Wine Terminology

acidity – the liveliness and crispness noted in wine.

aeration – the deliberate addition of oxygen to wine to round out and soften a wine.

aging – holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state.

alcohol – ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the product of fermentation of sugars by yeast.

appellation – a delineated wine producing region, particular to France.  Numerous criteria have to be met to qualify. 

aroma – the scent of the grape, as well as the smell of wine, especially young wines. (different than "bouquet")

asomnia – the loss of smell.

astringent – tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannins.

balance when the elements of wine - acids, sugars, tannins, alcohol - come together in a harmonious way, it is said to be "balanced".

barrel – the container - preferably oak - used for fermenting and aging wine.

barrique – a 225-litre oak barrel used in storing and aging Bordeaux wines.

bitter – a taste sensation largely caused by tannins that is sensed on the back of the tongue.

blend –
a wine made from more than one grape varietal.

body – a tactile sensation and term describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth.  A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.

Bordeaux – the area in Southwest France considered by some as the greatest wine-producing region in the world.

botrytis – a good mold that pierces the skin of grapes and causes dehydration, resulting in natural grape juice exceptionally high in sugar.  Botrytis is largely responsible for the world's finest dessert wines.  (see "noble rot").

bouquet – a term that refers to the complex aromas in ages wines. 

breathing – allowing wine to come in contact with air to open and improve the flavors.  (see "aeration")

brettanomyce. – A wine-spoiling yeast that produces barnyard, mousey, metallic, and band-aidish aromas.

brilliant – a tasting note pertaining to wines that appear sparkling clear.

brut – french term denoting dry champagnes or sparkling wines. 

bung – the plug used to seal a wine barrel.

bung hole – the opening in a cask in which wine can be put in or taken out.

chaptalization – when sugar is added to wine before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels.  Chaptalization is illegal in some parts of the world, and highly controlled in others.

citric acid – one of the three predominate acids in wine.

claret – the name the English use when referring to the red wines of Bordeaux.

class growth – see cru classe'.

closed – term describing underdeveloped and young wines whose flavors are not exhibiting well.

complex – a wine exhibiting numerous odors, nuances, and flavors.

cork taint – undesirable aromas and flavors in wine often associated with wet cardboard and/or moldy basements. 

corked – a term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint (not wine with cork particles floating about).

cru class̩ Рa top-ranking vineyard designated in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855.

crush – the English term for harvest.

cuvee – in Champagne, a blended batch of wine.

demi-sec – french term meaning "half-dry".  Confusing, as it is used to describe a sweet sparkling wine.

dry – opposite of sweet.  A taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth. 

earthy – an odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil.

enology – the science of wine and winemaking (see "oenology")

fermentation – the conversion of grapge sugars to alcohol by yeast.

fining – the addition of egg whites or gelatin (to name a few) to clear the wine of unwanted particles and other components.

finish. – The impression of textures and flavors lingering in the mouth after a wine is swallowed. 

flavors. – Odors perceived in the mouth.

foxy – a term that notes the musty odor and flavor of wines made from vitis labrusca - a common North American varietal.

fruity – a tasting term signifying wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit.  Can also describe aromas of cooked fruit, as in "jammy".

full-bodied – a wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as "big".


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