This wine glossary maintains the KISS principle as much as possible. K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple Stupid. As such treat this as a concise, non comprehensive overview of some key wine terminology. The Grand Crew invites you to leave comments if you have any additions or would like to suggest any editions.
acetic: A kind of acid present in all wines that, in the right amount, enhances the flavor. Excess acetic acid, a major flaw, results in a vinegary-smelling wine.
acidity: Refers to the level of citric, tartaric, malic and lactic acid naturally occurring in grapes and becoming an important factor in a wine’s flavor and overall quality.
aftertaste: Also called the finish or length, the aftertaste refers to the flavors left in the mouth after swallowing wine.
albumin: The protein portion of the egg white.
aroma: An olfactory characteristic preceding bouquet that refers to the smell of a relatively young, unevolved wine.
astringent: A harshness (described as coarse, rough or puckery) in a wine that results from tannins or high acidity characteristic of young or poorly crafted wines.
austere: An overly dry, hard, highly acidic wine lacking richness or body that typically describes a young wine.
bacchus: The Roman god of wine.
balance: A characteristic of wine determined by the intersection of the concentration of fruit, tannin level and acidity.
balthazar: A large wine bottle size equivalent to 16 standard bottles or about 12 liters.
barrique: A small oak barrel used to ferment and age wine.
blind tasting: The sampling and evaluating of wines without knowledge of their identities.
bodega: A storehouse for maturing wine or a wineshop.
body: The sense of weight or fullness of a wine in the mouth.
botrytis cinerea: A fungus that attacks grapes under certain climatic conditions. Botrytis Cinerea is responsible for concentrating the grapes’ sweet juice, producing overly sweet white wines.
bouquet: The smell of a mature aged wine. Bouquets are more complex and richer than the aromas of younger wines.
brix: A measurement of the sugar level of grapes that indicates grapes’ harvest-time ripeness.
brut: Refers to a dry Champagne or sparkling wine.
carbonic maceration: Fermentation of whole, uncrushed grapes in a vat filled with carbonic gas to produce fruity wines.
cava: A Spanish sparkling wine typically produced in the Penedès region of Catalonia.
cellar: A room for storing wines.
clos: From the French, clos refers to a walled in vineyard. California wineries occasionally use the term “clos.”
cooked: Refers to wine heat damaged during transportation or storage.
cordon: A kind of trellis used to train grape vines.
corkage: A charge levied by a restaurant for opening a bottle of wine brought in by the diner.
corked: Refers to a wine ruined by a tainted cork and characterized by a musty smell.
crackling: An American term used in reference to a wine that is only slightly sparkling.
cru: From the French for “growth,” cru refers to a vineyard’s ranking.
debourbage: The settling of grapes’ must to yield a clarified, fruity wine that takes place during the production of white and rose wines.
decant: To separate the wine from the sediment prior to drinking by slowly pouring the wine from the bottle into another container.
demijohn: A large, squat bottle with a short narrow neck that holds one to 10 gallons. A demijohn is often covered in wicker.
demi-sec: From the French meaning “half dry,” demi-sec refers to a Champagne’s or sparkling wine’s sweetness.
dessert wine: Any of various sweet wines suitable to accompany dessert. Dessert wine is also an American legal term used to denoted any fortified wine, sweet or not.
dionysus: The Greek god of wine.
double magnum: A large wine bottle equivalent to four standard wine bottles or 3 liters.
dry: Refers to non-sweet wine lacking any perceptible taste of sugar.
dulce: From the Spanish meaning “sweet,” dulce describes sweet wines.
egrappage: From the French, egrappage refers to the process of de-stemming grapes prior to fermentation to prevent the tannins in the stems from transferring to the wine.
enology: The science or study of viniculture or winemaking.
esters: Esters are compounds generated when alcohols and acids interact during the fermentation and aging process.
extra dry: In reference to Champagne and sparkling wine, “estra dry” indicates a fairly dry wine with residual sugar.
fermentation: The chain-reaction, natural process by which grape juice is converted into wine via the action of yeast.
fiasco: From the Italian meaning “flask,” fiasco refers to the squat, round-bottomed, straw-covered bottles used for cheaper wines of the Chianti region.
fining: A process requiring certain agents, generally activated carbon or activated charcoal, for clarifying wines through the removal of microscopic elements.
finish: The taste that remains in the mouth after swallowing. A long finish indicates a wine of good quality.
flor: From the Spanish meaning “flower,” flor refers to the off-white yeast that naturally develops on some wines post-fermentation and can improve the quality of wine, particularly sherry-style wines.
fortification: Refers to the process of increasing a wine’s alcohol content by adding brandy or other neutral grape spirits.
hogshead: A cask or barrel used to ship wine that holds 225 to 275 liters.
hybrid: Also known as a “cross breed,” a hybrid refers to a vine or grape created by breeding two varieties from different species or genuses.
icewine: A rich dessert wine produced from grapes picked frozen and crushed before they thaw.
imperial: A French large wine bottle with a 4- to 6-liter capacity. An imperial is equivalent to eight standard bottles.
