Vineyard Terminology | Winery Terminology | Wine Making Terminology | Wine Characteristics | Wine Tasting Notes
Appellation : a system developed by the French to regulate the authenticity of their finest wines. Appellation applies specifically to the region where the grapes were grown. The French also regulate what grapes can be grown where, what wine making methods can be used, how large the yields can be, etc. Other countries have adopted their own versions of controlled appellations with varying success. American Viticultural Area “AVA”
Biodynamism: a method of organic farming originally developed by Rudolf Steiner that employs what proponents describe as “a holistic understanding of agricultural processes.” One of the first sustainable agriculture movements, it treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically-interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives. Proponents of biodynamic agriculture, including Steiner, have characterized it as “spiritual science” as part of the larger anthroposophy movement.
Bird Netting: bird netting or anti-bird netting is a form of bird pest control. It is a net used to prevent birds from reaching certain areas.
Canopy: the canopy of a grapevine includes the parts of the vine visible above ground – the trunk, cordon, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit.
Canopy Management: the art of maintaining the canopy of the vine; this can include, but is not limited to, pruning and leaf trimming as well as guiding of the vine with steaks or trellis systems.
Cordon Training: the cordon or “arms” of the grapevine extend from the trunk and are the part where additional arms, and eventually leaves and grape clusters, extend. The cordons are usually trained along wires as part of a trellis system. This training usually fixes the cordon into a permanent position, such as horizontal extending from the trunk in opposite directions.
Cover Crop: a crop planted primarily to manage soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in an agroecosystem (Lu et al. 2000), an ecological system managed and largely shaped by humans across a range of intensities to produce food, feed, or fiber.
Clone: the term clone is used in horticulture to refer to descendants of a single plant which were produced by vegetative reproduction or apomixis. Many horticultural plant cultivars are clones, having been derived from a single individual, multiplied by some process other than sexual reproduction.
Cuttings: also known as striking or cloning, this is a technique for vegetatively (asexually) propagating plants in which a piece of the stem or root of the source plant is placed in a suitable medium such as moist soil, potting mix, coir or rock wool. The cutting produces new roots, stems, or both, and thus becomes a new plant independent of the parent.
Deer Fencing: deer and goats can easily jump an ordinary agricultural fence, so special fencing is needed for farming goats or deer, or to keep wild deer out of farmland and gardens. Deer fencing is often made of lightweight woven wire netting nearly 2 meters (about six feet) high on lightweight posts; otherwise made like an ordinary woven wire fence.
Dropping Fruit: the process of some fruit being pulled off so that the vine will put its energy towards the remaining clusters, making for more intense characteristics in the bottle.
Frost Protection: in California, a common practice is putting up giant fans along the vines that keep the cold air from settling down to the vines.
Grafting: a horticultural technique whereby tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues may join together. This vascular joining is called inosculation. The technique is most commonly used in asexual propagation of commercially-grown plants for the horticultural and agricultural trades.
Irrigation: the artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall. Additionally, irrigation also has a few other uses in crop production including protecting plants against frost, suppressing weed growing in grain fields and helping in preventing soil consolidation.
Leaf Axil: the acute angle between a vine shoot and a leaf stem or petiole extending from the shoot.
Microclimate: a local atmospheric zone where the climate differs from the surrounding area. The term may refer to areas as small as a few square feet (for example, a garden bed) or as large as many square miles. Microclimates exist, for example, near bodies of water which may cool the local atmosphere or in heavily urban areas where brick, concrete, and asphalt absorb the sun’s energy, heat up, and re-radiate that heat to the ambient air; the resulting urban heat island is a kind of microclimate.
Old Vines: a term commonly used on wine labels to indicate that a wine is the product of grape vines that are notably old. The practice of displaying this term stems from the general belief that older vines, when properly handled, will give a better wine.
Over Cropped: to crop (land) to excess; exhaust the fertility of by continuous cropping.
Phylloxera: a pest of commercial grapevines worldwide, originally native to eastern North America. These almost-microscopic, pale yellow sap-sucking insects, related to aphids, feed on the roots and leaves of grapevines (depending on the phylloxera genetic strain). On Vitis vinifera L., the resulting deformations on roots (“nodosities” and “tuberosities”) and secondary fungal infections can girdle roots, gradually cutting off the flow of nutrients and water to the vine. Nymphs also form protective galls on the undersides of grapevine leaves of some Vitis species and overwinter under the bark or on the vine roots; these leaf galls are typically only found on the leaves of American vines.
