Wine Glossary of Terms

Here are some basic terms to know if you are looking to join the ranks of wine connoisseurs, the wine industry, or just trying to impress a girl.

Acidity: A balance of acids (lactic, malic or tartaric) that contributes to the quality of the wine. These acids either come from the grape itself or from the malolactic fermentation process.

Aging Barrel: This is the container used to age wine, often made of oak.

Angel’s Share: The missing, or evaporated, wine during the aging process.

Appellation: A geographical term that identifies the area that grapes were grown.

Astringency: A term used to describe the dry and rough sensation in your mouth that typically is experienced when drinking red wines due to the tannin levels.

Balance: The combination of elements in wine so that no one distinguishing factor stands out.

Body: This is a term used for tasting that describes the breadth of the wine (i.e. wine’s may be categorized as light, medium or full bodied).

Bottle Shock: This is a temporary period of time when the wine’s flavors are masked either after bottling or during travel. However, this will typically clear up in a few days.

Burnt Wine: Better known as brandy, this simply means liquor made from distilled wines.

Canopy: The visible parts of the vine that are above ground.

Clarification: A term used for the filtration portion of the winemaking process.

Corked: This term is used during the tasting process to describe when the flavor is tainted by the cork (usually from mold growth).

Decanting: This refers to the process of pouring the wine from its bottle to a decanter to separate the sediments from the wine.

Dry: A tasting term that refers to the level of sugar in the wine. For wines, this term means zero sugar, but for sparkling wines this would actually mean sweet.

Enology: The science of wine and winemaking.

Extra Dry: In reference to champagne or other sparkling wines, this term means only slightly sweet (yes, opposite from what it sounds like).

Fermentation: Using yeast to convert grape sugars to alcohol- the fun part of the process!

Finish: The aftertaste of wine (i.e. fine wines will have a smooth finish).

Flabby: This is a fun tasting term! This means that the wine has low acidity, or lacks structure.

Fortified Wine: A good term to know, whether you are entering the wine business or just really enjoy alcohol. This wine has extra alcohol added into it, and before you get excited, it typically is to bring up the alcohol content to prevent fermentation.

Green Harvest: This is when green, or unripe, grapes are harvested in order to produce higher quality grapes.

Hard: Yet another tasting term- this one marks when wine has too many tannins which results in an unpleasant wine and often takes longer to mature.

Late Harvest Wine: This is when the grapes have been on the vines longer than usual and will typically produce a sweet or dessert wine.

Lees: Solids that settle out of the wine during the fermentation and aging processes.

Legs: The lines of wine that remain on the wine glass after swirling the liquid.

Malolactic Fermentation: More often used for red wines, this process helps to convert malic acids into softer lactic acid. This takes away some of the crispness and produces a softer wine.

Mead: A wine-like substance, but produced with honey and water rather than grapes.

Mulled Wine: Wine that is served heated and with spices.

Must: Unfermented grape juice produced from the pressing, de-stemming or crushing process.

New World Wine: Wine produced outside of North Africa and Europe.

Nose: This is the aroma of the wine.

Oenology: The term in old English for the science of wine and winemaking (also called viniculture).

Old World Wine: Wine produced in the traditional winemaking areas of Europe and North Africa.

Oxidation: The affect exposure to air can have on wine.

Pip: Grape seeds.

Pump-over: During the fermentation process, the wine is pumped from the bottom to the top in order to produce more evenly distributed contact with the skins of the grapes.

Punching the cap: In another process during fermentation, this method “punches” (pushes) the grape skins to the bottom to help with distribution.

Punt: This is the indentation at the bottom of the wine bottle, and it is often thought that the deeper the punt, the better the quality of wine. Doesn’t that mean you have less wine to drink though?

Racking: Method that separates the lees, or solids, from the wine.

Reserve: This is wine that is of high quality.

Sommelier: The name given to a trained wine expert that often assists at fine dining restaurants.

Tannin: Compounds that give wine very distinct dry or bitter feelings in the mouth.

Transparent Wine: This is wine that has the ability to hold onto each distinct flavor.

Unoaked: Wine that was not aged in an oak barrel.

Varietal: A term used to describe wines made from a single grape variety.

Vinification: The process of converting grape juice to wine.

Viticulture: The growing of grapes.

Yeast: The compound that converts sugars in must to alcohol.

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