Wine Speak Demystified: Your Essential Guide to Wine Terms 101

by Tom Simone
Wine Speak Demystified: Your Essential Guide to Wine Terms 101

 Wine speak has a special language all its own. Once you get the hang of it, and find a few words that work for you, it allows everyone to share in the experience together.

The terms found in this “Dictionary of Wine Words and Wine Speak” have all the important wine words and wine terms you need to know that can be easily used to help you talk about wine and describe wine in conversations. You will also find all the top words and terms that are related to wine making and grape growing on this page as well as their definitions.

Knowing or learning some of these wine terms will help you understand why you like a certain wine or not. Plus, you will also become better at remembering the wines and styles of wine you prefer to taste, drink and buy.

Acetic: All wines have some traces of acetic acids, which offer a vinegar scent. Too much acetic acid destroys a wine. Acetic acids are the cause behind volatile acidity, or VA.

Acidic: Every wine requires some acidity. This quality makes a wine feel fresh, or give it lift. Too much acidity makes a wine taste sour and feel sharp, lean or angular. Not enough acidity will make a wine feel flabby.

Acidity: There are numerous types of acids that are found in all wines. They include citric, tartaric, malic, and lactic. Wine from hot climates, and or hot vintages tend to be lower in acidity. Wines from cooler climates are higher in acidity.

Aeration: What happens to a wine when you add air to help its perfume become more noticeable.

Aftertaste: This is one of the top components to a great wine. The length of time a wine spends in your mouth once you’ve finished tasting it, is much of what you pay for in a good wine. Of course assuming the flavors offer pleasure. Aftertaste means the same thing as length, finish or end note.

Age: Wines that can age, are of high quality as they get better with cellaring. Aged wines, are bottles that have been cellared.

Aggressive: An aggressive wine is usually too high in acidity. The term can also be used to describe wines with hard tannins.

Alcohol: Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, the by product of the fermentation process.

Alliers: The forest region in France where Troncais grows. Wood from the Troncais oak trees produces the best oak for use in wine barrels, due to its tight grains.

Alluvial: Soil or terroir with mix of rocks, stones, gravel and sand.

American Viticultural Area: Also known as an AVA, specific grape growing area that is marked by its unique terroir and the wines from the region. AVA’s are granted that status by the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade.

Angular: Angular wines are lean. They are the opposite of round or fleshy.

Anthocyannins: Pigments that give red wine its color.

AOC Appellation d’Origine Controllee: French Government certification awarded to select regions for agricultural product that is most often for wine or cheese.

Appellation: Similar to AOC, a specific area where grapes or other agricultural products come from. For example, Pomerol in Bordeaux, or Napa in California.

Aroma: Aroma is used to describe the scent of a wine.

Assemblage: French term for the grape varieties used to blend a wine.

Astringent: Astringent wines taste hard or sharp. This happens because most of the time because the tannins in a wine did not fully ripen.

Attack: The initial taste of a wine in the mouth.

Austere: Austere wines are hard, lacking charm, generosity or roundness. Some wines that taste austere in their young shed that quality when they age. For example, this could happen with some Bordeaux wines. Generally speaking, a wine that is austere young will be austere when its old as well.

AVA: Abbreviated term for American Viticultural Area. Wineries listing their AVA must contain fruit that is at least 85% from that AVA. If the wine states it is from a specific vineyard, no less than 95% of the grapes must come from that same vineyard.

Backward: Backwards is used to define a wine that is tight, closed in or reserved. This means the aromatic and other qualities in the wine are not available to the taster. This is often a normal trait in young wines.

Balance: Balance is one of the key traits all great wines share, regardless of where they come from. The term is used to say all the elements that make up the wine, acid,

Barnyard: Wines with this aroma are best described as earthy, with animal scents that remind tasters of a barn. In small doses, this can be a positive trait. In large amounts, this is a defect. This can be caused by a natural aromas that develop with bottle age, or in the worst cases from wines that were made in unclean barrels or facilities.

Barrel or Barrique: A vessel to age wine which is usually made from oak.

Barrel Fermented: Wines that were vinified in barrel instead of vats or tanks. This takes place more often with white wines. However, some producers barrel ferment red wine. This is known as micro vinification.

Barrel Tasting: When a taster tries a wine before it has been bottled.

Batonnage: French term for stirring of the lees.

BDX: Abbreviation for Bordeaux

Beefy: A big, masculine and often muscular styled wine. This is the same as brawny.

Berry: Berry is another term for grape.

Berry scented: Wines are made from grapes. Yet all red wine wines smell like berries. They could remind you of blackberries, strawberries, cherries, black raspberries, red raspberries or even cranberry or mulberry.

Big: A big wine is one that is filled with ample amounts of ripe, normally alcoholic fruit. If the wine is in balance, this is not a problem. But wines that are too large and not in balance are not fun to taste.

Biodynamic: Vineyard management techniques based on the writings of Rudolph Steiner that on one side, are the best organic techniques, and on the other side can include moon phases, the alignment of the planets, planting cow horns and more. Scoff at this, fair enough. But it does seem to work and it’s becoming slowly, but surely increasingly popular and accepted.

Blend: When one or more grape varieties is used to produce the wine.

Blind Tasting: The identity of the wine is hidden from the taster. In theory, this allows for an unbiased evaluation of the wine.  Single blind means the type of wine is known to the taster, but not the specific wine. Double blind means, the taster has no prior information on the wine.

