Glossary of Wine Terms


Acidity refers to the liveliness and sharpness in wine. It’s essential for balance, as it affects how fresh and crisp a wine tastes, particularly important in white wines.


Aeration is the process of exposing wine to air to enhance its aromas and soften tannins. This can be done by swirling wine in a glass or decanting it.


Ample describes a wine that is generous and full in flavor and body, offering a robust and satisfying taste experience with good depth.


Angular describes a wine with a sharp, pronounced structure, often due to high acidity or prominent tannins, making the wine feel pointed or edgy.


Balance refers to a wine where all the elements, such as acidity, tannins, fruit, and alcohol, are in harmony, making it smooth and pleasing to drink.


Body describes the weight and overall feel of wine in your mouth. It can be light, medium, or full, influenced by factors like alcohol level, sugar content, and concentration.


Botrytis, or noble rot, is a fungus that can enhance the sugar concentration and flavor complexity in grapes, beneficial for certain sweet wines.


Bouquet refers to the complex aromas in aged wines, evolving beyond their initial youthful scents to develop deeper aromatic complexity.


Brut is a term used in the sparkling wine industry to indicate a dry style, usually containing less than 12 grams of residual sugar per liter.


Chaptalization is the process of adding sugar to grape must to boost alcohol levels after fermentation.


Clarity evaluates the transparency and absence of particles in wine, often assessed visually; clarity can be an indicator of quality and filtration level.


Complexity refers to a wine that exhibits multiple layers of aromas and flavors that interact in a nuanced and harmonious way, offering depth and intrigue with each sip.


Corked refers to a wine that has a cork taint, characterized by musty, damp aromas, resulting from a contaminated cork, often due to the compound TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole).


Crisp is used to describe wines that have a refreshing acidity, making them sharp and invigorating, often used for white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.


Cuvée is a term used in winemaking referring to wine from a specific batch or a blend that is specially selected for its quality.


Decanting involves transferring wine from the bottle to another container. This is done to separate the wine from any sediment and to allow it to oxygenate, enhancing flavor.


Demi-sec is a French term for medium-dry, often used to describe wines that are slightly sweet, such as some styles of Champagne and sparkling wines.


Density refers to the concentration and richness of flavors and textures in a wine. Dense wines offer a robust, intense mouthfeel packed with layers of flavor.


Dry describes a wine that contains little to no perceptible sugar, resulting in no sweetness on the palate, often preferred in many red and white wine styles.


Earthy describes wines with aromas or flavors that suggest the earth, such as soil, mushrooms, or fallen leaves, giving a rustic and grounded character.


Elegant – A wine that is balanced and refined in its flavors and aromas, often subtle rather than overpowering.


Enologist is a wine expert who specializes in the chemistry and science behind wine production, focusing on techniques to improve wine quality.


Extraction involves drawing out colors, flavors, and tannins from grape skins during winemaking, critical for the wine’s intensity and complexity.


Fermentation is the chemical process where yeast converts sugars in grape juice into alcohol. This process is fundamental in transforming grape juice into wine.


Finish refers to the aftertaste left by wine after swallowing. A long and pleasing finish is often indicative of a wine’s quality and complexity.


Flabby describes a wine lacking sufficient acidity, making it feel flat and unbalanced on the palate, often perceived as lacking in structure and liveliness.


Flinty denotes a mineral quality in wine, reminiscent of the smell of flint striking steel, often found in certain dry white wines like Chablis.

Fortified Wine

Fortified Wine is a style of wine that has had a distilled spirit added to it, such as brandy, which increases its alcohol content and adds richness.


Fruity – A wine with strong flavors of fresh fruits, which can range from citrus and orchard fruits to tropical and berry notes.


Garnet – A color descriptor for red wines that suggests a reddish-brown hue, indicative of some aging.


Green refers to underripe flavors in a wine, often characterized by sharp acidity and vegetal notes.


Grippy describes tannins that are firm and make the mouth feel dry, indicating potential for aging.


Herbaceous describes wines with distinct herbal flavors and aromas, such as grass, bell pepper, or green herbs, typically associated with certain white wines and cool-climate reds.


Hollow describes a wine that seems to lack depth or flavor in the mid-palate.


Hot describes a wine with a high alcohol content that gives a burning sensation in the throat.


Impression – The overall sensory evaluation of a wine, including appearance, aroma, body, taste, and finish.


Integrated indicates that the various components of a wine, such as alcohol, tannins, acid, and fruit, are well-blended and harmonious, without any one element dominating.


Jammy – Wines with a very ripe, concentrated fruit flavor that resembles cooked berries.


Jéroboam is a large wine bottle that holds approximately three liters, equivalent to four standard bottles, often used for festive occasions and large gatherings.


Juicy describes wines that are vibrant and fruity, often refreshing and easy to drink, with a pleasing, mouth-watering quality.


Kabinett is a German term for a light, often off-dry wine made from fully ripe grapes, part of the Prädikat system, which classifies wines based on the ripeness of the grapes at harvest.


Knockback – A slang term describing the act of drinking wine casually and without formal tasting.


Lean – A wine with less body and fruit, often higher in acidity.


Legs are the droplets that form and flow down the inside of a glass after the wine has been swirled, often associated with the wine’s alcohol and sugar content.


