Wine Terminology

System Administrator posted this on Oct 19, 2014

Acetic A vinegar-like smell and/or taste caused by acetic acid.


Acidity Natural acids in wine. A critical element of wine, it is essential for freshness, flavor and aging. The term generally applies to the citric, malic, tartaric and lactic acids in wine and is essential to balance contrasting elements.


Aeration Letting a wine "breathe" before drinking it in order to soften the tannins, smooth out the wine, and allow the bouquet and flavors to open up. Young red wines benefit most from aeration, which is accomplished by decanting the bottle into another container; or else, by swirling the wine in a glass.


Aftertaste  Some make a distinction between a wines finish and its aftertaste. The aftertaste is simply the taste sensation that remains after swallowing.


Aggressive  A somewhat negative connotation relating to a harshness of taste (sometimes caused by excessive acid).


Alcohol  Often tasting hot or peppery, a wine in which a high level of alcohol overwhelms the fruit and balance.


Appellation A system developed by the French to regulate the authenticity of their finest wines. Appellation applies specifically to the region where the grapes were grown. The French

also regulate what grapes can be grown where; what winemaking methods can be used; how large the yields can be; etc. Other countries have adopted their own versions of controlled appellations with varying success.


Aroma  The scent a wine derives from its grape variety (as opposed to scents that result from the wine making process).


Aromatic  Having a highly evocative aroma; often used to denote a floral or spiced quality.


Astringent  A result of tannin content (and sometimes high acid), it is the aspirin-like, tea-like quality that causes a dry, puckering sensation in the mouth.


Austere  A severe, almost spartan quality that can result from tannin or acid (often in wine that needs more time to mature).


Balance  A good wine is said to be well-balanced. The reference is to the symbiotic interrelationship and desired harmony between the major components of a wine fruit, sugar, acidity, tannins, alcohol and oak aging.


Barrel-Fermented  Wine that is fermented in small barrels rather than large tanks.


Bite  A lively sharpness resulting from a wines acidity.


Bitter Often caused by too much tannin, this is most often not a desirable trait in wine. However, many Italian red wines feature an appealing amount of bitterness that balances wonderfully with pasta and tomato sauces.


Beefy  Descriptive for a big, solid red.


Body  Light-bodied, medium-bodied, full-bodied; the term takes into account a wines density and viscosity with reference to the impression of fullness or weight on the palate.


Bouquet  As opposed to aroma (the scent of the grape), bouquet refers to the scent a wine acquires with aging in oak and in the bottle.


Brilliant A wine of absolute clarity. This is not important to most experienced tasters, since highly filtered wines will always be brilliant-yet the process of filtration can strip much of the flavor and character from a fine wine. Most of the finest wines available deposit sediment with aging


Brix  A technical term that refers to a system of measuring the amount of residual sugar in wine.


Buttery  Usually associated with chardonnay, it denotes the rich creamy-vanilla flavor derived from the wines contact with new oak.


Caramel  The taste of caramelized sugar.


Character  Complimentary term for wine indicating distinction and individuality.


Chemical  Refers to unpleasant smells or tastes from fermentation (often of sulfur or nail polish).


Chewy  Excessive tannin in a wine, but also enough flavor to sustain it.


Clean  A positive trait indicating a simple, direct flavor without serious flaws.


Closed  Qualities in a wine that have yet to present themselves. Often, complex wines open up once poured or decanted.


Complex  A critical aspect of fine wine, it refers to a variety and range of aromas and bouquets and multiple layers of flavor.


Corky  A wine that has been smells and tastes musty or moldy with the unpleasant qualities of a bad cork is said to be corky or corked. 


Coarse  A rough texture, opposite of a smooth wine.


Creamy  A rich, smooth texture (often a quality of fine chardonnay or champagne).


Crisp  A positive attribute denoting a white wines sharp, zesty acidity.


Delicate  Light, distinctive and refined but not timid.


Depth  Full-flavored, multi-dimensional taste.


Distinguished  Characterized by excellent quality.


Dry  No sugar or sweetness remaining; a fruity wine can be dry.


Earthy  A vegetative, damp earth smell.


