Glossary of Wine Terms

By Gayot Editors

All you ever wanted to know about wine

From A to Z, learn the wine terms certainly you need to know.

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ACETIC — Vinegary smell caused by an excessive amount of acetic acid, a natural element in all wines.

ACID — A natural component of wine, which, when present in the proper degree, produces liveliness. Too much acid makes a wine sharp, tart or sour; too little makes it flabby and flat. Principal acids in wine are malic, tartaric, succinic, lactic and citric.

AFTERTASTE — The taste left in the mouth after a wine is swallowed or, in the case of a tasting, expectorated. The longer a pleasant aftertaste remains in the mouth, the finer the quality of the wine. Also known as finish.

AGGRESSIVE — Characterized by high acid and/or harsh tannin content.

AGREEABILITY — Wine is a living thing that changes in the bottle with age. Most wines, especially white wines, are at their best within a few years of bottling. Some wines, however, especially high-bodied, ultra-premium reds, improve with age because of various varietal characteristics and winemaking techniques. Balance is all-important. A young wine that is out of balance will almost certainly evolve into a clumsy, out-of-balance mature wine, often with tannins softening to reveal no fruit or dried-out fruit. How long to age a wine is subject to debate, taste and especially storage conditions. Color is an indicator of maturity, though you can’t see the color of red wines through the dark glass of the bottle to determine if the purple-red of youth has mellowed to the reddish-brown of maturity (that hint of brown signals the turning point in a quality wine’s evolution). Five years, ten years, twenty years from the vintage date are perhaps the moments to open an expensive bottle deemed ageworthy, in order to monitor its growth. But that practice is only meaningful if you’ve held back an additional couple of bottles so you can apply the newly-acquired knowledge of the wine’s health. Otherwise, ask the experts.

ALCOHOLIC — High in alcohol, which can cause a burning sensation and is often described as hot.

AMPELOGRAPHY — The field of botany concerned with the identification and classification of grapevines.

ANGULAR — Lacking roundness and depth.

ANTHOCYANIN — A soluable sugar compound that produces a red or blue pigment in grapes or other plants.

APPELLATION — Designation of geographical origin of a wine.

AROMA — The smell derived from grapes. Often used to describe the smell of a young wine, as contrasted with bouquet, the smell of an older wine.

ASTRINGENT — Describes wines that make the mouth pucker, usually associated with an excess of tannin. Not necessarily indicative of a flaw in the wine–many red wines, for example, tend to mellow with age, and astringency in a young red wine may indicated that it will be long-lived.

ATTACK — The first impression of a wine upon tasting.

AUSTERE — Hard; dry; lacking richness or softness.

AVA (AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREA) — Regions officially designated by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the government agency responsible for regulation of alcoholic beverages. Use of an AVA on a label requires that 85 percent of the wine come from the region named.