Lees are the sediment left after fermentation, consisting of dead yeast cells and grape particles, which can add flavor and texture to the wine if left in contact during aging.


Lively describes a wine that is vibrant and energetic, often due to high acidity.


Luscious describes wines that are richly sweet and smooth, often used to characterize dessert wines with a velvety, luxurious mouthfeel.


Maceration – The winemaking process where the grape skins are left in contact with the juice to extract color, tannins, and flavor.

Malolactic Fermentation

Malolactic Fermentation is a secondary fermentation process where malic acid is converted to lactic acid, softening the wine and adding complexity, often used in red and some white wines.


Mellow describes wines that are soft and smooth, typically with matured characteristics.


Minerality is a tasting term used to describe the mineral flavors perceived in wine, often associated with the wine’s terroir.


Must is the freshly crushed grape juice (including skins, seeds, and stems) used in winemaking before it undergoes fermentation.

Noble Rot

Noble Rot is a beneficial mold that affects wine grapes under certain conditions, leading to a concentration of sugar and distinct flavor, used in the making of some dessert wines.


Nose is a term used to describe the aroma or bouquet of a wine. It’s what one smells in the glass before tasting, which can range from fruit and flower notes to herbs and spices.


Nutty is a flavor profile in some wines, particularly aged whites or fortified wines, reminiscent of nuts.


Oaky describes wines that have been aged in oak barrels, which imparts flavors and aromas such as vanilla, spices, and toast.


Opulent describes wines that are rich, intense, and luxurious in texture and flavor.


Oxidation occurs when wine is exposed to too much air, leading to undesirable changes in color and flavor, often making it taste stale or nutty.


Palate refers to the flavors perceived in the mouth from a wine, including sweetness, acidity, tannins, and alcohol, contributing to the overall taste profile.


Peppery – A flavor descriptor indicating the presence of spicy, black or white pepper notes in a wine.

Phenolic Compounds

Phenolic Compounds include a variety of chemical compounds in wine, such as tannins and color pigments, derived from the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes, influencing taste, color, and mouthfeel.


Plonk is British slang for cheap, low-quality wine.


Polished refers to a wine that is refined and smooth, with no harsh edges.


Punt refers to the indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle. It helps strengthen the bottle, allows for easier pouring by sommeliers, and collects sediment in aged wines.


Quintessential describes a wine that perfectly represents its type, region, or varietal character.

Residual Sugar

Residual Sugar is the sugar left after fermentation. It affects sweetness and can range from dry (almost no residual sugar) to sweet (high levels of residual sugar).


Riddling is a process in making sparkling wine that involves turning the bottles to help consolidate sediment near the neck for removal, essential for clarity and quality.


Rosé is a style of wine that incorporates some of the color from grape skins but not enough to qualify as red wine, often made by short contact with the skins or by blending red and white wine.


Rustic refers to wines that are rugged or traditional in style, often with earthy, herbaceous flavors.


Sec is a term used to describe dry wines, especially in the context of sparkling wines like Champagne, where it indicates a low level of residual sugar.


Silky describes the texture of wine that is exceptionally smooth and soft, often found in wines with well-integrated tannins that glide easily over the palate.


Svelte describes wines that are elegant, smooth, and sometimes delicate.


Sommelier is a trained wine professional who specializes in all aspects of wine service, including wine and food pairing, and often works in fine dining settings.


Sulfites are chemicals used in winemaking as preservatives to prevent oxidation and maintain freshness. They are naturally occurring but can also be added.

Sur Lie

Sur Lie means “on the lees,” indicating that the wine was aged on its sediment, which can enrich flavor and texture, often used in the production of creamy, complex whites.


Tannins are compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems, and can also be imparted by oak barrels. They contribute to the structure and aging potential of wine.


Tart describes wines with high acidity that can sometimes be perceived as sharp or sour.


Terroir is a French term that refers to the environmental conditions, especially soil and climate, where grapes are grown, which influences the flavor and quality of wine.


Textured refers to the mouthfeel of a wine, indicating a perceptible presence of elements like tannins, acidity, and alcohol.


Unoaked refers to wines that are fermented or aged in vessels other than oak, such as stainless steel, to preserve a clean, fresh fruit character.


Varietal refers to wines made from a single grape type, typically named after that grape, and can give an indication of the expected flavor and aroma profiles.

Vertical Tasting

Vertical Tasting involves sampling the same wine type from the same winery across different vintages. This highlights changes and consistencies over time, reflecting vintage variation and winemaking evolution.


Vinification is the winemaking process, encompassing all steps from grape selection to fermentation and bottling, crucial for defining the style and quality of the final product.


Vintage indicates the year the grapes were harvested, which can affect the wine’s character due to varying climatic conditions each year.


Viticulture is the science and study of grape cultivation, focusing on the process of growing grapevines for winemaking.


Vibrant describes wines that are lively and full of energy, often characterized by bright, fresh flavors and a lively acidity that stimulates the palate.


Yeast are microorganisms that play a critical role in winemaking, converting the sugars in grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide through fermentation.


Zesty describes a wine with lively citrus notes, adding a refreshing tanginess that can enhance its flavor profile.