Monday, 19 June 2017 20:00

Wine Tasting Glossary

We hope the following glossary of wine terminology is helpful and informative. If you have a term in mind, simply click on the corresponding letter below to see the terms starting with that same letter.  

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

A

Acetic Acid - All wines contain small amounts acetic acid or vinegar, normally the amount is small and not noticeable to taste or smell.

Acid - There are four kinds of acids found in wine - tartaric, malic, lactic and citric.Acid aids in the crispness and longevity of a wine.

Acidic - Wines whose acid content is high, leaving a tart or sour edge on the palate.

Aerate - letting a wine breathe in the open air or by swirling wine in a glass.

Aftertaste - The wine taste or flavors that linger in the mouth. Also known as a wine's finish, this can be buttery, oaky, spicy, tart or bitter.

Aggressive - A wine that is harsh in taste due to high levels of tannins or acid. Alcohol - natural by-product of wine fermentation. Most wines range from 7% - 14% alcohol by volume.

American oak - Used for aging Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Has vanilla, dill and cedar characteristics.

American Viticultural Area (AVA) - In the USA, a geographic grape-growing area that has officially been given appellation status by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Ampelography - the study and identification of grape varieties. Angular - tart flavors and tastes in young, dry wines.

Aperitif - describes an alcoholic beverage served before dinner to stimulate the appetite. Traditional French examples include Kir, Lillet and Vermouth.

Appellation - Designates the geographic region where a wine's grapes were grown.

Appley - smell or aroma of a wine. "Ripe apples" describes some Chardonnays, while "fresh apples" describe certain types of Riesling, and "Green apple" describes wines made from underripe grapes.

Aroma - the particular scent of the grape in the wine.

Aromatic - a spicy character of some wine grape varieties such as Gewurztraminer and Muscat.

Ascescence - presence of acetic acid and ethyl acetate in wine. A sweet and sour or vinegary smell and taste in the mouth.

Asti Spumante - semi-dry sparkling wine made in the village of Asti, Italy.

Astringent - harsh, puckery taste and feel in the mouth from tannin or high acidity that red wines (and a few white wine) have.

Attack - first impact of a wine. Austere - hard, high acid wines that lack depth and roundness. Said of young wines that may soften with age.

B

Backbone - Used to describe red wines that are big, full-bodied, well structured and balanced by a desirable level of acidity.

Backward - Used to describe a wine that retains youthful characteristics despite considerable aging. A wine that should be more developed than it is for it's age.

Balance - A wine has balance when its elements are harmonious and no single element dominates. Acid balances sweetness; fruit balances against oak and tannin content; alcohol balances against acidity and flavor. A wine's balance may only be realized after some aging and is the primary goal of a winemaker.

Balthazar - An oversized bottle which can hold the equivalent of 12-16 standard sized bottles.

Barbera - A noble red grape used to make hearty red wines in the Piedmonte of Northwestern Italy and also in California. Produces dark, fruity, astringent wines and may also be made into sparkling and semi-sweet wines.

Barnyard - A strangely positive term for a rotting straw and sweaty horse smell of a fine red or white Burgundy.

Barrel fermented - Refers to wine that has been fermented in casks, usually 55-gallon oak barrels, rather than larger tanks. It is the belief of some advocates that barrel fermentation contributes greater harmony between the oak and the wine, increases body and adds complexity, texture and flavor to certain wine types. Used mainly for whites.

Beaujolais - Typically light, fresh fruity red wines from the area of the same name, immediately south of Burgundy in France.

Big - Overall flavor of a wine, red or white, that has full, rich flavors. Generally has a positive ring to it, but can imply some clumsiness, the opposite of elegance. 'Big' reds are often tannic. 'Big' whites are generally high in alcohol and glycerin.

Bite - A marked degree of acidity or tannin. An acid 'grip' in the finish which should be like a zestful tang and is favorable only in red full-bodied wine.

Bitter - One of the four basic tastes along with salty, sour, and sweet. Can signify the fruit of immature vines or excessive tannin. If the bitter component dominates in the aroma or taste of a wine, it is considered a fault. In sweet wines a hint of bitterness enhances and complements the other flavors, creating an overall taste balance.

Black Currant - The predominant aroma in Cabernet grapes.

