From A to Z, the most important wine terms to know.
Acidic: The sour or tart taste of a wine due to very high acid levels.
Aeration: Allowing air to permeate a wine to improve its quality.
Aftertaste: Flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine has been swallowed. Also known as the “finish”.
Aging: Holding wine in a barrel, tank or bottle for a period of time to allow it to mature and develop more flavors and aromas. Also known as “cellaring”.
Aperitif: A small glass of wine or alcoholic drink enjoyed before a meal to arouse the appetite.
Appellation: A legally designated geographical region that identifies where the wine grapes were grown.
Appearance: How a wine looks based on its color, clarity, and brightness.
Aroma: The overall smell of the wine.
Astringent: A harsh, puckering sensation in the mouth caused by a high level of tannins or acidity in the wine.
Balance: A wine achieves balance when all of its elements (sugars, acids, tannins and alcohol) are in harmony.
Beaujolais: An appellation in eastern France known for its vivacious, fruity reds crafted from Gamay grapes.
Beaujolais Nouveau: A red wine made from Gamay grapes grown in the Beaujolais region of France. The wine is fermented for only a few weeks, then bottled and released for sale on the third Thursday of November – Beaujolais Nouveau Day.
Blanc: The French term for the color white. Blanc is used in the names of many white wines and grapes including Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Blend: Wine made from more than one fruit or grape varietal.
Blind Tasting: A method of evaluating a wine without knowledge of its grape, appellation, or price. This practice is used in wine judging competitions to ensure each wine is evaluated on its own merits.
Blush: A pink wine crafted from red grapes in the style of a white wine.
Body: A wine’s weight and texture in the mouth. A wine can be full, medium or light bodied based on the combination of alcohol and fruit.
Bordeaux: A red wine from the Bordeaux region of southwest France produced by blending at least two to these six permitted varietals together: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Vedot, Malbec, and Carménère. (White Bordeaux is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle grapes.)
Bouquet: The combination of intricate aromas that develop after a wine has been bottled and aged.
Breathe: Allowing air to infiltrate a wine after opening by decanting or swirling it in a glass. Also known as aeration.
Burgundy: A dry red wine produced in the Burgundy wine region in east-central France and crafted from Pinot Noir grapes. (White Burgundy is crafted from Chardonnay grapes.)
Cabernet Franc: A black wine grape variety grown in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley of France. One of the six grapes approved for blending in the Bordeaux style. In the U.S, Cabernet Franc is crafted as a varietal in the dry style. The wine has a floral nose with the flavor components of berries, flowers and green bell peppers.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Grown around the world, these red wine grapes are one of six allowed in Bordeaux wine. In the U.S, Cabernet Sauvignon is crafted as a varietal in the dry style. A young Cabernet may have vegetal flavors while a more mature Cab offers jammy flavors with a nose of tobacco or mint.
Capsule: The foil or plastic topper that protects the neck and cork of the wine bottle.
Catawba: A red native American grape grown on the East Coast with a foxy or musty nose and earthy flavor. The grapes are used in jams, jellies, juice and wine.
Cayuga: This white wine hybrid grape was developed in New York State and is produced in a semi-dry to dry style. With the light, fruity flavors of peach, apricot and melon, it is similar to a Riesling.
Chablis: A white wine grape grown in the northern section of the Burgundy region in France. Though produced from Chardonnay grapes, this wine has high acidity and a flinty taste imparted by the terroir. Crafted as a crisp, dry wine, the flavors are generally earthy with notes of honey.
Chambourcin: A hybrid grape that produces a deeply red colored wine. Styled as a dry or semi dry wine, the herbaceous aromas meld with the flavors of berries, cherries and plums.
Champagne: An effervescent white wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and crafted in the méthode champenoise. Champagne’s sweetness levels are described as: Extra Brut (very dry), Brut (dry), Extra Dry (semi-dry), Sec (semi-sweet), Demi-sec (sweet), and Doux (very sweet).
Chardonel: A white wine hybrid grape developed in New York that is usually barrel-fermented in a dry style. Citrus is on the nose with flavors of pear and fig.
Chardonnay: A white wine grape grown around the world. Chardonnay wines are usually light to medium bodied but can be made in many styles including dry, sparkling and late harvest.
Chenin Blanc: With origins in France, this white wine grape can be made into a wide variety of styles, from dry, to sparkling, to dessert wines. The flavor profile can include apple, peach and pear.
