Austere Tasting term for relatively hard, high-acid wines that lack depth, roundness, richness and body. Can also describe young wines that need time to soften.
Astringent Wines that leave a coarse, furry or drying sensation in the mouth. Astringency is regularly attributed to high levels of tannin or acid.
Aroma Aromas are smells, which originate with the grapes.
Appellation D'origine Controlee (AOC or AC) The French system of appellations is considered in the wine world to be a prototype. In order to get a certification under an appellation in this system, a wine must follow strict rules regulating the region in which the grapes are grown, varieties used, ripeness at harvest, alcoholic strength, vineyard yields, irrigation and various techniques used in grape growing and winemaking.
Appellation Clearly defines an area or region where wine grapes were grown, such as Bordeaux, Alsace, Napa Valley or SonomaValley.
Appearance Refers to a wine's clarity and color. Common descriptors are (brilliant, clear, dull, cloudy, straw, ruby, amber and inky).
Anthocyanins The pigments found in red grape skins that give red wine its color.
Ampelography The study and identification of grapevines and varieties.
American Oak American oak has become increasingly popular due to its low cost and is primarily used for aging intensely flavored wines. Good examples would include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Merlot.
Alcohol Alcohol is produced during fermentation. Alcohol adds body and a perception of sweetness to wine.
Age Worthy Contrary to a widely spread belief, only a small number of top wines that have adequate flavor, acidity, alcohol and tannin will achieve additional complexity with time in the bottle. The vast majority of wines are meant to be enjoyed within several years of their release time.
Aftertaste The flavor sensation the wine provides after swallowing or spitting. Frequently referred to as the 'finish' of a wine. Good wines will have complex and deep aftertaste.
Aeration The process which allows the wine to absorb oxygen. Decanting the wine or swirling it in a glass will allow the wine to breathe, therefore helping it to open up and develop. The oxygen will allow the wine to release its aromas and give off scents developed in the bottle.
Acidity All grapes naturally contain acids which are an essential component in wine. Acidity levels should have proper balance with fruit and other components. Sufficient acidity gives liveliness, structure, lingering aftertaste, crispness and is critical for wines to properly mature. High levels of acidity will make the wines taste sour, sharp or tart. Low level will make the wine dull, flat and lacking backbone.
Acetic Acid All wines contains this main component in vinegar. High levels of acetic acid will dominate the wine and will taste vinegary. The acetic acid develops when a wine is overexposed to oxygen123.
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Buttery Indicates the aroma or rich flavor and smoothness of texture, somewhat akin to the oiliness and flavor of melted butter. More often refers to oak-aged white wines than reds- many Chardonnays and white Burgundies are said to have buttery aromas and flavors.
Brut Phrase used for dry Champagne or sparkling wine. Brut is the driest wine. Other terms on the scale from driest to sweetest are: Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi Sec and Doux.
Brix Term used to measure the sugar content of grapes, grape juice or wine. Grapes are usually harvested at 21 to 25 degrees Brix, resulting in alcohol content of 11.5 to 14 percent.
Bouquet The complexity of aromas that develops in the bottle with age in fine wines. These are smells such as earth, minerals and leather. To the contrary, aromas are associated with young wines and are developed in the grape itself.
Body The weight and texture of a wine- it may be light-bodied or full-bodied. The relationship between alcohol and sugar content, and the presence of tannins contributes to the body of the wine.
Blush Also commonly referred to as rose - this term describes a pinkish-colored wine made from red grapes.
Blanc de Noirs Also translated from French, meaning 'White of black'. In wine making it means white wine made from red grapes.
Blanc de Blancs Translated from French literally means 'White of whites'. In wine making it means white wine made from white grapes.
Bitter One of the four basic tastes. Other tastes are sweet, salty and sour. Bitter tasting wines are usually the course of poor fruit and too much oak. Bitter wines are usually consider faulty, however bitterness is a trait of some Italian and other wines.