Body: Body is a term used to describe the weight and feel of wine. Full bodied wines are normally high in alcohol.

Bold: Red wine with dark color, high alcohol, with concentration and intensity, that is usually in a forward style.

Bordeaux Wine: Area of southwest France famous for producing many of the worlds best wines that are a major focus on this web site.

Bottle age: All quality wines need to be aged in the bottle before being opened. For some wines, this could be a few years. Other wines (for example the First Growths from Bordeaux) in select vintages require 30 years or more to become mature.

Bouquet: Different than perfume, this denotes a mature, or maturing wine with secondary characteristics, other than primary fruit scents.

Botrytis Cinerea: This special fungus, known as noble rot is how most of the world’s sweet wines are made. See Sauternes for a more detailed explanation.

Bouquet: Bouquet is the term used to describe the non grape or berry aromas a mature wine displays.

Brawny: A big, masculine and often muscular styled wine. This is the same as beefy.

Breathe: When you allow a wine to breathe, you are giving it air, which improves the perfume and the texture of the wine.

Bricking: When red wines mature or age, they lighten in color and move from purple, to dark red, to ruby and finally to the color of brick. This is the same term as browning.

Bright: A term used for acidic red fruits.

Brix: The measurement of sugar content.

Broker: In Bordeaux, a broker is the same as a Courtier, which is a person acting as the intermediary between chateau and the negociants. Outside of Bordeaux, brokers act as an intermediary between buyers and sellers of wine.

Brooding: Wines that are brooding offer dark colors with intense concentration of flavor.

Browning: When red wines mature, they lighten in color and move from purple, dark red, to orange and then finally brown. This is the same term as bricking.

Bud burst: Term for when the vines begin to produce their first new shoots for the growing season. This takes place in the spring. This is the same term as bud break.

Buttery: Usually used for Chardonnay that has a butter, or buttered popcorn character. Butter characteristics are found in richer styles of Chardonnay that were often aged in barrel and have finished malolactic fermentation.

Cabernet Franc: Important blending grape used in Bordeaux in the Right Bank and the Medoc.

Cabernet Sauvignon: The key grape used to produce Bordeaux wine from the Medoc.

Cap: Name for the material that forms at the top of a fermenting vat made from the seeds, stems and skin.

Carbonic maceration: Carbonic maceration helps make sifter, more fruit forward wines. Entire grape clusters are placed in vats and filled with carbonic gas when wine makers want to emphasize fruit over tannin and structure.

Cedar: Cedar is a common scent found in Bordeaux wines from the Medoc appellations. It smells of cedar wood, or an old cedar chest.

Cepage: French term for grape varieties planted in vineyards.

Chai: French term for barrel cellar.

Chaptalization: Term for the addition of sugar to the juice prior or during fermentation for the purpose of adding to the sugar content in under, used to boost sugar levels in underripe grapes. This aids in the fermentation process and helps produce, sweeter, fatter wines.

Chardonnay: The world’s most popular white wine grape.

Chateau: French term for an estate. Chateau is used most often in Bordeaux.

Chateaux: Plural for chateau.

Chewy: Chewy wines are dense or meaty, with a lot of texture, concentration and tannins.

Cigar Box: Descriptive term for common odors found in older Bordeaux wine.

Claret: Old, archaic term used mostly in Great Britain which refers to Bordeaux wine. The term comes from the phonetic melding of clear and red wine.

Classic: Classic is most often used for Bordeaux and California wine when the wine is less alcoholic, less ripe and more austere than modern tasters enjoy. Similar to traditional. It can be a pejorative term.

Clay: Type of soil most often found in Pomerol and Saint Emilion that is perfect for Merlot.

Clos: French word for a walled in vineyard.

Closed: The term is used to describe wines that are the opposite of open. When a wine is closed, it does not allow the taster to experience the aromatics or flavors a wine has to offer. This happens most of the wine with young wines. Especially those from Bordeaux, which can experience a closed period before they develop secondary aromatics.

Cloying: Wines that are cloying are too sweet, without ample acidity, making them flabby.

Cluster: A bunch of grapes.

CNDP: Abbreviation for Chateauneuf du Pape. Also written as CDP.

Coarse: Wines that are course are rough in texture and rustic by nature.

Cold Maceration: The process before alcoholic fermentation where the temperature of the fermenting must remains low to help obtain the highest degree of extraction for additional color and aromas as well as raw materials.

Commune: French term for small village that is usually a part of an appellation.

Complex: Complex is an important quality in a great wine. Normally associated with aromatics, the term is used when a myriad of scents or fragrances are found in a wines perfume.

Concentrated: Concentrated is the opposite of light. Concentrated wines display a wealth of fruit, richness and depth of flavor, as well as raw materials.

Concentrator: Machine that removes excess water from grapes to help concentrate the wine.

Cooked: A wine that suffered heat damage during storage.

Cooper: Barrel maker. A barrel maker works in a cooperage.

Cooperative: Group of vintners from specific areas that share marketing and production costs.  Some wines are produced from grapes grown by several member of the cooperative.

Corked: Corked wines are flawed. They can smell like a wet dog or moldy newspaper. This is caused by a problem with an unclean, or poor cork infected with TCA.

Cote: French term for slope.

