Wine Glossary

We’ve compiled some of the commonly used wine related words for your reference. Have a suggestion? We’d love to hear it. Send it to us here



Acid – Found in all grapes. Preserves wine and imparts crisp, sharp flavors. Types of acid found in wines: lactic, citric, malic, tartaric

Acidity – An aspect of wine that gives freshness and increases aging potential. Also see ‘Crisp’

Aftertaste – The flavor/taste left on the palate after wine has been swallowed

Alak – Tagalog (Filipino) for wine

Alcohol – Ethyl alcohol, created when yeast (natural or added) is mixed with sugar content of grapes during fermentation

Alcohol by Volume – Expressed as a percentage indicates how much alcohol is present sometimes called “proof”. In grape wine the alcohol is generally between 6 to 15%

Amarone – Often confused as a grape, it’s actually a style of wine made famous by Italy. Valpolicella grapes are picked then partially dried to concentrate the flavor. The result is intensified grape flavors almost like a raisin. The resulting little juice that is pressed from the grape provides a deep, earthy flavor that is silky and coats the mouth. These are typically more expensive wines due to the lengthy process and low yield of juice.

Aroma – The initial smells you are presented with from the wine (smells on attack). Aroma is not to be confused with the wine’s ‘Bouquet’ Aromatic – Highly scented or fragrant


Balanced – A wine that nicely incorporates all of it’s main components: tannins, acid, sweetness and alcohol — in a manner where no one single component stands out

Big – A wine with intense flavor, or high in alcohol

Blanc de Blancs – “White of Whites” referring to a white wine made completely of white grapes (champagne, chardonnay)

Blanc de Noirs – “White of Blacks” referring to white wines made of black grapes. Juice is squeezed and fermented without coming into contact with the red skins

Blind Tasting – Tasting and evaluating wine without knowing what it is

Body – A tasting term describing the weight and fullness of a wine that can be sensed. A wine may be light, medium, or full bodied

Bottle Sickness – A temporary condition that makes a wine’s fruit flavors muted. Typically occurs when fragile wines are shaken during transport

Bouquet – The layers of smells and aromas perceived in a wine. Think of the overall smell of the wine (like a bouquet of assorted flowers)

Breath – Wine coming in tot contact with air intentionally in order to soften the tannins and open up the aromas

Brix – Degrees Brix is a measurement of the mass ratio of dissolved sugar to water in a liquid. Simply put, level of sweetness

Brut – Generalization of a dry sparkling white wine


Cava – Sparkling wine produced in Spain. Typically follows the Méthode Champenoise used in France to produce Champaign.

Cellaring – To age wine for the purpose of improvement or storage

Chaptalization – The addition of a sugar during the fermentation of wine to create alcohol and produce a sweeter wine. Sometimes called “Sugaring”. In some countries and regions it is illegal to do this

Chewy – The sense of tannins that is not overwhelming

Classic – Wine that has proper characteristics. Also know as ‘Textbook’ or ‘Benchmark’

Clean – No odd or unusual smells

Complex – Multidimensional wine with layers of different aromas and flavours

Cooper – Someone who makes wooden barrels used to age wine

Cork – A bottle stopper made from the outer bark of a cork tree

Cork Taint – A wine fault describing undesirable aromas and flavors in wine caused by a moldy cork

Corked – A defect that overpowers the wine with smells of wet cardboard and musty besement

Crisp – A pleasing sense of acidity in the wine

Crush – Performed during harvest season when the grapes are squeezed to get the juice


Decanting – The process of separating sediment from wine before drinking. Done simply by pouring the wine from the bottle into another container (a decanter) and from there, into a glass.

Dessert wine – A very sweet wine that is low in alcohol, typically a white. Also refer to ice wine.

DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata. Wine from a specified region in Italy that is made using defined methods that satisfy a quality standard

DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. Sub-territories of DOC regions that produce outstanding products that may be subject to more stringent production and quality standards than the same products from the surrounding DOC region

Dry – The opposite of sweet. Wines with zero or very low levels of residual sugar


Early Harvest – A wine made from grapes harvested before the typical harvest time resulting in a lower alcohol content

Earthy – A characteristic smell in reds that suggests an aroma of soil

Elegant – Refined and controlled flavours and aromas

Expressive – A wine with clearly projected aromas and flavors

Extracted – Natural elements and compounds found in wine taken from the grapes. Typically used in referring to tannin, pigment and sugar)


Fat – A wine that is full in body and has a sense of viscosity

Fermentation – The process in which yeast converts to sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2) thereby turning grape juice into wine

Filtering – Removing particles from the wine after fermentation

Finish – The aftertaste, usually spoken about in terms of length

Firm – A wine with clearly projected aromas and flavors

Flabby – A lacking sense of acidity

Flavour – Perception of taste and smell

French Oak – The gold standard for making barrels. Supplies the wine with a place to age and vanilla, cedar and butterscotch flavors.

Fruit Wine – Wine made from the juice of fruit, usually not primarily grape


Gamey – Meaty and/or musky aromas

Green – Typically used to describe a wine made from unripe fruit


Half Bottle – A 375 ml bottle, rather than 750 ml

Herbaceous – Aromas of green vegetables, grass, etc…

Hot – Overly alcoholic wine


Ice Wine – Wine made from frozen grapes. ‘Eiswein’ in German

Implied Sweetness – When the flavors of the wine make it taste sweet even if the wine is really dry or low sugar.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica – An Italian classification for good wines that could not make the DOCG label due to blending.