Big Powerful in aroma and flavor- full-bodied.
Balance Harmony among the wine's elements -- fruit, acidity, tannins, alcohol, a well-balanced wine is where no single component or element dominates.
Bacchus Roman god of wine
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Cuvee A distinct lot of wine. Used to distinguish blends and special bottling.
Cru Translated growth or vineyard from French, this term is customarily used in quality classification.
Crisp Wines that posses the characteristic of elevated acidity, refreshing, bright, brisk and nice finish.
Crianza Spanish quality classification which requires the producers to age their red wines for two years and white wines for six months.
Corked, corky Wine that is defective with unpleasant flavor and aroma. Usually the cork will smell like mold and is caused by a defective cork.
Cooked Wines that are dull, heavy and exhibit stewed flavor. Usually cause by excessive exposure of wine to the heat.
Complex A fusion of aroma, flavor, depth and richness that are revealed while drinking great wines.
Coarse Term that describes wine that is rough or harsh in flavor with excessive tannins or oak.
Closed Usually young, concentrated, undeveloped wines that are tight in aroma and flavor.
Clean A wine with simple flavors or one that is well integrated.
Chewy Thick, full-bodied and usually tannic wines that are extremely rich in texture are refered to as chewys if one needs to chew it before swallowing.
Cava Spanish term for sparkling wine.
Capsule The metal or plastic protective film that surrounds the top the bottle. It should be removed prior to pulling out the cork.
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Dumb Tasting term for wines that are too young, too cold or have not developed yet, therefor not revealing flavor or aroma.
Dry Quite a subjective measure of sugar levels in wine. Dry wines have the lowest sugar levels
Doux Term for sweetest Champagne or sparkling wine.
DOCa (Denomination De Origen Calificada) Spain's highest quality classification. Created in the early 1990s, Rioja is the sole region awarded DOCa status.
DOC (Denominazione D'origine Controllata) The Italian system for defining wine regions and wine names. In addition, the D.O.C.G. (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata Garantita) covers regions willing to submit their wines to tougher requirements, including tasting approval.
Demi-Sec Means 'half-dry'. It defines the sweetness level in Champagne. Demi-Sec wines are usually sweet to medium sweet.
Delicate Wines that have characteristic of light to medium fragrance, flavor, and body.
Deep Wine which exhibits complexity and layers of flavors that unfold on the palate and with aeration.
Decanting A technique, which removes sediment from wine and allows the wine to open up by exposing it to oxygen.
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Extra Dry Term which is mostly confused by consumers. It indicates that the Champagne is not quite dry and is actually slightly sweet. It is less dry than Brut.
Esters Chemical compound found in food and wine which is responsible for aroma and flavor.
Estate-Bottled Indicates that the producer controls the source of the grapes by directly growing them.
Enology The science and study of and winemaking. Also spelled oenology.
Elegant Wines that are balanced, refined character, harmonious and distinguished quality.
Eiswein Wine made from grapes that were left on the vines until they are frozen. The wine is very sweet and high in acidity. Eiswein is an official German classification- similar wines from other regions are called icewine.
Earthy Smell suggestive of soil and earth. In small amounts it is appealing, but too much of it can make the wine too coarse.
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Full-bodied A rich, full proportion of flavor and alcohol wine with sensation of mass.
Fruity Wine characterized by pleasant aroma and flavor.
Foxy The unique muskey, grapey character of wines made from native American grapes, Vitis labrusca.
Flowery Aromas reminiscent of flowers. Usually a characteristic of white wines.
Flinty A description of dry, mineral character that comes from certain soils, generally limestone. Usually associated with wines such as Sauvignon Blanc.
Fleshy Sensation of the wine on the palate that reminds the drinker of the fleshy fatness of fruit such as plum
Flavor Scents and esters that indicate how the wine tastes.
Flat Wine that lacks acidity. It is usually dull in flavor and unbalanced.
