Glossary of Wine Terms

Posted by Keith Wallace

Have you ever gone wine tasting and had no clue about anything anyone was saying? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with our glossary of wine terms. For a full breakdown of wine terminology, we suggest our Wine Dictionary.

Wine Terms
The Wine School Dictionary

Wine Scent Jargon

These are common wine terms you will hear when sommeliers chat about wine.

Nose

In wine terms, you can’t just mention ‘the smell,’ so you talk about ‘on the nose’ instead.

Aroma

In fancy terms, it’s what you smell, and the more you smell, the better.

Closed

Not a good description – and refers to the inability to smell much.

Open

The wine is described as open when you have a range of different aromas coming forth.

Fruity

Yes, you guessed it; it’s when you have intense aromas of fruit.

Herbaceous

When smelling herbs or any vegetables, you can describe them as herbaceous.

Flavor & Scent Descriptions

These wine terms are important when tasting wines.

Wine Terms: Acidic to Cigar Box

Acidic

When a white wine pulls the sides of your cheeks like lemon, your wine is acidic.

Aftertaste/finish

The taste is left in your mouth after you’ve swallowed.

The longer the taste lasts, the better the quality is. Phrases like “Long, smooth finish” will give you the wine-connoisseur edge you’re looking for.

Balance

How well the wine can juggle acidity, alcohol, sugar, aromas, and flavors in a single taste.

A well-balanced wine won’t have an unpleasant dominance of one characteristic above the rest.

Bitter

The phrase most loved by newbies to describe all red wine.

Body

How heavy the wine feels in your mouth. Common descriptors are “light, medium, or full-bodied.”

Buttery

A wine term often dedicated to Chardonnay but can be applied to any wine through malolactic fermentation.

Burnt

Red wines often have a smoky character (which can be good.) However, it is considered burnt when that characteristic is unpleasant and overpowering.

Chewy

Chewy wine is a wine with extremely high tannins and body – it dries out your mouth so much that it feels like you have to chew your way through the sip.

Complex

This wine term describes a wine that magically changes flavors from when it was first sipped to after you’ve swallowed it. So here is a great time to use an aftertaste in your sentence.

Corked

A faulty cork leaks a chemical and contaminates the wine in some cases. The wine is then considered corked. Although it cannot make a person ill, it is incredibly unpleasant.

Crisp

The fresh, firm feeling in the mouth indicates a wine with high acidity.

Cassis

A rich, dark wine often has these flavors of liquid-black-currents.

Cigar box

A typical flavor in red wine resembles smokey cedar.

Wine Terms: Earthy to Tannic

Earthy

If you taste anything in the wine that could be linked to nature, you can describe the wine as earthy. This includes everything from leaves, dust, woodlands, and even manure.

Elegant

An adjective to use when a wine is smooth, with no harsh edges, and a light mouthfeel.

Grippy

You’ve swallowed a red wine and had a lingering feeling around your gums that almost pulled throughout your mouth.

Jammy

A flavor is similar to jam: Sweet and berry-syrupy flavors.

Jammy flavors are a result of low acidity and high alcohol. It does not imply residual sugar.

Mouthfeel/texture

The texture of the wine in your mouth. Common mouthfeel descriptions include silky, dusty, numbing, chewy, and creamy.

Minerally

Any flavors that come through that represent rocks, stone, and gravel.

Mocha

A combination of chocolate and coffee flavors is found in red wine with extensive oak aging.

Oak

Logically, when a wine has been placed inside a wine barrel, it will express wood flavors. So, when those flavors are prominent, try the phrase, “I pick up quite a bit of oak.”

Spicy

Spicy refers to flavors similar to black peppers, often noted in red wine.

Tannic:

Tannins are bitter compounds extracted from the seeds and skins of the grapes during red wine fermentation.  Tannins give the wine a dry,  grippy mouthfeel.

Essential Sommelier Jargon

These wine terms are tossed about by sommeliers almost every day. It’s good to know what these terms mean before heading out to a restaurant.

Appearance

When describing what the wine looks like in the glass, aim for descriptions such as cloudy and clear and try to be more specific about the shade of red or white.

Aeration

Air is often forced through the wine to release all the great flavors hidden in the wine. It can be done differently, including simply leaving the wine in the glass to breathe.

Aging

Many beginner wine lovers think it’s common knowledge that older wine is better wine. But unfortunately, that is not always true.  During wine production, wine is kept in cellars and barrels to allow the wine to age and, in return, deliver some smashing flavors. Frequently, that is all the time required for aging.

Blanc de Blanc

When bubbly is made from just white grapes, often Chardonnay.

Brut

When wine, especially sparkling wine, has little or no residual sugar, it’s called Brut.

Bordeaux Blend

Bordeaux is a region in France, and this blend refers to two or more classical Bordeaux grape varieties present in the blend. This includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Browning

With Years and years of aging, red wine becomes slightly browned – and when you see it in the glass, you can say that browning has occurred.

Decant

A form of aerating – the wine is poured into a jug-like glass (a decanter) and is either poured back into the bottle or served straight from the fancy-looking jug.

How to Decant Wine The Proper Way! Learn about Decanting From the Top Ranked Wine School!

Bottle shock

When bottles are shaken too much during transportation, it temporarily alters the flavors.

Lees: During wine production, wine is often left to lie in the dead yeast to add different textures – and those dead yeast particles are known as the lees.

Vintage

The year that the wine was made is printed on the label and is known as the wine’s vintage.

We hope that this list of wine terms has helped you feel a little more confident in your next wine tasting and that it allows you to throw around some of these words like a real wine-knower!

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