Wine Terms

Bruno Kelle and Stella Schmidt



The natural crispness of a wine. Grapes have two primary acids tartic and malic. Citric, lactic and succinic acids are usually also present in small amounts in grapes

Wines contain several types of acid, but acetic is the bad one: it suggests vinegar and is sometimes referred to as volatile acidity. If present at more than minimal levels, it makes a wine unpleasant.

Letting a wine "breathe" before drinking it in order to soften the tannins, smooth out the wine, and allow the bouquet and flavors to open up. Young red wines benefit most from aeration, which is accomplished by decanting the bottle into another container; or else, by swirling the wine in a glass.

The "shadow taste" remaining in your mouth just after swallowing a sip of wine. Important in wine tasting because it can reveal an extra attribute or fault which might not otherwise be obvious.

Aging Sur Lie
Translated "aging on the lees," and often referred to as "yeast contact." Wine is aged in the barrel with the yeast retained, rather than being clarified before aging. Aging on the lees increases the complexity and creaminess of the wine

Along with French oak, American oak is the most widely used wood in the world to build barrels for wine aging. American oak barrels are most often used to age red wines (especially Zinfandels, Cabernets and Syrahs), Spanish Sherries, Australian red wines, Bourbon and Scotch. Less frequently utilized in the production of white wines, American oak has a different spice flavor than French oak. In fact, the flavors vary from different forests and states. Kentucky oak imparts mellower flavors, for example, than Oregon oak. Examples of two famous California wines aged in 100% American oak are the classic vintages of Beaulieu Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (from the 1940's to the 1970's) and ZD Chardonnay.

Aperitif wine
Any wine served before a meal. Traditionally, aperitifs were vermouths or other similar wines flavored with herbs and spices.

A system developed by the French to regulate the authenticity of their finest wines. Appellation applies specifically to the region where the grapes were grown. The French also regulate what grapes can be grown where; what winemaking methods can be used; how large the yields can be; etc. Other countries have adopted their own versions of controlled appellations with varying success.


This is when a wine just doesn't taste very good. It is harsh and acidic and has no fruit flavors whatsoever. Sometimes this can be because the wine is young, but often it can just be because it is poorly made and not “balanced.” Instead of saying Austere one could just as easily say the wine is harsh and  tannic  with no fruit flavors.

A subjective term used in wine evaluation. A wine in which the tastes of acid, sugar, tannin, alcohol and flavor are in harmony is said to be "in balance."


This means the wine smells like poop. It is usually not a favorable descriptor. Since the wine smells like poop, might as well just say so.

Barrel Aging

The process of holding wine in oak containers to allow flavor and aromatic compounds to mature and change beneficially.

Barrel Fermentation
The conversion of grape juice into white wine by yeast in a 60-gallon French oak barrel. Barrel fermentation gives Chardonnay and Savignon Blanc more complexity and integrated oak flavor

White wine made from red grapes, such as sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir. Blanc de Noirs often have a pale pink color.

Wine made of white grapes, such as sparkling wines made from Chardonnay.

The feeling of a wine's weight in the mouth, such as full-bodied, medium-bodied or light-bodied.

As a wine's aroma becomes more developed from bottle aging, the aroma is transformed into a bouquet, which is hopefully more than just the smell of the grape.

The measurement of soluble solids in grapes at harvest, taken with a refractometer and expressed in degrees. In unfermented grapes, degrees of Brix are approximately the same as percent of sugar. After fermentation, the alcohol concentration is roughly half the sugar concentration of the juice. Thus, grapes harvested at 22.5 degrees Brix will produce a wine with an alcohol content between 12.5 to 13.5%.

Used by sparkling wine producers to indicate a dry wine; a producer's Brut is always drier than an Extra Dry bottling.

Describes a rich wine with a texture like that of melted butter, often referring to Chardonnay.


When a wine is at once rich and deep, yet balanced and showing finesse. No greater compliment can be paid a wine. A mature Chateau Latour, d'Yquem or La Tache Burgundy are prime examples of complex wines.

Usually implies lightness and is patronizing when describing wine that should have more impressive qualities. Clarify Refers to the wine-making operation which removes lees - dead yeast cells and fragments of grape skins, stems, seeds and pulp - from grape juice or new wine.


When a wine is chewy, it means the tannins are so strong they severely dry out your mouth, causing you to chew in order to create saliva and moisten up your mouth. Simply saying the wine is drying out your mouth, causing you to need to make more salivia, is saying the same thing.

Describes a wine that smells and tastes musty or moldy; a problem caused by a defective cork.

An "off" characteristic in wines due to imperfect corks. Often caused by the chemical compound trichloroanisole or TCA, corkiness is believed to come from fungi that are not detectable on dry corks, or by a cork processed with chlorine. TCA diminishes the fruit character of the wine, substituting a character like moldy newspapers or old swimming pool towels.

Tasting term to describe good acidity and pleasant taste without excessive sweetness.

Like the words cask and reserve, cuvee is an unregulated term that some wineries use to indicate a special (or reserve) batch of wine.


To slowly pour wine from the bottle into another container, thereby ridding the wine of its sediment.

Describes a wine of complexity and intense flavors; a wine that makes more than a first impression and is worth paying attention to.

