Acidic (tart, sour): All wines contain some acids and young wines are generally more acidic than older ones; however, improperly balanced wines may taste acidic or sour because of an abnormally high acid content.
Aroma: The smell of a wine, often used interchangeably with bouquet. The term is generally applied to the fruit-based impressions of a young wine, while bouquet is reserved for more aged wines.
Astringent: The dry, puckering effect on the inside of the mouth due to an overly tannic wine.
Balanced: A wine in which all its components (acidity, alcohol, fruity quality, tannins, sugar, extract, and other characteristics) are in harmony, and none masks the other.
Bitter: Harsh, unpleasant taste typically caused by an excess of tannins in the wine. A negative trait with the exception of some red Italian wines.
Body: The weighty feeling in the mouth due to the wines alcoholic content and its extracts. Wines are considered light, medium, or full-bodied.
Bouquet: The layers of smells and odors in a wine.
Brettanomyces (Brett): A rogue yeast that can affect the taste and smell of wine. It is very difficult to get rid of once it has infected the wine making surfaces. The odors range from a barnyard to band-aids. In small amounts, however, these smells can add interest to the wine.
Buttery: A rich, creamy smell and flavors reminiscent of butter that comes often to wines matured in oak barrels.
Chewy: Balanced tannins that are not overwhelming. Being chewy can be a positive attribute for wine.
Complex: A wine that is multi-layered in flavors and aromas. Each sip brings another flavor and reveals another nuance. Good wines are usually complex, great wines even more so.
Crisp: The term used to describe white wines with a refreshing fresh flavor and good acidity.
Dry: A wine that has little or no perception of sweetness.
Earthy: Wine with aromas and flavor reminiscent of damp soil or a forest floor. This is a positive attribute and the reflection of all the effects the local environment had on the production of the wine.
Finish: The impression (or aftertaste), long or short, strong or weak, that lingers after you have swallowed a wine.
Harsh: A derogatory term used to describe a wine that has unbalanced tannins and acidity.
Legs: The tracks of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. A more viscous wine (fuller body) will create thicker, more slowly flowing legs as it descends along the glass. It is also said to be related to the alcohol content of a wine. Legs are also called tears.
Meritage: A red Meritage must be made from a blend of at least two of the following varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot or Carmenère, with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend and a white Meritage must be made from a blend of at least two or more of the following varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon or Muscadelle du Bordelais, with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend. To use the term Meritage, wine makers must license the Meritage trademark from its owner, the California-based Meritage Alliance that sets the standards for the Bordeaux-style blends.
Nose: A term used for the general smell or aroma of a wine.
Oak: The term used to describe the flavor of wines that have been aged in small oak barrels. This includes creamy body, caramel, nutmeg, vanilla and smoky or toasted flavors
Oxidized: A wine that has experienced to much exposure to oxidation, considered faulty, and may exhibit sherry-like odors.
Robust: A full bodied wine with strong and pronounced flavors.
Rosé: A type of wine that incorporates some of the color from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. Rosé wine is generally a distinctive pale red color and most often produced using black-skinned grapes that are crushed and the skins allowed to remain in contact with the juice for only a short period, typically one to three days, then pressed, and the skins discarded. (In traditional red wine making the skins are left in contact throughout the fermentation process.)
Sharp: A wine in which the acidity is out of balance, bitter from the wine’s tannin and unpleasant.
Smokey: A characteristic of a wine exhibiting the aromas and flavors of smoke from barrel aging.
Smooth (or soft): Easy drinking wine with a pleasing texture, typically a red wine with mild tannins or white wine with low acidity.
Supple: A wine that is both vigorous and smooth, not overly tannic.
Sweet: A wine with a noticeable sense of sugar. A sweet wine retains some sugar after fermentation has ended.
Tannic: A wine with abundant tannins.
Tannins: Chemicals found in the seeds and skins of grapes, especially reds. It is a bitter-tasting material which adds structure to red wine. Tannins can also be astringent if they are not balanced by fruit.
Yeasty: The term that describes a wine with aromas and flavor of bread dough or biscuits.