Terminology

 

Winemakers and wine writers use a variety of descriptions to communicate the aromas, flavors and characteristics of wines. Many of the terms seem familiar and natural, yet others are less clear. Use this glossary of common wine terminology to help you better understand and describe the wines you enjoy.

Acidity

The presence of natural fruit acids that lend a tart, crisp taste to wine

Aroma

Smells in wine that originate from the grape

Astringent

Bitter; gives a drying sensation in the mouth

Balanced

All components of the wine are in harmony

Barrel
Fermented

White wine that is fermented in an oak barrel instead of a stainless steel tank

Body

The weight and tactile impression of the wine on the palate that ranges from light to heavy/full

Bouquet

Smells from winemaking, aging and bottle age

Buttery

Rich, creamy flavor associated with barrel fermentation

Character

Describes distinct attributes of a wine

Chewy

Wine that has a very deep, textured and mouth-filling sensation

Clean

Wine without disagreeable aromas or tastes

Closed

Wine that needs to open up; aging and/or decanting can help

Complex

Layered aromas, flavors and textures

Cooked

Wine that has been exposed to excessively high temperatures; spoiled

Corked

Wine that has been tainted with moldy smells or other obvious flaws from a bad cork

Delicate

Light, soft and fresh wine

Dry

No sugar or sweetness remaining; a fruity wine can be dry

Earthy

Flavors and aromas of mushroom, soil and mineral

Elegance

A well balanced, full wine with pleasant, distinct character

Finish

The final impression of a wine on the palate; ranges from short to long

Firm

Texture and structure of a young, tannic red

Flabby/Flat

Lacking in acidity, mouth-feel, structure and/or texture

Fleshy

A soft textured wine

Flinty

A mineral tone, aroma or flavor

Floral

Flower aromas such as rose petals, violets, gardenia or honeysuckle

Fruity

Obvious fruit aromas and flavors; not to be confused with sweet flavors such as berries, cherries and citrus

Full-Bodied

Rich, mouth filling, weighty-textured wine

Grassy

Aromas and flavors of fresh cut grass or fresh herbs

Green

Unripe, tart flavors

Hard

Texture and structure that hinders flavor

Herbaceous

Grassy, vegetable tones and aromas

Lean

Wine is thin and tastes more acidic than fruity

Legs

Teardrop impressions of alcohol weightiness that are visible on the inside edges of a wine glass

Light-Bodied

A wine with delicate flavors, texture and aromas

Lively

Young, fruity and vivacious flavor

Malolactic

Conversion of hard, malic acid (green apple flavors) in wine to soft, lactic acid (rich, butter flavors)

Medium-Bodied

A wine with solid, but not rich weight and texture

Nose

The smell of a wine; aroma

Oak

Aromas and flavors contributed during barrel fermentation and/or aging such as vanilla, caramel, chocolate, smoke, spice or toast

Off-Dry (Semi-dry)

Very low levels of residual sugar remaining in the wine

Rich

Weighty flavors and texture

Round

Smooth flavors and texture; well-balanced

Smoky/Toasty

Aromas of smoke and toast imparted by fired barrels

Sweet

Wines that have a higher concentration of sugar after fermentation

Tannin

A drying, astringent sensation on the palate that is generally associated with heavier red wines

Terroir

French word reflecting the expression of soil, topography and climate in a wine

Thin

Wine is unpleasantly watery and lacks flavor and texture

Vegetal

Herbal, weedy aromas and flavors

Velvety

Smooth-textured with deep, rich aromas and flavors

Vintage

Year that grapes were harvested and fermented to make a wine