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Decoding Wine Terminology - Understanding Wine Terms

June 09, 2018 4 min read

Terroir, fortified and blanc de blancs. No idea what they mean? Go through the glossary for a better understanding of wines. Impress your date by explaining these wine jargons to them!

% Abv : Alcohol by volume is a standard measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in an alcoholic beverage

Acetic Acid: The acid component of vinegar. A volatile acid present in small quantities in all wines. Excessive amounts result in a vinegary nose and taste

Acidity: The crisp or sharp character in wine. The acidity of a balanced dry table wine is in the range of 0.6% - 0.75%of the wine's volume

Aging: Storage in barrels, tanks or bottles for a period of time allows wine components to harmonize and develop additional complexity

Appearance: Refers to a wine’s clarity, not color


Aroma: The smell of a young wine before it has had sufficient time to develop nuances of smell that are then called its bouquet           

Big: A large-framed, full-bodied wine with an intense and concentrated feel on the palate

Blanc de Blancs: "White from whites," meaning a white wine made entirely of white grapes, such as Champagne made only of Chardonnay instead of a mix of white and red grape varieties

Blanc de Noirs: "White from blacks," meaning a white wine made of red or black grapes, where the juice is squeezed from the grapes and fermented without skin contact

Body: Body is the weight and fullness of a wine that can be sensed as it crosses the palate. Full-bodied wines tend to have a lot of alcohol, concentration, and glycerin

Breathe: This process of encouraging a wine to absorb oxygen is also called breathing. The goal is to allow the wine to open up and develop, releasing its aromas into the air

Bottle Aging: A period of time spent in bottle prior to release and/or consumption; a small percentage of wines gain complexity and bouquet during extended bottle aging

Buttery: Indicates the smell of melted butter or toasty oak. Also a reference to texture, as in "a rich, buttery Chardonnay."

Cellared By: Means the wine was not produced at the winery where it was bottled. It usually indicates that the wine was purchased from another source

Complex: A descriptive term for wine. Complex wines tend to have a variety of subtle scents and flavors that hold one's interest in the wine

Corked: A flawed wine that has taken on the smell of cork as a result of an unclean or faulty cork.


Decanting: A technique that removes sediment from wine before drinking

Dry: Having no perceptible taste of sugar

Earthy: Describes wines with aromas or flavors of soil or earth. In small amounts the aromas or flavors can add complexity and be positive characteristics, but become negative as the intensity increases

Elegant: Describes balanced, harmonious and refined wines

Finish: A measure of the taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is tasted

Fortified: Denotes a wine whose alcohol content has been increased by the addition of brandy or neutral spirits

Full-bodied: Wines rich in extract, alcohol, and glycerin are full-bodied wines

French Oak: The traditional wood for wine barrels, which supplies vanilla, cedar and occasionally butterscotch flavors

Intensity: Relates to appearance and aroma. When evaluating appearance, intensity describes the concentration of color. When evaluating aroma and flavor, the more pronounced or evident the characteristic, the more intense the wine


Leather: The aroma of old leather club chairs, most frequently associated with older red wines

Meaty: Describes red wines that show plenty of concentration and a chewy quality

Musty: Having an off-putting moldy or mildewy smell. The result of a wine being made from moldy grapes, stored in improperly cleaned tanks and barrels, or contaminated by a poor cork

Nose: The character of a wine as determined by the olfactory sense


Oxidized: Describes wine that has been exposed too long to air and taken on a brownish color, losing its freshness

Produced & Bottled By: Indicates that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled at least 75 percent of the wine in the bottle.

Pruny: Having the flavor of overripe, dried-out grapes

Rose: Rosés, also known as blush wines, range in color from muted salmon-orange to bright pink. These wines are made from red grapes

Sommeliar: A trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing

Subtle: Describes delicate wines with finesse

Table Wine: Wines containing 7 percent to 14 percent alcohol

Tannic: Tannins give a wine firmness and some roughness when young, but gradually fall away and dissipate. A tannic wine is one that is young and unready to drink.

Terroir: A term describing the interaction of soil, climate, topography and grape variety in a specific site, imprinting the wine and making each wine from a specific site distinct

Varietal: Refers to a wine labeled with a single grape variety

Variety: A variety refers to the grape itself, whereas the term varietal refers to the wine made from that grape variety.

Vintage: Indicates the year in which the grapes were grown. Also refers to the time of year in which the harvest takes place


Winefamily: Winefamily is both a social network and wine sales platform, set to revolutionize the wine buying industry

Woody: When a wine is overly oaky it is often said to be woody. Oakiness in a wine's bouquet and taste is good up to a point. Once past that point, the wine is woody and its fruity qualities are masked by excessive oak aging