Glossary of Important Wine Terms You Should Know


The world of wine includes an array of terminology. The following glossary of wine terms will make it easy to understand wine.

Acidity – A natural component in all wines, it is the perceived level of sharpness and is an important element in a wine’s longevity.

Aeration – The deliberate action of adding oxygen to a wine to soften it or round it out.

Aging – The holding of wine for a certain period of time in wine tanks, barrels, or bottles, in order to advance it to a more desired state.

Alcohol – Refers to ethanol, which is the product of sugar fermentation by yeast.

Aroma – The scent which is a component of the nose or bouquet; for instance, an aromatic component of a fruity bouquet is cherry.

Balance – The level of harmony between the tannins, acidity, oak, fruit, and all other elements of a wine.

Bitter – A taste sensation that is felt on the back of the tongue which is caused by tannins.

Body – Refers to the impression of weight on a person’s palate; normally described as light, medium, or full.

Bouquet – The sum of aromas, or how the wine smells as a whole; it is key in the determination of the quality of a wine.

Breathe – The process of allowing a wine to open up by introducing it to the air.

Cap – The grape solids such as skin, stems, and pits that during fermentation will rise to the top of the tank or barrel; it is what gives red wines tannins, weight, and color.

Color – Key in the determination of a wine’s quality and age; white wines darken as they age while red wines will turn a brownish orange color.

Corked – A wine that has developed a mushroomy, musty aroma and flavor due to a cork that is tainted by trichloroanisol (TCA).

Decant – The process by which wine is transferred from a bottle to another container; normally done to aerate the wine.

Disgorge – The removal of the final sediments from sparkling wines that are traditionally made prior to the addition of the dosage.

Dosage – A sweetened spirit that is added to Champagne as well as other sparkling wines that are traditionally made, at the very end of the process.

Dry – Wine that contains no more than 0.2 percent of sugar that is not fermented.

Earthy – A term used to describe the soil like quality of flavors and aromas of certain types of wine.

Enology – The science of producing wine; a professional wine maker is called an enologist while someone who enjoys wine is called an enophile.

Fermentation – The process that transforms sugar into alcohol; when yeast interacts with grape juice to become wine.

Filtration – The process that wine undergoes to clarify it prior to bottling.

Fining – A part of the clarification process in which elements such as egg whites are added to the wine for the purpose of capturing solids prior to filtration.

Maceration – The process in which grape skins and juice ferment together, imparting aromas, tannins, and color.

Magnum – A larger wine bottle that is equal to two regular bottles that are 750 ml apiece.

Must – Refers to crushed grapes that are going through or about to go through fermentation.

Nose – The same as bouquet; the sum of aromas of a wine.

Oaky – A term commonly used to describe flavors and aromas that are woody; common notes found in oaky wines include toast, popcorn, and butter.

Organic – Wine made from grapes that are grown without the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides.

Oxidized – A wine that has been exposed to too much air and is no longer fresh.

Phylloxera – A voracious louse that is found on vines that has destroyed vineyards in both California and Europe over time.

Plonk – A derogatory term that is used to describe a poor tasting, cheap wine.

Pomace – The stems, pits, and skins that are left over after the process of fermentation; often used to make marc in France and grappa in Italy.

Press – The process of extracting grape juice prior to the fermentation process; a machine that can extract the juice.

Pruning – A chore done annually in vineyards in which plants from the previous harvest are trimmed back.

Racking – The movement of wine from one barrel to another to leave any sediment behind.

Reserve – A term used most commonly in America to describe wine that is of a higher quality.

Riddling – The rotation of bottles of Champagne in order to shift any sediment towards the cork.

Silky – A description of wine that has an especially smooth feel in the mouth.

Sommelier – Essentially a wine steward that has a certification in the study of wine; there are different degrees with Master being the highest one can achieve.

Spicy – A term used to describe woody, sharp, or sweet flavors or aromas.

Split – Refers to a quarter of a bottle of wine or a single serving that is equal to 175 ml.

Steely – Describes an acidic wine that is extremely crisp and has not been aged in barrels.

Stemmy – A description of the green, harsh characteristics of a wine.

Supple – A wine that is very smooth and balanced.

Table Wine – Normally refers to wine that is between ten and fourteen percent alcohol; in Europe the term refers to wine that is made by unapproved methods or outside of normal regions.

Tannins – Phenolic compounds that are found in many plants, and in grapes they are found in the pits and skins; they provide structure to wine and are astringent but die off over time which makes the wine less harsh.

Terroir – A French term that is used to describe the combination of climate, soil, and any other factors that can influence the character of a wine.

Vintage – Used to describe a particular year or a specific harvest in the wine business.

Viticulture – The proper term that refers to the business and science of growing wine grapes.

Yeast – Organisms that are used to trigger the process of fermentation; they can be commercial or natural.

Yield – The total amount of grapes that are harvested in a specific year.

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