Wine Terms – The Only Lexicon You Will Ever Need

With so many wine terms being used, you can be forgiven for being a tad confused in the presence of a true wine fanatic. The rich history of the wine industry means that terminology is spread across many eras, regions, and cultures.

To impress at the next wine outing and to sound like a pro, here are 100+ wine terms, ordered alphabetically for easy referral, to add to your drink vocabulary.

Wine Terms

bordeaux wine

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | QR | S | T | U | V | W | XY | Z

A

  • Acidity: The tart taste in wine.  An overabundance of acidity tends to make wine sour.
  • Adega: Portuguese wine term for a winery or wine cellar.
  • Aerate: The addition of oxygen to wine that has the effect of changing odors. This is often done before the wine is served when it is allowed to breathe. In red wine, aeration can eliminate certain odors and in white wine, it can “soften” the taste.
  • Aftertaste: The lingering flavor in the mouth after swallowing wine. This is often a much different description and experience from the first taste or attack.
  • Aging: The maturing and improving of wine in a barrel and bottle after it’s made.
  • Ahr: One of Germany’s 13 wine regions located in a valley near the Ahr River. With less than 1,500 acres of vines, this area is one of the smallest producers of red wine.
  • Alcohol: An organic compound that is the product of fermentation. In wine and alcoholic beverages, the technical substance is ethanol.
  • Alcohol By Volume (ABV): Sometimes abbreviated as ABV or alc/vol, alcohol by volume is a standardized measurement of alcohol contained in a specific volume. This is the basis for measurement used throughout the world and is generally legally required to appear on any bottle sold in the marketplace.
  • Alcohol Level: The measurement of alcohol by the percentage by volume. White wine often ranges between 9 percent to 14 percent. Red wine often ranges between 11 percent and 14 percent.
  • Aloxe-Corton: Wine from the area of Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune. The appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) Aloxe-Corton is used for red and white wine with respectively Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as the main grape variety.

B

  • B.O.B.: The acronym for “Buyer’s Own Brand” also called a private label. Wine can be labeled for a restaurant, retailer, or business that wants to own or market their own wine without being an actual winemaker or having a vineyard.
  • Balance: A descriptor that communicates the harmonious blend of sugar, acid, tannin, and alcohol in wine. Well-balanced wines achieve higher ratings and are desired.
  • Balthazar: A very large bottle containing 12 liters of wine. This is also the equivalent of 16 regular wine bottles.
  • Ban De Vendange: The official start of the wine harvest season in France.
  • Barrel: A container used for fermenting and aging wine. Bordeaux barriques hold 59 gallons or 220 liters. Burgundy barrels hold 60 gallons or 230 liters. Hogshead barrels hold 79 gallons or 300 liters.

C

  • C.A: Abbreviation that is often seen on Spanish wine labels meaning Cooperativa Agrícola or local co-operative.
  • C.V: Abbreviation for the French term Coopérative de Vignerons that may appear on wine labels to denote that the wine has been made by a local cooperative.
  • Cane Pruning: Cane pruning is when one or two canes from a vine’s previous year’s growth are cut back to six to fifteen buds which will be the coming growing seasons for grape producers.
  • Canopy: The part of the vine growing above the ground, including the leaves and grapes.
  • Cantina: The Italian term for a winery. Spanish term for a bar.

D

  • D.O: The abbreviation for denominación de origen, or “place name”. Spain’s designation for wines whose name, the origin of grapes, grape varieties, and other important factors are regulated by law.
  • D.O.C: The abbreviation for denominazione di origine controllata, or “controlled place name”. This is Italy’s designation for wine whose name, the origin of grapes, grape varieties, and other important factors are regulated by law. It is also the abbreviation for Portugal’s highest wine category, which has the same meaning in that country.
  • D.O.C.G: The abbreviation for denominazione di origine controllata e garantita, or “controlled and guaranteed place name” which is the category for the highest-ranking wine in Italy.
  • Debourbage: This refers to a process in which the must of white wine is allowed to settle before racking off the wine. This process reduces the need for filtration or fining.
  • Decanting: The process of pouring wine from its bottle into a decanter to separate the sediment from the wine.

E

  • Earthy: The descriptor of aroma or flavor that connotes damp soil.
  • Eau-De-Vie: The French term for a grape-derived spirit such as brandy. “Water of Life” is the literal translation.
  • Edelfäule: The German term for noble rot.
  • Edelkeur: South African term for noble rot.
  • Egrappage: The French term for destemming. Destemming is removing stems prior to pressing and fermenting the grapes and their juice. Stems have a significant amount of tannin undesirable in the finished wine.

