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Wine Glossary

Wine Glossary

This wine glossary includes many descriptors that help wine tasters verbalize the tastes and aromas they perceive and which are used to help assess the overall quality of the wine.

Serious wine tasters attempt to provide an intense focus and employ a systematic approach to wine tasting in order to provide objective criticism and/or praise for the various wines being tasted.

Despite the attempt by wine tasters to provide objective evaluations of wine, it is also recognized that different individuals will have different perceptions of particular wine qualities.

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ACCESSIBLE - Descriptive of a wine that is pleasant to drink and is not overwhelming in any of its major components including the acidity level, extract, or tannins.

ACETIC - Caused by an overexposure to air, the acetic quality is a vinegary smell and/or taste. All wines have some quantity of acetic acidity and when there is an excess it creates a vinegary smell and a flawed wine.

ACIDIC - Descriptive of a wine with a strong acidity.

ACIDITY - An integral part of any wine, the acidity is a quality of the wine that provides a certain vitality to the wine. The wine’s acids are ideally in a proper balance so as to avoid an excess sharp quality in the wine (too much acidity), or a flatness (too low of a level of acidity). 

A good acidity provides a crispness and a liveliness that is essential during the aging process. Excess acidity causes the wine to be sour and tart, masking the wine’s flavors. 

Lactic acid, tartaric acid and malic acid are the three main acids found in wine. The first comes from malolactic fermentation that typically occurs during the making of the wine, while the latter two come from the grapes themselves.

AFTERTASTE - The taste of the wine on the palate subsequent to swallowing and consisting of a general flavor impression that may distinct or subtle, and may linger or instead quick or even undetectable. Finer wines provide a longer aftertaste. Also called finish.

AGGRESSIVE - Descriptive of a wine with harsh tannin levels or an excessively high acidity level; harsh flavors. The opposite of an aggressive wine is a soft or smooth wine.

AGING BARREL - A barrel, typically constructed of oak, which is used to age wine as well as for aging distilled spirits.

ALCOHOLIC - Descriptive of a wine with a relatively high alcohol content.

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AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREA (AVA) - A geographic designation that delineates a particular wine growing region within the United States as defined by the United States Department of the Treasury and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

As of January of 2010 there were 198 designated AVAs. In contrast to most wine appellations of Europe, an American Viticultural Area denotes the particular geographical location that produced a minimum of 85% of the grapes used to produce the wine.

ANGULAR - Descriptive of a wine that lacks depth and roundness, perhaps with too high of an acidity or from a particularly poor vintage.

APERiTIF (Apéritif) - Refers to a wine that is consumed either along (e.g., without any accompanying food) or just before a meal with the goal of stimulating the appetite.

APPELLATION - A geographically-based term that refers to a legally defined wine region demarcated by geographical indications which delineate where grapes (or other food items) are grown. Some appellations have restrictions in addition to the geographical boundaries such as what particular grape varietals may be cultivated, yields, alcohol levels, etc. Different countries have varying rules governing their appellations.

AROMA - A wine’s smell, particularly when the wine is young and unevolved, and before it has been able to develop fully (e.g., age) at which point nuance’s develop and it is known as the bouquet. 

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AROMATIZED WINE - Describes a wine that is flavored with fruit, herbs, spices, or flowers. Some examples of aromatized wines are mulled wine, Vermouth, and Retsina.

AROMATIC - Descriptive of wines with a distinct or strong aroma, perhaps herbal, spicy, or fruity.

ASTRINGENT - A quality that is more pronounced in some wines than others and produces a dryness in the mouth. Caused by the wine’s excess tannin content, the astringent quality is particularly present in young red wines and may cause a puckering sensation. An overly astringent wine may have a coarse, harsh flavor and may be caused by the wine needing more time to develop or because the wine was not made properly.

ATMOSPHERE - A unit of measure of atmospheric pressure used to describe the pressure within wine bottles. For example, the internal pressure within a sparkling wine is, on average, 6 atmospheres. 

AUSTERE - Descriptive of a wine that shows restraint in its character and fruitiness and also exhibits some degree of hardness or harshness in its acidity or tannin, as well as being rather dry and lacking richness and balance, and thus generally considered unpleasant to drink. A young Bordeaux is typically not as austere as a young Rhone.

AVA - See American Viticultural Area.

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BACKWARD - Descriptive of a wine that is young and not yet evolved, and thus relatively closed and not ready for drinking. The wine has yet to release its flavors.

BAKED - Descriptive of a wine with a relatively high alcohol content and which imparts baked or stewed fruit tastes. The term baked is also used to refer to wines from grapes which were overly exposed to the sun subsequent to harvest.

BALANCED - Descriptive of a wine that exhibits the proper proportions of its main components including the wine’s acidity, tannin level (astringent quality), and fruity qualities as well as the wine’s alcohol content, with no single component standing out distinctly more than the others. A well-balanced wine is likely to age with grace and exhibit a symmetrical quality.

BARNYARD - An unpleasant, unclean quality in a wine’s aroma due to unsanitary processes during the making of the wine or dirty wine barrels.

BARREL FERMENTED - Describes a wine that is fermented in oak barrels rather than concrete or stainless steel. White burgundies are typically barrel fermented, and it is also traditional with some Chardonnay wines and some Champagnes.

BERRYLIKE - Descriptive of a wine with a distinct and perhaps intense berry quality (e.g., raspberry, black cherry, blackberry, mulberry, cranberry, strawberry, etc.).

BIG - Describes a wine with full body as well as a strong, intense flavor, distinct aromatic qualities, and/or a concentrated and intense sensation on the palate; also called large-framed, and often implying a high alcohol level. Rhone varietal wines are known for their big quality.

BITTER - Descriptive of a wine with a distinctive, firm perception of acidity and/or tannins. This bitter quality is typically considered undesirable and unpleasant, although in some wines (e.g., some Italian reds including Amarone) this bitter quality is admired, particularly if the wine is well balanced.

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BISCUITY - Descriptive of a wine that possesses flavors and/or aromas of bread dough or yeastiness. This biscuity quality is sometimes found in Pinot Noir-dominated Champagnes.

BLACKCURRANT - A subtle or rich taste and/or aroma that suggests the fruit blackcurrant. This blackcurrant quality is a common characteristic of Rhone wines.

BLENDING - The process of mixing two or more different parcels of wine to create a finished product for bottling. There are laws regarding the blending of particular types of wine and how the bottles must be labeled subsequent to blending.

BLIND TASTING - The process of tasting and judging a particular wine impartially by serving it without allowing the taster to see the bottle shape, label, or any other identifying factors such as the price, origin, or color of the wine (e.g. a black glass may be used).

BLOWZY - Descriptive of an overly exaggerated aroma of fruitiness in a wine. This is a quality that is typical of many inferior quality fruity wines.

BODY - Describes a wine’s texture, weight, fullness, and general mouthfeel ranging from light to full and perceived as the wine crosses the palate. The term body is also used to refer to the wine’s alcohol content, and full-bodied wines will typically have relatively high levels of alcohol and glycerin.

BOTTLE AGE - The time wine is allowed to mature in the bottle.

