Glossary of Wine Terms

There are thousands of words associated with wine, but this is a good overview. For a more in-depth source, check out the Wine Lover’s Companion.

Acid
A vital part of wine, necessary to help achieve balance and structure and responsible for the fresh, lively taste of wine, especially white wine.

Aging
The maturing and improving of wine in the barrel and bottle after it is made. Best wines for aging include classic reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Whites that age well include the top Chardonnay, Riesling and Semillon.

Alcoholic Content
Usually expressed as a percentage of alcohol by volume, or ABV, on wine labels. In the U.S., table wine must be between 7 and 14 percent and dessert wines must be between 14 and 24 percent.

Alcoholic Fermentation
The primary fermentation in which certain yeast enzymes convert grape sugar to alcohol.

Appellation
Refers to a delimited and geographically defined wine growing region.

Approachable
Wines that are easy to drink, without too much acid or tannin.

Aroma
Characteristic smell of a young wine or of the grapes used to make wine. As wine ages, the aroma changes to bouquet.

Balance
A wine is in balance when all the elements, including acidity, tannins, alcohol, sweetness and oak come together in harmony.

Barrel Aging
Many red wines and a few whites are aged in small barrels following fermentation for various periods of time depending on the style of wine desired. Barrel aging tends to soften the wine and add richness. It also imparts wood flavors and tannins.

Body
Tasting term for the impression on the palate of a wine’s weight and texture.

Bottle aging
When wines are held in bottles for a few weeks or up to several years. During bottle aging, acidity, tannins, flavors and alcohol interact, creating new flavors and enriching existing flavors. Wine in larger bottles tends to age at a slower rate.

Bouquet
The complex smell of a wine that develops after it has aged for some time.

Cask
Large wooden container for aging or holding wine.

Chewy
Term often used to describe highly tannic wines.

Complex
Term for a well-balanced wine with distinctive layers of aromas and flavors.

Concentrated
Indicates that the fruit aromas and flavors of a wine are very powerful.

Corkage
Fee charged by a restaurant to open and serve wine brought by the customer.

Corked
Wine fault caused by mold in the cork, which gives the wine an off-flavor and smell similar to wet cardboard.

Crush
American term for the entire harvest season.

Decanting
Pouring wine from a bottle into a decanter to remove sediment often found in older wines or to release the fresh fruit in a young wine.

Depth
Indicates a wine has good weight on the palate and deep fruit flavors.

Dessert Wine
Sweet wine which is sometimes fortified.

Dry
Used to describe wines in which there is no discernible sweetness.

Enologist
The person in charge of the technical side of wine making.

Estate Bottled
In Europe, this means wine that is bottled on the estate where it is made. In the U.S., the term has been expanded to include wine made from vineyards that the winery controls through a long-term agricultural lease, as well as from its own estate.

Fermentation
Process by which yeast converts the sugar in grapes to alcohol.

Fill Level
The level to which wine rises in the neck of the bottle. Provides a clue to the condition of the wine. A low fill level probably indicates oxidation of the wine and a faulty cork.

Filtering
Process by which solids are removed from a wine by passing it through a filter. Many winemakers believe filtering limits the wines ability to mature in the bottle.

Finish
The impression left by a wine on the palate after swallowing.

Floral
Term used to describe aromas reminiscent of flowers.

Fruit Forward
Young wines where the fruit taste is the most dominant taste may be described as showing fruit forward.

Green
Wines made from under-ripe fruit, often with a hard flavor.

Hard
Term used to describe wines that have a tough edge and are not approachable when young.

Hot
Term for wines that are out of balance, with high alcohol causing a burning sensation.

Jammy
Term for wine with rich concentrated fruit and an intense grapy character.

Lees
Sediment that settles to the bottom of barrels or tanks following fermentation. It is composed mainly of dead yeast cells, with some pulp, grape stems and seeds. Wines left in contact with fine lees are relatively complex in flavor.

Legs
Term for the tracks left on the inside of the glass by some wines, also called tears.

Length
The flavor that lingers in the mouth after a wine is swallowed.

Maceration
When making red wines, the skins, pips and pulp are left to soak, or macerate, in the fermenting must in order to impart color and tannins to the wine. Generally, the longer the maceration, the more deeply colored and tannic the wine will be.

Malolactic Fermentation
Follows the basic alcoholic fermentation, and converts harsh malic acid into softer lactic acid. It may occur spontaneously, be induced or be prevented depending on the style of wine desired.

Master of Wine
Professional qualification, abbreviated MW, granted to those who pass the examination set by the London-based Institute of Masters of Wine.

Maturation
Once a wine has been fully fermented, it undergoes maturation in tank or barrel before bottling. During this period, the wine should soften and develop complexity. A wine maker may also decide to mature the wine in the bottle before release. This is a slower process than barrel or tank maturation. Wines might also mature in your wine cellar.

Must
The grape juice, along with bits of stems, seeds and pulp, that comes out of the crusher and beings fermentation.

New World
Informal category including the wines of North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The term also refers to a style of wine making characterized by up-front flavor and fruit, which originated in California and spread to Australia and New Zealand.

Nonvintage
Wine that does not give a vintage year on the label.

Nose
Term used as synonym for aroma and smell in wine tasting.

Oak
Oak barrels impart flavors to wines.

Oaky
Term used for a wine that has obvious oak flavors.

Old Vines
Old vines are said to produce more concentrated grapes because, as the vine ages, production declines.

Oxidation
Wine that is over-exposed to oxygen is oxidized.

Palate
Describes the reaction to tasting wine in the human mouth, often divided into front, middle and back palate.

Soft
Refers to a wine that is low in acid or tannins and, thus, easy to drink.

Sommelier
A specialist in wine and wine service.

Still Wine
Wine without bubbles.

Table Wine
In the U.S., Table Wine is the term used to describe wine of normal alcoholic strength. In Europe, table wine is the term for wine that does not meet quality classification requirements.

Tannin
Prickly, harsh texture in a red wine that comes from grape skins and oak barrels. Young wines often have very heavy tannins which fade as the wine ages. Red wine needs to retain some tannin as it ages to maintain balance.

Tart
Generally negative term for wine that is highly acidic.

Toast
A process in barrel-making in which the shaped wooden planks are heated over flames so they can be bent into place. Barrels may be give light, medium or heavy toast, which affects the flavor of the wine.

Varietal
Term for a wine named after the single, or predominant, grape variety from which it is made.

Vintage
Denotes the year in which a wine was produced.

Yeast
Yeast turns the grape sugars into alcohol.

2016-10-30T12:38:02+00:00

One Comment

  1. Nori June 28, 2016 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    this will be helpful when speaking to those who presume to be experts.

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