Pruning: a horticultural and silvicultural practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots. Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing nursery specimens for transplanting, and both harvesting and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits. The practice entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants. Specialized pruning practices may be applied to certain plants, such as roses, fruit trees, and grapevines. Different pruning techniques may be deployed on herbaceous plants than those used on perennial woody plants. Hedges, by design, are usually (but not exclusively) maintained by hedge trimming, rather than by pruning.
Ripping or Tillage: tillage, or cultivation, is the agricultural preparation of the soil by plowing, ripping or turning it. Tillage can also mean the land that is tilled, the process of fostering the growth of something, the cultivation of bees for honey, the act of raising or growing plants (especially on a large scale).
Root Stock: part of a plant, often an underground part, from which new above-ground growth can be produced. It can refer to a rhizome or underground stem. In grafting, it refers to a plant, sometimes just a stump, which already has an established, healthy root system, onto which a cutting or a bud from another plant is grafted. In some cases, such as vines of grapes and other berries, cuttings may be used for rootstocks, the roots being established in nursery conditions before planting them out.
Soil: natural body consisting of layers (soil horizons) that are primarily composed of minerals, mixed with at least some organic matter, which differ from their parent materials in their texture, structure, consistency, color, chemical, biological and other characteristics. It is the loose covering of fine rock particles that covers the surface of the earth. Soil is the end product of the influence of the climate, relief (slope), organisms, parent materials (original minerals), and time.
Spacing: spacing between plants – think about the region you live in, what your climate is, what your soil mixture is and what grape variety you intend to plant. Basically, how vigorous will your vine be in regards to those factors?
If, for instance, you live in high soil fertility, deep clay with lots of organic matter and lots of rainfall in a hot climate, then you are likely to need more spacing between your vine rows – approximately 6-8′ apart. However, if you have poorer soils and you are located in a dry region, much less distance maybe more appropriate 4-6′ spacing might be ideal.
Terroir: a French word reflecting the expression in a wine of the soil, climate, and farming methods of a vineyard site.
Thinning: cluster thinning grapevines means removing all but the most basal cluster on each shoot. This is done anytime after the shoot has begun rapid growth until the grapes turn color. The best time is before they bloom.
Cluster thinning means losing some yield. But often if this is done before bloom, the yield is only reduced by one third. The remaining clusters have a better fruit set and the berries are larger than if not cluster thinned. This is why the yield is not halved. If you cluster thin after bloom, you run the risk of losing more yield. This is more true if you leave this operation until the grapes begin to change color.
Cluster thinning enables your grapes to ripen fully. It also increases the quality of the fruit. This means that they will make a better wine if that is your purpose. Eating (or table) grapes don’t usually need cluster thinning but you will gain quality, even with these varieties.
Trellis: the trellis refers to the actual stakes, posts, wires or other structures that the grapevine is attached to.
Varietals: describes a wine made primarily from a single-named grape variety and which typically displays the name of that variety on the wine label. Examples of grape varieties commonly used in varietal wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. Wines that display the name of two or more varieties on their label, such as a Chardonnay-Viognier, are blends and not varietal wines. The term is frequently misused in place of vine variety; the term variety refers to the vine or grape while varietal refers to the wine produced by a variety.
Veraison: is a viticulture (grape-growing) term meaning “the onset of ripening.” It is originally French, but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of veraison is “change of color of the grape berries.” Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur at veraison.
Vigor: the overall condition of a grapevine is referred to as its vigor. The term describes the strength of the vine and the balance of leaves and canes to fruit.
American Oak: American oak tends to be more intensely flavored than French oak with more sweet and vanilla overtones due to the American oak having two to four times as many lactones. Winemakers choose American oak typically for bold, powerful reds, base wines for “assemblage,” or for warm climate Chardonnays. Besides being derived from different species, a major difference between American and French oak comes from the preparation of the wood. The tighter grain and less watertight nature of French oak obliges coopers to split the wood along the grain. The wood is then aged or “seasoned” for 24 to 36 months in the open air, in a so-called wood-yard.