BOTRYTIS CINEREA - A mold/fungus species found on some grapes and resulting in honeyed sweet wines (e.g., late-harvest Rieslings, Sauternes). Botrytis cinerea attacks the skin of the grapes resulting in a natural dehydration that causes the grape to become very concentrated.

BOUQUET - Aromatic qualities that develop in fine, aged wines. Younger wines are considered to have aroma though do not yet possess bouquet.

BRAWNY - Descriptive of a full-bodied wine, hefty and with a heavy mouthfeel on the palate yet perhaps lacking grace and refinement. Also called muscular.

BREATHING - Refers to the interaction that takes place between wine and the surrounding air subsequent to the opening of a wine bottle. This breathing process may occur during the time that the wine is decanting.

BREED - Denotes the combination of grape genetics, soil quality, and methods of vinification used to create the character and depth of a wine.

BRIGHT - The term bright is used in two contexts including the fruit taste of the wine and the wine’s visual appearance. In regards to fruit taste the term bright denotes a distinct intensity and acidity. In regards to the wine’s visual appearance, the term bright denotes a relatively small amount of suspended solids in the wine and thus a high level of clarity.

BRILLIANT - Describes a clear wine absent any cloudiness or haze in its color.

BROWNING - A process that occurs in fully mature red wines as they continue to age changing color from purplish/ruby to a darker ruby and then a ruby with an amber and then brown edge. A wine that is browning is likely already fully mature and thus does not improve through the browning process.

BRIX - A unit of measurement for the dissolved sucrose in grapes, wine, and must. Typically the harvest of the grapes occurs when they are at a level of 20-25 Brix, and this creates an alcohol level of about 11.5 to 14 percent.


BRUT - The French term that refers to dry Champagne or sparkling wine, and considered even drier than the descriptor “extra dry.”

BUD SPORT - Refers to shoot, fruit, or flower offspring arising from grapevine bud which has produced a spontaneous genetic mutation in one or more of the cells of the bud. Such offspring are genetically distinct from the other bud offspring on the particular vine, and thus may be a new source of clonal material.

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BUTTERY - Describes a wine with a very smooth texture and rich, even oily taste and creamy mouthfeel suggestive of butter. Often used to describe white wines that have been oak aged, and is used less frequently to describe red wines. Tastes and aromas of white Burgundies as well as Chardonnay wines are often described as buttery. This buttery quality is often due to malolactic fermentation during the winemaking process.

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CANOPY - The leaves and the shoots of grapevines.

CANOPY MANAGEMENT - A term that refers to particular viticulture methods and techniques that are used to control and manipulate the vine canopy in a vineyard and create an optimal grape growing environment. Canopy management techniques attempt to control the overall vine shape in order to mitigate the direct sunlight that reaches the grapes as well as for purposes of disease control.

CAPSULE - The foil or plastic covering the cork and a part of the neck of a wine bottle.

CARBONIC MACERATION - A vinification process that involves putting clusters of grapes into a vat which is subsequently filled with carbonic gas. The result is a very soft and fruity wine.

CASSIS - Descriptive of a wine with distinct notes of black currant. A French term, cassis implies a richer and more concentrated presence of the quality than when the term black currant is used.

CEDAR - Descriptive of a quality of the bouquet suggesting cedar; often found in Rhone reds.

CEDARWOOD - Describes a wine that exhibits a woodsy aroma due to its treatment with oak.

CHARMING - Descriptive of a wine with no overly distinctive admirable qualities yet which has various desirable characteristics and thus is pleasant to drink.

CHEESY - An aromatic element typical of Champagne that has undergone an extended aging. This cheesy quality produces aromas reminiscent of nutty cheeses (e.g., gouda), and is due to relatively minor quantities of butyric acid that develops during fermentation and then forms into the ester called ethyl butyrate.

CHEWY - Describes a wine with a pronounced dense, thick, or viscous (yet not overwhelming) texture from a high glycerin content, or a significant amount of tannins, producing a quality that may create a feeling similar to chewing (a fleshy mouthfeel) before the wine is swallowed.

CHOCOLATY - Descriptive of a wine with tastes and/or a mouthfeel suggestive of chocolate (usually dark chocolate). This chocolaty quality is often found in rich red wines including Pinot Noir and Sauvignon.

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CIGAR-BOX - Descriptive of a wine exhibiting aromas suggestive of tobacco. This cigar-box quality is due to the oak influence of the aging barrels.

CITROUS - A wine that exhibits tastes and aromas suggestive of citrus.

CLARET - The British term referring to Bordeaux wine. The word Claret is also commonly used as a somewhat generic term referring to red wines made in a style similar to Bordeaux.

CLARIFICATION - The part of the winemaking process that involves fining and filtrating the wine to remove any suspended solids as well as reduce the wine’s overall turbidity.

CLASSIC - Describes a wine of superb quality, well-balanced and complex, while strongly exhibiting the typicity of its particular varietal.

CLEAN - Describes a wine free of defects, faults, and undesirable qualities in the tastes and aromas as well as the overall appearance of the wine.

CLEAR - Descriptive of a wine that is absent any visible particular matter.

CLIMAT - A French term that refers to a single piece of land that is located within a vineyard and has a distinct name as well as a proven terroir.

CLONE - Refers to a grapevine that developed in a way that is distinct from others of its particular grape varietal. This unique development may be the result of natural selection in the particular environment where the wine was cultivated, or the vine may have been artificially bred within a controlled environment with the goal of advancing certain desirable characteristics of the vine.

CLOSED - Describes a wine that doesn’t reveal its full character or potential which remains locked because the wine is still too young and undeveloped. The closed quality, including a lack of aromatics, is often found in young Cabernet or Bordeaux wines as well as other big red wines. A young wine typically closes up about one to one and one-half years after bottling (depending on the particular vintage as well as how it is stored), and then remains closed for a time period ranging from a few years to more than a decade.

CLOVES - A clove-like aroma due to the toasting of oak barrels used to age the wine. This toasting process creates eugenic acid that causes the clove-like aroma.

CLOYING - Descriptive of a wine that exhibits a sticky sweetness while lacking any balancing acidity.

COARSE - Describes a wine that exhibits undesirable crude or harsh tastes, rough in its mouthfeel and texture, often largely due to the wine’s tannins.

COATES LAW OF MATURITY - A principal of wine quality which states that a particular wine will remain at its optimal drinking quality for just as long as the time that wine took to reach the point of maturation. As an example, a wine that takes two years to reach its peak for drinking will remain at that peak for a period of two years.

COCONUT - Descriptive of a wine with aromas suggestive of coconut due to the use of American oak for the aging barrels.

COMPACT - Describes a wine that, rather than being open knit, exhibits a distinct density in how its fruit is perceived, and this fruit quality is well balanced by the weightiness of the wine’s tannins and acidity. 

COMPLETE - Describes a wine with a satisfying body, a mature taste on the palate (creating a pleasant mouthfeel), and a distinct and lingering aftertaste. A complete wine is sufficient in all of its major components including its fruit, tannins, acidity, and alcohol.

COMPLEX - Describes a wine with multi-faceted, multi-layered taste and/or aromatic qualities; interesting to drink, and perhaps with very subtle tastes and scents.

