Wine Dictionary

A Comprehensive Wine Dictionary, Glossary and Terms.
Winemaking Terms and Terminology.

wine dictionary, wine barrels


Acidity the liveliness and crispness noted in wine. A proper balance of acidity must be struck with the other elements of a wine, or else the wine may be said to be too sharp - having disproportionately high levels of acidity - or too flat - having disproportionately low levels of acidity. The three main acids found in wine are tartaric acid, malic acid and lactic acid. The first two come from the grapes and and the third from Malolactic fermentation which often occurs in the winemaking process.

Aeration the deliberate addition of oxygen to wine to round out and soften a wine.

A.O.C. is the abbreviation for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, (English: Appellation of controlled origin), as specified under French law. The AOC laws specify and delimit the geography from which a particular wine (or other food product) may originate and methods by which it may be made. The regulations are administered by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO).

Aging  holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state.

Alcohol  ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the product of fermentation of sugars by yeast.

Appellation is a geographical based term to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown.

Aroma the scent of the grape, as well as the smell of wine, especially young wines. (different than "bouquet")

Asomnia  the loss of smell.

Astringent  tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannins.

Balance is the harmonious relationship of the components of wine - acids, fruit, tannins, alcohol, etc. - resulting in a well proportioned, or well balanced, wine.

Barrel is a hollow cylindrical container, traditionally made of wood staves, used for fermenting and aging wine. Sometimes called a cask.

Barrique is a French name for a 225 litre Bordeaux style barrel ( Bordeaux hogshead). Will yield 24 cases of 12 bottles each.

Baumé is a measure of the sugar concentration in the juice or wine, particularly referred to by winemakers and wine grape growers.

Biodynamic wine is wine produced by the principles of biodynamic agriculture.

Bitter  a taste sensation largely caused by tannins that is sensed on the back of the tongue.

Blanc de Blancs is a white wine, usually sparkling, made exclusively from white grapes, often Chardonnay.

Blanc de Noirs is a white wine, usually sparkling, made from red grapes.

Blend  a wine made from more than one grape varietal.

Body is a tasting term describing the weight and fullness of a wine that can be sensed. A wine may be light-, medium-, or full-bodied. A less specific term than texture, wines rich in concentration, extract, alcohol, glycerol and tannin may be described as full-bodied.

Bordeaux  the area in Southwest France considered by some as the greatest wine-producing region in the world.

Bottle variation is the degree to which bottled wine of the same style and vintage can vary.

Botrytis cinerea is a mould that can pierce grape skins causing dehydration. The resulting grapes produce a highly prized sweet wine, generally dessert wine.

Bouquet  a term that refers to the complex aromas in ages wines. 

Breathing  allowing wine to come in contact with air to open and improve the flavors.  (see "aeration")

Brettanomyce.  A wine-spoiling yeast that produces barnyard, mousey, metallic, and band-aidish aromas.

Brilliant  a tasting note pertaining to wines that appear sparkling clear.

Brut is a French term for a very dry champagne or sparkling wine. Drier than extra dry.

Bung is a stopper used to seal a bottle or barrel. Commonly used term for corks.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a variety of red grape mainly used for wine production, and is, along with Chardonnay, one of the most widely-planted of the world's noble grape varieties.

Capsule is the foil that covers the cork and part of the neck of a wine bottle.

Carbonic maceration is a winemaking practice of fermenting whole grapes that have not been crushed.

Cellaring is a process to age wine for the purpose of improvement or storage. Cellaring may occur in any area which is cool (12-15°C), dark, free from drastic temperature change, and free from vibrations. Bottled wines are typically cellared on their sides.

Chaptalization is a winemaking process where sugar is added to the must to increase the alcohol content in the fermented wine. This is often done when grapes have not ripened adequately.

Chardonnay is a type of wine, one of the "noble" white varietals.

Charmat process or bulk process is a method where sparkling wines receive their secondary fermentation in large tanks, rather than individual bottles as seen in Méthode champenoise.

Chianti is Italy 's most famous wine; derived from the sangiovese grape.

Citric acid  one of the three predominate acids in wine.

Claret is the British name for Bordeaux wine. Is also a semi-generic term for a red wine in similar style to that of Bordeaux.

Clarification is a winemaking process involving the fining and filtration of wine to remove suspended solids and reduce turbidity.

