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Glossary - Wine Geek Speak
May 07, 2012


Acidity/Acid - Creates a mouthwatering sensation, balances sugar and sweetness. Acids occur naturally in grapes.
Alcohol- The result of fermentation. Sugar (in grapes) +Yeast (naturally occurring or added) = Alcoholic Fermentation. Alcohol percentage must be stated on the label.
Appellation (ap-puh-LAY-shuhn) - A designated growing area generally governed by rules and regulations established by a local governing body or government.
Example of governing body: AOC (Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée) in France, VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) in Canada, AVA (American Viticultural Area) in America, DOC (Denominazione Di Oringine Controllata) in Italy.
Aroma - Individual and primary smells found in wines. In the wine world aroma is determined by the simple fruity smell of a grape varietal as well as any resulting aromas during winemaking/ fermentation and aging. As a wine ages in a bottle and becomes mature the aromas change, become softer and blended creating a bouquet.
Astringent - The dry, mouth-puckering effect of excessive tannins.
Austere - Somewhat hard and/or lacking in fruit. (This can be caused by excessive tannins or acidity)
AVA - Approved Viticultural Area.


Balance - When all combined components (alcohol, acid, sweetness, tannins etc.) are in perfect harmony.
Barrique (ba-REEK) - French term for the 225L oak barrels used for storing and aging wine.
Big - A rich, full-bodied wine, concentrated, assertive and intensely flavoured.
Blend - A combination of different wines, the goal to achieve a whole that is superior to the parts.
Body - The perception of texture and weight caused primarily by the amount of alcohol, but can also be achieved with winemaking techniques.
Botrytis Cinerea (boh-TRI-tihs sihn-HER-ee-uh) -aka Noble Rot, a mold that develops on grapes, shriveling and shrinking them concentrating the flavours and sugars in desert wines like Sauterns.
Botrytised (boh-TRY-tihsd) - Desciption of wines that have a sweet uniquely aromatic, honeyed characteristic in both fragrance and flavour. This trait is caused by grapes that have have been infected with the mold Botrytis Cinerea.
Bouquet - The complex fragrance that has developed through fermentation and age.
Brilliant - A wine of superior clarity achieved through intense filtering.
Brut - A term used to describe dry Champagnes or sparkling wines.


Chaptalization (shap-tuh-luh-Zay-shuhn)-Addition of adding sugar to grape juice (must) prior to fermentation. Specifically in vintages when the grapes do not ripen fully. Not legal in all parts of the world.
Charming - Usually refers to an appealing wine, often simple but with pleasing character.
Chewy - Descriptor for wines that are rich, dense, intense and full-bodied. The mouth filling impression makes them seem as though you can chew them. Also refers to meaty
Clarity - Visually, a wine that is brilliant lacking in cloudiness or haziness.
Cloying - Lacking acidity, resulting in a wine that is excessively sweet.
Coarse - Refers to a rough texture, usually the result of tannins.
Corked - A fault, cased by a cork that has been affected by TCA (Tricloroanisole). smelling similar to wet cardboard or moldy basement.
Creamy -The rich, smooth froth on a sparkling wine or the buttery rich mouth-feel (weight and body) of some white wines.
Crisp - Fresh lively acidity.
Cru - French term for growth, can also indicate a vineyards ranking (ie: premier cru, grand cru).
Cuveé - French term ‘contents of vat’ can also refer to the specific ‘blend’.


Demi-Sec - French term meaning half-dry, primarily used in Champagne.
Domaine - French term for ‘property’ or ‘estate’.
Dumb - Closed, transitional phase of wine between youth and maturity, completely unpredictable duration or time.
Elegant -Finesse, delicateness and balance, high quality.
Enology - (ee-Nahl-uh-jee)-The study of viniculture (winemaking).
Fat - Textural term is heavy (weight), concentrated, rich on the palate. Not to be confused with flabby.
Fermentation - Natural process that turns grape juice into wine, sugar+yeast=alcoholic fermentation.
Finish - The final impression of flavour remaining on the palate after swallowing. A long finish is desirable and is part of the overall balance of the wine.
Flabby - A wine that is heavy on the palate, lacking balance, acidity and structure.
Frizzante - Italian term meaning ‘lightly sparkling’ or effervescent.