CONCENTRATED - Describes the flavors of a fine wine with a richness, depth, and intensity in its fruity qualities.

CONCOCTION - A negative term descriptive of a wine that does not exhibit a cohesive profile of its primary components but instead seems as if a haphazard amalgam without rhyme or reason.

CONNECTED - Descriptive of a wine that clearly exhibits its terroir, origin flavors.

COOKED - Describes a wine with a heavy flavor, perhaps pruny, as if the wine’s fruit flavors taste baked, cooked, or stewed. The term cooked is also used to describe wines that are over-ripe or wines that come from extremely hot growing areas. The term cooked also is used to refer to wine which was made by adding grape concentrate to the must during the fermentation stage.

COOPER - Someone whose specialty is crafting the wooden casks and barrels that are used to age wine. See Cooperage.

COOPERAGE - An establishment that produces barrels or casks used to age wine. See Cooper.

CORK - The stopper in the top of the wine bottle that is made from the outer bark of a cork oak tree.

CORKED - Descriptive of a wine that exhibits a cork flavor.

CORKSCREW - A tool used to extract the cork from a wine bottle, and which is comprised of a pointed metal helix fastened to a handle for gripping while removing the cork.

CORK TAINT - Undesirable tastes and aromas in wine due either to chlorine bleaching of the cork or due to the growth of mold. The presence of cork taint is considered a significant wine fault.

CORKY/CORKED - Describes a wine that smells of the cork. The corky quality is the result of an inferior or defective (e.g., unclean, faulty) cork.

CREAMY - Descriptive of a wine that creates a creamy, warm feeling toward the back of the throat, and this mouthfeel may extend into the wine’s aftertaste. The creamy quality is due to malolactic fermentation.

CRISP - Descriptive of a wine with a character that is somewhat brisk, or fresh. A crisp wine typically has a high yet pleasant acidity.

CRU - A French term that means “growth” and which is commonly used to refer to a particular winery of vineyard.

CRUSH - Refers to the process that comes after harvest and before the pressing of the grapes which is when the grapes are crushed or broken and the grape juice macerates with the skin before fermentation occurs. Americans and Australians also use the term crush as a viticultural term that refers to the harvest period.

CUVAISON - A French term that refers to the time period during alcoholic fermentation when a wine remains in contact with the solid matter associated with grapes such as the stalks, skin, and pips as the tastes, colors, and tannins are extracted.

CUVEE (Cuvée) - Denotes a wine that was either blended form several batches or vats, or from a particular vat that was selected. In regards to Champagne, Cuvée refers to the juice that comes from the first pressing of a particular batch of grapes.

CUVERIE - A French term which, along with cuvier, denotes the room or building where fermentation of the wine occurs. This is the place where the wine is made, and thus typically the place to which the grapes are taken immediately after picking.

DOUBLE DECANTING - The process of first decanting a bottle wine into a decanter, followed by a rinsing of the original wine bottle using non-chlorinated water, followed by an immediate repouring of the 

double decanting: This is done by first decanting the wine into a decanter and then rinsing the original bottle out with non-chlorinated water and then immediately repouring the wine from the decanter back into the bottle. It varies with the wine as to how long you cork it.

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DECANTING - Pouring wine into a decanter from a bottle with the goal of separating the sediments in the wine from the wine itself.

DECADENT - Descriptive of a wine with a rich texture and bouquet; unctuous; opulent.

DEEP - Descriptive of a wine with tastes tha

t reveal themselves during the aeration process. The taste is concentrated, persistent, rich, full of extract, and layered. Sometimes described as mouth filling.

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DEFINITION - Descriptive of a wine that has a proper balance and clearly expresses its origin flavors and/or the particular grape varietal used to make it.

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DELICATE - Descriptive of a wine with a light, subtle body and taste as well as aroma, exhibiting an understated shyness rather than a robust extroverted character. Though some Rhone reds are considered delicate, the term is used mostly for white wines.

DEPTH - A term that describes a wine with multiple layers of tastes. Depth is one of the components of a complex wine.

DESSERT WINE - Refers to a wine that is very low in alcohol and quite sweet. United States laws consider any wine that is more than 15% alcohol to be dessert wine, though this standard varies in different regions.

DRIP DICKEY - A wine accessory which slides over the neck of the wine bottle and serves to absorb any drips which may slide down the wine bottle subsequent to pouring. The drip dickey provides some safety against stains that may occur wherever the wine bottle is set down.

DRIED UP - Descriptive of a wine that lacks a distinct fruity quality and lacks freshness as a result of excess aging.

DRY - Descriptive of a wine that is absent an impression of sweetness.

DEVELOPED - Descriptive of a mature wine that has a pleasant taste.

DIFFUSE - Descriptive of wines that exhibit flavors and/or aromas that are unstructured and unfocused. This diffuse quality often occurs in red wines served at too high of a temperature.

DIRTY - Descriptive of a wine that has taken on distinct off-tastes and aromas due to uncleanliness during the fermentation and/or bottling processes.

DISTINCTIVE - A notable refined quality that sets the wine apart from other wines.

DRY - Descriptive of a wine that is not sweet, with very little to no residual sugar. However some wine tasters do perceive some sweetness, and in sparkling wines the descriptor dry actually means sweet.

DULL - Descriptive of an uninteresting wine that lacks proper acidity and is absent any lively character

DUMB - Descriptive of wine that is closed and thus does not reveal any distinct aromas or tastes. The dumb quality is often found in wines that are either too low of a temperature or too young. In contrast to a closed wine which may just need more time to reveal its intensity and richness, the term dumb is used pejoratively reflecting the fact that the wine may not improve with time.

EARTHY - Descriptive of a wine with tastes and/or aromas suggestive of earthy qualities such as mushrooms or the forest floor. This earthy quality may be desirable to some degree in some wines (e.g., reflecting rich, clean soil), and some may find it pleasant while others do not. An excessive amount of earthiness can cause a coarse quality. The term earthy denotes a quality more intense than woody, and is sometimes used to denote a drying impression created on the palate due to high levels of geosmin, a substance naturally occurring in grapes.

EASY - Descriptive of a straightforward wine, in contrast to a complex wine, yet still very pleasant to drink. Somewhat similar to the term approachable.

EDGY - Descriptive of a wine possessing a distinct acidity which heightens its tastes on the palate. Also called nervy.

ELEGANT - Descriptive of a wine that possesses finesse, well-balanced and with subtle tastes, distinguished and refined, and not too heavy. The term elegant is used most often to describe finer white wines, though lighter red wines that are well balanced and graceful may also be described as elegant.

ENOLOGY - American spelling of oenology, the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking.

ENOLOGIST - American spelling of Oenologist, a student of enology; wine chemist; wine scientist.

ESTATE WINE - A wine that is made completely from grapes that were cultivated on the vineyards of a particular estate.

ESTATE WINERY - Also known as a farm winery, an estate winery is a U.S. winery license that allows a farm to make and sell wine on the site.

EXPANSIVE - Descriptive of a big wine that remains accessible.

EXPRESSIVE - Descriptive of a wine with distinct tastes and aromas.