Blanc de Blancs - 'White of whites', meaning a white wine made of white grapes, such as Champagne made of Chardonnay.

Blanc de Noirs - 'White of blacks' a white or blush wine made of dark (red or black) grapes, where the juice is squeezed from the grapes and fermented without skin contact.

Blending - A winemakers task, taking wines from different lots or barrels and blending them together for bottling. Traditional and regional laws and regulations dictate what particular grape varieties may be blended together to produce a specific wine. It is the winemakers decision on the percentages of each to use, with vintage often playing a crucial role in this equation.

Blunt - Strong in flavor, often alcoholic and contrarily lacking in aromatic interest and fine development on the palate.

Blush - A term for rosé, and any wine that is pink in color.

Body - The mouth feel, the weight of the wine in the mouth and on the palate. Commonly referred to as full-, medium- or light-bodied.

Bordeaux - Major wine region of France that produces some of the world's most famous wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot abd Malbec, collectively know as Bordeaux Varietals. The Carmenere grape is sometimes included.

Bottle Sickness - A temporary condition affecting wines immediately after bottling or shipment, characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. Also called bottle shock. A few days of rest and proper storage is the cure.

Bouquet - The perfume of fermented wine, often the first indicator of a wine's quality during a testing.

Brawny - Used mainly to describe young red wines and wines that are hard, intense, tannic and have raw woody flavors.

Breathing - The act of allowing a wine to mix with the air, to 'breathe', for example when wine is poured into another container, such as a decanter or wineglass. Breathing is thought to be beneficial for many red wines and also for some young, white wines.

Briary - Describes a young wine having an earthy, prickly taste best described as peppery often with as stemmy wild berry character.

Bright - Used to describe fresh, ripe, zesty, lively young wines with vivid, focused flavors.

Brilliant - Wines with very clear appearance and no visible suspended or particulate matter. Not always thought to be positive as it can indicate some loss of flavor in highly filtered wines.

Brix - Measurement system for sugar content of grapes and wine, indicating the degree of the grapes' ripeness (meaning sugar level) at harvest. Most table-wine grapes are harvested at between 21 and 25 Brix. To get an alcohol conversion level, multiply the stated Brix by .55.

Browning - Denotes aging in a wine. Describes a wine's color, , and is a sign that a wine is mature and may be faded. A wine of good character and depth can still be most enjoyable even with a significant 'brown' tint. Wines 20 to 30 years old may have a brownish edge yet still be pleasurable.

Brut - A French term meaning 'raw' used to designate a dry finish Champagne or sparkling wine. Can be the driest wine made by a producer.

Burgundy - Region of France that is 160 miles southeast of Paris, between Dijon and Lyons. The noble grapes grown here, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, produce elegant wines with extreme finesse and subtle earthy characteristics.

Burnt - Describes a wine that has an overdone, smoky, toasty or singed edge. Also used to describe overripe grapes.

Buttery - A smell and taste sensation found in better white wines, particularly oak-aged Chardonnay.

C

Cabernet Franc - French red wine grape used in a Bordeaux blend. The Cabernet Franc that is grown in California and the Loire Valley produces a spicy wine with medium body. Increasingly trendy as a varietal, in which blueberry aromas are characteristic.

Cabernet Savignon - One of the noblest of the red wine grape varieties, used in Bordeaux, and successfully grown in many countries. Cabernet Sauvignon is often referred to as the king of red wines.

Capsule - Refers to the metal or sometimes plastic protective sheath over the cork and neck of a wine bottle. A capsule protects the cork from drying out and letting air into the bottle.

Caramel - Refers to a burnt-sugar smell and taste in oak-aged Chardonnay from a hotter than usual growing season.

Carbonic maceration - Fermentation for light red wines, especially Beaujolais, that takes place inside the skins of whole, uncrushed grapes in the absence of air, in a carbon dioxide atmosphere.

Cedar - Refers to an element of cedar wood in the bouquet of Cabernet Sauvignon that has been aged in either American or French oak. Can also be present in Cabernet blends that are aged in the same way.

Cellared - Means the wine was not produced at the winery where it was bottled.

Chablis - Excellent dry, full-flavored, white wine made from Chardonnay grapes in the region of the same name in northern Burgundy.