Finish An impression the wine leaves after swallowing or spitting. In general, longer finish is associated with better wine.
Fermentation The process in which yeast metabolizes grapes sugars, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide and transforming grape juice into wine.
Fat Full of body, high alcohol and flavor- gives a fleshy impression on the palate.
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Grip Firmness of flavor and structure.
Green A wine made from unripe grapes that is tart and lacking fruit flavor.
Grand Cru Means great site in French. Refers to the highest level of production.
Glycerin Produced during fermentation, glycerin contributes to the wine's body.
Geographical Indication Australia's hierarchy of appellations.
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Herbaceous Aromas reminiscent of herbs in wine. A characteristic of wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.
Hectare An area of land equivalent to 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres.
Heady High in alcohol.
Harvest Time that the grapes are picked. Usually September through October in the northern hemisphere. March through April in the southern hemisphere.
Harsh Wines that are tannic, rough, and high in alcohol.
Harmonious All elements fruit, acid, and tannin create a perfect balance.
Hard Wine which is undeveloped, with pronounced tannins and acidity.
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Intricate Interweaving of subtle complexities of aroma and flavor.
Intensity Intensity relates to appearance and aroma. When evaluating appearance, intensity describes the concentration of color. Prevalent descriptors for color intensity are pale, medium or dark. For purposes of evaluating aroma and flavor, the more pronounced or evident the characteristic, the more intense the wine.
IGT or Indicazione Geografica Tipica Italian quality classification. This classification is specific and typical to a region. IGT is one level above the base category.
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Jug Wine American term for inexpensive, ordinary wines sold in half-gallon or gallon jug bottles. Associated with lower quality wines.
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Luscious Rich, opulent, and smooth- most often said of sweet wines but also intensely fruity ones.
Long Fine wines should have a long finish, or aftertaste- see Length.
Lively Wines with characteristics of freshness, crispness, fruit and some acidity.
Length The length of time that taste persist after swallowing or spitting the wine. Lingering aftertaste.
Legs The viscous droplets that run down the side of the glass after swirling it. Pronounced legs are indicators of higher levels of alcohol content.
Late Harvest Sweeter wines. Indicates that a wine was made from grapes picked later and at a higher sugar level than normal.
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Musty Describing wine with stale, moldy or mildewy smell.
Meaty A wine that is full bodied, concentrated and chewy. Attributes of wines such as Syrah and Nebbiolo.
Mature Fully developed, ready to drink. At this stage the wine will not gain any additional complexity.
Magnum A large format bottle that holds 1.5 liters.
Maderized Wine with amber color that has been oxidized. It can also refer to wine such as dessert style wines such as Madeira.
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Nutty Describes nutlike aromas that develop in certain wines, for example Madeira and Sherry.
Nose The smell of the wine. Also called aroma or bouquet.
Non Vintage Wine that is blended using grapes from different years.
Noble Classic grape varieties that are used to produce the world's finest wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo and Sangiovese are some of the best known 'noble' grapes.
New World Refers to countries that wine production started in recent history. Includes producers from the following countries: USA, Australian, Argentina, New Zealand, Chile, and South Africa.
Nevers A forest in France that produces hard, medium-grained oak for barrels.
Negociant Merchant that produces wine under its own label from wine or grapes bought from others. Negociant usually oversees the production process.
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Oxidized Brownish in color, lacks freshness, flat, stale or sherrylike aroma and flavor. Usually the result of over exposure to air.
Organic Wine Usually refers to wines produced from grapes grown without the use of synthesized fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Sulfur is still used in the fermentation process, but in minimal amounts. There are no universal laws for organically produced wines.
Open Revealing full character.
Olfactory Epithelium A patch of nerves endings located in the retronasal passage that connects the nose to the mouth. During inhaling this nerve captures aromas and flavors and transmits them to the olfactory bulb in the brain. Humans can distinguish thousands of unique aromas.
