Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.
- Sounds like we made this one up, but we didn't. This is a process that takes the edge off the sweetness but adding acid, necessary in warmer climates where the fruit grown has higher levels of sugar. Old World style wine makers frown on this process. Team Wine Debunk cheers for anything that makes a delicious well-balanced wine.
- Refers to the level of naturally occurring acid in a wine. Acid gives wine a pucker-y-ness that can be a good contrast to sweetness. Too much acid can make wine too tart or sour to enjoy. Don't worry; a super acidic wine won't eat through the bottle and dissolve it's way to the center of the Earth. It's just unpleasant to drink.
- After a taste of wine has been swallowed, there is a flavor that remains in the mouth. An aftertaste that has a long duration can be an indicator of a complex wine. Assuming the wine tastes good, that's nice. If the wine tastes bad, we suggest you throw it out and go brush your teeth.
- Need a drink before dinner? Then you're looking for an Apéritif, which is French for "Look out teeth! Look out gums! Wake up stomach, here it comes!" You can see why it's easier to wrestle with speaking French when ordering a before dinner drink than use the English translation. Usually less boozy than an out and out cocktail. Alternatively, we use this term to say we've cracked open the dinner wine before the cooking was done.
- This refers to the odor of the wine. Also known as nose, smell, or bouquet. Sometimes you'll see a wine snob stick their nose in a glass and huff around for a bit before drinking their wine. A sniff is ok, but huffing like an asthmatic really crosses the line.
- When wine snobs use this term they're talking about the very first impression a wine makes when it hits your tastebuds. Or they're planning something sinister and you might want to quickly and quietly make your way to the nearest exit.
- Fancy pants speak for: this wine is stinkin' old and we should use it to make some spaghetti sauce or something before we have to throw it out.
- This is used to describe a wine where Acidity, Tannins and Alcohol all come together nicely. Goldilocks was heard describing Baby Bear's porridge as having a nice backbone before she gobbled it up and sacked out in his bed to sleep it off. Side note: We encourage our readers to drink and eat porridge responsibly.
- This is when all the elements that go into a good tasting wine are in harmony. No single element of the flavor overshadows any other. If wine was a ballerina, a balanced wine can stand en pointe on a beach ball.
- Big means pretty much what you might think it means. The flavor is bold and strong with an alcohol content that's on the high side. We particularly like the phrase, "go big or go home."
- Sometimes, when you get a swallow of wine, there's a pucker at the end of the taste. That's known as the bite. When the wine has lots going on, this can be a good thing. When the only thing a wine has to offer is its bite, you can throw it out.
- Bitter isn't necessarily bad when it comes to wine. For some types of wine, it's part of the flavor profile and can bring balance to a sweet wine. A little goes a long way, though. If the bitterness is overwhelming, throw the wine out.
- Made with herbal essences, this is often a digestif and once it hits your windpipe, you'll understand what we mean by high alcohol content. Very frequently at nearly 45% alcohol, these concoctions can really button up a meal or give a cocktail a bit of punch. Oh, yeah, they usually taste a little bitter.
- In French, cassis, this is a term that is used to describe flavor and aroma present in red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux. Extra facty-pants info: for Americans, almost all knowledge of this flavor comes from imported jams or Creme de Cassis. As a fruit, it was once very popularly grown in the US but was banned in the 1900s as it was considered a threat to the logging industry. In 2003 New York lead the way to renewing cultivation of this plant.
- A term used to describe the sensation a wine has in the mouth, in particular regard to texture and weight. Different wine varieties hover all along the spectrum. Body can be described as full, medium, or thin. In wine, there are no body image issues. There's no such thing as body-shame or body dismorphia in the wine world. Here, all body types are beautiful! Let's drink to that.
- For normal people, this refers to a bunch of flowers. For wine snobs, this is another term to describe the flower-y aroma often associated with the nose or smell of a wine. We'll know what you mean if you say your wine smells like flowers. You don't have to get fancy on us.
- Refers to newer wines that are fresh and fruity. Kind of like a new penny all shiny and new.
- This is a term used to describe the clarity of a wine. Hold your glass up to the light. Did they manage to filter all the stems and junk out of your wine? If so, then your wine is brilliant. While you're staring at your wine, you can check it out to see if it's got legs. Not that having legs means all that much.
- Refers to the driest champagne and sparkling wines. Drier than extra dry. (See Dry) Brutus, however, is the unnecessary pseudonym for Popeye's nemesis adopted when the series was revived but the studio mistakenly believed that previous producers owned the rights to the name Bluto. Whenever anyone refers to Brutus, whether discussing wine or spinach eating super sailor rivals, it's bogus. Now you know.
- This one's a twofer! 1) A description of a flavor &/or smell characteristic of Chardonnay; 2) Refers to the color of some white wines that exhibit gold-ish hues.