Champagne - Sparkling wine made in the region of the same name, just 70 some miles northeast of Paris, using a traditional process in which the wines are bottle fermented, and made only from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier grapes.

Chaptalization - The process of adding sugar to the fermenting wine to raise the final alcohol level. A process that can give wine a candied nose. Because the sugar is converted to alcohol, it does not add sweetness to the finished wine, but is forbidden in some regions.

Character - A wine's distinctive personality that stem from a combination of a region's wine-making traditions, soils, and grape varieties.

Charbono - An Italian style red grape used mostly in California to produce robust, richly flavored red wines.

Chardonnay - One of the world's most well known and noble white grape varieties that produces possibly the most popular medium to full-bodied white wines. Varies widely in style from crisp lemon-lime-mineral flavors of classic Chablis to rich, oaky, buttery wines. Also apple and green apple aromas are classic although tropical fruit and pineapple often show up especially in US and Australian Chardonnays, and when aged in oak barrels aromas of vanilla, spice and definite tropical fruit flavors can be present.

Charmat - The process of mass producing, generally inexpensive, sparkling wines in large stainless steel tanks, and then bottling under pressure.

Chelois - A French hybrid grape that makes a light and fruity red wine, used somewhat in the Eastern US.

Chenin Blanc - A versatile, noble, French white wine grape used to make the famous dry, slightly sweet whites of the Loire Valley. Can be found in California and other regions too, and is somewhat variable, although pleasant honey overtones along with cantaloupe and honeydew melon flavors and light muskiness are common.

Chewy - Rich, full-bodied wines with unusual thickness of texture or tannins that one almost "chews" before swallowing.

Chianti - The fruity, classic, dry red wine from Tuscany, made from Sangiovese and other grape varieties in North Central Italy. Chianti Classico is made from grapes grown in the central part of the region and is considered more desirable - to be labeled Chianti Classico, both the vineyards and the winery must be within the delimited region.

Cigar Box - Another descriptive for a cedary nose or aroma, classically pertaining to Médoc Cabernet Sauvignon. Spanish cedarwood is traditionally used in making cigar boxes.

Citric - The smell of lemon, grapefruit or lime in the bouquet and as an aftertaste, most common in white wines made from grapes grown in cooler regions of California, Canada and some other regions.

Claret - An old British term for red Bordeaux.

Clone - A group of vines derived by propagation from a single mother vine, or source. Clones are selected for the unique qualities of the grapes and wines they yield, such as flavor, productivity and adaptability to growing conditions.

Closed - Young, undeveloped wines that do not readily reveal their character, that are shy in aroma or flavor, are said to be closed. Can be expected to develop with age.

Cloudy - Opposite of clear or brilliant. Characteristic of old wines with sediment, but it can be a warning signal of protein instability, yeast spoilage or re-fermentation in the bottle in younger wines. Sometimes also results from sediment being stirred up during transportation.

Cloying - Refers to ultra-sweet or sugary wines that lack the balance provided by acid, alcohol, bitterness or intense flavor. Can sit heavily on the palate not unlike honey.

Coarse - Usually refers to harsh or clumsy flavor and texture, sometimes in particular, excessive tannin or oak. Also used to describe harsh bubbles in sparkling wines.

Cold Stabilization - A clarification process in which a wine's temperature is lowered to 32° F, causing the tartrate crystals and other insoluble solids to precipitate.

Complete - Refers to a mature wine that provides good follow-through on the palate, a satisfying mouth-feel and firm aftertaste.

Complex - Wines that possess the elusive qualities where many layers of flavor seem to unfurl and change over time in the glass. A balance that combines all flavor and taste components in perfect harmony. A complex wine is a combination of richness, depth, flavor intensity, focus, balance, harmony and finesse.

Concord - A native American grape - vitis labrusca - used in making traditional country style red wines with the aroma of grape jelly and a flavor that tasters sometimes refer to as foxy.

Corked - Describes a bottle of wine that is "off" due to air spoilage, a tainted cork or improper cellaring.

Creamy - The almost 'silk like' texture - taste component - some wines have in the mouth. Can refer to the texture of champagne, or the vanillin smell that new oak imparts to wine. Creamy is in contrast to crisp.

Crisp - A fresh, almost green apple like, brisk character, usually with lively acidity, and usually referring to white wines.