Coulure: French term for a problem takes during flowering that causes flowers to drop off the cluster. When this takes place, the grape cluster reduces its yields and the berries develop unevenly in size and maturity.

Courtier: Broker in Bordeaux that acts as the intermediary between the chateau and the negociants.

Creamy: When has the rich texture of cream.

Crisp: Similar to bright. Fruit that is crisp is usually high in acidity.

Cru: French term for growth or vineyard that is often used for Classified wines.

Crush: Time of year when harvest and fermentation take place.

Cuvee: This term is most often used to describe a special blend, barrel or bottling of a specific wine.

Cuvier: French term for where the vinification of the wine takes place.

Decadent: Decadence in a wine is a good thing. They are rich, sexy, opulent wines with mouth coating textures.

Decanting: Decanting is the practice of pouring wine from a bottle into a larger container. While special decanters for wine can be purchased, even an everyday pitcher will work fine. Decanting is done for two reasons. Removal of sediment from older wines, or to allow air into a young wine, for the purpose of allowing them to soften in texture and display more aromatics.

Delicate: Light wines are delicate. This is not a quality to seek in Bordeaux. It is better suited for some white wines and Pinot Noir.

Delestage: French term to describe the part of the wine making process when the wine is racked and returned during vinification. During delestage, the wine is moved from the fermentation vessel and put back over the cap to keep it moist and to help gain more raw material for color and flavor.

Dense: Dense wines are filled with high levels of raw material giving the wine concentration. This is positive.

Depth: Wines with depth has layers of flavor and concentration making the wine feel deep. This is a good quality.

Dessert Wine: Created for tax purposes, dessert wines are wines high in alcohol ranging from 14% to 24% alcohol. Many riper syles of California Cabernet Sauvignon and classified as dessert wine, due to their high alcohol levels.

Destemming: Not used in every region, destemming is the removal of the grapes from the stems.

Desuckering:The process of removing shoots that are not fruit bearing.

Domaine: French term for an estate. This is used most in The Rhone Valley and Burgundy.

Double Blind: When wines are double tasted double blind, no information of any type is given to the tasters.

Double Decanting: Double decanting is the act of pouring wine from the bottle into a decanter. Washing the bottle out with clean water to remove any sediment and then pouring the wine back into the original bottle. This adds twice as much into a wine, than ordinary decanting.

Dry Wine: Dry wines are red or white wines where all the residual sugar has been fermented.

Drying Out: When a wine is drying out, it is over the hill and losing its fruit.

Dumb: Wines that are dumb have little to offer. They are closed.

Earthy: Earthy wines smell of mushrooms, forest floor or truffles. This is a positive attribute that is experienced in older wines, especially, Bordeaux wines.

Effeuillage French term for the removal of the lower leaves from the vines that will allow more sun to hit the grapes directly, which will aid in the ripening of the fruit.

Elegant: Wines with elegance are in balance with soft, refined characteristics and textures. They are never heavy.

Elevage: French term for the time a wine spends ageing in barrel.

Echantillon : French term for sample bottle used most often with barrel samples.

Endnote: is similar to end or finish. It is the sensation of flavors your palate experiences long after you have already enjoyed and swallowed the wine in your glass. The longer the endnote or finish, in most cases, the better the wine.

En Primeur:The same term as futures. This is usually only for wines from Bordeaux.

Estate Bottled: Term mostly used for American wineries. Estate bottled wines are required to use 100% of the grapes from vineyards controlled or owned by the winery and must come from the same AVA, American Viticultural Area where the winery is located. Bottling must take place at the winery.

Exotic: Positive term used to denote unique, opulent textures of a special nature that are only found in the best of wines, in select vintages.

Expansive: Wines that expand their range of flavors and textures especially in the finish.

Extract: The raw materials found in a wine that is not water, sugar, alcohol or acidity. These raw materials make up the actual soul of the wine. Interestingly, they are on average between 1% and 1.5% of a wine.

Exuberant: This term is most often used for young wines that are fresh, lively and showy.

Fading: Wines that are fading are drying out and losing their fruit.

Fat: Wines that are fat are usually concentrated with a lot of round textured flavors. This can be a good quality. However, as you will see, flabby wines are not good.

Feminine: Similar to elegant, but lighter in concentration.

Fermage: French term for tenant farming. In modern terms, this is similar to a leasing arrangement.

Fermentation: The process of turning sugars into alcohol, also known as alcoholic fermentation.

Field Blend: Multiple grape varieties planted in the same vineyard that are usually harvested and vinified at the same time.

Fifth Growth: Term for chateau in the 1855 Classification of the Medoc that earned the fifth highest level of classification.

Filtered: Filtering is the process of removing solid particles by having the wine move through a filter.

Fine Lees: Following fermentation, some wines are aged on their fine lees. This is also known as aging sur lie. Fine lees, which are primarily dead yeast cells are created during the fermentation process and are used to add more richness, complexity and aromatics to a wine.

Fining: Fining is done to remove various particles in a wine which would render the wine unclear or cloudy. Agents used for fining include egg whites, clay and dried blood.

Finesse: Wines with finesse are elegant.

Fining:The process of clarifying a wine that is often done with egg whites or gelatin to separate the sediment so that it is can be easily removed.

Finish: The finish, which is similar to end note, is the sensation of flavors your palate experiences long after you have already enjoyed and swallowed the wine.