Barrel Racks: racks on which wine barrels are stored.
Barrels: wine barrels, especially those made of oak, have long been used as containers in which wine is aged. Aging in oak typically imparts desirable vanilla, butter and spice flavors to wine. The size of the barrel plays a large role in determining the effects of oak on the wine by dictating the ratio of surface area to volume of wine with smaller containers having a larger impact. The most common barrels are the Bordeaux barriques style which hold 225 liters (59 US gal) followed by the Burgundy style barrel which hold 228 liters (60 US gal). Some New World wine makers are now also using the larger hogshead 300-liter (79 US gal) barrel. Larger barrels are also traditionally used in parts of Italy such as Barolo, as well as the south of France.
Bins: originally a batch or collection of wine bottles, but more specifically a brand name that separates a particular wine from others produced by the same winery. Often appears on wine labels with a number such as ‘Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon’.
Bottling Line: the process for bottling wine is largely similar to that for bottling beer, except wine bottles differ in volumes and shapes. Traditionally, a cork is used to provide closure to wine bottles. After filling, a bottle travels to a corking machine (corker) where a cork is compressed and pushed into the neck of the bottle. Whilst this is happening, the corker vacuums the air out of the bottle to form a negative pressure headspace. This removes any oxygen from the headspace, which is useful as latent oxygen can ruin the quality of the product via oxidation. A negative pressure headspace will also counteract pressure caused by the thermal expansion of the wine, preventing the cork from being forced from the bottle. Champagnes and sparkling wines may further be sealed with a muselet, which ensures the cork will not explode off in transit. Many alternative wine closures are emerging in the market, such as screw caps.
Bud Break: the grape starts its annual growth cycle in the spring with bud break. In the Northern Hemisphere, this stage begins around March while in the Southern Hemisphere it begins around September when daily temperatures begin to surpass 10 °C (50 °F). If the vine had been pruned during the winter, the start of this cycle is signaled by a “bleeding” of the vine. This bleeding occurs when the soil begins to warm and osmotic forces pushes water, containing a low concentration of organic acids, hormones, minerals and sugars, up from the root system of the vine and it is expelled from the cuts (or “wounds”) left over from pruning the vine. During this period a single vine can “bleed” up to 5 litres (1.3 US gal) of water.
Bung: or stopper is a truncated cylindrical or conical closure to seal a container, such as a bottle, tube or barrel. Unlike a lid which encloses a container from the outside without displacing the inner volume, a bung is partially inserted inside the container to act as a seal.
Cane: cane pruning requires an annual replacement or renewal of one year old wood (canes) on the fruiting wire. These canes typically contain 6 – 10 buds and are 1 – 2 feet long. The buds from these canes will produce fruitful shoots that support that year’s crop. The subsequent winter that cane will be removed and replaced by a new one year old cane.
Cap: the layer of grape skins that are forced by rising carbon dioxide gas to the top of the fermentation vessel during cuvaison.
Cold Stable: a winemaking process where wine is chilled to near freezing temperatures for several weeks to encourage the precipitation of tartrate crystals.
Cooperage: barrel assembly by a “cooper” or barrel maker.
Fermenters: yeasts interact with sugars in the juice to create ethanol, commonly known as ethyl alcohol, and carbon dioxide (as a by-product). In winemaking, the temperature and speed of fermentation are important considerations as well as the levels of oxygen present in the must at the start of the fermentation.
Filtering: filtration works by passing the wine through a filter medium that captures particles larger than the medium’s holes. Complete filtration may require a series of filtering through progressively finer filters. Many white wines require the removal of all potentially active yeast and/or lactic acid bacteria if they are to remain reliably stable in bottle, and this is usually now achieved by fine filtration.
Most filtration in a winery can be classified as either the coarser depth filtration or the finer surface filtration. In depth filtration, often done after fermentation, the wine is pushed through a thick layer of pads made from cellulose fibers, diatomaceous earth or perlite. In surface filtration the wine passes through a thin membrane. Running the wine parallel to the filter surface, known as cross-flow filtration, will minimize the filter clogging. The finest surface filtration, microfiltration, can sterilize the wine by trapping all yeast and, optionally, bacteria and is often done immediately prior to bottling. An absolute rated filter of 0.45 µm is generally considered to result in a microbially stable wine and is accomplished by the use of membrane cartridges, most commonly polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). Certain red wines may be filtered to 0.65 µm, to remove yeast, or to 1.0 µm to remove viable brettanomyces only.