Cuvee - The blend of different grapes that make up a specific wine. A French term for 'vat'

D

Decant - To pour aged bottled wine carefully into a larger vessel, often a glass decanter for the purpose of leaving any accumulated sediment behind. Decanting also lets a wine breathe, and almost always pertains to red wine.

Delicate - Used to describe light- to medium-weight wines with pleasant mild flavor and fragrance. A desirable quality in wines such as Pinot Noir or Riesling. Sometimes pertains to well made wines produced from so called 'lesser grape' varieties.

Demi-Sec - Meaning "half-dry" usually pertaining to Champagne and relating to sweetness. Demi-sec sparkling wines are usually slightly sweet to medium sweet. - so half dry, half sweet.

Dense- Considered a favorable quality in young wines and describes a wine that has concentrated aromas on the nose and palate.

Depth - Describes complexity in a wine that fills the mouth with subtly changing flavours - subtle layers of flavor that go 'deep'.

Dessert Wine - (1) A Sherry or other fortified wine. (2) Sweet wine customarily drank with dessert or by themselves 'as' dessert, usually in small amounts or single portions.

Developed - A mature wine that displays flavors that emerge after aging for a period of time in the bottle.

Direct - Wines that come right to the point and reveal their entire personality immediately.

Dirty - Describes any of the undesirable, rank, off-putting odors that can occur in a wine, including those caused by bad barrels or corks. A sign of poor winemaking.

Disgorged - A step in the traditional process of sparkling wine or champagne production of removing frozen sediment from the neck of the bottle after secondary fermentation.

Domaine - French term meaning 'estate' and in Burgundy a domaine may incorporate numerous separate vineyards.

Dosage - The process of adding sweetened wine to champagne just prior to closure.

Dry - Description of a wine produced specifically to possess little or no sweetness, whereby the sugars have been almost totally fermented. Commonly defined as containing less than about 0.5% residual sugar.

Drying out - The fading of the fruit in mature red wines. Acid, tannin and oak begin to predominate over fruit flavors and at this stage the wine will not improve.

Dumb - Characteristic description typical of wines that are too young or possibly too cold that refuse to reveal much flavor or bouquet at all; closed.

E

Earthy - a wine with charactertics of earth or soil.

Eiswein - German term meaning ice wine. Refers to a rare sweet wine made from late-harvest grapes that have frozen on the vine.

Elegant - well-balanced wines of quality and grace.

Empty - A wine without character, also called a hollow wine.

Enology - The science and study of wine and winemaking. Also spelled oenology.

Essence - a sweet, late-harvest red wine.

Ethyl Acetate - A chemical that gives a sweet, vinegary smell, often accompanies acetic acid.

Extract - the color given to wine during the fermentation process by the grape skins used. Can also refer to a fruity flavor in a wine.

F

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.

G

Gamay - Red grape of Beaujolais that is best known for producing fruity, light to medium-bodied wines, that are low in alcohol and very refreshing. Gamay is also grown successfully in California, and the Loire Valley of France. Generally speaking these wines are best consumed young.

 Garnacha - Spanish term for the Grenache red wine grape.

 Gewurztraminer - A perfumed, pungent, spicy and flamboyant white grape best-known in Alsace, France that produces semisweet to dry wines. Also grown in California, New York, Germany, Eastern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

 Glycerol - An alcohol formed during fermentation said to add sweetness and roundness to a wine.

 Graceful - Describes a wine that is pleasingly harmonious in very subtle ways.

Grapey - A distinct impression of the flavors and aromas associated with fresh table grapes.

 Grappa - An Italian spirit, dry and high in alcohol, that it is typically consumed after dinner.

 Grassy - Refers to the pleasant, herbaceous aromas and flavors reminiscent of newly cut spring grasses, that specifically describe the overall character of Sauvignon Blanc. British or European tasters sometimes use the word 'gooseberry' to describe this flavor.

 Green - A wine made from and tasting of unripe grapes, with a tartness on the tongue.

 Grip - A pleasing firmness of texture, and structure, usually from tannin, which helps give definition to wines such as Cabernet and Port.

H

Hard - High acidity or tannin content that creates a mouth puckering effect. Often descriptive of young red wines suitable for aging.

Harmonious - All elements, the fruit, acid, and tannin, in perfect balance.