Intense – When aromas or flavours are pronounced more than one would expect

Intricate – A wine with complex and interesting flavors and aromas


Jammy – A sweet but rich berry flavor Jeroboam – 3 liter bottle


Late Harvest – Wine made from grapes picked later than usual, resulting in a sweeter wine (higher Brix count)

Lees – consists of deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast found in the bottom of vats after fermentation

Legs – The tracks of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. Shows alcohol content

Length – How long you have the aftertaste of the wine in your mouth after swallowing


Maceration – Steeping the grape skins in the wine during fermentation. The alcohol forming extracts color, tannins, flavors and aromas from the skins

Magnum – Oversized bottle, holding 1.5 litres

Malolactic Fermentation – A secondary fermentation process in wines by lactic acid bacteria during which tart tasting malic acid is converted to softer tasting lactic acid.

Mature – A wine that has aged to its peak point of quality

Meritage – Mixing three types of juices to achieve one wine. Usually cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot

Méthode Champenoise – Often referred to as the Traditional Method or TM is the technique used to produce Champaign

Mineral – White wine with a stone/rock/calcium taste to it, typically subtle and not overpowering, one of the more rare flavours is wine.


Neutral – Undistinctive or unpronounced. Used when referring to flavours or aromas

New World Wines – Wines hailing from Latin America, Chile, Australia, America, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, …

Non-Vintage – Combining juices from more than one year’s harvest. Sometimes used to keep a consistent flavor from year to year

Nose – The way the wine smells


Oaky – Smells or flavours lent to the wine from the barrels they aged in. Typically contributes notes of vanilla, butter and/or spice

Off-Dry – A wine that has only a hint of sweetness

Old World Wines – Wines hailing from France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, …

Oxidation – Occurs when the wine is exposed to oxygen in the air. This happens very slowly while the bottle is corked but extremely fast when the wine is poured or decanted. Oxidation is not complementary to the wine


Pasteurization – Sterilizing liquids using heat

Petrol – A smell close to diesel fuel. Not necessarily a fault if the wine is a mature Riesling

Phylloxera – Root lice that attacks grapevine roots. The disease was widespread in Europe and California in the late 19th century.


Reserve – A term used to indicate a higher then usual quality wine

Rich – A sense of sweetness in the wine that is not excessively sweet

Rose – Wine with a pink hue is referred to as a Rose or Blush. Rose can be created a couple of ways. White and red wine can be mixed together to give a pink color. Or, the skin from red grapes is left in contact with the juice after pressing for a short period of time. Rose is often produced as a sweet wine and usually from the Zinfandel grape. It is always transparent in appearance, never opaque. Often scoffed at by snob wine drinkers, it can be made as a serious wine with a serious price tag in some parts of the world.

Round – A wine that has a good sense of body that is not overly tannic

Rustic – A simple, not overly complex wine


Sediment – Solid pieces in the bottle, usually a side effect of aging.

Silky – Smooth mouth feel, not too much alcohol

Simple – Lacking depth and layers

Smooth – A wine with a pleasing texture. Typically refers to a wine with soft tannins

Soft – Red wine: low tannins; White wine: low acidity

Sommelier – A trained wine expert who usually works in fine restaurants

Spicy – Aromas and flavours of spices. Examples: clove, nutmeg, black pepper, etc…

Spumante – Sparkling white Italian wine

Steely – Used when discussing white wine. Aromas of minerals and crisp fruit

Still Wine – Wine that is not sparkling

Structure – Refers to the balance between flavor, acidity, alcohol and tannins. In the best case, one shouldn’t overpower the next

Sulfites – Compounds (typically: potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite) which are added to wine to prevent oxidation and microbial spoilage. Some site this as the cause for headaches in some people after drinking red wine

Super Tuscan – The Italian blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon


Tannin – A common term used to describe an astringent like feel in the mouth when drinking red wine. The tannins are what cause the dry and puckery feeling in the mouth. Can be compared to tasting strong tea or biting into a grape stem

Tart – Slightly sour, usually caused by too much acid without sufficient sugar for balance

Terroir – Describes wine that is showing elements and characteristics from the region it was grown in

Tired – A wine which is old and bland (dull), maybe due to oxidation

Toasty – A sense of the charred or smoky taste from an oaked wine


Ullage – The unfilled air space at the top of a bottle of wine

Unoaked – Wine not aged in barrels but rather stainless steel vats


Varietal – Wines made from a single grape variety

Vin – French for wine

Vine – The plant on which grapes grow

Vinegary – It is considered a fault in wine when it has the scent of vinegar in it’s bouquet

Vinho – Portugese for wine

Viniculture – The science of grape production for the purpose of making wine

Vino – Italian and Spanish for wine

Vintage – The year in which a particular wine’s grapes (all the grapes) were harvested

Vinter – A person who makes or sells wine

VQA – Vintners Quality Alliance. Wines from Ontario Canada which conform to certain standard as described by the alliance and laws. Grapes must be 100% grown in Ontario amongst other requirements


Weeping – A bottle that is leaking from the cork end, possibly due to shrinkage or improper storage

Weighty – Usually used when referring to a red, it defines a strong wine with a full-body

Wein – German for wine


Yeast – Yeast is used in winemaking where it converts the sugars present in grape juice or must into alcohol


Zip – Wine with a good, crisp hit of acidity

Zymology – The science of fermentation