Fining: fining is the process where a substance (fining agent) is added to the wine to create an adsorbent, enzymatic or ionic bond with the suspended particles, producing larger molecules and larger particles that will precipitate out of the wine more readily and rapidly. Unlike filtration, which can only remove particulates (such as dead yeast cells and grape fragments), fining can remove soluble substances such as polymerized tannins, coloring phenols and proteins; some of these proteins can cause haziness in wines exposed to high temperatures after bottling. The reduction of tannin can reduce astringency in red wines intended for early drinking. Many substances have historically been used as fining agents, including dried blood powder, but today there are two general types of fining agents — organic compounds and solid/mineral materials.
Free Run Juice: juice obtained from grapes that have not been pressed.
French Oak: besides being derived from different species, a major difference between American and French oak comes from the preparation of the wood. The tighter grain and less watertight nature of French oak obliges coopers to split the wood along the grain. The wood is then aged or “seasoned” for 24 – 36 months in the open air, in a so-called wood-yard.
French oak, generates silky and transparent tannins, which transmit a sensation of light sweetness combined with fruity flavors that persist in the mouth. Spices and toasted almond are noteworthy, combined with flavors of ripe red fruit in red wines, and notes of peach, exotic fruits and floral aromas like jasmine and rose in whites, depending on the grape variety employed.
Gravity Fed : a winemaking process that utilizes gravity instead of pumps for the flow of the grapes.
Laboratory: location where wine is analyzed and tested.
Large Format Bottles: larger bottle sizes are well suited to longer aging of Bordeaux wine or other wines. It is a known fact that wine from larger formats age more slowly and possibly even develop more complexity and nuances than wines from smaller bottles. This is due to the smaller amount of air that resides between the cork and the wine.
Lees: refers to deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate, or are carried by the action of “fining” to the bottom of a vat of wine after fermentation and aging. The yeast deposits in beer brewing are known as trub. However, yeast deposits from secondary fermentation of wine of both wine and beer are referred to as lees.
Normally the wine is transferred to another container (racking), leaving this sediment behind. Some wines (notably Chardonnay, Champagne and Muscadet) are sometimes aged for a time on the lees (a process known as sur lie), leading to a distinctive yeasty aroma and taste. The lees may be stirred (bâtonage in French) in order to promote uptake of the lees flavor.
The lees are an important component in the making of Ripasso where the left-over lees from Amarone are used to impart more flavor and color to partially aged Valpolicella.
Maceration: the winemaking process where the phenolic materials of the grape—tannins, coloring agents (anthocyanins) and flavor compounds—are leached from the grape skins, seeds and stems into the must. To macerate is to soften by soaking, and maceration is the process by which the red wine receives its red color, since 99% of all grape juice (with the exceptions of teinturiers) is clear-grayish in color. In the production of white wines, maceration is either actively avoided or allowed in a very limited manner in the form of a short amount of skin contact with the juice prior to pressing. This is more common in the production of varietals with less natural flavor and body structure such as Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon. For Rosé, red wines grapes are allowed some maceration between the skins and must, but not to the extent of red wine production.
Thief: a glass or food-grade plastic pipette used in the process of wine making. It may be anywhere from 12 – 24 inches (30 to 60 centimetres) in length and may have a bend near one end. The wine thief is used to remove a small amount of wine from a cask, carboy, or other fermentation device for testing.
Topping: the process of filling the headspace that is created inside a barrel through wine evaporation into the barrel wood.
Wine Making Terminology
Aging: aging of wine, and its ability to potentially improve wine quality, distinguishes wine from most other consumable goods. While wine is perishable and capable of deteriorating, complex chemical reactions involving a wine’s sugars, acids and phenolic compounds (such as tannins) can alter the aroma, color, mouthfeel and taste of the wine in a way that may be more pleasing to the taster. The ability of a wine to age is influenced by many factors including grape variety, vintage, viticultural practices, wine region and winemaking style. The condition that the wine is kept in after bottling can also influence how well a wine ages and may require significant time and financial investment.