- A type of bitters, this Italian beverage mixes well with something citrus-y and soda. Not surprising since it is made from that Chinotto fruit, a close relative of the orange. Campari is used as an apéritif when mixed with soda and a splash of juice. We also enjoy it while watching people zoom by on their Vespas from behind our dark Italian sunglasses on the cafe patio. Just thinking about it makes us feel very Fellini. Right now, if there was a fountain nearby, we'd kick off our shoes and walk around in it. Ciao, bellissimos!
- Usually used by Americans to identify blackcurrant flavor as Creme de Cassis is generally the only exposure they've had to blackcurrant flavor. (See Blackcurrant). Alternatively, once proposed as the plural for Mama Cass, but since there was only one of her the idea was quickly abandoned.
- Cat Pee
- Believe it or not, this is an actual snobby wine person term. It refers to the ammonia smell often associated with Sauvignon Blanc, though mostly from the French ones. It's not insulting to say your Sauv Blanc smells like cat pee. If, however, your Sauv Blanc tastes like cat pee, throw it out and go brush your teeth.
- This is a term used to refer to sparkling wines from a specific region of France. Everyone else is stuck with the term Sparkling Wine which admittedly doesn't sound as fancy, but around here we call all our sparkling wine "Le Sparkling Wine" and that seems to have solved the problem for us. Champagne and Le Sparkling Wine are casually referred to as Bubbly. There is not Bubbly region in France so we feel confident no one can limit use of that term.
- A process named for its creator Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal, this is a method used after the fermentation process to sweeten acidic wines. Though a technique that changes the flavor profile of a wine, it is considered an Old World winemaking technique because without it, many wines would be deemed undrinkable since the grapes grown in Old World regions tend to be more acidic. It also helps raise the alcohol content, so this Jean-Antoine-Claude guy was really giving the world of winemaking a two-fer when he developed this technique.
- There are specific features for each type of grape and resulting wine. Character is used to refer to those features. Character does not imply quality and wine does not have to go through character building life experiences. Lack of character does not make a wine bad but you might walk away thinking, "Meh."
- This can describe big, full-bodied wines that make your mouth really stand up and take notice. (Alternatively See This)
- Often refers to wines with a flavor or smell of grapefruit and other citrus fruits, frequently white wines. This does not refer to acidity. Citrus has nothing to do with the Annoying Orange.
- Wine that has clear, distinct flavors. Opposite would be muddy, where flavors are just kind of blah.
- Too sweet. Lacks acidity. Opposite of dry but not in a good way. Can also describe a needy boyfriend or girlfriend.
- In modern usage, this term encompasses just about any mixed drink that has alcohol in it. Originally, a cocktail almost always included bitters and had three ingredients. Cocktails were often served prior to a meal but now serve more of a social lubricant when out at bars. We say, dust off your mixology book and whip up something at home with friends. There are cocktails that are made with wine (see Kir Royale). Bottoms up!
- Color comes from the skin of the grape (or lack of skin). Can hint at how robust or delicate a wine might be. Color changes over time with whites becoming darker while reds tend to fade. Let's hear it for the Red, White and Blush!
- A wine that has layers of flavor and aroma is considered complex. The more layers, the better but they have to be in balance to be complex. A complex wine is a good wine, however, a simple wine is not necessarily bad. We have decided that a wine that's got lots of layers but isn't balanced is just plain noisy.
- A wine that has gone musty or has been damaged by an eroding cork. (See this and this) Do NOT cook with this wine. Throw it out!
- A pleasant level of acidity that balances well with other components and flavors in the wine. Also good when describing bacon.
- Wines that are lighter in body and color. Also, the wise approach when confronting angry bees.
- Ideally, a drinkable wine has matured to its peak level of development. A wine can be well developed (good), underdeveloped (needs to age more), or overdeveloped (throw it out).
- This is French for, we're done eating but we're not done drinking. Often very boozy, a typical digetif has a higher alcohol content than wine. Many fortified wines fall under this umbrella along with whiskey and liqueurs. We also use this term to cajole friends into helping us finish the wine from dinner as we pour by saying, "Won't you enjoy a digestif?"
- Not sweet.
- Describes a wine that is lean, often with a higher acidity. Can be used to describe both red and white wine. Also a brand of shampoo that is apparently quite good for dry, damaged hair.
- This refers to the final impression a swallow of wine makes. A flavor that lingers means the wine has a long finish. A flavor that resolves quickly is one that has a short finish. One is not better than another, it's just one more thing to consider when evaluating what you like. There's no need to time a finish with a stop watch or anything. This is not a race.
- Refers to a wine that lacks any discernible acidity while also feeling heavy on the tongue. A flabby wine isn't worth drinking. Throw it out.