Chewy: This describes a full-bodied tannic wine with a thick, heavy texture that dries out the inside of the mouth.
Clarity: The clearness and brightness of a wine.
Commercial wine: A wine that is produced for a wide consumer market by a licensed and bonded winery or wine producer.
Complex: The change of flavors that occurs from the time a wine enters the mouth until it is swallowed, based on the wine’s depth, flavor intensity, bouquet, balance, and appeal.
Concord: A native American red grape used to make jams, jellies, juice and wine. Usually crafted as a sweet or dessert wine.
Cooperage: A term for the oak barrels or casks that hold a wine during the fermentation or aging process.
Corked: A flawed wine with the aroma and flavor of musty, moldy cardboard that is caused by a contaminated cork.
Crush: The process where the grapes are gently squeezed by a machine to break the skins and release the juices.
Cult Wine: Wines that are revered by a small or dedicated group willing to pay exorbitant sums of money for them. Also known as trophy wines.
Decant: Slowly pouring a wine into another container in order to separate the sediment out.
Dessert wine: Sweet wines with a high level of sugar and alcohol. In the U.S, this is any wine over 14% alcohol by volume, and includes fortified wines.
Dry: A wine with no noticeable taste of sweetness.
Earthy: A wine with a rustic yet clean and appealing flavor, and an aroma described as mushroom, leather, or the clean smell of plowed earth.
Fermentation: A winemaking process where yeast converts sugars into alcohol, which turns grape juice into wine.
Finish: The taste of a wine after swallowing. Also known as aftertaste.
Flabby: A wine that lacks acidity in the mouth.
Floral: A wine that smells or tastes like flowers. Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Traminette are floral wines.
Fortified: Wine that has distilled alcohol (usually brandy) added during fermentation to increase the alcohol content level.
Gewürztraminer: A white wine grape that produces a glitzy floral aroma with the flavors of flowers, citrus and spice.
Herbaceous: A wine that smells and tastes like herbs. Sauvignon Blanc is an herbaceous wine.
Hot: A wine that is unbalanced by too high of an alcohol content, causing a burning sensation in the mouth and throat.
Hybrid: The result of a cross between two or more grape varieties.
Ice wine: A dessert wine crafted from grapes frozen on the vine. Ice wine has the intense flavors of peach, melon and honey, and is served in small portions due to the high alcohol content. The word “Icewine” is trademarked by Canada.
Jammy: A term used to describe a syrupy berry-flavored sweetness.
Kosher wine: Wine that is produced according to Jewish dietary laws under the supervision of a rabbi.
Late harvest: A wine crafted from grapes left on the vine after the harvest in order to attain a higher sugar (Brix) level. Usually signifies a dessert wine.
Legs: The droplets or tracks of wine that cling to the inside of a glass after the wine has been swirled.
Madeira: A fortified wine made in Portugal that can be crafted dry to drink as an aperitif or made sweet for a dessert wine.
Magnum: A wine bottle that holds 1.5 liters of wine – the equivalent to two regular (750 ml) wine bottles.
Malbec: A red wine grape that produces a full-bodied wine. It is one of only six grapes allowed in producing a Bordeaux wine. Malbec is crafted in the dry style with aromas of herbs, raisins and tobacco, and the flavors of plums, cherries and berries.
Mead: A wine-like alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey and water. Styles may range from dry to dessert, and it’s often called “honey wine.”
Merlot: A versatile red wine grape used for blending and as a varietal: one of the primary grapes used in the Bordeaux blend. Merlot wine is produced in the dry style with herbal, floral, tobacco, and leather aromas followed by the earthy flavors of bell peppers, rosemary, eucalyptus, and thyme.
Moscato: This white wine grape, also known as Muscat Blanc, is grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. The aroma of orange blossoms and honeysuckle lead into the fruity flavors of peach, apricot and citrus.
Mouthfeel: This describes the manner in which a wine interacts with the mouth from the first sip, to swallowing, to the aftertaste. The mouthfeel acknowledges a wine’s texture, weight, dryness or sweetness, and may be described as chewy, sweet, heavy or tannic.
Mulled wine: A heated, spiced wine.
New World wine: Wine produced outside of the traditional winegrowing regions of Europe. This includes the U.S, Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. New World wines have more body and are more fruit-forward than Old World wines.
NonVintage (NV): A nonvintage wine is made from grapes harvested over two or more years.