EXTRACT - Refers to all of the components of wine other than the sugar, alcohol, water, and acidity; includes the wine’s solid compounds (e.g., tannins). If a wine has a high level of extracts it will have more body and color, and these qualities may be increased through a longer contact with the skins during the process of cuvaison.

EXTRA DRY - Descriptive of a sparkling wine or a champagne that has a small quantity of residual sugar. Not quite as dry as Brut.

EXUBERANT - Descriptive of a wine that shows great vigor and intensity; extroverted; exhibiting strong fruit flavors.

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FALLEN OVER - Descriptive of a wine that moves past its optimal drinking period while still at a young age, and then quickly begins to decline in quality.

FARM WINERY - Also known as an estate winery, an farm winery is a U.S. winery license that allows a farm to make and sell wine on the site. 

FARMYARD - Descriptive of a wine possessing vegetal and earthy undertones. This farmyard quality develops in some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines after they become mature in the bottle. Some consider this quality to mark the time of the wine’s peak drinking period, while others consider it undesirable. When this farmyard quality is too strong it is called barnyard. 

FAT - Descriptive of a wine with a full taste and body, possessing a sense of viscosity. Also called fleshy. If a wine is too fat and lacks a balancing acidity then it is considered a fault and the wine is known as flabby, or sometimes blowzy. The fat quality is common in Rhone wines from very hot years when the wines become exceptionally mature resulting in a very rich and concentrated beverage with average or low acidity.

FAULT - An unpleasant and undesirable quality or characteristic in a wine due either to improper storage of the wine or improper techniques employed during the wine making.

FEMININE - Descriptive of a wine with a silken texture, delicate tastes and subtle aromas, in contrast to a wine that exhibits a fruity intensity, weight, and strength. 

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FERMENTATION - The process of converting sugars to alcohol (ethanol) through the use of yeast under conditions of no oxygen (anaerobic). The by-product of fermentation is carbon dioxide (CO2).

FILTRATION - The process of removing undesirable particles that are suspended in the wine.

FINE - Descriptive of a refined, distinguished wine. The term fine wine is considered the highest category of quality and only a small percentage of the world’s wines may be described by this term.

FINESSE - Descriptive of a fine quality wine that exhibits a distinct flair yet is classically well-balanced and elegant.

FINING - The process of removing suspended solids from wine, thus clarifying and stabilizing the wine, by adding flocculants such as egg white or bentonite. Fining is considered to be a gentler method of clarification than filtering the wine.

FINISH - The last impression and sense of the wine subsequent to swallowing. A wine’s finish may be quick or instead long and lingering. The finish may also reveal new tastes and aromas. Also called aftertaste.

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FIRM - Descriptive of a wine with a distinct taste and a strict and structured balance of flavor and aroma elements including a strong sense of tannins.

FLABBY - Descriptive of a wine that is too heavy in its flavor and which is absent proper acidity and structure. Also see fat.

FLAT - Descriptive of a wine that lacks proper acidity (particularly in regards to the wine’s finish) and thus is dull, boring, and flabby instead of lively and exciting. In terms of sparkling wines, the term flat denotes a complete lack of proper effervescence.

FLAVOR - The description of the overall tastes of the wine including its body and acidity.

FLESHY - Descriptive of a wine that is fat in its fruity and extract qualities. The term typically infers a ripeness and big quality. A fleshy wine typically has a full body as well as a high level of alcohol and a high glycerin content. Fleshy wines are also sometimes called chewy.

FLORAL - Descriptive of a wine with a strong flowery component. Wines made from Viognier or Muscat grapes are often floral, and some red wines also exhibit floral qualities.

FLOWERY - Descriptive of a wine that reveals a fragrance reminiscent of flowers.

FOCUSED - Descriptive of a wine with very clear and precise tastes and aromas as opposed to more diffused qualities. The term focused is often used to describe mature, evolved wines.

FORTIFICATION - The process of adding alcohol which is either pure or extremely strong grape spirit (e.g., 77 to 98 proof) to wine.  The fortification process can result in wine with a high alcohol content and a distinct sweetness, though this will vary based upon when the alcohol was added (e.g., before or after the fermentation process).

FORTIFIED WINE - A wine to which alcohol has been added, typically with a goal of preventing fermentation.

FORWARD - Descriptive of a wine with a prominent fruit quality, or a wine that is more advanced than its peers.

FOXY - Descriptive of a wine with a very musty taste and/or aroma due to the use of Vitus labrusca grapes to make the wine. The term is usually used with a negative connotation.

FRENCH PARADOX - This term was given to the odd fact that the French people have a lower mortality rate than Americans even they exercise less, have higher alcohol consumption, and higher cholesterol.

FRESH - Descriptive of a wine that exhibits a lively quality and was made very cleanly, in contrast to a stale wine. This fresh quality provides a very positive, desirable perception of acidity, and may be present in old as well as young wines.

FRUIT - The grape qualities and body of a wine created by the particular grape varietal used to make the wine.

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FRUIT WINE - A fermented beverage containing alcohol which is made from fruit juice made from a fruit other than grapes and which might have honey or sugar added. Since the term wine refers specifically to beverages made from grapes, a fruit wine will always be labeled with a word in front of the term wine (e.g., plum wine).

FRUITY - Descriptive of a wine with pronounced fruit tastes and aromas. Common fruity flavors are black currant, peach, strawberry, apple, citrus, and cherry. The fruity quality is more common in light and young wines. While a fruity quality is typically a component of any fine wine, to be considered a fine wine it will need to have more positive characteristics than just a fruity personality.

FULL - A term that typically refers to a wine’s body (see below), though may also refer to a wine’s significant extract and flavor.

FULL-BODIED - Descriptive of a wine with a full taste and mouthfeel. A full-bodied wine is typically very rich in alcohol, glycerin, and extract. Most Rhone varietal wines are full-bodied.

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GRAPEY - Descriptive of a wine with tastes and or aromas suggestive of grape flavoring (e.g., as in grape jelly). This grapey quality is often found in wines made with grape varietals of the Muscat family.

GRASSY - Descriptive of a wine that exhibits vegetal and/or herbaceous qualities which may range from suggestions of lemon grass to the taste/aroma of freshly mown grass.

GREEN - Descriptive of a wine with a tart taste and which is absent any fruit flavor due to being made with grapes that have not fully ripened. Typically a green wine exhibits a vegetal character and is overly acidic while lacking generosity and richness.

GRIP - Refers to a wine’s firmness in both its overall structure and taste.

GUTSY - Descriptive of a wine possessing distinct qualities of fruitiness, body, and extract.

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HARD - Descriptive of an undeveloped wine with a stiffness and a distinct tannin taste; overly tannic; astringent, abrasive tannins and/or high acidity. This hard quality is sometimes found in young vintages of Rhone wines.

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HARMONIOUS - Descriptive of a wine with its various components all in an ideal balance. The fruitiness, tannins, and acidity are all in proper proportion.

HARSH - Descriptive of a wine with a relatively high amount of acidity or tannin (e.g., unbalanced), creating a biting and/or rough quality; too hard. This harsh quality is considered a defect.