Firm: Wines that are firm are tannic and structured.

First Growths: Term for the absolute top Bordeaux wines, as defined by the French Government in the official 1855 Classification of Bordeaux wine.

Flabby: Flabby wines are low in acidity and lie there in your mouth. They are heavy and not fun to taste.

Fleshy: Fleshy wines are full bodied concentrated and round or opulent textures.

Flight: When more than one wine is poured at the same time.

Floral: Red and white wines can be floral. For example Bordeaux wine from Pomerol and Bordeaux wine from Margaux often displays a floral component.

Flowering: The time of year that the initial floral blossoms form on the grape vine.

Fortified Wine:Fortified wine is produced by the addition of brandy or other spirits.

Forward: Forward denotes a young wine that is open or accessible to tasters.

Foudre: Massive oak vats that are used most often in the Rhone Valley during the ageing process.

Fourth Growth: Term for chateau in the 1855 Classification of the Medoc that earned the fourth highest level of classification.

Four Square: A British term for a wine that is simple, classic and one dimensional.

Fresh: Freshness is a good quality. It comes from acidity. Wine with ample freshness have lift.

Fruit Set: The time of year when the fertilized flowers morph into small grape bunches.

Fruity: Fruity wines are often simple wines. This is not a positive attribute because good wines near more than fruit.

Full-bodied: Full bodied wines are most often high in alcohol, glycerin and concentration.

Futures: Futures are how the top Bordeaux chateaux sell their wine. Chateaux offer their wines for sale in June following the vintage, close to 18 months before bottling and about two years prior to delivery. In the best vintages, consumers who purchase futures, often pay less for the wines than when they are in bottle. Futures should only be bought in the very best vintages.

Gamey: Wines with gamey aromas smell of meat, barnyards and, or earth. A little bit of this goes a long way.

Garagiste: Out of date term for a movement of small producers in the Right Bank of Bordeaux who were making wine in their home or garage.

Garrigue: This French term describes a fragrance of earth, herbs and other scents found in typical Provencal open markets.

Glycerin: Glycerin, produced during fermentation adds to the texture of a wine and its body. This is a positive term.

Grand Cru: French term translated into Great Growth as the wine comes from the highest level of terroir.

Grand Cru Classe: French term for use in Classification’s, for example, there are Five Growths in the Medoc that are all Grand Cru Classe. The term is also used in the Classification of St. Emilion.

Grand Vin: The best wine made from an estate, usually in France and most often from Bordeaux.

Granite: Granite soils are found in many regions, but it is quite predominate in the Northern Rhone Valley.

Gravel: Gravel, along with other rocks and stones are an important part of many wine regions, especially Bordeaux, and California, for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Gravity Cellars: Gentle method for moving wine without using pumps and only using the force of gravity.

Green: Green wines are produced from unripe grapes. They display vegatal characteristics. This is not a positive term.

Green Harvest: Green harvesting is when a grower removes unripe grapes to hekp lower yields and increase the concentration for the remaining grapes.

Grip: Used more often by British tasters to denote firm, tannic wines.

Grenache: The most important grape used to produce wine in the Southern Rhone valley.

Growth: In the official 1855 Classification of the Medoc, the top Bordeaux Wines were ranked using the term growth; First GrowthSecond GrowthThird Growth, Fourth Growth and Fifth Growth.

Hard: Wines that are hard have rough tannins often with high acidity.

Hectare: European term of land measurement that is equal to 2.47 acres of land. All French vineyards are measured in hectares.

Hectoliter: European term of measurement for liquid that for example is equal to 100 liters to 2.64 gallons. Yields are arrived at by measuring the number of hectoliters per hectare in all French and most European vineyards. In America, it is counted by the number of tons per acre. A hectoliter produces roughly 10 cases of wine.

Herbaceous: Herbaceous is like hot chili peppers. Herbaceous wines smell of herbs. A little is nice, too much and the wine is taken over by the herbal qualities and loses its sense of fruit.

Hollow: Hollow wines are missing the middle between the first sensation of flavor, the attack and the finish. They lack fruit.

Honeyed: A common trait in sweet wine whites which have a honey character.

Horizontal Tasting: Wines that are served in peer group flights from the same vintage.

Hot: A defect in wine. Heat is noted when too much alcohol for the style of wine has been produced.

Ice Wine: Low alcohol sweet wine made from frozen grapes.

Intensity: Intensity in wine is a good thing that takes place when ample flavor keeps the taster focused.

Irrigation: Adding water to vines. This is not legal in most areas of Europe for vines that are more than 3 years of age.

Jammy: Jammy wines are extremely ripe at their best, and over ripe at their worst. they taste and smell of scents of jam and can contain hints of raisins or prunes.

Lactic Acid: A smooth textured acid that is the by product of malolactic fermentation. This is the same acid that is also found in milk.

Late Harvest: Late Harvest wines are sweet wines produced from grapes that are allowed to over ripen on the vine.

Lay Down: Similar term to cellaring. Wines that required laying down, are wines that need time in the cellar to age.

Leafy: Leafy wines are vegetal.

Lean: Lean wines are not concentrated and they have hard edges. They do not offer charm.

Lees: The by production of the fermentation that is created from the seeds, stems, pulp, yeast cells and tartrates.