Norton (Cynthiana): A red wine hybrid grape developed in Virginia. Norton has the flavors of elderberry, cherry and cedar, and is the only native American grape that can be crated to taste like a European wine. It is the signature state grape of Missouri.
Nose: The smell or aroma of the wine.
Oaky: A flavor imparted by fermenting or aging wine in a barrel, or with oak chips. The flavor profile includes vanilla, butter, caramel, cedar, and spices, as well as toasty and smoky notes.
Oenology: The science and study of wine and winemaking.
Oenophile: Someone who loves wine.
Old World wine: Wine produced in the traditional winegrowing regions of Europe including France, Austria, Romania, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Old World wines are light-bodied with more herbal, floral, mineral, and earthy elements.
Organic: A wine made from grapes grown according to the tenets of organic farming.
Oxidized: A wine that has been over-exposed to the air during the aging process: one of the most common wine flaws.
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio: A white wine grape with spicy, tropical fruit flavors. Pinot Gris is from France – Pinot Grigio is from Italy.
Pinto Noir: A red wine grape with fresh berry aromas and flavors. Typically crafted in the dry style.
Plonk: A slang term for a poor quality wine.
Port: A sweet, fortified dessert wine that originated in Portugal
Punt: The indentation in the bottom of a wine bottle.
Quaff: To partake in an alcoholic beverage liberally.
Riesling: A white wine grape with a flowery aroma and fruit-forward flavor.
Robust: Signifies a wine that is full-bodied and flavorful.
Rosé: This may be the oldest type of wine known. Different red grape varietals are used, and the pink color can range from light to intense.
Sangiovese: Crafted from a variety of red wine grapes to make Italian Chianti.
Sangria: A red wine that has fruit and spice added: of Spanish origin.
Sauvignon Blanc: A white wine grape crafted in the dry style. It is considered an herbaceous wine because of the grassy and herbal aroma. Flavors include citrus, melon, herbs, and minerals.
Seyval: A white wine hybrid grape grown mainly in the U.S, Canada and England. Citrus is the predominant aroma and flavor with a hint of minerality.
Sherry: A fortified dessert wine originating from Spain.
Shiraz/Syrah: A red wine grape with the robust flavors of fruit and spice. Shiraz is from Australia – Syrah is from France.
Soft: A wine that is not excessively tannic (harsh).
Sommelier: A trained wine professional, knowledgeable about all attributes of wine throughout the world. Usually employed at a fine restaurant.
Sparkling wine: An effervescent wine made using carbon dioxide to create the bubbles.
Structure: A combination of a wine’s texture and mouthfeel in relation to acid, glycerin, tannins, alcohol and body.
Sulfites: Composed of sulfur dioxide, sulfites occur naturally in wine and may also be added to help preserve it.
Tannin: A naturally occurring compound found in grape and fruit skins that adds astringency, bitterness, and complexity to a wine.
Tasting notes: Written descriptions of how a wine tastes and smells. Tasting notes may be written by a wine drinker for personal use, or by a winery as a guide for consumers.
Terroir: The geographical place where the soil, climate and geology affect the grapes and characterizes where they grow.
Traminette: A white wine hybrid grape developed in New York with a floral aroma and the flavors of apricot and honey. Traminette is the signature state wine of Indiana.
Unfiltered wine: A wine that was not filtered to remove particles during the winemaking process.
Varietal: A wine crafted from a single grape variety.
Velvety: A wine with a smooth and silky mouthfeel.
Vidal: A white wine hybrid grape that is well suited for making sweet and dessert wines with intensely fruity flavors.
Vineyard: A farm or estate planted with grapevines used for the production of wine.
Vino: An alcoholic beverage produced from fermented grapes and fruits. Vino is the Italian and Spanish word for wine.
Vintage: The year the grapes were harvested. The vintage is listed on the bottle.
Vintner: A person who makes the wine: the winemaker.
Wine: An alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes and fruits.
Wine geek: Someone who is passionate about wine; wants to learn more about it and is willing to try unknown wines for the experience.
Wine snob: Someone who is passionate about wine but tries those with wine ratings or points, or those touted by wine critics; someone who enjoys imposing their wine knowledge on others.
Wine tasting: A way to examine and evaluate wine by appearance, aroma, mouthfeel and aftertaste.
Yeast: One of the most important ingredients used in winemaking. The yeast converts the sugars from the grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide during the fermentation process, which in turn produces the wine.
Zymology: The study of wine fermentation.