Harsh - Very astringent wines, usually with a high alcohol component and excessive tannin, often display this rough, rustic taste characteristic.

Heady - Descriptive of full-bodied, high alcohol wines.

Herbaceous - Wines having green, grassy, herblike taste and aroma. Often characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Merlot grapes. Usually associated with the grape variety as mentioned, not the climate or soil.

Hermitage - Considered one of the best wines produced in the Rhone, usually red and made from Syrah grapes. It is told that a white was also produced by a Crusader who returned from the Holy Land coveting Syrah vine stock and declaring that he would war no more, it was time to plant a vineyard and his would be hermitage.

Hollow - Describes a wine that is lacking in flavor, that has a first taste - nothing in the middle - and a short finish, that lacks depth at mid-palate. Can be caused by grapes from improperly pruned vines.

Honeyed - A term, most usually used to describe the cohesive sweetness of late-harvest Riesling or mature Sauternes.

Hot - Term used for high alcohol, sometimes unbalanced wines that tend to burn with "heat" on the finish, giving a prickly, sensation of heat on the palate. Can be acceptable in Port-style wines

Imperial - A large wine bottle holding 8 standard bottles of wine.

I

Inky - metallic flavors that are found in some red wines.

Intricate - a wine with a complex aroma and flavor.

J

Jammy - berry-like flavor of some wines, most typically of California Zinfandels made from Amador County wine grapes.

Jeroboam - A large wine bottle holding 4 to 6 standard bottles of wine.

K

L

Lanolin - A somewhat creamy smell that can be associated with Sémillon and Chenin Blanc wines.

Late Harvest - Is noted on labels and refers to wines made from grapes picked later than normal and at with high sugar levels, and usually affected with noble rot or botrytis, thus producing sweet dessert-style wines.

 Leafy - Describes somewhat herbaceous, green overtones reminiscent of leaves. Can add to the complexity of a wine if present only in negligible amounts.

 Lean - Not necessarily a bad quality, but indicates the presence of more body would be favorable; describes austere wines with evident acidity.

 Legs - Term used to describe the droplets left on the side of the glass after swirling which ease down the surface as tears or "legs." The thicker the legs and the more slow-moving they are, the higher the alcohol content.

 Length - The amount of time the flavor and aroma of a wine stay on the palate after swallowing., the longer the better the wine.

 Light - Can refer to wines light in alcohol or wines light in texture, weight, body - how the wine feels in the mouth.

M

Maceration - During fermentation, the process of the steeping of the grape skins and solids in the wine, where alcohol acts as a solvent to extract color, tannin and aroma from the skins.

Magnum - An oversize bottle that holds 1.5 liters, twice the size of a regular 750 ml bottle.

Malbec - A red-wine grape used, both in California and France, and other parts of the world, for blending in many Bordeaux wines, where its intense color and extracts add to the wine's body; also used as primary grape in the inky red wines of the Cahors region of France and in some Argentine reds. Malbecs can be fairly deep in color with dark berry flavors and a fair amount of tannin.

Malic - Used to describe the green apple-like flavor found in young grapes which diminishes as they ripen and mature.

Malolactic Fermentation - A secondary fermentation occurring in most bottled wines, this process converts the naturally occurring malic acid into softer lactic acid plus carbon dioxide gas, thus reducing the wine's total acidity. Adds complexity to whites such as Chardonnay and softens reds such as Cabernet and Merlot.

Marsanne - Excellent white-wine grape from the Rhone Valley of France, that produces medium-body to rich wines, and now enjoying some successful plantings in California regions.

Master of Wine - A title bestowed by the Institute of Masters of Wine which was founded in 1953 in England,and is an exclusive organization requiring those qualified to pass a rigorous three-day exam. Part of the exam includes blind-tasting about 36 wines with the aim of correctly identifying them. A person with this title may put the abbreviation M.W. after his or her name.

Matchstick - Descriptive of the odor of sulphur dioxide gas, not unlike the smell of burnt matches and found, very occasionally, in negligible amounts trapped in bottled white wine. With careful decanting can be dissipated.

Mead - A wine common in medieval Britain and Europe, made by fermenting honey and water.

Meager - Descriptive of a wine that is somewhat insipid, that lacks body and depth.

