The Wine Warehouse

Wine Glossary

Use our handy glossary of terms below for all things wine & wine-making!


AcidityPerceived in the taste of the wine as a level of tartness, acidity is a naturally component consisting of mainly tartaric acid, at about 0.5 to 0.7 percent of the wine by volume.
ACTHOCYANSNatural organic chemical compounds responsible for the red, blue and purple colours of grapes and wine. Include anthocyanins, anthocyanidins and pro-anthocyanidins.
AERATEExposing the wine to oxygen either through decanting or allowing the wine to “breathe” in an opened bottle or glass. Thought to allow off-odours to dissipate in older wines, and to soften aromas in younger ones.
ALCOHOLThe sugar in wine grapes is fermented through the winemaking process into alcohol, and is measured as a percentage of volume. In white wines, this ranges between 9 and 14 percent; in red wines between 11 and 14 percent.
AMERICAN OAKOak wood for wine barrels sourced in American forests. Favoured by many winemakers, particularly those in Australia and Spain.
AOCShort for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (sometimes Appellation Contrôlée abbreviated as AC). Translates literally to protected place name, and is the official French category for higher-ranking wines. AOC wines are categorised according to name, origin, grape varieties and other legal definitions.
APPELLATIONOfficial name referring to a wine’s geographic region of origin.
AROMATICUsed to refer to a wine, particularly white wines, with intensely floral or fruity aromas, such as Muscat or Viognier.
AROMAThe smell of a wine. Some people use the term aroma for younger wines; bouquet for those that have been aged.
ASTRINGENTCaused by tannin, refers to the mouth-puckering character of some wines.
ATTACKIn wine tasting, the first impression of a wine on the mouth. Usually perceived as a first “hit” on the tip of the tongue and at the front of mouth.
AVAAcronym for American Viticultural Area, indicating wine-growing regions as defined through geographic and climatic boundaries by the Federal Government. Theoretically, the American version of the French AOC system.


BALANCEThe relationship of the components of the wine including alcohol, residual sugar, acid and tannin. When no one component stands out against the rest, the wine is said to be well balanced, an indication of quality.
BARREL-AGEDRefers to wines that are fermented in containers such as stainless steel, then placed in oak barrels to mature. Also refers to wines that are fermented in the barrel.
BARREL-FERMENTEDSome white wines, notably Chardonnay, may be fermented in barrels rather than in stainless steel to impart a subtle oak character.
BARRELA small wooden barrel used for ageing red wine, and fermenting some styles of white wine. Most barrels are about 227 litres (50 gallons) in size, and are made of oak, primarily from French and American forests.
BARRIQUESmall French oak barrel.
BIGUsed to describe wines that are very full and intense; considered the opposite of elegant.
BLACK FRUITSAromas and flavours found typically in red wines including those of blackberries, black currants, blueberries and black cherries.
BLACK GRAPESGrapes with reddish or blue pigment in their skins used to make red wine.
BLENDTo assemble individual lots of wine together to make one wine. Can apply to different grape varieties, or grapes of the same type from different vineyards, regions and vintages.
BODYThe tactile impression of wine in your mouth. Think in terms of light, medium and full–or skim milk, whole milk and cream!
BORDEAUX BLENDA style of wine assembled from the classic red grapes of Bordeaux including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
BOTTLE-AGEINGThe winemaker decides how long a wine will age in the bottle before it is released for sale. Many wines are made to be consumed upon release; finer wines, particularly reds, may require additional bottle ageing by the consumer. In the case of Champagne and sparkling wine, bottle ageing allows the wine to acquire, complexity, depth and fine texture; it is also known as ageing “on the yeast” or “en tirage”.
BOUQUETThe more developed and complex aromas said to be evident in older and mature wines.
BRIGHTA wine descriptor referring the character of the wine, including its appearance in the glass, to be fresh and exciting, and refracting light
BRIXScale of measurement of total dissolved compounds in grape juice and approximate concentration of sugars used in the United States as one gauge of ripeness at harvest. One degree Brix is approximately 12-g/l sugar.
BRUTChampagne style that is very dry, meaning little or no residual sugar.
BUNGBarrel stopper made of glass, plastic, rubber, silicone or other material which seals the bung-hole in the barrel like a cork. Can be removed to permit topping up or racking. The position of the bunghole can be changed to maximize or reduce aeration.
BUTTERYDescriptor often applicable to Chardonnay that has undergone malolactic fermentation; describes both texture and flavour attributes.