HEADY - Descriptive of a wine that has a full body and heady quality. Typically a heady wine will have a relatively high alcohol content.

HEAVY - Descriptive of a wine that has a high proportion of alcohol while at the same time possessing a very full body. 

HEDONISTIC - Gratifying, obvious wines designed to provide the drinker with delight, joy, and pleasure and not necessarily meant to be inspected, in contrast to intellectual, introspective wines, which are more suitable for inspection.

HERBACEOUS - Descriptive of a wine with an aroma that suggests hay, fresh grass, or herbal (vegetal) qualities. This herbaceous characteristic is sometimes found in Sauvignon Blancs. Lavender, fennel, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and basil herbaceous qualities are common in Rhone wine varietals. The term herbaceous is also used to refer to a green pepper quality that sometimes is found in Cabernets. The herbaceous quality may derive from varietal characteristics of the particular wine, or may be a result of choices made during the winemaking process (e.g., using aggressive extraction methods on a red wine employing stainless steel fermentation vats; harvesting the grapes before they are fully ripe).

HERBY - Descriptive of a wine with tastes suggestive of herbs such as thyme, sage, eucalyptus, mint, etc.

HOLLOW - Descriptive of a wine that lacks concentration and depth, and instead imparts a diluted quality; lacking a sense of fruitiness. Also called shallow.

HONEST - Descriptive of a wine without defects yet not necessarily a great wine, just typical and very straightforward.

HONEYED - Descriptive of a wine with a taste and/or aroma suggestive of bee’s honey. This is a quality (e.g., personality trait) often found in late-harvest wines that were subjected to Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. The honeyed quality is common in specific white Rhone wines.

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HORIZONTAL WINE TASTING - A wine tasting that involves sampling a group of wines which all come from the same vintage, or which come from the same style of wine (e.g., all Merlots, or all Napa wines). This is in contrast to a vertical tasting which includes the same wine yet from various vintages.

HOT - Descriptive of a wine that has an excess alcohol content that creates a burning sensation in the throat when the wine is swallowed. More specifically, this hot quality may occur when the alcohol content is above 14.5% and the wine does not also possess a requisite depth of fruit.

ICE WINE - A type of wine that is made using frozen grapes.

INKY - Descriptive of a wine that is somewhat opaque; dark in color.

INOX VATS - The French word for the stainless steel vats used for wine fermentation and wine storage.

INTENSITY - A desirable trait of a fine wine, which should not be heavy, but should be balanced, lively, and aromatic.

INTRICATE - Descriptive of a wine that reflect various complexities in its tastes and/or aromas.

JAMMY - Descriptive of a wine with an intense and rich, flavorful fruity quality due to the concentrated ripeness of the grapes yet which may be relatively lacking in tannins.

KISSELGUHR FILTRATION SYSTEM - A wine filtering system that employs diatomaceous earth as the filtering material, in contrast to using cellulose as a filtering material.

LEAFY - Descriptive of a wine that imparts an aroma suggesting leaves. An excess of this leafy quality is referred to as green or vegetal.

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LEAN - Descriptive of a wine that is not fat or generous, but is instead slim and somewhat streamlined. This lean quality may result from an acidity that does not provide a perception of fruit. The lean characteristic does not necessarily imply that the wine is inferior as it still may provide an enjoyable experience.

LEATHERY - Descriptive of a wine with soft, thick taste, a that may result form a relatively high proportion of tannins.

LEGS - The tracks created by the viscous mixture of alcohol and glycerin that run down the side of, and cling to, the wine glass after swirling and/or sipping. The characteristics of the legs of the wine are associated with the wine’s glycerol or alcohol content. The legs are also referred to as the wine’s tears.

LEMONY - Descriptive of a wine with a distinct acidity that provides a tangy quality and suggests fruity tastes of lemons.

LENGTH - Descriptive of the wine’s lingering aftertaste, or finish.

LIGHTSTRUCK - A wet carboardy taste and/or aroma in wine that is created by the wine’s overexposure to ultraviolet light.

LINALOOL - Descriptive of a wine with an aroma suggestive of flowers and/or reminiscent of peaches. This linalool quality is created by a chemical compound called linalool and is often found in Riesling or Muscat wines.

LIQUORICE - Descriptive of a wine with a relatively concentrated taste, sweet and rich.

LIGHT - Descriptive of a wine with a relatively low amount of weight, or texture (mouthfeel), and also typically light in alcohol. This may be desirable in some wines though is considered a fault in others.

LIVELY - Descriptive of a wine with a distinct vitality and freshness, perhaps crisp, and typically with a good (e.g., bright) acidity and a personality that is very thirst quenching. Also called exuberant. The term lively may also refer to a wine with a slight carbonation.

LONG - Describes a wine with with length, a lingering aftertaste, or finish that is sensed for a significant amount of time after swallowing (e.g., thirty seconds to one minute is excellent); long in the mouth. This long quality is very desirable and is one of the traits of a fine wine.

LUSCIOUS - A term used to describe rich, sweet wines as well as wines that have an intense fruity quality or distinct opulence. The wine descriptor luscious is somewhat synonymous with voluptuous though the term luscious is more often used to refer to sweet wines that possess a mouthfeel which is quite concentrated and rich.

LUSH - Descriptive of a wine that is rich and fruity, concentrated, and perhaps fat. Also called velvety. Not hard or astringent.

MACERATION - The contact that the grape skins have with the must during the fermentation process of the wine. This causes extraction of the phenolic compounds such as anthocyanins, tannins, and also aromas.

MASSIVE - Descriptive of a wine that has a relatively high concentration and ripeness; extremely full-bodied and rich.

MATURE - Descriptive of a wine whose taste has been allowed to fully age and develop to its peak point of quality, and is thus ready for consumption.

MEAN - Descriptive of a wine that lacks a sufficient proportion of fruitiness to balance out the wine’s acidity and/or tannins. This creates a wine that lacks proper balance and thus is not pleasant to drink.

MEATY - Descriptive of a rich, full-bodied wine that has a firm structure and distinct sturdy quality, often with distinctly pronounced tannins and extract. The mouthfeel of a meaty wine has a fleshy, fruity quality that can seem almost chewy.

MELLOW - Descriptive of a wine that is absent any harsh qualities and instead has flavors that are soft and smooth on the palate; soft-textured and mature.

MISPALATE - A wine tasting term that refers to the feel of the wine and the flavor of the wine as it sits in the mouth (e.g., on the palate).

MINERALITY - Tastes in the wine suggestive of particular minerals such as slate or shist.

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MOLDY - Descriptive of a wine that smells of mold, typically due to the use of rotted grapes or from mold on the aging casks.

MONOCEPAGE - Descriptive of a wine that has been from one specific grape varietal. 

MONOPOLE - Descriptive of a vineyard run by a sole proprietor.

MORSELLATED - Descriptive of a vineyard fragmented into portions that are owned by numerous growers.

MOUTH-FILLING - Descriptive of wines with a high level of fruit extract, alcohol, and glycerin which tend to create a concentrated rich, textural feel in the mouth. Also called fleshy, fat, or chewy.

