Wine Glossary

acidity

Wine needs some level of acidity to really pop. The three main wine acids; citric, tartaric, and malic acids. Acidity in a wine can preserve the wine's freshness and keep the wine alive, but too much acidity can be an epic fail. Wines from hot years tend to have lower acidity and wines from cooler, wetter years are higher in acidity.

"This wine is super spicy. No wait...maybe its high acidity I'm tasting." - snooty young wine dude

aeration

Same as blowing bubbles in your milk when you were a kid and it changed the texture. Same thing, but with wine.

"Don't shake the bottle, darling, you will bruise the wine! There are far more civilized ways to aerate!" - snooty wine chic

aging

Only positive connotation of this word is for wine or cheese. Aging changes how wine tastes. Hoard your bottle away like a crazed squirrel and next winter that nut tastes so much better.

"And there are only two things in the wine cellar. My grandmother's ashes and the select bottles I have chosen to age." - snooty old wine dude

aggressive

A snobby way to describe a wine that after you take a sip.

"Grrrahhhhwahhh! Wow, now that wine is angry!"- Randy Farrar

appellation

This is a specific region that has been blessed by the wine gods to be deemed to impart specific characteristics to the grape vines grown in that area. Appellation can and does have a value and when a wine has that name place listed on the label it can increase the value of the wine. Appellation rules are country defined so they are different worldwide. In the United States 85% of the wine in the bottle must be from the appellation in order to use the appellation on the label.

Appellation: Napa? Elicits respect and properly enthusiastic "ohhhs and ahhhs!" and ups the MSRP.
Appellation: Bakersfield? Winery somewhat savvy enough to drop the appellation altogether and say "California" instead.

aroma

SMELL!

"This Viognier has a lovely aroma." - Craveyon President of Everything

astringent

Wines that are astringent are not necessarily bad or good wines. Astringency gives off a coarse or harsh taste, but usually this is because it still needs time to age and develop. High tannin levels can lead to astringency.

"Younger wines tend to be a bit more astringent." - wine teacher

balance

Exactly what you think it is; a wine where all the elements are in a Zen state. You will figure this one out after drinking a bit.

"This wine has got to get five stars mainly for the incredible balance." - Lori Cuevas

barrel

Those cool wooden drums that everyone rolls out to prove they are MAKING WINE. Also called a cask or as my sister, Jojo calls it, a Sippy Cup.

"Man, there weren't seven dead soldiers on our porch the next day, there was a goddamn empty barrel." - guy with an alcohol problem

bitter

No, this does not just mean your ex. Foods and in our case, wine, can have a bitter element. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Tannin in wine is the presence of phenolic compounds that add bitterness to a wine. If you ever took a chemistry class you will now go, ahh, yeah, I think I remember the phenolic compound. But you don't have to have a degree in enology from UC Davis to enjoy a wine with the right amount of bitter. See tannins.

"This wine has a lovely aroma, wonderful finish, any would actually be a bit flabby if it wasn't for that bitter aftertaste." - snooty old wine dude

blend

Think rainbow slushy on this one - the one that somehow always seems to turn grey.

"Blends are an up and coming division of wine. They aren't just table reds anymore." - Trader Joe's wine aficionado

body

How a wine feels in your mouth. Yeah, we know, where else would you put it?

"Notice the body of this wine. It actually feels heavy on the tongue." - wine teacher

Bordeaux

Pronounced "Bore-dough", The largest wine growing region in France. We are talking about a lot of wine here. Over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux is produced every year and there are over 54 different specific areas (see appellations) within Bordeaux itself. So it can be confusing because you can hear someone say its Bordeaux wine but that means where it's from not what kind of grape was used to make the wine. Mostly Bordeaux is red wine although there is a sweet white called Sauternes, dry whites and even roses and sparkling wines produced there. Most of the time when requesting or recommending a wine people say the type of grape (varietal) that they want, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah for reds or Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc for whites. Remember Bordeaux is a growing area (as in grapes are grown there, not population growing!) and city in France.

"I finally got all my tasks done today in Outlook, I wouldn't say I'm Bourdeaux!"  - cheeky wine company co-worker

bouquet

SMELL AGAIN! Technically it's the collection of smells the wine is giving off. Wine has as many words for smell as the Eskimos have for snow. To put it lightly, it's a very big deal. So swirl if you must but never forget to stop and smell the liquid in front of you. 

"The only bouquet I want my bae giving to me is from a case of Syrah."  - chic that doesn't understand why romance is dead and she can't keep a man

breathing

Hello! Same as aeration. Aerating a wine or letting it breathe are both thought to improve the flavor or "soften" a wine. Ask Mikey once his milk was fully bubbled if it was any better. He would have said yeah, Mom would have said absolutely not.

"I'm allowing it to breathe, Mom."  - Mikey

breattanomyce

Breattanomyce's nickname is brett. Thank goodness since its full name is hard to pronounce or remember. A scary yeast, think chicken pox for wine.

