WINE TERMS

This is a very general list, just enough to get you started. There are many more terms and in-depth definitions. We encourage you to search out other sources and descriptions.

acidity—the liveliness and crispness in wine that activates our salivary glands

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

alcohol—ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the product of fermentation of sugars by yeast

appellation—a delineated wine producing region

aroma—the smell of wine, especially young wine (different than “bouquet”)

astringent—tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, and drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannin

balance—one of the most desired traits in a wine is good balance, where the concentration of fruit, level of tannins, and acidity are in total harmony

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—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.

Bordeaux—the area in Southwest France considered one of the greatest wine-producing regions in the world

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 outcat

pee-An aroma often associated with Sauvignon Blanc. Frequently present in Sauvignon Blanc from NewZealand.

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

citric acid—one of the three predominate acids in wine

claret—the name the English use when referring to the red wines of Bordeaux

closed—term describing underdeveloped and young wines whose flavors are not exhibiting well

complex—a wine exhibiting numerous aromas, nuances, and flavors cork

taint—undesirable aromas and flavors in wine often associated with wet cardboard or moldy basements

corked—a term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint (not wine with cork particles floating about)

crush—the English term for harvest

cuvée—in Champagne, a blended batch of wine

demi-sec—french term meaning “half-dry” used to describe a sweet sparkling wine

dry—a taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth; the opposite of sweet

earthy—an odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil, forest floor, or mushrooms

enology/oenology—the science of wine and winemaking (see “oenology”)

fermentation—the conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast

fining—the addition of substance (fining agent) to clear the wine of unwanted particles

finish—the impression of textures and flavors lingering in the mouth after swallowing wine

fruity—a tasting term for wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit Fruit forward–shows dominant primary fruit aromas and flavors. Its fruitiness jumps right out at you

full-bodied—a wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as “big”

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

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

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

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 (ML)—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

mouth-feel—how a wine feels on the palate; some descriptors are rough, smooth, velvety, or furry

must—unfermented grape juice including seeds, skins, and stems

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

oxidation—wine exposed to air that has undergone a chemical change resulting in stale, dull, sherry-like smell and flavor; its color may be a brownish hue.

phenolic compounds—natural compounds present in grape skins and seeds

phylloxera—a microscopic insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots

punchdown—a winemaking term that describes when the cap is manually pushed back into the fermenting wine to keep the fermenting wine and skins mixed up during red wine fermentation.

reduced-generally result from the presence of a volatile sulfur compound, or mercaptans, that can smell of rotten eggs, rubber, struck matches or even sewage. Sometimes those smells can “burn off”

reductive winemaking-winemaking style where winemaker takes extra steps to limit the amount of oxygen a wine has exposure

rough—wine with coarse texture, usually a young tannic wine

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—a tasting term for balance between acid and tannin, when these two come together they contribute to a wine’s overall mouth-feel