- American for bouquet, y'all. (See bouquet)
- Fortified Wine
- Fortified wine is wine that's had some booze added to it. Originally, this was done as a means to preserve the wine but the process created new flavors that have since become traditions such as Port, Sherry, Madeira, Marsala, and Vermouth, just to name a few. Sure, there are other ways to preserve wine, but these inventions tasted so good, people kept on making them. Often used as apéritifs on their own or served with a twist. They can also be mixed with other alcohols for a heartier digestif.
- Refers to a flavor reminiscent of grass or hay. Most often used to describe a young, white wine. Trust us, it's a good thing when your wine is fresh and grassy. Now if someone described their hot chocolate as grassy... that's an entirely different matter. We'd recommend rejecting that beverage.
- Several meanings. 1) A young wine; 2) Wine made with immature grapes; or 3) A synonym for grassy.
- Similar to bouquet but referring to herbal flavors and aromas rather than floral ones. It does sound like some California surfer dude speak but it's an actual wine term.
- Inky as a pejorative is a flavor means a wine is thin and metallic. Throw it out. Inky as a complement means a wine is deeply colored and we'd like to grab a glass (or jelly jar) and give that baby a taste. (Alternatively See This)
- Refers to particularly rich aroma and flavor. We like jammy wines and even drink them in our p-jammies. Breakfast in bed? Yes, please.
- Kir Royale
- This is the result of worlds colliding. In France, to doctor less than tasty wine, peasants added Crème de Cassis to it and created a drink called the Kir. Someone saw how much fun the peasants were having with their crappy wine and used it with Champagne. Voila! The Kir Royale was born. (See The Cure for Bad Champagne)
- Le Sparkling Wine
- We made this one up. (See Champagne)
- Wine that's thin in body and doesn't have lots of fruit flavors. It's usually a positive term and describes wines that are bright and crisp. This does not refer to "leaning," if you know what we mean...
- The syrupy residue that clings to the glass after the wine has been swirled. Some wine snobs would try to convince you that this means something about the flavor of a wine. We respectfully disagree.
- Refers to the time aroma and flavor linger after wine is swallowed. Related to Finish. Also known as persistence. In totally unrelated terms, freeways that run through and around Los Angeles have a total length of 1050 km/650 mi.
- An Italian liqueur often served as a digestif, or in Italian “digestivo.” It’s made by steeping the zest of a lemon in grain alcohol until the oil is released. This is then mixed with simple syrup to make the beverage. It has been known to lay waste to Danny DeVito when he hangs out with George Clooney. We think it’s delicious.
- Usually used when describing white wines, especially when they're fruity and young. An antonym for the standard English usage of lively is lackadaisical, so there's even fancy pants speak for words like lifeless, just so you know.
- An exotic and spiced flavor most frequently associated with the Gewürztraminer and reminiscent of the Lychee Nut fruit. Lychee Nuts are part of the soapberry family. No lie. We're waiting for a celebrity to name their child Lychee Nut. Lychee Nut DiCaprio has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
- A fortified wine from the Portuguese Madeira Islands. Often enjoyed as an apéritif, there are also varieties use as dessert wines and those that come salted and peppered for cooking purposes. No joke. They actually salt and pepper the Madeira ahead of time. Once the favored wine in the American colonies, In a letter to his wife John Adams admitted to having tied one on with the other founding fathers as they let the Madeira flow. Of course, we’re paraphrasing here.
- A wine that is aged well, at the right point of development, and is ready to be enjoyed. (Alternatively See This)
- The primary sensation associated with the mouth is taste, but feel is not to be overlooked. Mouthfeel is how a wine feels in the mouth and is the primary way we determine body.
- Noisy is not a wine snob word. We made it up. You didn't know you could do that? That's all we do around here, all day. Make up new words, new rules and we like it that way. A noisy wine is a wine that's trying too hard without managing to taste very good. You can cook with a noisy wine but we wouldn't blame you if you just threw it out.
- (noun) The aroma or smell of a wine. (verb) To smell a wine.
- This is the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking except vine-growing and grape-harvesting, which is a subfield called viticulture. Not to be confused with O-N-ology which is the study of words that start with the letters O and N.
- (Pronounced Pee-Kay) French for wine that's gotten too acidic and is undrinkable. In English, "pricked." Throw it out.
- Another Portugese fortified wine, Port is on the sweet side and is often served as a dessert wine. Port comes in a number of varieties, but both Tawny and Ruby ports are made from red grapes and are far more common than the Rose or White varieties. We like it with a little cheese and fruit after dinner. It pairs particularlly well with a Parrano cheese. Mmmmm, cheese.
- Fancy speak that means "good quality." If you get a wine that's refined, drink it.
- Similar to big. Usually describes a big mouthful of wine.
