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Wine Glossary


Below is an extensive list of wine terminology. If you are a novice, chances are that many terms seem unfamiliar. Donít worry about it. When you taste wines, just try to describe them in your own words. As you become more familiar with wines, your will find that you, too, will borrow words from the list to describe the sensations and tastes you are experiencing.

Wine Terminology:

Acid: The tartness of a wine, derived from the fruit acids in the grape. Should be in balance with other components.

Aftertaste: The lingering of flavors and aromas that remain on the palate after swallowing.

Aging: The storing of wine in barrels or bottles for an extended time.

Appellation: The wine-growing region defined by common climatic or geographical conditions, and determined by wine growers' organizations.

Apples: A possible aroma or flavor found in white wines.

Aroma: The whole "smell" (bouquet) of the wine: fruit, oak and "off" scents such as mustiness.

Astringency: An effect of tannin. The mouth-puckering sensation usually found in young reds.

Balance: The right proportion of elements.

Big: A strong, full-bodied, sometimes high-alcohol wine.

Body: The Impression of texture and weight or fullness on the palate; partly due to alcoholic strength.

Bouquet: The scent or smell that develops with aging.

Brilliant: Describes the appearance of very clear wines.

Buttery: Indicates the smell of butter found in a "rich" Chardonnay.

Citric: The taste of citric fruit found in white wines.

Clarity: The clear color (not cloudy).

Clean: Free from "off" tastes.

Cloudy: Lack of clarity to the eye; opaque in color, suggesting spoilage. Fine for old wines with sediment.

Complex: An element in all great wines. A combination of flavor, scents, intensity, richness and balance and harmony.

Corky: The unpleasant smell caused by a moldy cork.

Crisp: Describing good white wines with balanced acidity.

Delicate: Complex and subtle wine with good balance.

Dry: The opposite of sweet.

Estate Bottled: When all grapes used in making the wine were grown by the same winery that crushed, fermented, finished, aged and bottled the wine.

Fermentation: The natural process by which yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, thus converting grape juice to wine.

Finish: Taste that lingers after swallowing wine.

Flat: Lacking body and flavor.

Flowery: The aromatic quality reminiscent of flower scents as opposed to fruity fragrances.

Fortified: The addition of brandy or natural spirits to wine to stop fermentation and increase the level of alcohol.

Forward: An extremely flavorful and aromatic wine.

Fruity: The aromatic quality reminiscent of ripe fruit, as opposed to flowery aromas.

Full-bodied: Texture that feels rich and full on the palate.

Grassy: Grass-like aroma often found in Sauvignon Blanc.

Gris: Very pale rose, also called "blush" wine.

Heady: High in alcohol.

Late Harvest: The description of wine made from grapes harvested late in fall, or with very ripe grapes, thus resulting in higher sugar levels.

Noble: The highest compliment.

Nose: The aroma, bouquet, or scent of the wine.

Oaky: The flavors and aromas caused by aging wine in oak barrels.

Organically Grown Grapes: Cultivated with farming techniques that avoid the use of pesticides and other chemicals poisonous in nature.

Peach: A fruit flavor found in certain white wines.

Pear: A fruit flavor found in certain white wines.

Pineapple: A fruit flavor often found in California Chardonnay, aged in oak barrels.

Raspberry: A fruit flavor often found in very good reds.

Robust: Full-flavored and full-bodied.

Rounded: Well-balanced.

Private Reserve: The term has no legal definition. Although formerly designating the wineries' best wines, it is now principally used as a marketing phrase.

Spicy: The flavors of mixed spices.

Sub-Climatic Region: A region within an appellation that is unique due to its location, soil or topography.

Sour: An unacceptable, overly acidic wine.

Sweet: The opposite of dry.

Table or Dinner Wine: Sometimes used incorrectly to denote inexpensive wine, it implies that the wine, according to federal regulations, has to have at least 7% alcohol, but no more than 14%, by volume. The label does not have to list the exact alcohol content.

Tannin: An astringent compound found in skins, seeds and stems of grapes that adds body and serves as a natural preservative. Grapes for red wines are fermented along with their skins and take on the tanninís quality. It usually mellows with time.

Thin: A light-bodied or bland wine.

Vanilla: Scent given to wine by a component of the oak of the barrel.

Varietal: Distinct grape type from which corresponding wine is made, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. Wine labeled as a varietal must contain wine that is made from at least 75% of the varietal printed on the label as its varietal name.

Velvety: The smooth texture.

Vintage: The year in which the grapes were harvested and crushed.

Vintner: Person in charge of the entire wine-making process.

Woody: Describing an overly oaky wine.