Alcohol Percentage: natural wines may exhibit a broad range of alcohol content, from below 9% to above 16% ABV, with most wines being in the 12.5 – 14.5% range. Fortified wines (usually with brandy) may contain 20% alcohol or more.
Barrel-Fermented: wine that is fermented in small barrels rather than large tanks.
Blending: the mixing of different wine varietals to create a unique blend of flavors
Brix: a technical term that refers to a system of measuring the amount of residual sugar in wine.
Capsule: the plastic or foil that covers the cork and part of the neck of a wine bottle.
Cork: is an impermeable, buoyant material, a prime-subset of bark tissue that is harvested for commercial use primarily from Quercus suber (the Cork Oak), which is endemic to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. Cork is composed of suberin, a hydrophobic substance, and because of its impermeability, buoyancy, elasticity and fire resistance, it is used in a variety of products, the most common of which is for wine stoppers.
Estate: bottled wine made exclusively from grapes grown on a winery’s property and produced by the winery, which must be located in the same AVA where the grapes are grown.
Esters: compounds formed in wine either during fermentation or the wine’s aging development that contribute to a wine’s aroma.
Glycerol: gives a sweet taste on the tongue tip. Higher concentrations are found in high-alcohol and late-harvest wines, leading to sensations of smooth slipperiness giving a sense of fullness to the wine body. Is a natural by-product of the fermentation process
Juice: grape juice is fermented in the wine-making process
Malolactic: a secondary fermentation occurring in most red and some white wines used to convert the grapes primary malic acid into a softer lactic acid.
Meritage: a red or white wine made from blending classic Bordeaux grapes (the word itself is a condensation of Merit and Heritage)
Must Grape: juice and/or crushed grapes before or during fermentation.
Pomace: are the solid remains ofgrapes, olives, or other fruit after pressing for juice or oil. It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit.
Grape pomace has traditionally been used to produce pomace brandy (such as grappa, zivania ortörkölypálinka) and grape seed oil. Today, it is mostly used as fodder or fertilizer.
Punching Down: is done to keep the fermenting wine and skins mixed up during red wine fermentation. describes the process of breaking up the cap and pushing it back down into the wine so that the cap stays moist during fermentation
Punt: the dent in the bottom of a wine or champagne bottle is the kick or punt.
Racking: a method used in filtering or fining, whereby wine is moved from one barrel to another using gravity rather than a pump.
Reserve: often used to identify a winerys better quality wines, the term has no quantifiable or legal meaning.
Residual Sugar: the amount of sugar not converted to alcohol during fermentation that indicates a wines relative sweetness.
Saignee: the saignée method (meaning “bleeding” in French), involves making rosé as a by-product of red wine fermentation, where a portion of the pink juice from the grape must is removed at an early stage, which is fermented separately to produce rosé.
Screw Cap: a screw cap is a metal cap that screws onto threads on the neck of a bottle, generally with a metal skirt down the neck to resemble the traditional wine capsule (“foil”). A layer of plastic (often PVDC), cork, rubber, or other soft material is used as wad to make a seal with the mouth of the bottle. Its use as an alternative wine closure is gaining increasing support as an alternative to cork for sealing wine bottles. In markets such as Australia and New Zealandscrew caps on bottles have overtaken cork to become the most common means of sealing bottles, right across the wine industry.[1
Sorting: the process of identifying the right type of grape for each wine varietal
Sulfites: occur naturally in all wines to some extent. Sulfites are commonly introduced to arrest fermentation at a desired time, and may also be added to wine as preservatives to prevent spoilage and oxidation at several stages of the winemaking. Sulfur dioxide (SO2, sulfur with two atoms of oxygen) protects wine from not only oxidation, but also from bacteria. Without sulfites, grape juice would quickly turn to vinegar.
Organic wines are not necessarily sulfite-free. In general, sweet (dessert) wines contain more sulfites than dry wines, and some sweet white wines contain more sulfites than red wines.
In the United States, wines bottled after mid-1987 must have a label stating that they contain sulfites if they contain more than 10 parts per million. In the European Union an equivalent regulation came into force in November 2005. In 2012, a new regulation for organic wines came into force.
