vinifera — The species of wine that comprises over 99% of the world’s wine

Vintage — The year a wine is bottled. Also, the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.

Weight — Similar to “body”, the sensation when a wine feels thick or rich on the palate.

Wine — Fermented juice from grapes.

Yeast — A microorganism endemic to vineyards and produced commercially that converts grape sugars into alcohol.

Yield — The productivity of a vineyard.

Young — An immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage. Wines meant to be drunk “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.

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