The absence of a sweet taste sensation


Can either describe a clean, complex taste and aroma that reminds one of fresh garden soil; or a funky, livestock and farm-like connotation that is not a compliment. As a positive example, earthy is often used to describe the wonderful flavor of red Graves wines

Often used to describe a wine whose texture and overall qualities call for comparison to other forms of beauty.

The American and South African spelling of Oenology, the study of wine and winemaking


The conversion of sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide by yeast. Many of the flavors of wine are created during this process.

Passage of wine through cellulose pads, diatomaceous earth or membranes to remove suspended solids, yeast or malolactic bacteria. Sweet wines must be filtered to remove yeast and prevent re-fermentation in the bottle.

The traditional method of clarifying wine. Insoluble substances bind with wine components and precipitate to reduce tannin or remove unstable proteins.

The lasting impression, or aftertaste, of a wine on the palate. A long, complex finish is desirable.

Implies a degree of sharpness as well as the zip and zing of youth. All young whites should be fresh.

Soft, smooth texture with low tannins.

Tasting term for wine which has retained the fresh flavor of the grapes used in its fermentation.

Frizzante wines
have small bubbles that offer a refreshing tingle while helping to mask the wine's sweetness. Frizzante wines are also considered to be slightly less effervescent than champagne . If you find champagne to be too "fizzy" for your tastes, frizzante wines are a great beverage choice for weddings, anniversaries, holidays, and other special occasions


Describes simple flavours and aromas associated with fresh table grapes.


Wines with abrasive, astringent tannins or high acidity are said to be hard. Young long lived wines are typically hard, but they should not be harsh.

A wine that is excessively hard to the point where it is so tannic that it may never come around.

High in alcohol, as detected in the smell of a wine.



When a red wine has a great intensity of fruit from excellent ripeness, they can be jammy, which is a very concentrated flavorful wine with superb fruit extract.



Wines made from grapes picked later than normal (and therefore with higher sugar content), usually dessert wines. Most late harvest wines contain some residual sugar.

a wine's smell, including all components


Describes a wine that has enough substance to chew.

Soft, smooth, mature and pleasant, but perhaps lacking somewhat in complexity and body


Spicy taste often associated with Sherries from Spain and sometimes from other wines


Describes the aroma or taste character of a wine that has interacted with the oak of a wood barrel. Most of the world's greatest red wines (and many of the world's greatest whites) are aged in wood before bottling and show some vanilla-spice-toast character contributed by oak.


A French term for a glass or metal tube used to extract wine from a barrel



Assertive, full bodied, characteristic of good red wines at a young age. Similar to big.

Ripasso style
is when you take the appassimento pressed skins and put regularly fermented wine and re ferment it on those skins. Gives some of the appassimento nuances to the wine without all the concentration and power of the full appassimento wine


A synonym for velvety or lush. Silky wines are soft, sometimes fat, but never hard or angular.


The group of astringent and bitter compounds found in the seeds and skins of grapes which slow oxidation and promote aging.

Describes all the influences on the flavors in the wine that come from where the vines grow, especially soil, climate, slope, the aspect of the slope. There is no exact translation in English, but 'terroir' is an important concept in the expression of the origin of wine.

Tete de Cuvee
Literally, French for "head blend." The term is unofficial, but is often used to mean the top of the line from any Champagne house. For example Dom Perignon is the tete du cuvee from Moet.

Glass or metal syringe used for taking wine samples through the bunghole of a barrel .

Heating the inside of a barrel during its construction to caramelize the flavors. This impacts the flavor and aromatic characteristics of the wine during barrel ageing.

Descriptive term, used by some, to describe a flavour component resembling the taste of raw tobacco leaf in the finish of certain red wines. Seems to mainly apply to Cabernet Sauvignon s from Bordeaux, France or the Napa region of California. " Cigarbox " is a common term often used as a near synonym especially if a cedar-wood note in the aroma is detected. (Non-smokers may have trouble with this word and its implication).


Resulting flavor when grapes that failed to reach optimum maturity on the vine are used in the vinification process.


vinifera grape -
common European grape cultivated in many varieties; chief source of Old World wine and table grapes

Vertical Barrel Tasting
is wine tasting, where different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery are tasted.

The stage when grapes begin to soften and gain color.

The study of grape growing.


Wet Dog
This term appears on the Aroma Wheel under Chemical


Tasting term for a wine in which the effect of prolonged (perhaps too much) contact with wood is noticeable. In general, wood tastes exactly as it smells.



The woody, center portion of a vine trunk, arm or cane.


Important microorganisms that cause fermentation by converting sugar to alcohol. Without yeast, the world would lack wine, beer and most bread.


A wine that's invigorating.


Cellared in Canada is a phrase used to describe wines that contain foreign grapes

The QC (Quality Certified) symbol on Fruit Wines of Ontario bottles means you are buying wine made with 100% Ontario-grown fruit. QC is modelled on the same quality standards as VQA.

Product of Canada

Contents: Made with a minimum of 75% Canadian-grown grapes.
May contain up to 25% imported wine.*

return to Learn about Wines

Describe a wine by any term you wish but what counts is how fast you empty the bottle.
The desire to drink more tells you how good the wine is.


What is Organic Farming?

Organic farming promotes the sustainable health and productivity of the ecosystem - soil, plants, animals and people. Organic foods are farmed in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way, focusing on soil regeneration, water conservation and animal welfare. Organic Wines


Wineries of Canada

Home | Sitemap | Links | Contact Us | ©2018 Robert A Bell