MUSCULAR - Descriptive of a wine that has a strong, robust body and taste and perhaps also a vigorous fruity quality.

MUST - Unfermented juice of grapes which also includes the seeds (pips), pulp, and the grape skins as well as the stalks (stem fragments) that all are a result of crushing the grapes during the process of making wine.

MUSTY - Descriptive of a flawed wine that possesses a stale or dusty taste and/or aroma due to being stored in unkept cellars, aged in dirty wine barrels, or exposed to an inferior cork. Also called damp.

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NERVY - Descriptive of a wine with a distinct and very noticeable acidity yet this acidity nevertheless remains well balanced with the other major components of the particular wine.

NOBLE - Descriptive of a wine that is well-balanced, achieving a perfect harmony of flavors and aromas. The term is also applied to the grapes themselves that produce some of the top premium wines including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, and Semillon. Nebbiolo, Syrah, and Sangiovese grapes are also sometimes included in this “noble grapes” category.

NOSE - Refers to the aroma (e.g., smell or bouquet) of the wine as sensed through the olfactory membranes.

NUTTY - Descriptive of a wine with tastes/aromas reminiscent of nuts. Older white wines as well as sherrie s often exhibit this nutty quality.

OAK - The most common wood used for barrel aging and fermentation vessels. Oak influences are also sometimes imparted to wine through the use of oak chips or staves.

OAKY - Describes the oak taste and/or aroma that comes from aging wine in oak barrels or casks. This oaky quality may be somewhat desirable if it is not too strong, and may contain a smoky quality, or spicy elements such as vanilla or clove. Rhone varietals are commonly aged for a time ranging form six months to more than two years in oak barrels. Ideally the oak and wine flavors form a desirable marriage, however if a wine is not sufficiently rich and concentrated it may be overwhelmed by the oaky quality. 

OENOLOGY (Enology) - The science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking.

OENOLOGIST (Enologist) - Student of oenology (enology); wine chemist; wine scientist.

OENOPHILE - A connoisseur of wine; a wine tasting aficionado.

OFF - Descriptive of a wine that refuses to reveal its true character, and instead exhibits a distinct flaw or spoiled quality.

OFF-DRY - Descriptive of a wine with a very slight sweet quality (just the barest hint of sweetness) and not quite fully dry, with a residual sugar that is hardly perceptible.

OFF-FLAVORS/OFF-TASTES - Defective, unpleasant, or unclean tastes that are not appropriate for the wine. Similarly, off-aromas/off-nose refers to defective aromas.

OPEN - Descriptive of a wine that exhibits its full, developed qualities and character.

ORGANOLEPTIC - A term used in wine tasting to denote qualities that affect the main senses (e.g., taste, smell).

OVERRIPE - When grapes are left too long on the vine (e.g., the harvest occurs too late), they become overripe and result in flawed wines that are heavy and lack balance as well as acidity. 

OXIDATION - Exposure to oxidation. This process can severely degrade the quality of a wine. That said, oxidation plays an important role during the fermentation stage as well as during the aging of the wine. This must be strictly controlled because excess oxidation results in severe wine faults.

OXIDIZED - Descriptive of a wine that is stale due to overexposure to oxygen either during the winemaking process or the agin process. The result is a lack of freshness and a stale and/or spoiled quality (e.g., an old taste and aroma).

PEPPERY - Descriptive of a wine that exhibits a taste and/or aroma of either black or white pepper; perhaps also a pungent taste. This peppery quality is often noticed in Rhone wine varietals.

PERFUMED - Descriptive of wines that exhibit a strong aroma similar to a perfume.

PIGEAGE (Pigéage) - A technique used to make wines that involves punching down (e.g., several times each day or more frequently) the grape skins cap which forms atop the liquid during the beginning of the fermentation process. The goal of this pigeage technique is to extract the flavor, color, and tannin from the fermenting grape juice.

PIP - The seeds of the grapes.

PLUMMY - Descriptive of very concentrated, rich wine that exhibits a strong flavor of ripe plums. 

PORT - A particular type of sweet wine that is fortified with distilled grape spirits and which is made from grapes cultivated in Portugal’s Douro region. The fortification of port has the result not only of increasing its alcohol content but also ceases the fermentation process with the result that some of the grape’s natural sugars are preserved. There are many imitations of port that are produce in various regions.

PRECOCIOUS - Descriptive of a wine that matures quickly or a wine that tastes as if it is maturing quickly because it begins to reveal its charms quite early yet may still continue to age well.

PRUNY - Descriptive of a wine made from grapes that were allowed to ripen too long and exhibit a flawed quality that suggests prunes.

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PUNCH DOWN - A process for managing the cap during winemaking which involves aerating the must with the goal of creating the optimal contact between the must and the solids in the wine during the process of fermentation. During the punch down process, the skins of the grapes are punched down into the grape juice.

RACKING - Drawing the wine off of the sediment (e.g., lees) subsequent to the fermentation process, and then moving it into a new vessel.

RAISINY - Descriptive of a late-harvest wine with a taste suggestive of raisins. When this raisiny quality is very subtle it may be pleasant in some sherries and ports that are intended for consumption at the end of a meal, though this raisiny quality is considered to be a significant defect in dinner wines.

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RESERVE - Descriptive of a wine that is superior in quality to the others being produced at the particular winery/vineyard.

RESERVE CUVEE (Reserve Cuvée) - Wines that are held from previous vintages for blending with the current vintage with the goal of increasing the quality of the current vintage, or to maintain a consistency with a current non-vintage wine.

RESERVE WINE - A wine that is made from grapes that have been grown in the most desirable area of the vineyards of a particular estate. These superior wines typically possess better depth and concentration than the estate’s other wines.

RESIDUAL SUGAR - The amount of sugar in the wine that remains unfermented.

RICH - Descriptive of a wine with a relatively high level of taste, extract, and fruit intensity resulting in a full body and strong aromatic qualities.

RIDDLING - An important stage in the process of making sparkling wines. During riddling, deposits that are left in the wine bottle subsequent to secondary fermentation are dislodged and then shaken into the inverted bottle’s neck. Riddling may be performed by a machine or by hand.

RIPE (Ripeness) - Descriptive of a wine made from grapes that were allowed to fully mature, reaching the point of balance between acids and sugars. When the grapes are not allowed to reach the optimum level of maturity they are considered underripe, and conversely the grapes that become overly mature produce overripe wines. 

New theories on viticulture consider the grapes’ physiological ripeness of the phenolic compounds including tannin. In contrast to the acid/sugar ripeness, the physiological ripeness is more complex to determine, and is not as easily measured.

ROBUST - Descriptive of heady wines that exhibit a distinct power and full body.

ROOTSTOCK - The lower region of a vine that has been grafted, and which is consistent with that vine’s root structure. The selection of rootstock in a vineyard is important to both yield and vigor, as well as to resistance to particular diseases that have traditionally affected grapevines.

ROSE WINES (Rosé Wines) - Pink wines created by decreasing the contact period of the red wine juice with the grape skins, producing a lighter colored wine, or by blending red wine with a larger amount of white wine.

ROUGH - Descriptive of a wine that has a distinct, undesirable harsh taste, perhaps biting.