Cleanskin is wine bottled without a commercial label, usually sold cheaply in bulk quantities.

Cork taint undesirable aromas and flavors in wine often associated with wet cardboard and/or moldy basements.  Cork taint can affect wines irrespective of price and quality level.

Corked  a term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint (not wine with cork particles floating about).

Cru classé  a top-ranking vineyard designated in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855.

Crush  the English term for harvest.

Crémant is French sparkling wine not made in Champagne region.

Crust is the sediment, generally potassium bitartrate, that adheres to the inside of a wine bottle.

Cuvaison is the French term for the period of time during alcoholic fermentation when the wine is in contact with the solid matter such as skin, pips, stalks, in order to extract colour, flavour and tannin.

Cuve is a large vat used for fermentation.

Cuvée is a wine blended from several vats or batches, or from a selected vat. Also used in Champagne to denote the juice from the first pressing of a batch of grapes.

Decanting is the process of pouring wine from its bottle into a decanter to separate the sediment from the wine.

Dégorgement is the disgorging or removal of sediment from bottles that results from secondary fermentation.

Demi-sec is a moderately sweet to medium sweet sparkling wines.

Doux is the French word for sweet. Usually refers to the sweetest category of sparkling wines.

Dry refers to wines with zero or very low levels of residual sugar. The opposite of sweet, except in sparkling wines, where dry means sweet.

Earthy  an odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil.

en Tirage is French for "in pulling", refers to the period of time in which bottled sparkling wine is rested in contact with lees generated during secondary fermentation. Part of the Méthode Champenoise process.

Enology  the science of wine and winemaking

Extract is everything in a wine except for water, sugar, alcohol, and acidity, the term refers to the solid compounds such as tannins. High levels of extract results in more colour and body, which may be increased by prolonging the wine's contact with the skins during cuvaison.

Extra dry refers to a champagne or sparkling wine with a small amount of residual sugar (slightly sweet). Not as dry as Brut.

Fault refers to an unpleasant characateristic of wine resulting from a flaw with the winemaking process or storage conditions.

Fermentation is the conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast.

Finish is a tasting term for the lingering aftertaste after a wine has been swallowed.

Flavors.  Odors perceived in the mouth.

Foxy  a term that notes the musty odor and flavor of wines made from vitis labrusca - a common North American varietal.

Free run is the juice obtained from grapes that have not been pressed.

Fruity  a tasting term signifying wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit.  Can also describe aromas of cooked fruit, as in "jammy".

Full-bodied  a wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as "big".

Gewürztraminer is a white wine grape variety from the wine producing region of Alsace in France .

Grenache is a red wine grape of the Rhone Valley of France, and elsewhere (especially Spain ). In the southern Rhone , Grenache replaces Syrah as the most important grape (Syrah being more important in the north).

Herbaceous a tasting term denoting odors and flavors of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary) in a wine.

Hogshead is a wine barrel that holds approximately 239 litres.

Hot wine high in alcohol is often described as producing a "hot" burning sensation in the mouth.

Jeroboam is a large bottle holding three litres, the equivalent of four regular wine bottles.

Late picked wine is wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer than usual. Usually an indicator for a very sweet or dessert wine.

Lees sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seed, and other grape matter that accumulates during fermentation.

Leesy a tasting term noting the rich aromas and smells resulting from a wine which spends time resting on its lees.

Legs is the term that refers to the tracks of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. Often said to be related to the alcohol or glycerol content of a wine. Also called tears.

Length how long the flavors of a wine persist in the mouth after swallowed; a lingering aftertaste.

Liqueur de tirage is a French term for a liquid containing sucrose and yeast used to effect the second fermentation in sparkling wine production.

Liqueur d'expedition is a French term for "shipping liquid", used to top up and possibly sweeten sparkling wine after disgorging. Usually a solution of sucrose in base wine.

Maceration is the contact of grape skins with the must during fermentation, extracting phenolic compounds including tannins, anthocyanins, and aroma. See also cuvaison.

Madeirized is a term referring to a wine showing Madeira-like flavour, generally evidence of oxidation. Sometimes used to describe white wine that has been kept long past its prime.

Magnum is a bottle holding 1.5 litres, the equivalent of two regular wine bottles.