Garrigue - A french term referring to the low wild scrub and herbs found along the Mediterranean. The smell of garrigue is like wild shrub and wild herbs.
Grand Cru -(grahn-Kroo)-A French term meaning 'great growth'.  It is a regional classification and refers to the potential of the terroir in a classified region as opposed to quality - although people assume the two are linked it is not always so. In Burgundy Grand Cru is a top-ranking designated vineyards. In Bordeaux, it hold less status and is given to some chateau's. In Alsace it signifies the top vineyards and in Champagne it refers to the quality of wines being produced in an individual village. Only certain villages in the Champagne region score a high enough percentage to receive this designation.
Green - Grassy quality, usually high in acidity, sometimes made from under-ripe grapes. Grassy refers to the aroma of cut grass. Green can also refer to vegetal qualities in wine, which can often be a negative.


Harmonious - perfectly balanced and ready to drink.
Harsh - Descriptor meaning ‘hard’ could be excessively tannic (astringent) or acidic.
Hollow - Wine that lacks depth and body, flavour may ‘drop off’ in the mid-palate. Wine writers also refer to hollow as, "it's a donut".
Hybrid - A vine or grape created from two different species of vines or grapes.


Insipid -Lacking body, character and flavour.


Lean -Opposite of fleshy, somewhat lacking in fruit, can be positive or negative.
Legs - After a wine is swirled it leaves a coating on the inside of the glass that separates into viscous-looking legs or tears that run slowly down the sides of the glass. Not an important factor in judging wine.
Length - a measurement of lingering persistence (in seconds) on the palate after swallowing. The longer the length, the higher quality of wine.
Lively -Term for freshness and youthful fruity character.
Lush - Term for wines that are soft, velvety and rich-luscious.


Maderized - Winemaking term for an over-the-hill wine tasting similar to Madeira. Has characteristics similar to over-ripe apples. Different from oxidized.
Malolactic Fermentation (ML) - A secondary fermentation that converts the harsher malic acids into softer lactic acids. Softens the wine and builds complexity.
Mature - A wine that is suitably aged, developed and hopefully ready to drink rather than over the hill.
Meaty - A synonym for ‘chewy’, a wine so full-bodied it gives a sense of chewiness. Can also be used to describe meaty aromas like smoked meat or wild meat.
Meritage (mer-uh-tihj) - A term coined in 1988 in California. ‘Merit’ meaning; ‘best of the vineyard’ combined with ‘heritage’ meaning; ‘the heritage of Bordeaux’. Meritage (like the wines from the region of Bordeaux in France) can be made from any combination of Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc, Merlot and possibly Petit Verdot and Malbec.
Mousse - French term for ‘froth’ or ‘foam’ which refers to the foam that forms on the surface of sparkling wine when it is first poured. (Like the head on the top of a beer.)
Muscular/Masculine - Bold, full bodied red wines usually with heavy, dark fruit and meaty aromas. Opposite of feminine.


Négociant (nay-goh-SHAYAHN) - French term for ‘merchant’ or ‘dealer’ used in the wine world to refer to a firm or person who sells and ships wine. A middleman.


Oak; Oaky; Oakiness - Wine term describing a toasty, vanilla, creamy aroma or flavour from wines stored in oak barrels. Can sometimes come across on the finish as burnt caramel (over toasted barrels) or green/bitter woodiness (young or ‘green’ barrels).
 It’s widely accepted that American oak imparts sweeter more vanillin characteristics, than French oak barrels.
Oily - Term used to describe texture of a wine A smooth, slippery impression that makes a wine taste ‘fat’ and is generally associated with white wines with low acidity.
Off - Term to describe a wine that is spoiled or seriously flawed. Different from corked.
Oxidized - Term used to describe a wine that has undergone oxidization due to exposure to air. This causes a chemical change and the wine deteriorates. Different, yet easily confused with the term maderized.


Peppery - Term used to describe spicy, black or white pepper characteristics.
Perfumed - Highly aromatic or highly fragrant wine, usually caused by grape variety.
Petrol; Petroleum - Sensory term used to describe the faint smell of petroleum found in some wines; specifically Riesling. Not a negative term.
Phenolic (fee-NAHL-ihk) compounds - Compounds found present in grape seeds and skins and oak barrels which produce astringency, tannins, bitterness and colour in wine.
Phylloxera (fihl-LOX-er-uh) - A tiny aphid-like insect that attacks the rootstock of grapevines and sucks out the nutrients. The ultimate result is the decimation of the vine.
Pips - Another term for grape seeds.
Prickly - Wines that have a slight prickle or bubble to them but are not considered sparkling wines. Vinho Verde is a good example of a prickly wine.
Punt - Indentation 'dimple' at the bottom of the wine or Champagne bottle.


Quaffer - An easy sipper, goes down easy, not too complicated but thoroughly enjoyable. Easy to quaff, very quaffable. A picnic wine, a hot tub wine...