Left Bank: The term denotes an area of Bordeaux, located to the left of the river that is the home of Medoc, where wines from Margaux, St. JulienPauillac and St. Estephe come from.

Legs: The clear, viscous tears that run down the side of your glass after swirling your wine. The tears or legs are formed from the glycerin in the wine. This along with color are the first two things a taster notices in a wine.

Length:The amount of time the flavor sensations remain in your mouth and on your palate after you have swallowed the wine. This denotes a high quality wine.

Lift: The refreshing sensation offered from a wine. Lift comes from acidity. Without lift, a wine would feel fat and flabby on your palate.

Limestone: Made from fossilized seashells and chalk, this type of soil is key for many white wine regions, and in Bordeaux, especially in the Right Bank, in St. Emilion, for Cabernet Franc and Merlot, to a lesser degree.

Limousin: Large oak forest in France, with trees used to produce wine barrels.

Linear: Linear wines offer flavors that remain on the same path and do not change. For example, in the mouth, a dark fruited wine will not change in flavor to red berries.

Lively: Similar to lift, showing freshness in its character.

Long: A positive trait. The longer the flavors and aromatics remain in your senses, the better the wine.

Lush: Lush wines are rich, opulent, glycerin filled and often sexy!

Maceration: Time during vinification when the grapes, seeds, skins, pulp and stems allow their materials to be extracted, adding color, flavor, tannins and raw material to the wine.

Maderization: What happens to wine through oxidation. Wines that are maderized show aged colors and a lack of fruit, similar to what is found in Madeira wine.

Malolactic Fermentation: Also seen as malo, this is the process where hard, malic acids which are natural in a wine are transformed into softer, lactic acids.

Masculine: Strong, powerful, concentrated, tannic wines.

Massive: Is a difficult term. For some wines like Californian or Rhone, it can be a positive trait. For other appellations, this is not positive.

Mature: A mature wine has aged to the point in time that all its elements come together; tannins, fruit and acid. At this time, the wine has also taken on secondary aromas and flavors.

Medium Bodied: Term for wines lacking the same level of concentration found in full bodied wines.

Medoc: The Medoc is a large area in the Left Bank of Bordeaux that is the home to Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac and St. Estephe.

Meritage: The term was created by California winemakers for wines made from Bordeaux style blends that contain various amounts of any, or all of the 6 main Bordeaux grape varieties.

Microclimate: Climate conditions that take place is small, localized, specific areas, for example a single vineyard in a larger region or appellation.

Micro Oxygenation: A technique developed to help wines taste better younger, especially during barrel tasting. Micro oxygenation, used most of with grapes from warm weather climates involves adding small amounts of oxygen into the wine.

Micro-Vinification: Wines made using micro vinification are barrel fermented. This term is used when red wines are vinified in barrel.

Mid-Palate: The mid-palate is the middle of the wine tasting sensation that takes place after the initial taste and the finish. This is the point in time where the majority of the flavors are released and experienced.

Millerandage: French term for what happens when an irregular fruit set takes place and the berries in each cluster are not uniform in size and have developed at different stages and rates of maturity. This is also known as hens and chicks.

Minerality: This aroma or flavor comes from grapes gown in intense, rocky, mineral laden soils. The sensation is of crushed rocks, stone or cement. This is a unique and desirable quality. This term can be used instead of stone.

Monocepage: This term describes a wine made from only one specific grape varietal.

Monopole: Wine that are monopoles come from a single vineyard.

Mouth-Feel: The textural sensation that takes place when drinking wine.

Mouth-Filling: Concentrated wines with enough volume to take up what feels like your entire mouth with flavor.

Must: Freshly pressed juice, seeds, stems, skins and sometimes stems.

Musty: Old wines from bottles can show musty flavors. Corked wines can be moldy as well.

MW: A prestigious title for a person that has studied and passed the Masters of Wine examination.

Negociant: Negociants are smiliar to wholesalers. Most Bordeaux chateaux do not sell wine to customers. In almost every case, they only sell their wine to Negociants who agree to purchase the wine in every vintage. Negociants resell the wine to a myriad of clients for examples, importers, wholesalers, large merchants etc.

Nervous: Nervous wines offer higher levels of acidity and brighter flavors. Similar to racy or nervy.

New Oak: The first time a barrel has been used to age wine. Barrels can be used numerous times.

Noble Rot: Grapes that have been attacked by Botrytis, which is needed for the production of many sweet wines, especially in Sauternes.

Nose: This common term is used in the same way as perfume or aromatics.

Nutty: Most often used to describe oxidized wines. But it can also be a useful descriptor for sweet wines made from grapes attacked by Botrytis.

Oaky: Wines that are too oaky, often smell of vanilla. Those wines usually spent time in French oak barrels. Wines that are oaky that resided in America oak, often smell of dill pickle.

Oenology: The same as oenology is the study of wine and wine making.

Oenophobia The fear of wine.

Off: Off wines are bottles that have been known to display correct aromatics and flavors, but for some reason, that specific bottle is not at the same level. This could be due to the seal of the cork, storage, exposure to heat or various other reasons.

Oidium: French term for Downey mildew, a fungal disease.

Old Vines: In French, old vines is written as Vieilles Vignes. Grapes from old vines have a minimum of 35 years of age. Old vines can producer better, more concentrated fruit, with naturally lower yields. Vines in some regions like Chateauneuf du Pape can be more than 100 years of age.

