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 classé  a 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".

herbaceous a tasting term denoting odors and flavors of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary) in a wine.

hot wine high in alcohol is often described as producing a "hot" burning sensation in the mouth.

lees sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seed, and other grape matter that accumulates during fermentation.

leesy a tasting term noting the rich aromas and smells resulting from a wine which spends time resting on its lees.

length how long the flavors of a wine persist in the mouth after swallowed; a lingering aftertaste.

long denotes the length of time a wine's presence stays in the mouth after swallowling.

malic acid one of the three predominate acids intrinsic in grapes.  Tart-tasting malic acid occurs naturally in a number of fruits, including, apples, cherries, plums, and tomatoes.

malolactic fermentation a secondary fermentation in which lactic acid bacterias are added to wines so that tart-tasting malic acids convert into softer lactic ones.  Wines described as "buttery" or "creamy" have gone through "malo".

mature ready to drink.

mouth-feel how a wine feels in one's mouth - (e.g., rough, smooth, velvety, furry).

must unfermented grape juice (including seeds, skins, and stems).

negociant French word describing a wholesale merchant, blender, or shipper of wine.

noble rot layman's term for 'botrytis".  (See botrytis).

nose how a wine smells.  A tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine.

oak/oaky tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla and toast.

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

open tasting term signifying a wine that is ready to drink.

oxidation wine exposed to air that has undergone a chemical change.  The deteriorating wine will exhibit stale smells and colors can look brown.

phenolic compounds natural compounds present in grape skins and seeds.

phylloxera a microscopic insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots.  A breakout in the 19th century nearly destroyed part of Europe's and France's wine industry. 

plonk British slang for inexpensive wine.  Also used to describe very low-quality wines.  

rough the tactile "coarse" sensation one experiences with very astringent wines.  A tasting term, and not to be confused with "bitter".

sec French word for "dry".

spicy a tasting term used to note odors and flavors reminiscent of various aromatic spices that are found in certain wines.

structure an ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins.

sweet wines with perceptible sugar contens on the nose and in the mouth.  Sweet, as a tasting sensation, is perceived on the tip of the tongue.

tannins the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, puckery feeling in the mouth. 

tartaric acid the principal acid in grapes, tartaric acid promotes flavor and aging in wine.

terroir French for "soil".  Geographical characteristics - chalk, gravel, sand, clay - along with other environmental factors unique to a given vineyard, are also denoted by terroir.

texture a tasting term describing how the wine being tasted feels on the palate.  "Texture" is used more often when describing heavy, dense wines with a big mouthfeel.

typicity a tasting term that describes how well a wine expresses the characteristics inherent to the variety of grape represented.

ullage the empty space left in bottles and barrels as a wine evaporates.  When in barrels, one must keep ullage at a minimum so the wine does not oxidize.

vegetal tasting term describing characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavors of the wine.  Bell peppers, grass, and asparagus are common "vegetal" descriptors.

vinification the process of making wine.

vitis vinifera the species of wine that comprises over 99% of the world's wine.

vintage the year in which a wine is bottled.  Also, the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.

weight similar to "body", the thicker or richer a wine feels in the mouth, the more weight is described as having.

wine fermented juice of grapes.

yeast a microorganism - endemic to vineyards and produced commercially - that converts grape sugars into alcohol.

yield the productivity of a vineyard.

young an immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.  Wines meant to be drunk "young" are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.


2800 Vance Street, Little Rock, AR 72206 · 501-604-6666