jeroboam: A French wine bottle with a 3- to 4.5-liter capacity that is equivalent to anywhere from four to six standard bottles, depending on region.
lagar: A traditional stone, cement or wood trough in which people tread on grapes to make wine. Lagars are typically used in Iberian Peninsula sherry production, specifically Port and Madeira.
legs: The viscous rivulets or droples that slide slowly down the sides of a glass after wine is swirled.
length: The amount of time the sensations of taste and aroma persist after swallowing.
liqueur: Sweetened alcoholic liquor, for example brandy or schnapps. A vin du liqueur is a fortified wine produced through the arrest of the fermentation process by the introduction of brandy before or during the process.
magnum: An oversized wine bottle with a 1.5 liter capacity. A magnum is equivalent to two standard bottles.
master of wine: A prestigious title earned after intensive examinations given by the British Institute of Masters of Wine.
méthode champenoise: The traditional, labor-intensive and expensive method of making Champagne and sparkling wine.
methusaleh: A large French wine bottle with a 6-liter capacity. A methusaleh is equivalent to eight standard bottles.
mouthfeel: How a wine feels in the mouth and against the tongue.
must: Unfermented grape juice that can include the pulp, skin and seeds.
musty: An unpleasant moldy or mildewy smell resulting from a faulty cork or from wine being stored in dirty barrels.
mutage: From the French, mutage refers to the arrest of fermentation (via the use of sulfur dioxide) and sterile filtering through the introduction of grape alcohol or brandy.
nebuchadnezzar: A huge wine bottle with a 15-liter capacity. A nebuchadnezzar is equivalent to 20 standard bottles.
nose: Related to aroma and bouquet, the “nose” refers to the general olfactory character of wine.
oenology: The science or study of viniculture or winemaking; see enology.
oenophile: A wine lover, typically a connoisseur; also spelled enophile.
oxidation: The exposure of wine to air during its production or aging that results in deteriorated nose and flavor.
palate: The feel and taste of wine in the mouth.
pasteurization: A process of partial sterilization to destroy potentially harmful organisms in the wine without producing any major chemical changes.
pétillant: Translates from the French to mean “slightly sparkling.”
ph: Standard used to measure the intensity of acidity or alkalinity on a scale of 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral, 0-6.9 being acidic and 8-14 bing basic. For wine, an acidic range of 3.0 to 3.6 is desirable.
phylloxera: A tiny aphidlike insect that attacks the grapevine roots, starving the vine of nutrients and reducing the fruit yield. Phylloxera eventually causes the plant or crop to be unrooted and replanted.
pomace: Skins, pips, seeds and pulp remaining after the grapes have been pressed.
punt: Indentation in the wine bottle’s bottom designed for reinforcement and to catch sediment.
pupitre: A special rack used in the traditional process of riddling (the removal of dead yeast cells) bottles of Champagne and sparkling wine made according to the methode Champenoise.
quaffer: A wine to drink (not sip).
quinta: From the Portuguese meaning “farm,” quinta refers to a vineyard site or estate.
racking: For aeration or clarification, racking refers to the practice, done three or four times during the winemaking process, of separating the clear juice from sediment via siphoning.
riddling: A traditional French procedure for removing dead yeast cells from Champagne or sparkling wine.
salmanazar: A large wine bottle with a 9-liter capacity. A salmanazar is equivalent to 12 standard bottles.
sangria: From the Spanish meaning “bleeding,” sangria refers to a blend of red wine (including red wine, fruit, fruit juice, soda water and sometimes liqueurs) that is served cold. Sangria can also be made of white wine.
sec: From the French meaning “dry,” sec refers to an unsweet, still wine or a relatively sweet sparkling wine.
sommelier: From the French meaning “wine steward,” a sommelier is a restaurant’s wine expert. In the past, royal houses had a sommelier on staff to match wine and food.
specific gravity: Refers to the ratio of the density of must, wine or other substances to the density water as measured with a hydrometer.
split: A small wine bottle with a 187-milliliter capacity. A split is equivalent to one-quarter of a standard bottle.
spritzer: A blend of wine and soda water that is typically served chilled.
tannin: An astringent substance present in grape seeds, skins and stems central to the production of red wine. The concentration of tannins play a factor in determining wine flavor, structure and texture.
terroir: From the French for “soil,” terroir refers to the environmental factors (including soil conditions, climate, humidity, water drainage, etc) that influence the quality of wine during its production.
thief: A long metal or glass tube used to extract wine samples from barrels or carboys.
ullage: Refers to the space created in barrels, casks or bottles as wine evaporates.
varietal: Refers to a wine using the name of the dominant grape from which it is produced, for example cabernet or chardonnay.
vermouth: A white wine that has been fortified and flavored with herbs and spices.
viniculture: The study or science of winemaking.
vintage chart: A summary of the quality and character of wines from particular regions for particular years. The vintage year is based on the year in which the grape was harvested, not the year the wine was bottled.
viticulture: The science or study of grapes, or the cultivation of grape vines.
zymurgy: The branch of applied chemistry dealing with fermentation.
Full Disclosure: The Grand Crew is not the author of this glossary and the source is unknown. If anyone knows the source, please leave a comment.