Tannin: derived from the skins, stalks and seeds of grapes, as well as the oak barrels used for aging, tannin accounts for a wine’s astringency (which is reduced over time) and is an essential element for aging.
Tartrates: in wine, tartrates are the harmless crystalline deposits that separate from wines during fermentation and aging. The principal component of this deposit is potassium bitartrate, a potassium salt of tartatic acid. Small amounts of pulp debris, dead yeast, and precipitated phenolic materials such as tannins make up the impurities contaminating the potassium acid tartrate.
Varietal: derived from the term “grape variety” it indicates the type of grapes (e.g. Chardonnay). For a wine to be labeled a varietal it must contain at least 75% of the named grape variety.
Vineyard Designated: indicates that at least 95% of the grapes used to make the wine came from the named vineyard.
Vintage: if a vintage date is used on a label (e.g. 1998) it means that at least 95% of the wine must be from grapes grown during that year.
Yeast: the role of yeast in winemaking is the most important element that distinguishes wine from grape juice. In the absence of oxygen, yeast convert the sugars of wine grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the process of fermentation. The more sugars in the grapes, the higher the potential alcohol level of the wine if the yeast are allowed to carry out fermentation to dryness. Sometimes winemakers will stop fermentation early in order to leave some residual sugars and sweetness in the wine such as with dessert wines. This can be achieved by dropping fermentation temperatures to the point where the yeast are inactive, sterile filtering the wine to remove the yeast or fortification with brandy to kill off the yeast cells. If fermentation is unintentionally stopped, such as when the yeasts become exhausted of available nutrients, and the wine has not yet reached dryness this is considered a stuck fermentation.
Acetic: a vinegar-like smell and/or taste caused by acetic acid.
Acidity: natural acids in wine. A critical element of wine, it is essential for freshness, flavor and aging. The term generally applies to the citric, malic, tartaric and lactic acids in wine and is essential to balance contrasting elements.
Aggressive: a somewhat negative connotation relating to a harshness of taste (sometimes caused by excessive acid).
Alcohol: often tasting hot or peppery, a wine in which a high level of alcohol overwhelms the fruit and balance.
Aroma: the scent a wine derives from its grape variety (as opposed to scents that result from the wine making process).
Astringent: a result of tannin content (and sometimes high acid), it is the aspirin-like, tea-like quality that causes a dry, puckering sensation in the mouth.
Austere: a severe, almost spartan quality that can result from tannin or acid (often in wine that needs more time to mature).
Balance: a good wine is said to be well-balanced. The reference is to the symbiotic interrelationship and desired harmony between the major components of a wine fruit, sugar, acidity, tannins, alcohol and oak aging.
Bite: a lively sharpness resulting from a wine’s acidity.
Bitter: frequently caused by too much tannin, this is most often not a desirable trait in wine. However, many Italian red wines feature an appealing amount of bitterness that balances wonderfully with pasta and tomato sauces.
Body: light-bodied, medium-bodied, full-bodied; the term takes into account a wine’s density and viscosity with reference to the impression of fullness or weight on the palate.
Bouquet: as opposed to aroma (the scent of the grape), bouquet refers to the scent a wine acquires with aging in oak and in the bottle.
Brilliant: a wine of absolute clarity. This is not important to most experienced tasters, since highly-filtered wines will always be brilliant–yet the process of filtration can strip much of the flavor and character from a fine wine. Most of the finest wines available deposit sediment with aging.
Character: complimentary term for wine indicating distinction and individuality.
Clean: a positive trait indicating a simple, direct flavor without serious flaws.
Closed: qualities in a wine that have yet to present themselves. Often, complex wines open up once poured or decanted.
Coarse: a rough texture, opposite of a smooth wine.
Creamy: a rich, smooth texture (often a quality of fine chardonnay or champagne).
Crisp: a positive attribute denoting a white wine’s sharp, zesty acidity.
Delicate: light, distinctive and refined but not timid.
Depth: full-flavored, multidimensional taste.
Distinguished: characterized by excellent quality.
Dry: no sugar or sweetness remaining; a fruity wine can be dry.
Elegant: describes beautiful, well-balanced wines–graceful, not necessarily full-bodied.