Open: Open refers to young wines that display their character and flavors early. The opposite of closed.

Open Top Fermenters: The same vat or tank as the traditional vessel used for vinification, but lacking a permanent top, so that the vessel remains open. This is mostly for red wines.

Optical Sorter: Fast and effective method of sorting grapes after harvest using optical technology for image analysis. Optical sorting helps remove unripe and over ripe berries as well as unwanted vegetal material by the size and color of the grapes.

Opulent: Opulent wines offer sensuous textures and richness. This is highly desirable.

Overripe: Overripe is a misused term. This is because people’s perceptions of ripeness seem to vary. Overripe wines smell of prunes, raisins, cola and other scents.

Oxidized: Oxidized wines have experienced too much air. They can become brown or bricky in color and taste like Sherry.

Parkerized: Term without real meaning often used by fans of traditional wines when wines are richer, sweeter, softer and more alcoholic than they prefer. Term refers to wines that Robert Parker likes.

Peer Group: Wines in peer groups are usually related by the vintage, appellation and, or producer.

Peppery: A peppery wine is just that, the wine can smell of fresh black or white pepper. Peppery wines often come from Rhone.

Perfume: All wines have perfume. Wines with bottle age develop secondary, non fruit aromas.

Petit Chateau: Small estates, which can produce fine wine, but the property is not well known, either because it is located in a less famous wine region, or it is a small vineyard that is not renowned. Some of the best value wines in a region can come from Petit Chateau.

pH: Term of measure for acidity in a wine. Wines with high pH have low acidity. Wines with low pH have high acidity.

Phenolics: Phenolics are the important compounds produced from the pulp, skins, seeds and stems of the grapes.

Phenolic Ripeness: The changes that occur in the tannins, grape seeds, skins and stems when the fruit is fully ripe. This is the same term as Physiological Ripeness which is when the tannins, grape seeds, skins and stems are fully ripe.

Phylloxera: Small insects that attack grape vines. The Phylloxera epidemic destroyed most vineyards in Europe in the late 1800’s.

Pigeage: A winemaking technique of punching down the cap of grape skins that forms during fermentation.

Place de Bordeaux: Name for where the buying and selling from Bordeaux negociants and merchants takes place.

Plonk: An inexpensive, moderate to poor wine without much character.

Plummy: Wines that taste of plums are usually round in texture as well. Pomerol and St. Emilion produce plummy wines.

Plush: Plush wines feel polished, rich, opulent or supple in the mouth. This is a good quality in a wine.

Polished: Wines that are polished are soft, silky, elegant and round, this comes from very ripe and refined tannins.

Pomace: Once the juice is drained from the vat, what remains is the pomace, which is the seeds, skin and stems. This is used to produce the press wine.

Ponderous: A big, powerful, very concentrated wine.

Pop and Pour: Common method of opening a wine bottle by the act of simply removing the cork and pouring the wine. Popped and poured wines are not decanted.

Port: Rich, alcoholic, sweet, fortified wine produced in the Oporto region of Portugal.

Port like: Dry red wine that is described as Port like, are very thick, rich, concentrated and ripe. This can be a positive trait in many wines and a negative in others.

Powerful: Powerful wines are concentrated with raw material, flavor and tannin.

Press Wine: Essentially the second pressing of the pomace, which is made from the grape skins, seeds and pulp after the fermented juice is removed from the solid materials. Press wine provides more tannins, color and potential flavors and can be blended in or not, depending on the vintage and the choice of the wine maker.

Premox: Extreme flaw in supposedly ageworthy white wine caused by the premature oxidation of the wine, resulting in dark colors, maderized aromas and off flavors. This is most often seen in white Burgundy, but it has appeared in other white wines as well.

Pruney: Wines produced from grapes that are too ripe and become overly jammy, are said to be pruney.

Pruning: Done to reduce yields in the winter, pruning involves the cutting and removal of different parts of the vines.

Pump Over: Pump overs are what takes place when the wine is removed from the bottom of the vat and returned to the of the vat, which adds air and keeps the cap wet and submerged. This is also known as remontage.

Punt: Indentation at the bottom of the bottom.

Pure: Purity is a good thing in a wine, and hard to find. Wine with purity allow the true expression of the fruit to come through. Think of tasting a sweet, ripe berry off the vine.

QPR: Quality, price ratio. A way to value a wine. Most of the time, this is for value wines.

Quaffer: Usually inexpensive wine without faults that is easy to drink on release.

Racking: During the racking process, the wine is moved from one barrel to a different barrel to add air and to allow for the removal of any sediment.

Racy: Racy wines offer higher levels of acidity. Similar to nervous or nervy.

Raisiny: Similar to pruney, but with raisin flavors as opposed to prunes. Raisin characteristics develop in over ripe fruit.

Ratings: Ratings are numbers given to wines to show how a taster ranks them against other wines in a similar peer group.

Recork: Removal and replacement of the original cork, due to age. In France, corks can be marked “Rebouchée.”

Red Table Wine: Created for tax purposes, red table wines vary in alcohol from 11%-14%. This is the same as a Table Wine.

Reduction: A wine that has just completed fermentation requires finished oxygen to develop correctly. Oak barrels are the perfect vessel, as they allow the correct amount of oxygen to enter the wine. When the wine does not receive ample oxygen, it becomes reduced. The lack of oxygen allows sulfur into the wine, resulting in a wine that smells dirty, like rotten vegetables or worse.