Meaty - A red wine that is sturdy, full-bodied, and chewy.

Mercaptan - Unpleasant, sulphur-like rubbery smell that may be present in very old white wines.

Meritage - An invented term, used by California wineries, for Bordeaux-style red and white blended wines. Combines "merit" with "heritage."

Merlot - Very good red-wine grape that produces smooth, plummy, mellow reds, often a key component of Bordeaux blends, and in California successfully grown as a varietal of its own accord. Black cherry and herbal flavors are also typical.

Methuselah - An extra-large bottle holding 6 liters; the equivalent of eight standard bottles.

Microclimate - Refers to the climate within a small, defined area, possibly different from the area directly surrounding this area that can dramatically affect the character of the wine produced there.

Mid-Palate - When you take a sip of good wine there is often a sequence of flavor and texture impressions, of which the mid-palate is the impression registered as you hold the wine in your mouth for a moment but before you swallow.

Mulled Wine - Any red wine, served hot, that has been mixed with any combination of sugar, fresh orange or lemon, even fresh apple, spices, usually including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Murky - Mainly a fault in red wines that are lacking brightness; somewhat swampy.

Muscat - Ancient, aromatic white wine grape with a very extended family and said by some to be the ancestor of most other vitis vinifera grapes, which produces fruity, softly perfumed wines, some fine Italian sparkling wines and some enticing dessert wines from Austria and other parts of the world.

Must - Mixture of grapes - grape juice, skins and pulp that is fermented into wine.

Musty - Having a stale, moldy or mildewy smell. The result of a wine being made from moldy grapes, stored in improperly cleaned tanks and barrels, or contaminated by a poor cork.

N

Nebuchadnezzar - A large wine bottle holding the equivalent of about 20 standard wine bottles.

Nervous - wine with abundant amounts of alcohol and acidity in balance.

Noble - grapes that are said to produce some of the world's greatest wines.

Nonvintage - wine made from a blend of more than one vintage, most often occurring with Champagnes, Ports and sparkling wines.

Nose - the smell a wine has, also called the aroma or bouquet of a wine.

Nouveau - French term meaning new, indicates a style of light, fruity, young, wine that can be drank immediately. Most often applies to Beaujolais.

O

Oaky - a wine that has characteristics caused by the oak barrel or cask in which it was aged. Oaky can also be described as toasty, vanilla, cedary, dill or sandalwood.

Oenology - The science and study of wine and winemaking. Also spelled enology.

Off-dry - a very slightly sweet wine where the residual sugar is barely perceptible.

Off-flavors - flavors being somewhat off for the particular type of wine.

Oily - wine with a slippery feel on the palate that comes from low acid and high glycerin in the wine. Some Chardonnays and late harvest sweet wines exhibit an oily character.

Overripe - wine grapes that have been left on the vine to dry in the sun to develop a desirable raisin-like character. Used to make some styles of Zinfandel and specialty wines.

Oxidized - Wine that has been overexposed to air and turned a brown color. Oxidized wines have a flat, stale or sherry-like aroma and flavor.

P

Peak - Being a very subjective issue of when the taste of a wine is at its best.

Perfumed - Distinct quality referring to the usually sweet and floral aromas of some white wines.

Petillant - Lightly sparkling, or crackling, possibly only realized as a slight prickly sensation on the tongue.

Petite Sirah - A red grape variety, most widely grown in California, not to be confused with the true Syrah of the Rhone Valley of France.

pH - A measure of the intensity of acid a wine contains; the lower the pH the more acidic the wine.

Phylloxera - Tiny aphids or root lice that attack Vitis vinifera roots and can devastate entire vineyards.

Pinot Blanc - White wine grape variety usually producing a favorable dry, medium-body white wine not unlike Chardonnay, that can be drank young.

Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio - French and Italian names respectively for the same white grape, known to produce flavorful, dry, crisp white wines, sometimes with a light musky overtone well-suited to accompany seafood and fish.

Pinot Meunier - Red wine grapes originating from the Champagne region of France and used for blending with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to add a certain fruitiness to champagne. Recently the Pinot Meunier varietal is being grown and marketed in Oregon.

Pinot Noir - Highly regarded, noble red grape variety originally from Burgundy, proven to produce some of the best velvety, voluptuous red wines to be had.