After brett gets into a wine it can produce smells and flavors like wet horse blankets, metallic or even fresh (or old yuck) band-aid. Brett spreads and can infect wine barrels too so it needs to be carefully controlled. There ARE winemakers that seek out the unique smell of brett and will add it on purpose to a wine. Craveyon prefers wines WITHOUT wet dog smell but hey, what do we know?

"Those barrels are such a good deal. They are probably infected with brett." - young vintner looking over equipment at an auction

brilliant

Super clear looking wine. Must pronounce in snooty British accent.

brut

Means dry or unsweetened champagne or sparkling wines. Pronounced "brute" this one always seemed counter-intuitive to me. Shouldn't champagne always be called suave sparkling angel? Not a brut?

bung

Hahahahahaha! They couldn't just call it a plug, right? The little, usually plastic, but sometimes wooden or cork plug used to stop up a barrel.

bung hole

HAHAHAHAHAHA! its like old snooty wine dudes are just throwing big old slow lops at this point. The little hole in the barrel where you stick the bung?

chaptalization

Usually whispered since it is an illegal activity in some places. To add sugar to wine before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels.

citric acid

One of the four holy wine acids.

claret

British term for red wines from Bordeaux. Oh the English. They think they're SO SUPERIOR.

closed

People say a wine is closed if it isn't showing its potential yet. We are coming back to the whole mature vs young thing here. Once a wine matures (and that can be subjective) it comes into its own and becomes open to interpretation. Think of the term “closed off” when talking about a person. That’s what we are talking about. As if the wine is somehow making a choice to not show you its true personality and only after it has sat around cellared for a decade will it be comfortable enough (and tannins calmed down enough) to show you how beautiful it can be!

cork taint

Yucky smells and flavors from wine being over oxygenated due to cork failure. Up to 10% of all wines bottled with corks get cork taint. Help Stop this atrocity from continuing to occur! Buy screw cap only! Rally to STOP CORK TAINT next week at the park after the STOP CAT JUGGLING rally!

corked

A cork-taint destroyed wine. Tastes like wet cardboard or moldy dark basements (not to be confused with wine that has little bits of cork floating in it). 

cru

This is a French wine term meaning super fancy vineyard. The area has been shown to produce grapes made into extra special fancy wine and so over time the place gets christened with a fancy tag. You can even have cru classes like Grand Cru and Premier Cru and so on and so forth. The designations differ slightly depending on where you are even in France so this can get super complicated. If you want to know more about cru designations check out the Learn Me Some Wine Series, a course regarding the complicated world of cru has a course in the works.

crush

English term for harvest. An elevator is a lift, a trunk is a boot and harvest is crush. We don't make this stuff up, you know.

demi-sec

Literally "half-dry" demi is half and sec is dry.

Wanna spot a total wine bulldozer? Listen to them proclaim a wine sweet and dry. You can lean back in your chair and silently laugh at their ignorance knowing full well that a wine can either be sweet OR dry not sweet AND dry. Or you can call them out on it and watch their face turn beet red and never get asked back. Totally depends on what mood you are in. Maybe you better just call them out online under the username; ZiggyWinederlust.

dry

Wine taste which is opposite of sweet (see rant on demi-sec).

earthy

Smell or flavor reminiscent of soil (don't think gross dirt here, think of the most romantic version of fresh damp soil, hence earthy!) This is a great bad-ass wine term to throw down. Tied only with minerality. 

enology

The study and making of wine. Wine science.

enologist

Wine scientist. Talk about your fun smart guys these people are it. They may get a little snippy when you don't know about or have your own refractometer but you can simply say; "I gauge sugar levels with my amazing palate. You use instrumentation? Hmm." Then look up at the sky as if to say, "So that's the way it is in your office."  

fining

Addition of gelatin or sometimes egg whites to filter out unwanted particles.

"I only speak veganese so you're going to have to explain to me exactly how much of the egg whites are left over once you have finished fining it." - Guy with loose grip on definition of an eating disorder

finish

This is a weird one, it's the taste you get after you taste.We are well aware that it is this kind of nonsensical nonsense that makes people say they don't drink wine. Its intimidating; a finish. We won't make you say it or use it ourselves but we do want you to know what they are talking about. But finish isn't just mythological, its real. One day, 3 or 4 months into your new wine relationship you may find yourself taking a big old sip and thinking...what's that? What's that flavor I am tasting after I've already swallowed the wine. Ah-ha!! It's the FINISH!!

flavors

A tough one. We will come back to this. It is NOT flavor like grape-flavored slushies. Oh, how we wish it was.

fruity

Check out our Tasting Guide for information on this one. Wine can seem more fruity or floral or oaky or herbal depending on wine varietal and who you ask.

herbaceous

Any wine that gives off a grassy taste or smell. There are tons of different words people use to describe wine and as long as you sense it in there it can work.

hot

Being able to identify by taste the alcohol in a wine.

lees

Deposits of dead yeast at the bottom of a barrel of wine after fermentation. This is what gets filtered out by fining and filtering.

malic acid

One of the holy wine acids.

malolactic fermentation

In winemaking, this is when malic acid gets turned into lactic acid. The by-product of this chemical change is the buttery flavor very popular in Chardonnay.

mature

This is a wine that has aged. Imagine wine as a person, is it young and brash or more mature and mellowed?

minerality

The great wine wheel of aromas and flavors usually separates into a few overarching categories; floral, spicy, vegetal. caramel, woody/nutty, earthy, and chemical. So sometimes minerality can be used to describe an aroma or flavor (sometimes both) of a wine that falls into that chemical category. Perhaps denoting something more precise like kerosene or tar. It can also be reflective of a wine's terroir; suggesting the minerality found in the soil. 