Old Vine While not strictly regulated, the term old vine generally refers to wines over 40 years old. Usually smaller yielding vines, more concentrated fruit that in turn produces a more complex wines. Some wines can come from a 100 year old vine, however it can also come from younger vines.
Off-dry Not quite dry, indicates a slightly sweet wine.
Oaky Aroma and flavor imparted from aging wine in oak barrels. Characterized by smokiness, vanilla, clove or other spices. Should be balanced and not overly pronounced.
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Private Reserve Winemaker's term for their top cuvee, often produced from selected vineyards.
Pip Another term for grape seeds.
Phylloxera Tiny root lice that attack vitis vinifera (type of grape wine is made of) roots, eventually killing the vine.
Petillant A light sparkle.
Palate Different sections of taste in the mouth. As the wine travels through the mouth, it first contacts the front palate, then the middle palate and finally the back palate, all which can process different tastes, such as sweet, sour and bitter.
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Round Smooth and well-developed flavor, without tannic or rough edges.
Rough Harsh edges, biting, unpleasant associated with elevated levels of tannins.
Rose French for 'pink wine,' roses range in color from muted pink-orange to day-glo pink. These wines are made from red grapes, colored through limited exposure to skin.
Robust Full-bodied, powerful, heady
Riserva Italian term indication that the wine has been aged for an extra period of time prior to release.
Ripe Mature, fully ripe fruit.
Rich Full, opulent flavor, body and aroma.
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Sweet Level of sugar content in wine. Generally indicates the presence of residual sugar that was not converted to alcohol.
Supple Describes wine that is ready for drinking, with integrated tannins and yielding flavor.
Super Tuscan Wines from the Tuscany region in Italy made using international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah rather than relying primarily on local varieties such as Sangiovese.
Sulfur An anti-oxidant used in wine making process. Fermentation naturally creates small amounts of sulfites. It is required by law to indicate presence of sulfites in the bottle. Some people are sensitive to sulfites and should avoid wine.
Structure Referred to the way wine is built. The way wine components such as acidity, tannin, alcohol and sugar are balanced.
Spicy Presence of flavors such as mint, clove, cinnamon, anise and pepper.
Sparkling Wines with bubbles created by trapped carbon dioxide gas, either natural or injected.
Sour Acidic or vinegary
Soft May refer to wines low in acid, gentle fruit, easy drinking and delicate wines.
Smoky Aroma and flavor sometimes associated with oak aging in charred barrels.
Silky Smooth, sinuous textures and finish.
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Tired Wine that is past its peak, lacks fruit and acidity.
Thin Lacking body, depth, intensity, richness and flavor.
Terroir French term describing the interaction of soil, climate, topography and grape variety in a specific site, imprinting the wine and making each wine from a specific site distinct
Tartaric Acid The principal acid in grapes and wine- contributes to taste and stabilizes color.
Tart Wine with high acidity, sharp. Acceptable if not too acidic.
Tannin A natural component found to varying degrees in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes. It can also be found in oak barrels. It is mostly prominent in red wines. It acts as a natural preservative and helps wine age. It creates dry, puckering sensation in young red wines and mellows with aging.
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Vintner Literally a wine merchant, but generally used to mean wine producer or winery proprietor.
Viniculture The science or study of making wine.
Vinegary Having the smell of vinegar- see also Acetic.
Vin de Pays Means Country wine. One of the French quality classification.
Velvety Smooth and rich in texture.
Variety Variety refers to the grape itself and varietal refers to the wine.
Varietal Referring to a wine made from a single grape variety.
Vanilla A scent imparted by aging in oak.
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Yield The quantity of grapes or wine produced per acre. Measured in tons per acre or hectoliters per hectare. For example, a Grand Cru from Burgundy may yield about 35-40 hi/ha.
Yeast Micro organisms that convert sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide during fermentation.