Malic acid one of the three predominate acids intrinsic in grapes.  Tart-tasting malic acid occurs naturally in a number of fruits, including, apples, cherries, plums, and tomatoes.

Malolactic fermentation is a secondary fermentation in wines by lactic acid bacteria during which tart tasting malic acid is converted to softer tasting lactic acid.

Master of Wine (MW) is a qualification conferred by The Institute of Masters of Wine, which is located in the United Kingdom. More people have travelled into space than there are Masters of Wine.

Mature ready to drink.

Mead is a wine-like alcoholic beverage made of fermented honey and water rather than grape juice.

Merlot is a variety of wine grape used to create a popular red wine.

Méthode Champenoise is a process whereby sparkling wines receive a second fermentation in the same bottle that will be sold to a retail buyer.

Methuselah is a large bottle holding six litres, the equivalent of eight regular wine bottles.

Microoxygenation is the controlled exposure of wine to small amounts of oxygen in the attempt to reduce the length of time required for maturation.

Midpalate is a tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine when held in the mouth.

Mis en bouteille au château is French for "bottled at the winery", usually in Bordeaux.

Moelleux is a French term usually used to describe wines of mid level sweetness or liquoreux.

Mouth-feel how a wine feels in one's mouth - (e.g., rough, smooth, velvety, furry).

Must unfermented grape juice (including seeds, skins, and stems).

Negociant French word describing a wholesale merchant, blender, or shipper of wine.

Noble rot layman's term for 'botrytis".  (See botrytis).

Nose is a tasting term for the aroma or bouquet of a wine.

Nebuchadnezzar is a large bottle holding 15 litres, the equivalent of 20 regular wine bottles.

New world wine is the term for wine produced outside of the traditional wine growing areas of Europe and North Africa (i.e. Australia , Chile , South Africa , United States ).

Oak/oaky tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla and toast.

Oak chips refer to small pieces of oak wood used in place of oak barrels in fermenting and/or ageing wine.

Oenology is the science of wine and winemaking.

Old vine refers to wine produced from vines that are notably old.

Old world wine is the term for wine produced inside of the traditional wine growing areas of Europe and North Africa .

Open tasting term signifying a wine that is ready to drink.

Oxidation wine exposed to air that has undergone a chemical change.  The deteriorating wine will exhibit stale smells and colors can look brown.

Palate is a tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine in the mouth.

Phenolic compounds natural compounds present in grape skins and seeds.

pH is a measure of the acidity. The lower the pH, the higher the acidity. The term comes from the French Pouvoir Hydrogéne meaning "hydrogen power". pH is a shorthand for its mathematical approximation: in chemistry a small p is used in place of writing log10 and the H here represents [H+], the concentration of hydrogen ions.

Phylloxera is a minute underground insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots.

Plonk British slang for inexpensive wine.  Also used to describe very low-quality wines.  

Pomace refers to the skins, stalks, and pips (seeds) that remain after making wine. Also called marc.

Port is a sweet fortified wine, which is produced from grapes grown and processed in the Douro region of Portugal . This wine is fortified with the addition of distilled grape spirits in order to boost the alcohol content and stop fermentation thus preserving some of the natural grape sugars. Several imitations are made throughout the world.

Potassium sorbate is a wine stabiliser and preservative.

Punt is the indentation found in the base of a wine bottle. Punt depth is often thought to be related to wine quality, with better quality wines having a deeper punt.

Reserve is a term given to wine to indicate that it is of higher quality than usual.

Residual sugar is the level of sugar that remains unfermented in a wine. See also sweetness of wine.

Reverse osmosis is a process used to remove excess water from wine.

Riddling, also known as "Rémuage" in French, part of the Méthode Champenoise process whereby bottles of sparkling wine are successively turned and gradually tilted upside down so that sediment settles into the necks of the bottles in preparation for degorgement.

Riesling also known as White Riesling in countries outside of Germany . Riesling is a variety of grape used to make white wine. It is grown mainly in Germany , where the relatively cold climate enables it to produce grapes for some of the best white wines in the world. Riesling grapes are also used also for high quality wines in Austria and can be found in countries like Australia , South Africa and Canada . Riesling is famous for its vivid acidity and fruitiness both in the nose and on the palate.

Rosé wines are produced by shortening the contact period of red wine juice with its skins, resulting in a light red colour. These wines are also made by blending a small amount of red wine with white wine.