ROUND - Descriptive of a well-developed, fully mature wine with a smooth taste and absent any rough flavor. The round quality is very desirable in wine and occurs once a wine has lost its astringent tannins. The round quality may also be found in younger wines that have a low acidity and very soft tannins.

SANGRIA - Descriptive of a tart punch that is created using red wine as well as the juice of lemons, oranges, and apricots along with sugar.

SASSY - Descriptive of a wine with audacious tastes; exhibiting brash and bold qualities.

SAVORY - Descriptive of a wine that has an interesting taste and pleasing, round quality. 

SECONDARY FERMENTATION - The continuation of the wine’s fermentation process in a second vessel. Typically this occurs when the wine is moved from a stainless steel tank into an oak barrel.

SHALLOW - Descriptive of a wine that is diluted and watery resulting in a lack of concentration and a very weak taste.

SHARP - Descriptive of a wine with an unpleasant, biting tannin taste, hard edges, or an overly acidic flavor. 

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SHERRY - A type of wine that has been fortified, and which was made using a method of controlled oxidation that creates a distinctive taste.

SHERRY-LIKE - Descriptive of a non-Sherry wine that nevertheless exhibits oxidized aromas that are the result of an overabundance of acetaldehyde.

SHORT - Descriptive of a wine’s aftertaste (finish) ending very quickly, yet the wine may still have a well developed body and aroma.

SILKY - Describes a wine with a smooth, velvety mouthfeel (body, or texture on the palate). May also refer to the aftertaste (finish). Also called lush. A silky wine may also be fat. Opposite of hard.

SIMPLE - Describes a wine that is straightforward, in contrast to a complex wine.

SINGLE VINEYARD WINE - Refers to a wine that has been made  completely and solely from grapes grown in one specific vineyard, and which is made from a blend of grapes grown in other vineyards.

SMOKY (SMOKEY) - Descriptive of a wine with tastes and/or aromas suggestive of a toasty smoke character due to the oak aging or the soil quality, or more of a fire smoke.

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SMOOTH - Descriptive of a wine with a very pleasant texture and body (mouthfeel). A smooth wine is usually noted for its soft tannins.

SOFT - Descriptive of a wine that does not have an overabundance of tannins.

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SOFT - Descriptive of a delicate, round wine with gentle fruity qualities. Also used to refer to wines that are low in acidity or alcohol and lack any hard or aggressive tannins.

SOLID - Descriptive of a wine that has a proper, firm structure.

SOLUMOLOGY - The scientific study of soils. This is an important term in regards to viticulture in regards to determining how the soil type of the vineyard supports particular grape varietals.

SOMMELIER - Refers to a specialist at a restaurant whose specialty is assembling the establishment’s wine list, helping customers select wine, and making sure the staff of the restaurant is also educated about the wine being served.

SOUR - Descriptive of a wine with a vinegary taste and/or unpleasant acidity level.

SPARKLING - Descriptive of effervescent wines created due to trapped carbon dioxide gas that is either artificially injected or natural, and which creates bubbles in the wine.

SPICY - Descriptive of a wine that has tastes and/or aromas reminiscent of one or more spices such as cinnamon, clove, black pepper, mint, or other well-known spices. This spicy quality is created primarily by the character of the grapes, though also may be imparted to some degree by influences from oak barrels used for aging.

SPRITZY - Descriptive of wines that have just a slight amount of carbon dioxide. This spritzy quality is often found in young wines.

STALE - Descriptive of a wine that is heavy and dull due to oxidation from exposure to oxygen, and absent the acidity that would provide balance to the wine and a fresh quality.

STALKY - Descriptive of a wine that exhibits a distinct vegetal quality such as green and woody herbaceous notes. Also used to describe wines that had an excessive contact with the stems during the winemaking process.

STEELY - Descriptive of a wine has a strict balance and is firm in its overall structure. A steely wine may also have a relatively high level of acidity.

STIFF - Descriptive of a wine that refuses to yield its full flavors. Also called dumb or closed.

STRONG - Describes a big wine, robust in taste and powerful in character.

STRUCTURE - Descriptive of the proportions and overall composition of a wine including the solid components, sugar, acidity, and the density of fruit flavors and the phenolic compounds including tannins, and how these components relate to the overall body and balance of the wine.

STUFFING - Describes a trait that a wine possesses if it is full-bodied and big, with an abundance of taste.

STURDY - Describes a full-bodied wine with a bold, robust quality and an abundance of vigor in its taste.

SULPHUR DIOXIDE - A substance that may be used as a preservative during the winemaking process.

SUPPLE - Descriptive of a wine that is soft, round, harmonious, and not overly tannic. A supple wine is suitable for drinking as it readily yields its tastes and other qualities.

SWEET - Descriptive of a wine that has retained a residual sugar that wasn’t converted to alcohol and thus there is a noticeable sense of these sugars. A sweet bouquet may be appreciated in dry wines that possess an intense fruity or ripe quality. A fine wine’s sweetness is well-balanced with its natural acidity, and the taste of the sweetness will also be affected by the amount of tannin present, the alcohol level, and whether the wine is sparkling.

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TARTARIC ACID - One of the two main naturally occurring organic acids (along with malic acid) found in grapes and thus in wines. 

TANNIC - A wine that exhibits aggressive tannins. 

TANNIN - A natural component in the stems, skins, and seeds of grapes. The tannin taste is most noticeable in red wines, often causing a dry and puckering sensation in the mouth, particularly in concentrated young, red wines. Tannins provide a firmness to the wine when it is young, and a young wine may be referred to as tannic (not yet ready for drinking). The aging process tends to mellow the tannin taste as it settles and forms a sediment.

TEXTURE - Describes the wine’s mouthfeel or body; the feel of the wine on the palate.

TART - Descriptive of a wine with a sharp, lean, and unripe taste. A slight tart quality may be desirable as long as the wine does not possess an excess of acidity, though generally the tart quality is undesirable and reflects a high level of acidity.

TARTARIC ACID - An acid in grapes which becomes more prominent during veraison.

T BUDDING - A technique used to graft differing grape varietals onto the vineyard’s existing rootstocks.

TEARS - The tracks which are created by the viscous mixture of alcohol and glycerin that run down the side of the wine glass and cling to the glass after swirling and/or sipping. The characteristics of the legs of the wine are associated with the wine’s glycerol or alcohol content. The tears are also referred to as the wine’s legs.

TERROIR - A French term that refers to the geographical and physical characteristics of a vineyard site as well as the particular climate of the vineyard. The terroir is what provide the wine made from the grapes of the vineyard with their unique character and qualities. Terroir is the French word for soil.

THICK - Descriptive of a heavy, dense wine that is ripe, rich, and concentrated, with an abundance of texture yet relatively low in acidity.

THIN - Descriptive of a shallow, diluted, watery wine that has very little taste and lacks body or fruit.

TIGHT - Descriptive of a wine that has distinct tannins which create a restraining effect on the wine’s other qualities including the wine’s extract and fruit, which as a result are harder to appreciate. Generally speaking, tight wines tend to age well as the tannins eventually soften and the other qualities are able to shine through.