Elegant  Describes beautiful, well-balanced wines-graceful, not necessarily full-bodied.


Estate-Bottled  Wine made exclusively from grapes grown on a winerys property and produced by the winery, which must be located in the same AVA where the grapes are grown.


Fat  An overly heavy, awkward and poorly made wine.


Finesse  Delicacy and refinement in structure and texture.


Finish  The residual flavors and aroma of a wine on the palate after swallowing. A long or lingering finish is a desirable attribute.


Firm  Assertive, but not unbalanced, acidity particularly in wines requiring more aging.


Flabby  A great descriptive for a wine without enough acidity.


Flawed A wine that is poorly made and shows mistakes.


Fleshy  Flavorful and soft, generally with relatively little tannin.


Flinty  A mineral tone, more often an aroma than flavor.


Floral  Suggests the aroma or taste, usually aroma, of flowers.


Freshness  An aromatic quality, often floral or fruit-like.


Fruit  Even thought the actual flavor may be of black currants, apples, etc., the term refers to the amount of grape (i.e. fruit) taste in a wine.


Full-bodied  A wine with rich, mouthfilling texture and weight on the palate; as opposed to thin.


Grassy Aromas and flavors of fresh cut grass or fresh herbs.


Green Unripe, tart, sometimes harsh flavors and textures.


Hard  A wine (particularly red) with lots of tannin that needs time to mature.


Harsh  Unbalanced wine that is tough on the palate.


Herbaceous  A vegetal, grassy tone in aromas and flavors.


Hot  A relatively high alcohol content resulting in a taste that is peppery.


Jammy  A cooked, or stewed, sweetish quality.


Lean  Generally not enough fruit and/or to much acidity, although not always a term of derision.


Legs  Swirl wine in a glass and then observe the liquid running down the inside of the bowl these are the legs and are a good measure of a wines body.


Length  Generally used as a qualifier for a wines finish, which is either long or short or medium.


Lively  A young, fruity wine with vivacious flavors.


Malolactic  A secondary fermentation occurring in most red and some white wines used to convert the grapes primary malic acid into a softer lactic acid.


Mellow  A soft, but well-balanced wine.


Meritage  A red or white wine made from blending classic Bordeaux grapes (the word itself is a condensation of Merit and Heritage).


Must  Grape juice and/or crushed grapes before or during fermentation.


Nose A wines aroma.


Nutty  A characteristic of some dry whites.


Oaky  Wines aged in oak take on a bit of the barrels taste and smell (often a vanilla or toasty quality).


Plummy  Often a quality of big, ripe red wines.


Reserve  Often used to identify a winerys better quality wines, the term has no quantifiable or legal meaning.


Residual sugar  The amount of sugar not converted to alcohol during fermentation that indicates a wines relative sweetness.


Rich  Deeply flavorful and textured.


Robust  Big assertive and full-flavored.


Round  A wine with smooth flavors and textures; well balanced.


Silky  A texture thats mouthfeel is as smooth as silk.


Simple  A wine that is light with limited aromas, flavors, and texture.


Smokey  A smokey taste generally resulting from aging in charred oak barrels.


Soft A term characterizing texture and referring to the amount of , and relationship between, a wines acid and tannin.


Spicy  Spice flavors including cloves, mint, pepper, cinnamon and many, many others.


Steely  A clean, acidic, almost metallic taste in whites.


Stewed  Like overly cooked fruit from which the aroma has dissipated.


Supple  A wine that is smooth and soft textured.


Tannin  Derived from the skins, stalks and seeds of grapes, as well as the oak barrels used for aging, it accounts for a wines astringency (which is reduced over time) and is an essential

element for aging.


Tart  Lots of acidity resulting in a green-tasting wine.


Terroir  A French word reflecting the expression in a wine of the soil, climate, and farming methods of a vineyard site.


Thin  unpleasantly watery, lacking in flavor intensity and texture.


Toasty  Not a charred or burnt sensation, but rather reminiscent of fresh toast.


Tough  Roughly textured, often as a result of too much tannin.