CASTELLOThe Italian word for castle; refers to a wine estate, such as Castello d’Albola.
CEDARYA woody aroma that characterizes certain red varietals.
CHAMPAGNERefers to sparkling wines made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and vinified using the Méthode Champenoise winemaking process. Term is sometimes used to refer to sparkling wines from different regions, but correctly, only sparkling wine from Champagne may be called Champagne.
CHARRYAromas and flavours of a toasty nature created by the application of oak barrel ageing to the wine.
CHÂTEAUA French winery estate, typically found in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, the architecture of châteaux can range from grand to mundane.
CLASSICOItalian term indicating that wine comes from the heart of a specific region. While Chianti Classico is a demarcated DOCG district, the Classico for Verdicchio, for example, refers to the central part of the appellation.
CLONEA selection within a grape variety, which exhibits certain characteristics distinct from others in the group. Viticulturists and winemakers experiment with different clones of the same variety to optimize their plantings and provide specific flavour and tactile characteristics
COLHEITATerm used in Port winemaking referring to vintage.
COMMUNETypically refers to a wine-growing village in the Burgundy region of France.
COMPACTWine described as intense but not full.
COMPLEXOpposite of simple. A wine that has a lot going on
CONCENTRATEDDense aromas and flavours.
CONCENTRATIONWhat wines with dense aromas and flavours evidence (as opposed to weak and watery).
COOPERAGECollective term for wooden containers; also used to refer to the activities and workplace of coopers, who make and repair small barrels and large wooden vats.
CREAMYWines, particularly barrel-fermented Chardonnay that has undergone a secondary, malolactic fermentation, that have a rich, smooth mouth-feel and are fuller in body are often characterized as creamy.
CRISPDescribes wines that are clean, and possibly a bit on the tart side. Opposite of soft. Wines that are crisp are typically higher in acid, and go well with food.
CUVÉEA blend of many lots of still wines, particularly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, designed to become a well-balanced Champagne or sparkling wine.


DECANTTo transfer wine from the bottle into another container, to aerate or to separate a red wine from its sediment
DEMI-SECA Champagne style that is semi-dry, but sweeter than sec.
DEPTHThe impression of many layers of complexity in a fine wine.
DISGORGINGThe process by which the sediment collected in the neck of the Champagne bottle during the riddling process is frozen and expelled prior to the final corking.
DISTRICTRefers to a geographic area more specific than region, but less specific than commune.
DOCGAbbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita , meaning controlled and guaranteed place. Italy’s official category for its highest ranking wines.
DOCAbbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which means controlled place name. Italy’s official category for wines whose name, region of origin, variety and other defining factors are regulated by law. In Portugal, DOC is also an abbreviation for the highest official wine category, Denominacao de Origem Controlada.
DOMAINEFrench term for wine estate, commonly used in Burgundy.
DOSAGEThe liqueur, or sugar dissolved in reserve wine, added to the Champagne just before final corking. The dosage finishes the Champagnes and determines its level of sweetness.
DOUXA Champagne style that is sweet.
DOAbbreviation for Denominacion de Origen, which means place name and refers to Spain’s official category for wines whose name, region of origin, variety and other defining factors are regulated by law.
DRYRefers to a wine that is not sweet. Can also mean a wine that feels rough or dry in the mouth.
DULLOpposite of bright and clean; can refer to a wine’s appearance, aromas and flavours or overall style.


EARTHYRefers to aromas and flavours that suggest wet or dry earth or minerals.
ELEGANCESuggests a wine of a certain delicacy and grace as opposed to power and intensity.
ESTATEA property that grows grapes and makes wine from its own vineyards.
EXTRA-SECA Champagne style that is extra dry, but sweeter than Brut.


FERMENTATIONA naturally occurring process by which the action of yeast converts sugar in grape juice into alcohol, and the juice becomes wine.
FINISHThe final impression of the wine in the mouth after swallowing, particularly in terms of length and persistence of flavour.
FIRMDescribes a wine neither soft nor harsh in reference to tannins in a red wine and acidity in a white.
FLABBYDescribes wines that are too soft.
FLAVOUR COMPOUNDSOrganic compounds in grapes responsible for many of the aromas and flavours in wine.
FLAVOUR INTENSITYHow strongly wine flavours are perceived.
FLAVOURSThe aromatic components of wine that define its varietal characteristics as noted in the mouth.
FLESHYWines so described have a rich texture and mouth-feel.
FORTIFIED WINEWines such as Port to which alcohol has been added.
FRENCH OAKConsidered by many to be the finest oak for the ageing of white wines; also used for reds.
FRUIT CHARACTERThe characteristics of the wine has derived from the fruit, including aromas, flavours, tannins, acidity and extract.
FRUITYThe fruit aromas and flavours evident in wine. Can be fresh, dried, cooked; examples include fresh apples, dried figs, and strawberry jam.