- This is a fortified wine. Sherry, like Champagne, denotes a specific wine from a specific region. This time from Jerez, Spain. We just know that anyone who offers us a chance to taste from a Cask of Amantillado should be regarded with deep suspicion and we won't be taking them up on their offer. If, however, someone offered us a Victorian Cobbler, we'd be all over that - it's Sherry with mixed with sparkling lemonade and served over ice. Thirsty?
- Just like you'd might imagine. Describes wine that smells rotten egg-ish or sulfur-y. Throw it out. Maybe even take a shower.
- A wine that lacks acidity and also tastes bad. Throw it out.
- Found at fancy pants restaurants, sometimes you can spot the Sommelier because as the person wearing a cup on a chain like a necklace. That's not an awkward looking rapper. You've just spotted a sommelier which means he or she is an expert on wine. If you're dropping the dollars on a joint that's got a sommelier, help yourself to some knowledge and invite a discussion on what wine to choose. It will be an education. We promise.
- A positive descriptor for white wines that are lean, have high acidity, yet are well balanced.
- All wines have structure. This term is used to describe the components that make up a wine such as alcohol, tannins, fruit, acid and glycerol. Good balance of components demonstrate a wine that's well structured.
- Having excessive tannins making the wine puckery, sour &/or bitter. Throw it out.
- It's hard to describe this one without getting all science-y. Terpenes are closely related to turpentine and tree sap. Who wants that in there wine?! Turns out, you do, if what you're about to enjoy is a variety of muscat. Terpenes are found in all sorts of organic materials (especially wood) and as wine ages, terpenes help give a floral aroma in less acidic wines and a fruity aroma in wines with more acid. See how giving your wine a sniff can tell you what you can expect when you taste it? We think that's pretty cool.
- Wine experts disagree as to the exact definition of terroir. Why do they disagree? Who knows, but our best guess is it's because wine experts can be rather feisty. One thing seems consistent in defining terroir, particular consideration is given to the natural elements that are generally considered beyond the control of humans such as the geography, geology and climate where the grapes are grown.
- Many decisions during the growing and winemaking process to enhance the expression of terroir in the wine. These include decisions about pruning, irrigation and selecting time of harvest. This does not refer to riding around in a car driven by a small dog that may also be genetically predisposed to pest control.
- A desirable aroma. In Chardonnays and other white wines, it's reminiscent of toasted bread. In Reds, it's closer to a roasted coffee smell.
- Often associated with red wines, describes an aroma that's similar to pipe tobacco.
- Once used for “medicinal purposes,” this fortified wine comes in two flavors: sweet and dry. It is a classic cocktail ingredient and is also used as an apéritif. Dry Vermouth is a key ingredient in the traditional Martini. We appreciate the doctor who instructs patients use enough dry Vermouth to coat the inside of your glass, then add ice cold Vodka. Take two olives and call us in the morning.
- A sharp smell that means the wine has turned sour. No point in tasting it. Throw it out.
- When you take Oenology and Viticulture and add them together, you get Viniculture which is a word that means pretty much everything to do with winemaking from the science to the business.
- The process of converting the juice of grapes into wine by the process of fermentation. You will sound like a doofus if you hold up your glass and announce that this juice was well vinicated.
- Vintage, in wine-making, refers to the process of picking grapes and creating the finished product. Applying the word "vintage" to that old junk in the garage can make musty objects sound like they're more valuable than they really are.
- Vintage Wine
- A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year. In certain wines, it can denote quality, as in Port wine, where Port houses make and declare vintage Port in their best years. From this tradition, a common, though incorrect, usage applies the term to any wine that is perceived to be particularly old or of a particularly high quality. Because experience has taught us that sometimes old is just manky. (Manky is British for bad in a funky old shoe kind of way.)
- Fancy pants speak for winemaker. One who makes wine is also known as a vintner. We use the terms interchangeably to maintain interest in an article. Some people only use the term vintner. You should invite them to smell the cork.
- This is the science, production and study of grapes which deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard. We only mention it, because no one wants to be that guy at the party saying, "It's viniculture! There's no such thing as viticulture." Now you're prepared.
- Introduced to Ireland and Scotland by the Romans, Whiskey derives its name from Gaelic words meaning “water of life.” We did not make that up. Whiskey proliferated in countries that did not have easy access to wine or wine grapes. American whiskey varieties include: Rye, Malt, Bourbon, and Moonshine. Both Bourbon and Moonshine are made from corn.
- Wine Cocktail
- Wine cocktail is a cocktail where the main alcohol component is wine rather than hard alcohol. These can be enjoyed before a meal or as, with Mimosas or Hibiscus. They’re usually very celebratory drinks and are enjoyed at parties. We’re thinking about throwing a brunch right now so we have an excuse to have some Bellinis. You’re invited.
- Trust us, you don't want to drink anything that's withered. It's old and well past its prime. Throw it out.