Fat: an overly-heavy, awkward and poorly-made wine.
Finesse: delicacy and refinement in structure and texture.
Finish: the residual flavors and aroma of a wine on the palate after swallowing. A long or lingering finish is a desirable attribute.
Firm: assertive, but not unbalanced, acidity particularly in wines requiring more aging.
Flabby: a great descriptive for a wine without enough acidity.
Flawed: a wine that is poorly-made and shows mistakes.
Fleshy: flavorful and soft, generally with relatively little tannin.
Fruit: even thought the actual flavor may be of black currants, apples, etc., the term refers to the amount of grape (i.e. fruit) taste in a wine.
Full-bodied: a wine with rich, mouth-filling texture and weight on the palate; as opposed to thin.
Hard: a wine (particularly red) with lots of tannin that needs time to mature.
Harsh: unbalanced wine that is tough on the palate.
Lean: generally not enough fruit and/or to much acidity, although not always a term of derision.
Nose: a wine’s aroma.
Robust: big, assertive and full-flavored.
Round: a wine with smooth flavors and textures; well balanced.
Silky: a texture with a mouthfeel that is as smooth as silk.
Simple: a wine that is light with limited aromas, flavors, and texture.
Soft: a term characterizing texture and referring to the amount of, and relationship between, a wine’s acid and tannin.
Wine Tasting Notes
Aeration: allowing a wine to “breathe” before drinking it in order to soften the tannins, smooth out the wine, and allow the bouquet and flavors to open up. Young red wines benefit most from aeration, accomplished by decanting the bottle into another container or by swirling the wine in a glass.
Aftertaste: some make a distinction between a wine’s finish and its aftertaste. The aftertaste is simply the taste sensation that remains after swallowing.
Aromatic: having a highly-evocative aroma; often used to denote a floral or spiced quality.
Beefy: descriptive for a big, solid red.
Buttery: usually associated with Chardonnay, it denotes the rich, creamy-vanilla flavor derived from the wine’s contact with new oak.
Caramel: the taste of caramelized sugar.
Chemical: refers to unpleasant smells or tastes from fermentation (often of sulfur or nail polish).
Chewy: excessive tannin in a wine, but also enough flavor to sustain it.
Corky: a wine that smells and tastes musty or moldy with the unpleasant qualities of a bad cork is said to be corky or corked.
Earthy: a vegetative, damp earth smell.
Flinty: a mineral tone, more often an aroma than flavor.
Floral: suggests the aroma or taste, usually aroma, of flowers.
Freshness: an aromatic quality, often floral or fruit-like.
Grassy: aromas and flavors of fresh-cut grass or fresh herbs.
Green: unripe, tart, sometimes harsh flavors and textures.
Herbaceous: a vegetal, grassy tone in aromas and flavors.
Hot: a relatively high alcohol content resulting in a taste that is peppery.
Jammy: a cooked, or stewed, sweetish quality.
Legs: swirl wine in a glass and then observe the liquid running down the inside of the bowl – these are the legs – and are a good measure of a wine’s body.
Length: generally used as a qualifier for a wine’s finish, which is either long, short or medium.
Lively: a young, fruity wine with vivacious flavors.
Mellow: a soft, but well-balanced wine.
Nutty: a characteristic of some dry whites.
Oaky: wines aged in oak take on a bit of the barrel’s taste and smell (often a vanilla or toasty quality).
Plummy: often a quality of big, ripe red wines.
Rich: deeply flavorful and textured.
Smokey: a smokey taste generally resulting from aging in charred oak barrels.
Spicy: spice flavors including cloves, mint, pepper, cinnamon and many others.
Steely: a clean, acidic, almost metallic taste in whites.
Stewed: similar to overly-cooked fruit from which the aroma has dissipated.
Supple: a wine that is smooth and soft textured.
Tart: lots of acidity resulting in a green-tasting wine.
Thin: unpleasantly watery, lacking in flavor intensity and texture.
Toasty: not a charred or burnt sensation, but rather reminiscent of fresh toast.
Tough: roughly-textured, often as a result of too much tannin.
Vegetal: when a wine smells like wet straw, mushrooms or compost.
Velvety: smooth texture and deep, rich flavors.
Yeasty: fresh dough, bread-like aroma and/or flavor.