Racy - refers to lively almost bracing acidity - a positive term.
Racking - Process of siphoning off the clear juice from sediment at the bottom of the container (barrel/tank). This may occur several times during winemaking process before the wine becomes clear. Wine may also filtered after this process.
Ripe - Winetasting term describing wines that are made from perfectly ripened grapes. Comes across in the fruit aromas and flavours in wine.


Savoury - A general descriptor used in association with full bodied wines. Can be used to describe savoury aromas like herbs (thyme, rosemary) or meats (stewed, wild game). Term used in exchange with, succulent.
Sec - French term for dry.
Sharp - Winetasting term used for wines that produce a biting sensation usually due to excess of acidity.
Short - referring to finish. Means the finish is not long, it cuts off abruptly and is not a desirable trait in a wine.
Simple - A wine that is not complex but is still forthright and quite good - straightforward.
Smooth - Descriptor of wine that can refer to texture, finish and flavour and body.
Spicy - A descriptor usually characteristic to grape variety. Can refer to pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and, or allspice.
Stemmy - Winetasting term describing astringency or ‘green’ flavour/aroma. Usually caused by extended contact with grape stems during winemaking.
Supple - Term used for well-structured wines that are harmonious, soft and velvety.
Sur Lie (soor LEE) - French term for a wine that has been left to soak (and stirred) with the lees. Lees is the coarse sediment consisting of grape particles and dead yeast cells that accumulate during fermentation. This is believed to add complexity, body and flavour imparting a creaminess to white wines
Sweet - Generally refers to the residual sugar in a wine that comes through on the palate where it is detected on the very tip of the tongue. Can also be used in describing the aroma of ripe fruit and/or flowers which makes it smell sweet.


Tannic; Tannins - Any group of astringent substances found in seeds, skins and stems as well as oak barrels = phenolic compounds. Tannins are important in red wine as they provide substance, flavour, structure and texture as well as contributing to the age worthiness of a wine.
Tartrates - A by-product of tartaric acids found in wine. Tartrates can sometimes be found in wine that has been improperly cold stabilized and can appear as tiny diamond crystals. Visually not appealing but they are not harmful to the wine.
Terroir (teh-RWAHR) - French term for ‘soil’. Refers to the overall combination of soil, climate and geographical features - used worldwide.
Tight - A wine which is quite restrained and the tannins firm. There is an expectation in will open up with time allowing more fruit expression and the softening of the tannins. 
Tired - Term used for wine that is dull, passed its prime and generally uninteresting.
Typicity - A widely used descriptor for expressing common characters a variety exhibits in a wine. The wine exhibits typicty of the variety of grape it is made of.


Ullage (UHL-ihj) - The empty space that develops (through evaporation) in casks, barrels and bottles. In a bottle it refers to the space between the cork and wine.
Unfiltered - A wine that has not been filtered; a process that removes sediment. It is believed that leaving the wine unfiltered adds flavour and body.
Underripe; Unripe - A Winetasting term used for wine made from grapes that have been picked before they are fully ripe. Generally the wine will have high acidity or ‘green’ flavours.


Varietal - Grape type from which wine is made ie: Chardonnay, Syrah, Riesling…
Vegetal - Winemaking term describing the taste and smell characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables particularly asparagus or bell pepper. Usually a negative term.
Velvety -  Winetasting term for texturally opulent, lush or smooth wines-velouté
Viniculture - The study or science of making wine.
Viscosity; Viscous (VIHS-kuhs) - Describes a liquid that is generally rich, concentrated and high in glycerol. Leaves distinct legs or sheets on the side of the glass and is texturally weighty on the palate.
Viticulture - The cultivation of grapevines or the study or science of grapes and their culture.
Vitus Labrusca (VEE-tihs luh-BRUHS-Kuh) - One of the main, original North American vine species-especially in Canada and Northeastern U.S.A. Best known is the Concord variety. These were pulled up in favour of the European Vitis Vinfera - ie; Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay etc.
Vitus Vinifera (VEE-this vinh-IHF-uh-ruh )- Vine species that produces 99% of the world’s wines. Native to Europe, East and Central Asia, i.e. Cabernet, Merlot, Riesling.
Voluptuous - A wine, which is full-bodied rich and round on the palate.


Wine - The result of fermented juice of grapes.


Yeasty - Winetasting term used to describe the yeasty, fresh-bread bouquet found in wines that have either; been aged on the lees or sparkling wines made in the traditional method like those made in Champagne.
Young; Youthful -generally describes a fresh light and generally fruity wine. Can also refer to a wine that needs some time to age.


Zesty - A wine with obvious citrusy character - specifically citrus peel characters.

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