"Cracked oyster shells and sea salt are absolutely pouring out of the mineral notes of this wine!"  - young winemaker

"That's what you get? I'd think you'd get more like a slap in the face for being so pretentious." - old winemaker

must

Freshly pressed wine grapes. All the skins and juice and pulp and seeds and everything are in the must.

negociant

Fancy name for a wine salesperson.

noble rot

When a vine gets purposefully infested with a grey mold then dried out again to get a desired state of grape. The nobley rotted grape, used to enhance certain sweet wines.

nose

SMELL!

oakey

Having a tree-like smell or flavor. Oak-like.

oenology

The science of wine.

open

Wines that disclose their flavor and aroma early instead of waiting to be aged to show you how good they are.

oxidation

Wines that have been exposed to too much air. They turn brown and yucky if left out too long.

"When was this opened? I think it oxidized. I'm opening another one to be safe."  - Craveyon's Fulfillment Khaleesi when she wants to open a new red at 4pm on a Tuesday

plonk

Bad wine.

"I thought they'd only have plonk at the Monster Truck Rally but I was surprised to see some interesting varietals served in lovely 4-ounce plastic glassware."  - Monster Truck Rally attendee

residual sugar

Any sugar that remains in the wine after the fermentation process.

"Residual sugar must be disclosed on all entrants for the competition." - most Wine Contest Rulebook

rough

Your wayward brother-in-law and wine that lacks maturity. Wine that may be best suited to making wine coolers or sangria. See plonk. 

"I loved all the wines at the ballot bar but number five was a bit rough."  - Craver

sec

A dry wine with little to no sugar.

spicy

Wine can definitely be spicy. A spicy Syrah or Cab can be a wonderful thing.

structure

How the four elements in wine; acid, tannin, alcohol and glycerol intersect with each other. A great wine is like a Master Airbender perfectly manipulating air, fire, water and earth to a spectacular end! 

sweet

Sugary and California slang for "really good". 

"That ride and this Orange Muscat are sweet!" - concise Millennial wine drinker

tannins

The presence of phenolic compounds that add bitterness to a wine. As a characteristic of wine, tannin adds both bitterness and astringency as well as complexity.

Some wine drinkers have a strong relationship with tannins, some even going so far as to say they are allergic to tannins. That heavy head they have in the morning is most likely not from tannins themselves but rather to the quantity of wine drunk. Tannins are naturally occurring in lots of other popular foods but you don't get a heavy head as you usually don't drink three cups of black tea in quick succession.

Foods that are naturally high in tannins: 

High-Tannin Foods
  • tea leaves
  • walnuts, almonds and nuts with skins
  • dark chocolate
  • cinnamon, clove and other spices
  • pomegranates, grapes and Açaí berries
  • quince
  • red beans
tartaric acid

Yes another of the wine acids.

terroir

Literally means land. This is like appellation but it is a controversial subject in the wine world.

texture

The interplay between the elements of wine; alcohol, sugar and acidity.

 

typicity

The degree to which a wine reflects its origins.

ullage

The space at the top of a bottle of wine between the wine and the cork or screw cap. Or the space in the barrel inside where there is air. Usually you have to fill up the ullage so the wine doesn't oxidize.

vegetal

Another fancy wine descriptive word. If wine has a veggie like flavor or smell you can call it vegetal.

vinification

Turning juice into wine. A holy miracle.

vitis vinifera 

“Vitis” is a genus of vining plants. The vinifera part is a specific species of the common grape vine. Humans have recognized and harvested for thousands of years and humans have been making wine out of certain varieties of vitis vinifera for thousands of years.

“Circle all pronouns in this passage: ‘Although Farmer John supplied avocados to the town market his heart belonged to his impressive acres of vitis vinifera, specifically his Cabernet Sauvignon plants.’” – English class exercise 

vintage

This is the year the wine was made.

wine

Elixir of the gods.

wine science

Enology

yield

When it comes to grape production the berries harvested are measured in tonnage from each acre. Different types of berries can be denser according to natural sugar content and juice. The amount can differ year to year and in relation to the age of the plants. A field of Chardonnay may have a higher yield depending on rainfall or how old the vines have been growing on that specific acreage. And a greater yield may not mean better wine. A whole lot has gotta happen once those grapes are pulled. and sometimes big juicy berries can end up creating a flat, lazy wine. 

young

A wine that hasn't aged to its potential. The wine could show promise but needs time alone to think with its thoughts before becoming a true reflection of perfection.

 

Have a wine word in mind not listed here? Want a no-nonsense definition? Email srogers@craveyon.com for answers!