Pomace - The residue from the grapes used to make a wine - the skins, seeds, pulp, and stems left in the fermenting vat or cask after wine making, and one of the necessary ingredients used in the distillation of French marc and Italian grappa.

Private Reserve - Denotes quaility and along with 'Reserve', once stood for the best wines a winery produced, however, many wineries have diluted the true quality seal behind this term by using similar tags such as Proprietor's Reserve for rather ordinary wines.

Q

R

Racking - Traditional method of wine clarification whereby wine is moved, by hose from one container to another leaving behind the unwanted sediment.

Racy - A good quality, light wine with a lively acidic quality.

Raisiny - Mildly rich, raisin like taste that comes from overripe grapes, sometimes from fruit that is grown in hotter than usual areas causing the grapes to dry out while still on the vine. Can be considered a fault and is only pleasing in very small amounts in some wines.

Raw - Undeveloped, young wines, that are often high in alcohol, acidity and quite tannic.

Refined - Most often refers to well-balanced red wines.

Rehoboam - An over-sized bottle, holding 4.5 liters or the equivalent of about 6 regular sized bottles.

Remuage - A process used in the making of Champagne whereby the sediment is removed after secondary fermentation in bottle.

Residual Sugar - The unfermented grape sugar in a finished bottled wine; usually measured by percentage, by weight or volume.

Rhone Varietals - Grapes grown in the Rhone Valley of France. While there are about 22, the most common are: Syrah, Grenache, Mourverde, Picboul Blanc, and Viognier.

Rich - Enticing body, flavor and bouquet; full on the palate.

Riesling - One of the world's finest grape varieties, this classic, noble German white grape produces many great flavorful, wide ranging, crisp wines.

Robust - Descriptive of a full-bodied, intense, vigorous, heady wine.

Rosé - A pale pink wine, ranging from dry to sweet and traditionally made by removing the skins from red grapes early on in the fermentation process, before they have the time to impart too much color. Less traditionally, some labels carry rosés that have been made by the blending of red and white wines.

Rough - Not pleasing in texture or flavor; harsh, possibly biting.

Round - Describes flavors that are smooth, with a sensation of completeness, balance; well developed without any rough edges.

S

Salmanazar - An over-sized bottle holding 9 litres, the equivalent of about 12 regular bottles.

Sangiovese - The all important red-wine grape of Tuscany in central Italy, and the key to producing the infamous Chianti. Known to produce a range of styles from fresh, light, young wines to hearty, full-bodied reds that can age well. Literally translated 'blood of love'.

Sauvignon Blanc - Noble, white grape variety grown in the Loire and Bordeaux regions of France, with plantings now in other regions including, California, New Zealand, Australia. Usually blended with Semillon grapes, and varies in style, but generally speaking produces soft, assertive, herbaceous, sometimes complex wines.

Sediment - In red wines, the deposit or residue that can accumulate in the bottle during the aging process. Not considered a negative quality, and can be separated from a well aged wine by decanting.

Semillon - White wine grape, native to the Bordeaux region of France, but now widely grown in many of the world's wine regions; is most often used in a blend with Sauvignon Blanc grapes that generally produces a pleasant, somewhat dry, medium-bodied wine.

Seyval Blanc - Hybrid grape of French origin that is widely used in the U.S.A., generally producing oak-aged dry whites.

Sharp - A predominant acidity presence.

Short - A wine with very little aftertaste or finish.

Silky - Soft, flowing texture and finish.

Shiraz - A term used mostly in Australia or South Africa; same as Syrah.

Sinewy - Usually referring to a wine with not much fruitiness, but a good balance of alcohol and acidity.

Soft - Refers to wines with low acidity and or tannins creating a mellow quality on the palate. Can also refer to low alcohol content.

Solid - Firm textured, well structured.

Sommelier - A wine steward in a restaurant.

Sparkling - Wine with bubbles, either naturally occurring or created by injecting carbon dioxide gas.

Spicy - Usually a complex, red or white, wine imparting the soft nuances pepper, cloves, cinnamon, mint or other spices.

Split - A 6 ounce, or quarter bottle of champagne, most frequently found in hotels, airplanes, ships or trains.

Spritzy - Very slight sensation of carbonation, most common in very young wines and can be considered a minor flaw.