Reserve: Over used term that can have different meanings, depending on the producer. Most of the time, it refers to a producers higher quality wine.

Residual Sugar: Residual Sugar or RS is the unfermented sugar that remains in a finished wine.

Rich: Wines that are rich display ample texture, body and flavor, along with a long finish.

Right Bank: The Right Bank is the home to Bordeaux wines from Pomerol, St. Emilion and other wines in that area.

Ripe: A ripe wine is one that is produced wine is ripe when its grapes have reached the optimum level of maturity.

Round: Round wines feel opulent in your mouth. This trait can come from low acid wines and wines produced from fruit when the tannins were allowed to fully ripen.

Rustic: Generally speaking, rustic wines are rough textured, old school wines that are often austere and stern. However, rustic can be more of a simple, country wine with character as well. The term can take on slightly different meanings, depending on the appellation.

Saignee: French term for method of producing rose’ wine by bleeding of the tanks after the wine has had limited contact with the grape skins.

Satellite Appellations: Various small appellations located in the Right Bank that are close to, but not in St. Emilion. These regions are capable of producing some very nice wine, often offering some of the best value wines in Bordeaux.

Score: Wine writers and critics often apply numerical scores to denote a wines level of quality vis a vis other wines in the same peer group. This is the same as a rating.

Seamless: When a taster experiences a wine that moves from the first taste, to the mid palate through to the finish without a break between the sensations and all the elements of the wine are in balance. This trait is hard to find.

Sec: French term for dry wine.

Second Growth: Term for chateau in the 1855 Classification of the Medoc that earned the second highest level of classification.

Secondary Frementation: The term for on the positive side, what takes place to change still wine into Champagne or sparkling wine On the negative side, this can also take place in the bottle due to remaining sugars and will ruin the wine.

Second Wine: A second wine is often produced from an estate’s young vines, or from juice or grapes that is not considered to be at the desired level of quality for the properties top wine.

Secondary Aromas: This is what happens to the scent of wine once it matures. It develops tertiary, non fruit aromatics like truffles, tobacco, leather, tar, cedar and spice. This is a positive term.

Sediment: Natural occurrence as wines age that is formed with the tannins, pigments and other materials bond together. This is the mark of a wine that is maturing. Sediment will not harm you, but its bitter taste is not going to help your wine. You should remove the sediment by decanting.

Selection Massale: Used often in Bordeaux by growers that want to replace unhealthy, or under performing vines with vine cuttings produced from the estates oldest, best vines from their vineyard. This helps promote a more unique character to the vineyard.

Sexy: Sexy is good in life, and in wine. Sexy wines are sensuous, silky and opulent. They are usually rich wines as well.

Short: The opposite of long. A wine that is short has on length in the finish. This is a poor attribute.

Silex Soil, or terroir consisting of a mixture of sand, flint and rocks.

Silky: Similar to velvety, but perhaps a little lighter. Silky wines feel polished in your mouth.

Simple: Simple wines lack complexity beyond their initial fruit character.


Single Vineyard: Wines produced from grapes grown in one single vineyard, instead of multiple vineyard sites.

Single Blind: In a single blind tasting, the tasters know the names of the wines, or the type of wine in the tasting but not their specific order.

Slate: Type or rock soil or terroir often found in the Northern Rhone and in Germany.

Slow oxidation: This technique involves removing the capsule and cork and allowing the wine to sit for hours before opening. This does nothing for the development of a wine.

Smoky: Some wines offer scents of smoke, fire, char or burnt aromas. This happens either because of the char in the barrels, the soil or the grapes.

Smooth: Wines that are smooth, feel soft on your palate. They transition from the beginning to the middle through to the end, with that a smooth texture. This is a positive attribute.

SO2: Chemical compound shorthand for sulfur dioxide, a gas which is used as a preservative agent to help avoid oxidation.

Soft: Soft wines are round, elegantly textured and can be low in acidity.

Sorting: Sorting is the last step before fermentation. During sorting, the wine maker removes all the unripe grapes and other unwanted material. Sorting can be done by hand or with new, optical sorting machines or other techniques.

Spicy: Wines often smell like different spices ranging from pepper, to cinnamon, to 5 spice or cloves.

Spoofilated: Ridiculous term used by detractors of Robert Parker for wines they deem were produced using some of the more modern, widely accepted wine making techniques.

Stone: Similar to Minerality, This aroma or flavor comes from grapes gown in intense mineral laden soils, normally filled with limestone. The sensation is of crushed rocks, stone or cement. This is a unique and desirable quality.

Super Second: The term for Second Growth Bordeaux wines that are considered to be so good, they are better than most Second Growths, but not quite at the level of First Growth Bordeaux.

Sur Lie: French term for a wine that is aged on its fine lees, meaning seeds, skins and other grape solids along with yeast cells.

Structure: Structure is created by all the components that go into a wine, fruit, acid, tannin, sugar and alcohol.

Supple: Young wines that are lush are considered supple.

Syrah: The only red grape used in the Northern Rhone and an important blending grape for Chateauneuf du Pape.

Supple: Supple wines are rich, plush and soft in the mouth.

Sweet Wine: Sweet wines are red or white wines which have varying degrees of residual sugar remaining.

