Wine Knowledge

Washington AVA's



Common Wine Terms

We created this glossary of wine terminology for all wine lovers, especially our wine students.

acidity — the liveliness and crispness in wine that activates our salivary glands

aeration — the deliberate addition of oxygen to round out and soften a wine

aging  holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state

appellation  a delineated wine producing region particular to France

aroma  the smell of wine, especially young wine (different than “bouquet”)

astringent  tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, and drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannin

AVA  An American Viticultural Area is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury.

balance — a term for when the elements of wine – acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol – come together in a harmonious way

bitter  a taste sensation that is sensed on the back of the tongue and caused by tannins

body  a tactile sensation describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth.  A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.

Bordeaux — the area in Southwest France considered one of the greatest wine-producing regions in the world

bouquet  a term that refers to the complex aromas in aged wines

breathing  exposing wine to oxygen to improve its flavors  (see “aeration”)

brut  french term denoting dry champagnes or sparkling wines

bung  the plug used to seal a wine barrel

claret  the name the English use when referring to the red wines of Bordeaux

complex  a wine exhibiting numerous odors, nuances, and flavors

cork taint — undesirable aromas and flavors in wine often associated with wet cardboard or moldy basements

corked  a term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint (not wine with cork particles floating about)

crush  the English term for harvest

cuvée  in Champagne, a blended batch of wine

dry   a taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth; the opposite of sweet

earthy  an odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil

enology  the science of wine and winemaking 

fermentation  the conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast

fining  the addition of egg whites or gelatin (among other things) to clear the wine of unwanted particles

finish  — the impression of textures and flavors lingering in the mouth after swallowing wine

full-bodied  a wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as “big”

herbaceous — a tasting term denoting odors and flavors of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary, etc.)

hot — a description for wine that is high in alcohol

lees — sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seed, and other grape matter that accumulates during fermentation

length — the amount of time that flavors persist in the mouth after swallowing wine; a lingering sensation

mature — ready to drink

mouth-feel — how a wine feels on the palate; it can be rough, smooth, velvety, or furry

must — unfermented grape juice including seeds, skins, and stems

nose —  a tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine

oak/oaky — tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla, baking spices, coconut, mocha or dill caused by barrel-aging

open — tasting term signifying a wine that is ready to drink

rough — the tactile “coarse” sensation one experiences with very astringent wines

Sommelier — A wine butler; also used to denote a certified wine professional

spicy  a tasting term used for odors and flavors reminiscent of black pepper, bay leaf, curry powder, baking spices, oregano, rosemary, thyme, saffron or paprika found in certain wines

structure — an ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins

sweet — wines with perceptible sugar contents on the nose and in the mouth

tannins — the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in the mouth

terroir — French for geographical characteristics unique to a given vineyard

texture — a tasting term describing how wine feels on the palate

vegetal — tasting term describing characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavors of the wine.  Bell peppers, grass, and asparagus are common “vegetal” descriptors.

vitis vinifera — the species of wine that comprises over 99% of the world’s wine

vintage — the year a wine is bottled.  Also, the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.

young — an immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.  Wines meant to be drunk “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.