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A Glossary of Wine Terms

Updated by Jim Deckebach

Understanding wine terminology and vocabulary will help anyone navigate the world of wine-making more fully. Whether delving into wine-making or just seeking to learn more about fine wines, these terms will broaden your understanding. Wine-lovers can add to their vocabulary as they explore the wide array of wines originating from many wine-producing regions of the world.

  • Acidity: The acidity of wine refers to its crispness and the activation of salivary glands.
  • Aeration: Aeration of wine involves the addition of oxygen, which softens the wine.
  • Aging: Aging of wine occurs by holding it in barrels or other containers, advancing the wine to a desired state.
  • Alcohol: Ethyl alcohol develops due to the fermentation of sugars via yeast.
  • Anosmia: This process describes the reduction of smell.
  • Appellation: Wine-producing regions are called appellations.
  • Aroma: A wine's aroma describes its smell.
  • Astringent: Tannin levels in wine affect sensations in the mouth known as astringency, such as harsh, bitter, or dry.
  • Balance: The balance of a wine denotes the harmony of its various elements, including tannins, sugars, acids, and alcohol.
  • Barrel: Barrels are the oak containers used to hold wine while it ferments and ages.
  • Barrique: Oak barrels holding 225 liters originated in Bordeaux, called barriques.
  • Bitter: The tongue detects bitter elements originated by tannins in the wine.
  • Blend: Some wines are blends of more than one kind of grape.
  • Body: Wine can be described as light, medium, or full-bodied, which refers to the weight and fullness of the wine.
  • Bordeaux: The Bordeaux region in Southwest France is one of the best appellations in the world.
  • Botrytis: Dessert wines with higher sugar content get their elements thanks to botrytis, which is a mold that pierces grape skins and leads to dehydration.
  • Bouquet: Aged wines contain complex aromas, also called the bouquet.
  • Breathing: Allowing wine to be exposed to oxygen is known as breathing, which enhances flavors.
  • Brettanomyce: This type of yeast is responsible for spoilage, and it creates distasteful flavors.
  • Brilliant: Sparkling clear wines may be described as having a brilliant taste.
  • Brut: Sparkling wines and dry champagnes may be termed bruts.
  • Bung: Wine barrels are plugged with bungs.
  • Bung hole: A wine cask will have a bung hole, which is the opening used to fill or empty the cask.
  • Chaptalization: This process involves adding sugar to wine either before or during fermentation, which increases the alcohol level.
  • Citric acid: Wines contain citric acid, a weak acid found in grapes.
  • Claret: Red Bordeaux wines might be called claret by the English.
  • Class growth: The official classification of Bordeaux wines originated in 1855, and it remains the standard today.
  • Closed: Young or undeveloped wines might be described as closed if the flavors aren't exhibiting well.
  • Complex: Wines with many flavors, nuances, or odors might be described as complex.
  • Cork taint: Wines stored in moist or moldy locations might develop undesired aromas and flavors, known as cork taint.
  • Corked: Wines with cork taint might be described as corked.
  • Cru Classe: The Bordeaux classification of 1855 is known as Cru Classe.
  • Crush: The English refer to harvest as crush.
  • Cuvee: This type of champagne is a blended batch.
  • Demi-sec: Sweet sparkling wines that are half-dry are demi-sec.
  • Dry: Dry is the opposite of sweet, and it occurs due to tannins.
  • Earthy: This description refers to odors or flavors that resemble damp soil.
  • Enology: Enology refers to the science of wine-making.
  • Fermentation: As grapes ferment, they convert sugars to alcohol using yeast.
  • Fining: Wine exhibiting particles might have egg whites or gelatin added to it to clear the liquid, known as fining.
  • Finish: After swallowing wine, the impression of flavors and textures left in the mouth is known as the finish.
  • Flavors: The mouth perceives odors as flavors.
  • Foxy: Wine with a musty odor and flavor might be termed foxy.
  • Fruity: Wine with strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit could be described as fruity.
  • Full-bodied: A wine with much flavor and alcohol is often described as full-bodied.
  • Herbaceous: If wine has flavors and odors of fresh herbs, it is described as herbaceous.
  • Hot: Wine that is high in alcohol would be considered hot.
  • Lees: During fermentation, sediment may accumulate that consists of grape pulp, seed, matter, and dead yeast cells, known as lees.
  • Leesy: When wine rests on its lees, it will often become rich in aromas that may lead to tasters describing it as leesy.
  • Length: Tasters note the length of time that flavors last in the mouth after swallowing wine.
  • Malic acid: Malic acid is a tart-tasting acid present in grapes and some other fruits.
  • Malolactic fermentation: This secondary fermentation involves a change from tartness to a creamy or smooth taste.
  • Mature: Wine that is mature is ready to consume.
  • Mouth feel: Tasters will describe how wine feels on the palate, perhaps furry, smooth, or rough.
  • Must: Must is unfermented grape juice that has stems, seeds, and skins.
  • Negociant: A negociant is a wholesale blender, merchant, or wine shipper.
  • Noble rot: Noble rot is another term for botrytis.
  • Nose: A taster might use this term to describe a wine's aroma.
  • Oak: A wine described as oaky might have flavors and aromas such as coconut, mocha, vanilla, or dill, which develop during barrel aging.
  • Oenology: Oenology, also called enology, is the science of wine-making.
  • Open: A wine that is ready to drink is known as open.
  • Oxidation: When wine is exposed to oxygen, oxidation occurs.
  • Phenolic compounds: Grape skins and seeds contain phenolic compounds.
  • Phylloxera: This tiny insect attacks grape roots and kills the plants.
  • Plonk: This British slang term refers to low-quality wine.
  • Rough: An astringent wine might be described as having a rough sensation in the mouth.
  • Sec: Sec is a French term for dry.
  • Sommelier: A sommelier is a wine professional.
  • Spicy: A wine might be described as spicy if it has black pepper, curry, oregano, rosemary, saffron, paprika, or other spicy odors and flavors.
  • Structure: A taster might refer to a wine's structure, which includes the harmony or its tannins, acidity, alcohol, and fruit.
  • Sweet: Wine with perceptible sugar content will be described as sweet.
  • Tannins: Tannins present in wine will create a dry and bitter taste in the mouth.
  • Tartaric acid: Tartaric acid is the main acid in grapes.
  • Terroir: A specific vineyard will have unique characteristics, known as terroir.
  • Texture: Texture describes how a wine feels in the mouth.
  • Typicity: This word is used to describe how a wine expresses the characteristics of the grape variety.
  • Ullage: As wine evaporates in barrels or bottles, the empty space is known as ullage.
  • Vegetal: Some wines may have aromas and flavors termed as vegetal, which denote fresh or cooked vegetables.
  • Vinification: Vinification is the process of winemaking.
  • Vitis vinifera: More than 99 percent of the wines in the world come from the vitis vinifera grape species.
  • Vintage: A wine's vintage is the year it is bottled.
  • Weight: The sensation of wine on the palate may be described as having a thick weight.
  • Wine: The fermented juice of grapes is wine.
  • Yeast: Yeast is a microorganism that converts grape sugars to alcohol.
  • Yield: A vineyard's productivity is its yield.
  • Young: A young wine is an immature wine that is bottled and sold within one year of its vintage.

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