Table Wine: Table wines do not denote quality, or a lack thereof. It is a degree of measurement for all wines that range from 11% to 14% alcohol.

Tank: A vessel for fermentaion that is most often made of stainless steel, cement or oak. This is the same as a vat.

Tannin: Tannins which are extracted from the grape skins and stems, coupled with acidity and alcohol, are the backbone of a wine and one of the key components to a long life. Tannins need to be ripe for a wine to feel good in your mouth, Unripe tannins can make your mouth feel dry or make the wine seem hard.

Tart: Tart wines are produced from unripe fruit and, or fruit that is overly acidic.

Tartaric Acid: The small, harmless crystals found at the bottom of a wine bottle. The crystals are harmless, odorless and lack flavor. They occur naturally when some wines age.

TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole) TCA is the chemical compound that is the main cause of cork taint in wine.

Terroir: A sense of place created from numerous environmental factors ranging from soil types, exposure, climate, topography and various other elements specific to the unique location. Those factors have a real effect on the vine and its expression of character on the vines and in the grapes. Terroir can be effected severely by the choices the winemaker makes in the cellars and in the vineyards.

Tertiary Aromas: The same as secondary aromas. This is what happens to the scent of wine once it matures. It develops secondary, non fruit aromatics like truffles, tobacco, leather, tar, cedar and spice. This is a positive term.

Third Growth: Term for chateau in the 1855 Classification of the Medoc that earned the Third highest level of classification.

Three Tier System: Bizarre, anachronistic American system of wine distribution which in some states can require wineries to sell to an importer or in the case of it being an American winery, the distributor or wholesaler, who then sells it to the merchant, who sells it to you. Ostensibly designed to protect the consumer, it’s sole purpose is to make money for the large monopolistic wholesalers while costing the consumer more money.

Tight: Tight is similar to closed in that the wine is holding its personality and positive traits in reserve.

Tobacco: Tobacco is a common smell found in mature wines, especially from Bordeaux. The aromas can range from cigar tobacco to ash or even pipe aromatics. This is a positive trait.

Torrefaction: Coffee with vanilla aromatics, with scents arising from the oak barrels during the aging process.

Traditional: Similar to classic. Traditional is most often used for Bordeaux and California wine when the wine is less alcoholic, less ripe and more austere than modern tasters prefer. It can be a pejorative term. Traditional is also used to describe many wines in the Rhone Valley. In the Rhone Valley, generally speaking, traditional wines do not see much new oak, the grapes can be vinified with stems and alcohol levels could be lower.

Tranche: French term for the amount of wine released for sale by the chateau during the En Primeur campaign. Loosely translated, a tranche is a slice of the wine produced that year.

Triple Digits: Slang term for wines reaching 100 Pt score.

Typicity: Wines with typicity are said to either express the grape varietal, the terroir of an appellatio or the typical wine making techniques of that region.

Ullage: Term for the air space between the wine and the cork. The level of ullage can determine the potential level of quality in an older wine.

Unctuous: Unctuous wines have viscosity, or a rich mouth feel.

VA: VA is short for volatile acidity.

Vat: A vessel for fermentation that is most often made of stainless steel, cement or oak. This is the same as a tank.

Vegetal: An undesirable quality that is noted in wines produced from unripe grapes.

Velvety: This term can be exchanged with silk, lush or plush to describe wines with opulent texture.

Veraison: Term for when the grapes change color from green to deep purple for red wines and when the grapes change from green to more of a yellow tone for white wine grapes during the growing season.

Vertical Tasting: A vertical tasting consists of the same wines from a single producer, winery or vineyard in multiple vintages.

Vibrant: Wines that are fresh, lively, energetic, with good acidity, but also rich with depth. This is a positive trait.

Vin de Paille A sweet wine made from grapes dried on straw mats.

Vieilles Vignes: French term for old vines. Grapes from old vines have a minimum of 35 years of age. Old vines can producer better, more concentrated fruit, with naturally lower yields. Vines in some areas like Chateauneuf du Pape can be more than 100 years of age.

Vigneron: French term for a wine maker or wine grower.

Vignoble: French term for a wine growing area.

Vin: French term for wine.

Vin de Paille: Sweet wines that are produced by allowing the extremely ripe grapes to dry out on straw mats to decrease their juice while increasing their sugar levels.

Vintage: The specific year the grapes were harvested in.

Viscous: Viscous wines are thick, rich and concentrated and display an unctuous quality.

Viticulture: The study and, or act of grape growing.

Volatile: A volatile wine smells of vinegar due to an abundance of acetic bacteria. In some wines, a tiny dose can be seen as a positive trait. In large amounts this easily ruins a wine.

Volcanic: Type of soil and terroir, often found in Napa Valley that comes from rocks, stones, lava, ash and pumice, that were created through volcanic eruptions.

Whole Bunch Vinification: Method of fermenting the grapes with the stems still attached.

Woody: Woody wines are oaky. They feature strong, often overwhelming scents of vanilla, coffee or smoke. They can also feel dry in the mouth. This is a flaw.

Yeast: Yeast helps the process of converting sugar to alcohol during the fermentation process.

Yield: The term of measurement for the quantity of grapes collected in a harvest. In Europe, it is measured in hectoliters per hectare. In America, it is measured in tons per acre. Low yields are often seen as having the potential to produce better wine due to increased concentration and selection.

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by Tom Simone