F

  • Fattoria: Italian word for a farm or wine estate.
  • Fermentation: The organic process of grape sugars changing into wine via the active ingredient of yeast.
  • Fiasco: The straw-covered flask often associated with Italian Chianti.
  • Field Blend: Once a common practice in California, this term refers to a vineyard where a number of different grape varieties are planted, harvested, and fermented together, therefore the wine blend is made “in the field.”
  • Fill Level: The level to which wine rises in the neck of the bottle provides a clue to the condition of the wine.
  • Fortified Wine: Wine that contains a distilled spirit, such as brandy. In addition to its higher alcohol content, fortified wine boasts a unique flavor and aroma that sets it apart from regular varieties.

G

  • Garrafeira: Word used on Portuguese wine labels to denote a red wine from a good vintage, aged for at three years, including one year in the bottle.
  • Gold: Used to describe the color of white wine that has been aged in oak.
  • Grand Cru: French for “great growth” vineyards or those that have some sort of historical note.
  • Grand Marquee: French for “great mark” or famous brand.
  • Grand Vin: French for “great vintage” or the vineyard’s premier wine.

H

  • Halbtrocken: German word meaning half dry, an off-dry wine style between the dry wines and sweeter wines.
  • Half-Bottle:  Holds 375 ml or one-half of the standard bottle size.
  • Herbaceous: A descriptive term that connotes aromas and flavors in a wine based on herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme or oregano.
  • Hogshead: A barrel that holds 79 gallons or 300 liters. This is one of the largest-sized barrels used to craft wine.
  • Hot: A descriptor of wine that is high in alcohol and often burns the mouth.

I

  • Ice Wine: Wine made from frozen grapes. Referred to as Icewine – in Canada and called Eiswein in German. Often served as a dessert wine.
  • Imperial: A large bottle holding six liters or the equivalent of eight regular wine bottles. Tends to be Bordeaux shaped.
  • Inky: A wine that has an opaque color.
  • IPM: Abbreviation of Integrated Pest Management, a complex system of insect and vine disease control using a minimal amount of agrochemicals, ideally none.

J

  • Jammy: Describes a wine that has a fruity flavor or aroma which is reminiscent of fruit preserves or jam.
  • Jeroboam: A large bottle holding 3-5 liters, or the equivalent of four to six regular wine bottles.
  • Jug Wine: Used to describe bulk wine or inexpensive table wine. In French, this is called Vin de table.

K

  • Kabinett: Lightest and least sweet quality level for German wines.

L

  • Late Bottle Vintage (LBV): Port taken from a single vintage and bottled from four to six years following the harvest.
  • lees Aging: 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: A tasting term for the tracks left on the inside of the glass by some wines; sometimes also called tears.
  • Length: How long the flavors of a wine persist in the mouth after swallowing; a lingering aftertaste.

M

  • Maceration: In red winemaking, the skins, pips, and pulp are left to soak or macerate in the fermenting must in order to impart color and tannins to the wine.
  • Magnum: A bottle holding 1.5 liters, 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: The secondary fermentation in which lactic acid bacteria is added to wines so that tart-tasting malic acids convert into softer lactic ones. Wines described as “buttery” or “creamy” have gone through “malo” which is short for malolactic fermentation.
  • Master of Wine: Professional qualification granted to those who pass a rigorous exam set by The Institute of Masters of Wine, which is located in the United Kingdom.

N

  • Nebuchadnezzar: Holds 20 bottles of wine or 15.0 liters.
  • Negociant: The French term for a negotiator or wholesale merchant, blender, or shipper of wine. Negociant eleveurs add the finishing touches to the wine including aging in barrel and bottle, before selling it.
  • Noble Rot: Botrytis or mold that pierces the skin of grapes and causes dehydration, resulting in natural grape juice exceptionally high in sugar.
  • Nonvintage: A wine that does not give a vintage year on the label.
  • Nose: The description of how a wine smells.

O

  • Oak/Oaky: Descriptor denoting smells and flavors of vanilla and toast.
  • Oenology: The study of wine and winemaking.
  • Oenophile: A wine aficionado or connoisseur.
  • Organoleptic: A wine tasting term for anything that affects smell which impacts taste. An example would be tasting wine while suffering from a cold or having strong odors such as burning food near while trying to taste wine.
  • Overcropping: The viticultural practice of allowing the vine to set too large a crop, resulting in grapes with diluted, thin flavors.