Spumante - Italian term meaning 'foaming' and referring to sparkling wines.

Stalky - A somewhat green taste and aroma, reminiscent of grape stems or vines, or possibly underripe grapes.

Steely - Firm, taut, acidic.

Stoney - Term used to describe a clean, earthy characteristic in young white wines; flinty.

Structure - Referring to how a wine is build, the flavor plan - the interaction and final composition of all elements, such as acid, tannin, alcohol, fruitiness, body. Usually used with another descriptor as in 'firm structure'.

Supple - A positive characteristic that usually refers to red wines that are smooth, soft textured and rounded on the palate.

Sur Lie - French term meaning 'on the lees' and referring to the technique/method of storing wine, prior to bottling, in the yeast sediment and grape particles (lees) from the fermentation, producing a more complex wine.

Syrah - Classic red wine grape grown in the Rhone Valley of France, producing love-lived, spicy, aromatic wines. Grown increasingly in other wine regions.

T

Tannic - Usually refers to a wine that is not balanced in that the tannins overpower the fruit and other components.

Tannin - A naturally occurring substance found in grape skins, seeds and stems or sometimes from oak barrels, that gives wine its astringency. Most prominent in red wines where it creates a dry, puckering mouth-feel. Tannin acts as a natural preservative that helps wine age and develop, and in the right proportion contributes to the balance of a wine, but considered a fault if present in excess.

Tartaric Acid - The prominent natural acid in wine.

Tartrates - Harmless crystals that often form on a cork, or in a bottle or cask, that are composed of potassium bitartrate from the tartaric acid naturally present in wine.

Tastevin - A small, shallow, usually polished silver cup used by wine stewards or sommeliers in a restaurant for tasting wine; originally used in the Burgundy region of France.

Terroir - French term literally meaning 'soil' or 'earth', generally referring to all the physical/environmental characteristics in and around a particular vineyard site that are imparted into a wine such climate, soil, geographical location and so on.

Thief - Syringe like instrument used for sampling wine from a cask, tank or barrel.

Thick - Dense, heavy texture.

Thin - Lacks body, depth and therefore flavor.

Tight - Generally refers to the body and structure of young wines.

Tirage - A term used in the production of Champagne or sparkling wine referring to the first bottling step in the process.

Tinny - Somewhat of a metallic aftertaste.

Toasty - Aroma and flavor imparted by oak barrel aging; similarly 'caramel', 'toffee', 'vanilla', with spicy overtones such as 'cinnamon' and 'cloves' are used as descriptors of the same.

U

Ullage - The air gap in a wine bottle between the bottom of the cork and the surface of the wine. If the ullage is too large, excessive oxidation can occur.

V

Vanilla - A scent imparted by aging in oak, generally new oak.

Varietal - A wine produced and named primarily from a single grape variety.

Vegetal - Aroma or taste that similar to that of leafy greens, of plants, of vegetables; a somewhat grassy character.

Velvety - Rich, silky smooth texture.

Vermouth - A renown fortified wine, white or red, that has been flavored with the addition of aromatic herbs or spices and is most often used as a aperitif or in the mixing of cocktails.

Vidal Blanc - French hybrid white-wine grape variety, used commonly in the USA.

Vignoles - French hybrid white-wine grape, often used in the Eastern USA.

Vigorous - Assertive flavor, strong bodied wine.

Vinous - Tasting descriptive for 'wine-like', 'winey' qualities; the aroma and taste common to all wines.

Vintage - Indicates the season, the year the grapes were grown and the wine was made.

Viognier - French white-wine grape variety most common in the Rhone Valley of France and California.

Viticulture - The science, cultivation and study of grape growing.

Vitis Vinifera - The classic, primary grape species used to produce nearly all of the world's best wines.

Volatile - Powerful. aggressive aroma denoting excessive acidity.

W

Watery - wine that is lacking in flavor and tasting "thin" or dilute.

Weedy - wine that is grassy.

Weighty - wine that is strong and full-bodied.

Woody - wine that has an excessive oaky presence, typically caused by over-aging the wine in the wine barrel or cask.

X

Y

Yeasty - The bread-like smell of yeast, most commonly noticed in Champagne.

Z

Zinfandel - Common red wine grape varietal grown in California, producing a wide range of wine styles.

 

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