Varietal  Derived from the phrase, grape variety, it indicates the type of grapes (e.g. chardonnay). For a wine to be labeled a varietal it must contain at least 75% of the named grape variety.


Vegetal  When a wine smells like wet straw, mushrooms or compost.


Velvety  Smooth texture and deep, rich flavors.


Vineyard Designated  Indicates that at least 95% of the grapes used to make the wine came from the named vineyard.


Vintage  If a vintage date is used on a label (e.g. 1998) it means that at least 95% of the wine must be from grapes grown in that year.


Yeasty  Fresh dough, bread-like aroma and/or flavor.


White Wines


Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is originally from Bordeaux, France. Fum Blanc denotes an oaky style of Sauvignon Blanc.

  • Grape Character: Lemon, pear, melon, green apple, fig, grapefruit, hay or grass, flint.
  • Body: Light-to medium-bodied with a crisp texture.
  • Food Pairing: Complements lighter cuisine - shellfish, sole, halibut, chicken, salads, vegetables, citrus sauces.

The Chardonnay grape comes from Burgundy, France. It is vinified in many styles, from crisp and fruity to rich and toasty.

  • Grape Character: Apple, pear, mango, pineapple, lemon, peach.
  • Body: Medium-bodied with a rich, slightly buttery character.
  • Food Pairing: Grilled chicken, salmon, shrimp, crab, lobster, light pasta, tropical salsas, lightly spiced foods.

The classic grape of Germany, typically aged in stainless steel, not oak, to retain delicate floral aromas.

  • Grape Character: Floral, honeysuckle, nectarine, peach and tangerine.
  • Body: Light-to medium-bodied.
  • Food Pairing: Spicy and sweet dishes, shellfish, Thai cuisine, curries, chicken, veal, pork, summer salads.


Red Wines


Malbec known as one of the six grapes used in the blending of Bordeaux wine is widely planted in Argentina and Chile. In France, it is commonly used in blends, such as with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the renowned red "claret" blend. In California and other areas it is increasingly being used for the same blending purpose. By it self the Malbec grape creates a wine that boasts a sensational purple color, with great intensity, sumptuous richness, and an intense aroma of plums, blackberries, minerals and toast. In Argentina it is one of the most-planted red grape, and is the third most planted in Chile.

Pinot Noir
With origins in Burgundy, France, the delicate Pinot Noir grape inspires some of the world's most collectible wines.

  • Grape Character: Red cherry, raspberry, strawberry, leaves, violets, earth, smoke.
  • Body: Medium-bodied with a silky texture.
  • Food Pairing: One of the most food-friendly varietals, especially salmon, roast chicken, duck, pork, mushrooms.

Syrah, originally from Rhne area of France, also known as Shiraz which succeeds admirably in Australia.

  • Grape Character: Blackberry, cherry, sage, truffle, leather.
  • Body: Medium to heavy-bodied, rich (medium tannins).
  • Food Pairing: Grilled red meats, wild game, stews.

Merlot is from Bordeaux, France. While frequently blended with Cabernet, Merlot on its own is a delicious, approachable wine.

  • Grape Character: Black and red cherry, plum, red current, boysenberry, tobacco.
  • Body: Medium-to heavy-bodied with softer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Food Pairing: Medium to heavier cuisine - grilled red meats, hamburgers, tuna and swordfish, pizzas, stews.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon hails from Bordeaux, France, and can produce some of the world's most ageable wines.

  • Grape Character: Blackberry, black currant (cassis), black cherry, mint, tobacco.
  • Body: Medium- to full-bodied with firm tannins.
  • Food Pairing: Heavier cuisine - grilled red meats, stews, sausages, venison, bean dishes and strong cheeses.

Zinfandel has been cultivated more in the California than anywhere else, making it America's signature wine grape.

  • Grape Character: Raspberry, red cherry, cranberry, boysenberry, black pepper.
  • Body: Medium to heavy-bodied. Zinfandel is made in a wide range of styles.
  • Food Pairing: Grilled sausages, ribs, beef, tomato sauces, pizza, Cajun dishes, grilled vegetables.
Categories: Educational
Tags: wine terms 

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