P

  • Passito: Italian term denoting wines made from dried grapes.
  • Perlant: The French term for a wine that has very slight effervescence, more than a still wine but less than a semi-sparkling. Similar to the Italian term frizzantino.
  • Phenolic Compounds: The natural compounds found in grape skins and seeds.
  • Phylloxera: A microscopic insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots. A breakout in the 19th century nearly destroyed part of Europe’s and France’s wine industry.
  • Pip: Grape seeds.

Q

  • QPR: “Quality-Price Ratio,” a term primarily used as a shortcut in online wine talk, a favorable reference to a wine of particularly good value. Sometimes seen as “PQR.”
  • Quaffer, Quaffing Wine: A wine that’s simple but refreshing, prompting easy swigging rather than thoughtful contemplation.

R

  • Racking Hose: A flexible, plastic hose used to siphon wine from one vessel to another. It is used in both racking and bottling operations.
  • Racking Off: The process of moving wine off the sediment in the bottom of the barrel or tank into a clean empty barrel or tank.
  • Rancio: A term denoting a fortified wine that has been deliberately maderized by exposure to oxygen and heat.
  • Red Wine: a type of wine made from dark-colored (black) grape varieties. The actual color of the wine can range from intense violet, typical of young wines, through to brick red for mature wines and brown for older red wines.
  • Refractometer: A device used to measure the sugar content of grapes.
  • Rehoboam: Champagne only – 4.5 liters or six bottles.
  • Rosé Wine: A type of wine that incorporates some of the color from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. It may be the oldest known type of wine, as it is the most straightforward to make

S

  • Sabrage: Sabrage is a technique for opening a Champagne bottle with a sabre, used for ceremonial occasions. The sabre is slid along the body of the bottle to break the entire neck away from the bottle, leaving only the base of the bottle open and ready to pour.
  • Sack: An early English term for what is now called Sherry.
  • Salmanazar: A large bottle holding nine liters, the equivalent of 12 regular wine bottles (one case).
  • Sangria: A tart wine punch made from red wine along with orange, lemon, and apricot juice with added sugar.
  • Sec: The French word for “dry” which is associated with a taste that lacks sweetness.
  • Sparkling Wine: A wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide in it, making it fizzy.

T

  • Tannin: Organic compounds that are found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. These ingredients change during fermentation, giving wine structure and texture.
  • Tartaric Acid: The key acid in wine gives a tart, fresh flavor to the wine. It is important for the tartaric acid levels to be balanced.
  • Tastevin: A shallow cup used for tasting wine generally forged in sterling silver.
  • Tasting Flight: Refers to a selection of wines, usually between three and eight glasses, but sometimes as many as fifty, presented for the purpose of sampling and comparison.
  • Terroir: French for “soil” and the geographic characteristics of the land. Chalk, gravel, sand, clay as well as other environmental factors unique to a given vineyard, are also denoted by terroir.

U

  • Ullage: The empty space left in bottles and barrels as wine evaporates. When in barrels, ullage needs to be kept at a minimum so the wine does not oxidize.

V

  • Varietal: A term for a wine named after the predominant grape variety from which it is made.
  • Vat: A large, wooden, stainless steel, or concrete container for storing or aging wine.
  • 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.
  • Vin: The French word for wine.
  • Vin Mousseux: A generic French term for a sparkling wine.

W

  • Waiter’s Friend: A typical corkscrew tool used in restaurants where several bottles of wine are opening during a short period of time. This type of wine accessory folds up and can easily be kept in a pocket.
  • Weight: Similar to body, the thicker or richer a wine feels in the mouth, the more weight it has.
  • White Wine: A wine that is fermented without skin contact. The colour can be straw-yellow, yellow-green, or yellow-gold. It is produced by the alcoholic fermentation of the non-coloured pulp of grapes, which may have a skin of any colour.
  • Wine: The result of the fermented juice of grapes.
  • Wine Cave: A subterranean structure for storing and aging wine. Often made from natural stone formations such as limestone which creates an optimal and consistent temperature.
  • Wine Thief: A pipette used to extract a sample of wine from a barrel.

X

  • Xylem: The woody tissue of a vine, inside of the vascular cambium layer, that includes heartwood and sapwood, which transports water and nutrients from the roots towards the leaves.

Y

  • Yeast: A micro-organism present on the skins of grapes that reacts with the sugars inside and results in the production of ethyl alcohol during a process called fermentation.
  • Yield: A measure of the amount of grapes or wine produced per unit surface of 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.

Z

  • Zymology: The science of fermentation in wine.