GRAPE TANNINTannins in a red wine attributed to the grapes as opposed to winemaking methods.
GRAPE VARIETYType of grape, such as Chardonnay or Merlot.


HARMONIOUSReferring to a pleasant and graceful balance of components in a wine.


IGTIndicazione Geografica Tipica. A category of wines created in Italy by Wine Law 164 in 1992 to approximate the French Vin de Pays and German Landwein.
INTENSEUsed to describe wines that express their character powerfully.


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LEESThe grape solids and spent yeast cells that fall to the bottom of a white wine after fermentation.
LENGTHThe sustained impression of a wine across the tongue


MACERATIONThe process of soaking the skins of red grapes in their juice to extract colour, tannins and other substances into the wine; can occur pre or post fermentation.
MALOLACTIC FERMENTATIONA natural, secondary fermentation, optional in the winemaking process, which softens the total acidity of the wine through the conversion of malic into lactic acid.
MATURATIONThe process by which a wine reaches a point of readiness for bottling; can continue in the bottle.
MINERALLYUsed to describe flavours and aromas that suggest minerals, such as flint, steel, chalk etc.
MOUSSEThe ring of light foam at the top of a glass of sparkling wine.
MÉTHODE CHAMPENOISEThe traditional French Champagne winemaking method used for producing sparkling wine.
MÉTHODE TRADITIONELLEThe equivalent of the traditional French Champagne process know as Méthode Champenoise, but applied to the making of sparkling wines outside the Champagne region.


NEW OAKCan refer to brand new barrels, or barrels that have been used from one to four years previously.
NEW WORLDWinemaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, USA, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Canada etc. outside of Western Europe.
NON-VINTAGERefers to those Champagnes whose Cuvée contains wine from a previous vintage.
NUTTYBroad descriptor to describe aromas and flavours of nuts in a wine; more specifically hazelnut, almonds, roasted nuts etc.


OAKYThe aroma and flavour characteristics imparted to a wine through the use of oak barrel fermentation and/or ageing. These may be characterized as vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, toast, smoke or char. Sometimes associated with imparting a higher tanning level than the wine might ordinarily have.
OFF-DRYTerm for wines that are neither fully sweet not dry.
OLD OAKBarrels old enough to have lost much of its woody character. Generally five year or older.
OLD VINESTerm referring to vines that are generally 40 years or older. Presumed to deliver small yields, but good quality.
OLD WORLDRefers to the winemaking countries of Western Europe including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Germany.


PALATEReferring to the mouth, or how a wine’s characteristics manifest themselves in the mouth.
PETROLAromas or flavours reminiscent of gasoline, classic in European versions of Gewürztraminer and Riesling.
PHYLLOXERAA parasite that feeds on the roots of vitis vinifera grapes, resulting in decline and premature death.
PLUMMYAromas and flavours that suggest ripe plums
PLUSHDescribes a wine that feels luxurious in the mouth.
POWERFULDescribes a wine of intensity and strength.
PRETTYDescribes a wine of delicacy and finesse.
PRIMARY AROMASFresh fruit aromas suggestive of the wine varietal.
PUNTThe dome-shaped indentation in the bottom of a wine bottle.


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RACKINGThe process by which clear wine is removed from the settled sediment or lees in the bottom of a container.
RED GRAPESAlso called black grapes, with skins that have reddish or blue pigment in their skins.
REGIONGeographical area for wine growing less specific than a district; more specific than a state or country.
RESERVELoose designation for presumably higher quality than “standard” version of the wine. In the case of Champagne, reserve wine refers to wine from previous vintages added to the cuvée for consistent quality and style.
RESIDUAL SUGARRemaining sugar in wine after fermentation.
RIDDLINGThe art of turning and tilting bottles of sparkling wine in order to ease the sediment into the neck of the bottle. Often performed mechanically in modern facilities.
RISERVA / RESERVAItalian/Spanish term for “reserve” indicating longer ageing before release and suggesting higher quality. Regulations determine how long this is for individual wines.
ROSÉIn still wine or Champagne, a slightly pink tint comes from contact with the grape skins or the addition of a small portion of red wine to the cuvée.
ROUNDAs opposed to flat or angular, refers to a wine’s structure, particularly acid, tannin, sweetness and alcohol.


