Easy To Understand Wine Definitions

The following wine definitions and wine terms will broaden your understanding and appreciation of wine.

 


Acidic/Acidity

One of the tastes of wine. All wines naturally contain acid, but it should always be in harmony with the fruit and other flavors. The presence of acid is necessary for wines to age and gives it a lively, crisp quality. Acid is tasted on the sides of the tongue and mouth.


Aerate

To allow a wine to “breathe” by exposing the it to oxygen. Aerating a wine helps it to mellow and develop its full flavors, especially red wines. Decanting is a way to aerate wine.


Appellation

One specific geographic area from which a wine is produced. Most European wines are named by appellation rather than grape varietal.


Aroma

The smell of wine. There are an unlimited number of aromas in wine, and just as many descriptive adjectives for those aromas. True wine appreciation will allow you to decipher and describe those aromas for yourself.


Astringent/Astringency

A mouth puckering sensation caused by the acid and tannin in a wine. Astringency often declines as a wine ages.


American Viticultural Area (AVA)

Specific grape growing areas in the United States as defined by the The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

 

Balance

Harmony among the wine’s components – a balance of acid, alcohol, fruit and tannins.


Big

One of the wine definitions used to described a “full-bodied” wine. A big wine has a powerful aroma and flavor. 

Body

The texture and weight of a wine. The component in wine that gives it body is glycerine.


Bouquet

All the aromas in a wine collectively make up its bouquet.


Breathe

To aerate or to allow air to mix with the wine.


Character

The features of a wine that distinguish it from any other wine. A good wine should have character.


Chewy

This wine term describes a red wine with a thickness and abundance of tannins.


Complex

Having many different flavors and aromas. A good wine should be complex.


Crisp

Usually associated with the acidity in wine and more often with white wine, this denotes a fresh, light character.


Decant/Decanting

Pouring wine from its original bottle into another container (decanter), allowing the wine to “breathe”.


Delicate

Light texture and subtle flavors. A delicate wine should not be paired with highly flavored foods.


Dry

One of the more common wine definitions, a dry wine has little or no residual sugar left in it after fermentation.


Earthy

More often used to describe European wines, these have aromas and flavors resembling the earth, perhaps even soil or rock.


Fat

One of the more unusual wine definitions, "fat" refers to a wine with full body and light acid.


Fermentation

The process of adding yeast to crushed grapes to turn their sugar into alcohol. Fermentation processes and times vary.


Finish

The final impression a wine leaves in your mouth. A finish which lingers (long) is good, and one that barely exists (short) is not so good.


Floral

Aromas found in wine resembling flowers. 

Forward

The dominant component in a wine that gives your mouth its first impression, for example “fruit forward”.


Fruit/Fruity

One of the wine descriptions used when a wine imparts prominent fruit flavors and aromas.


Full-Bodied

A wine which fills the mouth with flavors and alcohol. A full-bodied wine is also considered “thick”.


Glycerine

A complex alcohol that gives wine its thickness.


Harsh

Too much acid or tannin describes these rough, biting wines. They generally lack fruit.


Legs

These noticable traces of oil left running down the inside of your wine glass after it’s been tipped indicate the amounts of alcohol, glycerine and sugar. The longer the “legs”, the more of alcohol, glycerine and sugar present.


Magnum

A wine bottle holding twice the wine (1500 ml) than the average bottle (750 ml).


Mellow

A way to describe smooth, soft wine with low acidity.


Meritage

A term used by California wine producers to describe their wines blended from Bordeaux varieties. It was designed to indicate a wine blend of higher quality than a “table wine”.


Must

The mix of crushed grapes, skins and seeds from which red wine is drawn.


Nose

One of the more frequently used wine definitions, the nose is simply the smell of wine, as in having a “good nose”.


Nouveau

A young wine meant to be consumed right away. It is French for “new”.


Oak

The smell, taste and character of a wine imparted by storage in oak wine barrels. Wines are generally fermenting in oak barrels or stainless steel.


Oenology/Oenophile

The study of wine or one who studies and appreciates wine. You will become an oenophile after spending time on this website.


Oxidation

The exposure of wine to oxygen or air. Some exposure is good and necessary, but too much will turn wine to vinegar.


Palate

How one perceives the taste and flavor of wine in the mouth.


Pips

These are the grape seeds which are a source of tannins in red wine. Pips can also impart a bitter taste, so the amount of contact they have with a juice must be monitored.


Punt

The indentation in the bottom of many wine bottles.


Reserve

A term with no legal definition in the United States, it is implied reserve wines are aged longer and made better than regularly bottled wines.


Robust

One of the wine definitions meaning full-bodied, full-flavored and high in alcohol content.


Sediment

The non-liquid material at the bottom of a bottle of wine. Sediment is not detrimental and simply part of the wine.


Silky

Having smooth texture and finish, silky wines lack tannins and have a fair amount of glycerine.


Smooth

A wine that feels good in the mouth, generally light in tannin and acid.


Sommelier

The restaurant specialist who has considerable wine knowledge and assists guests with their wine selection.


Spicy

Having spicy characteristics, such as mint, clove, cinnamon, vanilla or pepper.


Sweet

"Sweet" is one of the wine definitions easily confused with "fruity". Sweet indicates the presence of residual sugar, left over when the grape juice is converted to alcohol. Some dry wines have an aroma of sweetness that in reality comes from ripe fruit flavors.


Tannin

An ingredient found naturally in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes. Tannins are usually found in red wines and give that dry, lip puckering sensation. Tannins are an important component in red wine and soften with age.


Varietal

Wine that is made from one dominant grape variety and whose labels states so.


Velvety

Another of the wine definitions for a smooth, silky wine with low acid, low tannin and substantial glycerine.


Vintage

The year the wine is harvested. A wine’s vintage will be found on all wine labels.


Vintner

A wine maker – the person who makes all decisions related to the production of a wine.


Yeast

The organism that facilitates the process of fermentation and turns grape juice into alcohol.

We hope you have found these wine descriptions helpful.