TIGHTLY KNIT - Descriptive of a well made young wine with distinct levels of tannin and acidity, and which has yet to develop and reveal its full potential.

TIRED - Descriptive of a wine that exceeded the peak of its taste development and gains an old flavor.

TOAST - Charcoal burned onto the inside of wine casks.

TOASTY - Descriptive of wines with an aroma of grilled toast, or a charred or smoky taste, due to the oak barrels used to age the wine.

TOBACCO - Denotes an aroma suggestive of fresh tobacco. This aroma is generally considered desirably and is found in some red wines.

TOUGH - Descriptive of a hard wine with a distinct tannic, astringent quality.

TRANSPARENCY - Descriptive of a wine that reveals all of the different aspects of its tastes including the floral as well as fruity notes and also mineral notes. This transparent quality is in contrast to a wine with all of its tastes integrated and diffused.

TRONCAIS OAK - Oak wood that comes from the central France forest called Troncais.

TYPICITY - A term used among wine tasters to delineate the degree to which the particular wine reflects the qualities and characteristics typical of the wine’s specific varietal (e.g. Merlot).

UNCTUOUS - Describes a rich wine with layers of soft yet intense, velvety fruit flavors. 

UNDERTONE - Refers to a wine’s more subtle tastes and aromas including the barely discernible nuances.

UNOAKED - Descriptive of a wine that has been allowed to mature without any contact with oak or wood such as the aging barrels that are commonly used. Also referred to as unwooded.

UPFRONT - Descriptive of a wine that has distinct qualities that may be perceived without confusion and without the need for advanced powers of discernment.

VANILLA - Describes the scent suggestive of vanilla that is imparted to the wine by aging the wine in oak barrels.

VARIETAL - A wine that has been made from one grape variety only.

VEGETAL - Descriptive of a wine with tastes or aromas suggestive of vegetation rather than floral or fruity qualities. The vegetal quality is generally undesirable and usually results from using unripe grapes. A slight vegetal quality may be desirable in some cases when very subtle as it adds complexity, though in most cases it is unpleasant and considered a major flaw. Also see stalky; leafy; herbaceous.

VELVETY - Describes a rich and smooth, smooth texture in a wine. Also called lush, or silky. The velvety characteristic is considered a very desirable quality in a wine.

VERAISON - This is the time during a grapevine’s annual cycle when the grapes begin to ripen and the berries become softer and start to turn color. The sugar level in the grapes increases as the acidity of the grapes decreases during veraison.

VERMOUTH - An aromatized wine created using wormwood and possibly other ingredients as well.

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VIGOR - Denotes the growth potential of the canopy of a grapevine. For each gram of fruit that a grapevine produces, it should produce about 8 square inches of leaf surface so the fruit is may fully ripen. If a grapevine possesses too much vigor then there will be too much foliage and this can create an undesirably herbaceous quality in the wine that is made from the grapes.

VIGOROUS - Descriptive of a firm wine with a strong body, assertive taste, and perhaps a lively fruity quality.

VINE - A plant upon which grapes grow.

VINEGARY - Descriptive of a wine that smells of vinegar. Also see acetic.

VINEYARD - A place where grape vines are cultivated for use in winemaking.

VINHO - The Portuguese term for wine.

VINICULTURE - The process of making wine, including its science and its art. This is also sometimes referred to as oenology (enology), though it is different that viticulture.

VINIFICATION - The process that makes the juice of grapes into wine.

VINO - A Spanish and Italian term for wine. The term vino is derived from Latin.

VINTAGE - The year of harvest of grapes that are used for a particular wine. If a vintage is specified on a label then it denotes that all of the grapes used for that particular wine were harvested in that single specified year.

VINTER - Someone who makes (produces) wine; a winemaker.

VISCOUS - Descriptive of a wine that has a relatively high density of fruit extract, concentrated, even fat, with high alcohol and glycerin. A viscous wine that lacks acidity may be heavy and even flabby, while a viscous wine that is balanced with a good acidity may provide an abundance of taste.

VITICULTURE - The process of cultivating grapes.

VITICULTURIST - Someone whose specialty is the science of cultivating grapevines for the purposes of winemaking. The term also refers directly to a person who is the manager of a vineyard’s irrigation, pruning, and pest control methods.

VIVID - Descriptive of a wine with distinctly ripe and fruity tastes.

VOLATILE - Descriptive of a quality of a wine’s acidity (e.g., volatile acidity) in which the odors of ethyl acetate and/or acetic acid are noticeable (e.g., a vinegar-like smell due to an excess of acetic bacteria). A very slight amount of volatile acidity may be pleasant and enhance the bouquet, though too much is considered a fault in the wine.

VOLUPTUOUS - Descriptive of a wine with a full body and which is also distinctly rich in its texture.

well-balanced. This is in contrast to a hot wine which has excessive alcohol. The term warm may also refer to a wine that has a creamy texture as a result of oak treatment.

WATERY - Descriptive of a wine that is very thin in both its body and fruity qualities, and a result it is absent significant taste.

WEAK - Descriptive of a wine that lacks character and does not reveal the qualities typical of a finer wine of its type.

WEEDY - Describes a wine that has tastes and/or aromas that suggest grass or hay. In some cases this may be desirable, though in excess it is considered a fault.

WEIGHTY - Descriptive of a wine that is full-bodied and exhibits a strength and power.

WINE - An alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented, unmodified grape juice.

WINE TASTING - Descriptive of a wine’s sensory evaluation beyond just taste but also including the wine’s aroma, mouthfeel (body), acidity, color, and aftertaste or finish.

WINE CAVE - An underground cave excavated for the purpose of providing a very cool and dark location for optimal storage of wine during the aging process.

WINE CELLAR - A place for storing and aging wine, ideally kept very cool and dark.

WINEMAKER - Someone who produces wine; a vinter.

WINE PRESS - A tool that consists of two receptacles or vats, one of which trods and bruises the grapes, and the other which collects the juice.

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WINERY - A company and/or a location that produces wine.

WOODY - Descriptive of a wine with distinct wood aromas resulting from excessive aging in wooden barrels or casks; overly oaky. To a certain degree oakiness is desirable in the bouquet of a wine, but beyond that point the wine takes on a woody quality that masks its fruity quality as a result of too much oak aging.

YEAST - The microscopic fungi that is responsible for converting sugars in must to alcohol during the process of alcohol fermentation. 

YEASTY - Descriptive of a wine that has a bready aroma (e.g., bread dough or biscuits) due to secondary fermentation occurring. This yeasty quality is often found in Champagne and is considered a desirable quality if it is present to only a slight degree, though undesirable if its to strong. Also called biscuity.

YOUNG - Descriptive of an immature wine that has not matured and has not yet developed its full potential (typically has been bottled and sold within one year of its vintage); also used to describe very simple wines that are exhibit a fresh quality.

ZESTY - Descriptive of a wine with a distinct acidity and typically also complemented with notes of citrus.

ZIPPY - Descriptive of a wine with a distinct acidity yet well-balanced with its fruity qualities so as to not taste too acidic.

ZYMOLOGY - The science of the process of fermentation.

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