SECOND-LABEL WINEA less expensive or second brand made from grapes or wine a level down from primary label
SECA Champagne style that is dry, but sweeter than extra-sec.
SEDIMENTResidue in the bottom of a bottle of red wine that forms as the wine ages.
SERIOUSDescribes a high-quality wine.
SILKYRefers to a smooth, supple texture.
SINGLE-VINEYARD WINEWine made from the (presumably) good grapes of a single plot of land and not blended with any other grapes.
SKIN CONTACTThe pre-fermentation period in which the grape juice rests in contact with the skins of the grapes. Used in red winemaking to enhance colours and texture; may be used briefly in white winemaking to enhance aromas.
SMOKYAromas and flavours suggesting smoke or smoked wood imparted by oak barrel fermentation or ageing.
SMOOTHDescribes a wine that is not rough or harsh.
SOFTWine lacking in hardness or roughness, and present when alcohol and sugar dominate acidity and tannin.
SPARKLING WINESRefers to all effervescent wines outside those from the Champagne region of France, vinified the Méthode Champenoise (correctly known elsewhere are Méthode Traditionelle).
STEMMYRed wines with green or stalky tannins.
STEMSWoody part of the grape bunch that is high in tannin. Usually removed and discarded before fermentation.
STONYAromas or flavours that suggest the mineral quality of stones.
STRUCTURAL COMPONENTSA wine’s alcohol, tannin, acid and sugar (if any).
STRUCTUREHow a wine’s structural components are perceived. Ideally structure should be well-balanced, without any one component dominant.
STYLECharacteristics that form the personality of the wine.
SUPPLEDescribes a wine that is fluid in texture in the mouth, without roughness or harshness.
SWEETNESSThe impression of a sugary taste in a wine. Can be due to the presence of residual sugar or other sweet-tasting substances such as alcohol.


TANNICDescribes wines too high in tannin.
TANNINA substance found in the skins, stems and seeds of grapes (grape tannins) and imparted by oak barrels (wood tannins), that, in balance, can lend structure, texture and ageability to red wines.
TARRYAromas and flavours that suggest fresh tar.
TARTA term that can be applied to wines that are too high in acid, or made from under-ripe grapes.
TASTEThe impressions formed by wine in the mouth, perceived as bitter, sweet and sour.
TERROIRFrench term referring to the growing conditions in the vineyard, including climate, soil, elevation, slope, drainage, topography etc.
TEXTUREHow a wine feels in the mouth.
TIGHTCan refer to a certain lean or underdeveloped quality of the wine in its aromas, flavour or structure.
TIRAGEThe process of bottling a cuvée with the addition of active yeast and sugar in order to induce a second fermentation. The carbonation produced by this second fermentation is trapped in the bottle, producing the effervescence of Champagnes and sparkling wines.
TOPPING UPThe process by which evaporated wine is replaced in the barrel.


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VARIETAL CHARACTERThe unmistakable set of sensory characteristics attributable to a grape variety.
VARIETALTerm for grape variety.
VEGETALAromas or flavours that suggest vegetables.
VIN DE PAYSFrench phrase for country wine. Lower status than AOC.
VINIFICATIONThe activity of making grape juice into wine.
VINTAGEThe year in which a wine’s grapes were harvested; sometimes referring to the grape harvest itself. Vintage designations are only given to Champagnes whose cuvées contain wines made from a single year’s harvest. As with Port, a Champagne vintage is only declared in a year of exceptional quality.
VITICULTUREThe activity of growing grapes.
VITIS VINIFERASpecies to which most of the worlds wine grapes belong.


WEIGHTImpression of heft and volume of the wine in the mouth.
WELL-BALANCEDUsed to describe wines in which all component–alcohol, acid, tannin (if any) and sugar (if any)–relate to each other in such a way that none seems dominant.
WOOD TANNINDescribes tannins attributable to barrel ageing, rather than the grapes.


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YEASTOne-celled organisms responsible for turning grape juice into wine.


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