Ever go to a wine tasting and the person providing samples starts using fancy jargon and you have no idea what he is talking about other than the wine taste good?

Don’t worry, I do it at times to. I’ve learned a lot though since moving to this area and I have a good friend who introduced me to the bigger world of wine!



Acidity – A naturally occurring component of every wine; the level of perceived sharpness; a key element to a wine’s longevity; a leading determinant of balance.

Aging – Holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state

Alcohol – The end product of fermentation; technically ethyl alcohol resulting from the interaction of natural grape sugars and yeast; generally above 12.5 percent in dry table wines.

Aroma – A scent that is a component of the bouquet or nose; i.e. cherry is an aromatic component of a fruity bouquet.

Astringent – Tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, and drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannin.

Barrel Fermented – A process by which wine is fermented in oak barrels rather than in stainless steel tanks; a richer, creamier, oakier style of wine.

Blend – The process whereby two or more grape varieties are combined after separate fermentation; common blends include Cotes de Rhone and red and white Bordeaux.

Body – The impression of weight on one’s palate; light, medium, and full are common body qualifiers.

Breathing – Exposing wine to oxygen to improve its flavors

Brix – A scale used to measure the level of sugar in unfermented grapes. Multiplying brix by 0.55 will yield a wine’s future alcohol level.

Bouquet – The sum of a wine’s aromas; how a wine smells as a whole; a key determinant of quality.

Bung – The plug used to seal a wine barrel

Bung Hole – The opening in a cask in which wine can be put in or taken out.

Chaptalization – Adding sugar to wine before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels. Chaptalization is illegal in some parts of the world, and highly controlled in others.

Citric Acid – One of the three predominate acids in wine

Color – A key determinant of a wine’s age and quality; white wines grow darker in color as they age while red wines turn brownish orange.

Corked – A wine with musty, mushroomy aromas and flavors resulting from a cork tainted by TCA (trichloroanisol).

Decant – The process of transferring wine from a bottle to another holding vessel. The purpose is generally to aerate a young wine or to separate an older wine from any sediment.

Discourge – The process by which final sediments are removed from traditionally made sparkling wines prior to the adding of the dosage.

Dry – A wine containing no more than 0.2 percent unfermented sugar.

Earthy – A term used to describe aromas and flavors that have a certain soil-like quality.

Extract – This is everything in a wine besides water, sugar, alcohol, and acidity.

Fermentation – The process by which sugar is transformed into alcohol; how grape juice interacts with yeast to become wine.

Filtration – The process by which wine is clarified before bottling.

Fortified Wine – A wine in which brandy is introduced during fermentation; sugars and sweetness are high due to the suspended fermentation.

Fruity – A tasting term for wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit

Full-bodied – A wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as “big”.

Haut – A French word meaning ‘high.’ It applies to quality as well as altitude.

Herbaceous – A tasting term denoting odors and flavors of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary, etc.).

Hollow – A term used to describe a wine that doesn’t have depth or body.

Jeroboam – An oversized bottle equal to six regular 750 ml bottles.

Kosher – A wine made according to strict Jewish rules under rabbinical supervision.

Lees – Heavy sediment left in the barrel by fermenting wines; a combination of spent yeast cells and grape solids.

Legs – A term used to describe how wine sticks to the inside of a wineglass after drinking or swirling.

Magnum – A bottle equal to two regular 750 ml bottles.

Malolactic Fermentation – A secondary fermentation, often occurring in barrels, whereby harsher malic acid is converted into creamier lactic acid.

Nose – Synonymous with bouquet; the sum of a wine’s aromas.

Oaky – A term used to describe woody aromas and flavors; butter, popcorn, and toast notes are found in ‘oaky’ wines.

Open – Tasting term signifying a wine that is ready to drink

Organic – Grapes grown without the aid of chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.

Oxidized – A wine that is no longer fresh because it was exposed to too much air.

pH – An indication of a wine’s acidity expressed by how much hydrogen is in it.

Plonk – A derogatory name for cheap, poor-tasting wine.

Reserva – A Spanish term for a red wine that has spent at least three years in barrels and bottles before release.

Riddling – The process of rotating Champagne bottles in order to shift sediment toward the cork.

Silky – A term used to describe a wine with an especially smooth mouthfeel.

Solera – The Spanish system of blending wines of different ages to create a harmonious end product; a stack of barrels holding wines of various ages.

Spicy – A term used to describe certain aromas and flavors that may be sharp, woody, or sweet.

Split – A quarter-bottle of wine; a single-serving bottle equal to 175 milliliters.

Steely – A term used to describe an extremely crisp, acidic wine that was not aged in barrels.

Steemy – A term used to describe harsh, green characteristics in a wine.

Table Wine – A term used to describe wines of between 10 and 14 percent alcohol; in Europe, table wines are those that are made outside of regulated regions or by unapproved methods.

Tannis – Carbolic acid compounds that exist in most plants; in grapes, tannins are found primarily in the skins and pits; tannins are astringent and provide structure to a wine; over time tannins die off, making wines less harsh.

Trocken – German for ‘dry.’

Ullage – The empty space left in bottles and barrels as a wine evaporates

Varietal – A wine made from just one grape type and named after that grape; the opposite of a blend.

Vegetal – Tasting term describing characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavors of the wine. Bell peppers, grass, and asparagus are common “vegetal” descriptors.

Vinification – The process of making wine.

Yeast – Organisms that issue enzymes that trigger the fermentation process; yeasts can be natural or commercial.

Yield – The amount of grapes harvested in a particular year.


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