Rough the tactile "coarse" sensation one experiences with very astringent wines.  A tasting term, and not to be confused with "bitter".

Salmanazar is a large bottle holding nine litres, the equivalent of 12 regular wine bottles.

Sangiovese is the main grape for making the Italian wine known as Chianti.

Sec is French for dry, except in the case of Champagne , where it means semi-sweet.

Secondary fermentation is the term is used to refer to the continuation of fermentation in a second vessel - e.g. moving the wine from a stainless steel tank to an oak barrel.

Sherry is a fortified wine that has been subjected to controlled oxidation to produce a distinctive flavour.

Shiraz or Syrah is a variety of grape used to make a distinct red wine.

Sommelier is a trained wine expert who often works in fine restaurants.

Sparkling wine is effervescent wine containing significant levels of carbon dioxide.

Spicy a tasting term used to note odors and flavors reminiscent of various aromatic spices that are found in certain wines.

Spumante is Italian for "sparkling".

Still wine is a wine that is not sparkling wine.

Structure an ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins.

Sulfites are compounds (typically: potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite) which are added to wine to prevent oxidation and microbial spoilage.

Sweet wines with perceptible sugar contens on the nose and in the mouth.  Sweet, as a tasting sensation, is perceived on the tip of the tongue.

Sulphur dioxide is a substance used in winemaking as a preservative.

Sweetness of wine is defined by the level of residual sugar in the final liquid after the fermentation has ceased. However, how sweet the wine will actually taste is also controlled by factors such as the acidity and alcohol levels, the amount of tannin present, and whether the wine is sparkling.

Stelvin cap is a metal screw-cap developed by the Alcan Packaging company to replace wine corks to reduce the occurrence of cork tainting. It also incorporates a small ventilation system to allow tiny amounts of air into the wine bottle to aid the wine maturation.

Tannins the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, puckery feeling in the mouth. 

Tartaric acid is the most important acid found in grapes.

Terroir is French for "soil", the physical and geographical characteristics of a particular vineyard site that give the resultant wine its unique properties.

Texture a tasting term describing how the wine being tasted feels on the palate.  "Texture" is used more often when describing heavy, dense wines with a big mouthfeel.

Typicity a tasting term that describes how well a wine expresses the characteristics inherent to the variety of grape represented.

Ullage is the term used to describe the fill level of wine in a bottle. Here is how Wine Auction House describe fill levels.

Unoaked or unwooded , refers to wines that have been matured without contact with wood/oak such as in aging barrels.

Varietal is a term for wines made from a single grape variety.

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.

Vertical and horizontal wine tasting are two tasting formats. In a vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery are tasted. This emphasizes differences between various vintages. In a horizontal tasting, the wines are all from the same vintage but are from different wineries. Keeping wine variety or type and wine region the same helps emphasize differences in winery styles.

Vigneron is French for vine grower.

Vin is French for wine.

Viniculture is the art and science of making wine. Also called enology (or oenology). Not to be confused with viticulture.

Vinification the process of making wine.

Vintage is the year in which a particular wine's grapes were harvested. When a vintage year is indicated on a label, it signifies that all the grapes used to make the wine in the bottle were harvested in that year.

Vitis vinifera the species of wine that comprises over 99% of the world's wine.

Vintage is the year in which a particular wine's grapes were harvested. When a vintage year is indicated on a label, it signifies that all the grapes used to make the wine in the bottle were harvested in that year.

Vintner is someone who makes or sells wine. A wine merchant.

Viticulture is the cultivation of grapes. Not to be confused with viniculture.

Volatile acidity is the level of acetic acid present within a wine.

Waiter's friend is a popular type of corkscrew used commonly in the hospitality industry.

Weight similar to "body", the thicker or richer a wine feels in the mouth, the more weight is described as having.

Wine fermented juice of grapes.

Wine fault is an undesirable characteristic in wine caused by poor winemaking techniques or storage conditions.

Wine-press is a device, comprising two vats or receptacles, one for trodding and bruising grapes, and the other for collecting the juice.

Yeast is a microscopic unicellular fungi responsible for the conversion of sugars in must to alcohol. This process is known as alcoholic fermentation.

Yield the productivity of a vineyard.

Young an immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.  Wines meant to be drunk "young" are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.

Zymology is the science of fermentation.