A to Z of Wine Terminology

Wine and wine making is an interesting but often complex topic. Ever wondered what a particular word means in relation to wine, here is a list of the most common words used by wine experts..

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.

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 — 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 — 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”).

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

Brut — French term denoting dry champagnes or sparkling wines.

Citric acid — one of the three predominate acids in wine.

Complex — a wine exhibiting numerous odors, 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).

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.

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.

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”.

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.

Mature — ready to drink.

Mouth-feel — how a wine feels on the palate; it can be rough, smooth, velvety, or furry.

Noble rot — the layman’s term for botrytis.

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

NV - The opposite of a vintage wine is a nonvintage wine (often seen on a wine list as NV), which is usually a blend from the produce of two or more years. This is a common practice for winemakers seeking a consistent style of wine, year on year.

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

Oenology — the science of wine and winemaking (see “enology”).

Sec — French word for “dry”.

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.

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.

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

Vinification — the process of making wine.

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

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.