Wine Terms

Winemakers and wine writers use a variety of descriptions to communicate the aromas, flavors and characteristics of wines. Many of the terms seem familiar and natural, yet others are less clear. Use this glossary of common wine terminology to help you better understand and describe the wines you enjoy.

Acidity The presence of natural fruit acids that lend a tart, crisp taste to wine
Aroma Smells in wine that originate from the grape
Astringent Bitter; gives a drying sensation in the mouth
Balanced All components of the wine are in harmony
Barrel Fermented White wine that is fermented in an oak barrel instead of a stainless steel tank
Body The weight and tactile impression of the wine on the palate that ranges from light to heavy/full
Bouquet Smells from winemaking, aging and bottle age
Buttery Rich, creamy flavor associated with barrel fermentation
Character Describes distinct attributes of a wine
Chewy Wine that has a very deep, textured and mouth-filling sensation
Clean Wine without disagreeable aromas or tastes
Closed Wine that needs to open up; aging and/or decanting can help
Complex Layered aromas, flavors and textures
Cooked Wine that has been exposed to excessively high temperatures; spoiled
Corked Wine that has been tainted with moldy smells or other obvious flaws from a bad cork
Delicate Light, soft and fresh wine
Dry No sugar or sweetness remaining; a fruity wine can be dry
Earthy Flavors and aromas of mushroom, soil and mineral
Elegance A well balanced, full wine with pleasant, distinct character
Finish The final impression of a wine on the palate; ranges from short to long
Firm Texture and structure of a young, tannic red
Flabby/Flat Lacking in acidity, mouth-feel, structure and/or texture
Fleshy A soft textured wine
Flinty A mineral tone, aroma or flavor
Floral Flower aromas such as rose petals, violets, gardenia or honeysuckle
Fruity Obvious fruit aromas and flavors; not to be confused with sweet flavors such as berries, cherries and citrus
Full-Bodied Rich, mouth filling, weighty-textured wine
Grassy Aromas and flavors of fresh cut grass or fresh herbs
Green Unripe, tart flavors
Hard Texture and structure that hinders flavor
Herbaceous Grassy, vegetable tones and aromas
Lean Wine is thin and tastes more acidic than fruity
Legs Teardrop impressions of alcohol weightiness that are visible on the inside edges of a wine glass
Light-Bodied A wine with delicate flavors, texture and aromas
Lively Young, fruity and vivacious flavor
Malolactic Conversion of hard, malic acid (green apple flavors) in wine to soft, lactic acid (rich, butter flavors)
Medium Bodied A wine with solid, but not rich weight and texture
Nose The smell of a wine; aroma
Oak Aromas and flavors contributed during barrel fermentation and/or aging such as vanilla, caramel, chocolate, smoke, spice or toast
Off-Dry (Semi-dry) Very low levels of residual sugar remaining in the wine
Rich Weighty flavors and texture
Round Smooth flavors and texture; well-balanced
Smoky/Toasty Aromas of smoke and toast imparted by fired barrels
Sweet Wines that have a higher concentration of sugar after fermentation
Tannin A drying, astringent sensation on the palate that is generally associated with heavier red wines
Terroir French word reflecting the expression of soil, topography and climate in a wine
Thin Wine is unpleasantly watery and lacks flavor and texture
Vegetal Herbal, weedy aromas and flavors
Velvety Smooth-textured with deep, rich aromas and flavors
Vintage Year that grapes were harvested and fermented to make a wine


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