View listing by:
Abbreviation for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, the French system for regulating and defining wine geographically, which features more than 400 distinct regions. The AOC can refer to both a specific area and its wine; the Santenay AOC refers both to the Burgundian village of Santenay and the Pinot Noir wine made there.
American Viticultural Area. The U.S. system that parallels the French AOC system of classifying specific grape-growing areas. AVAs come in all shapes and sizes (from Walla Walla to California), but unlike the French system, American AVAs do not regulate which grapes can be grown within each region.
An essential component of wine providing tang that helps a wine's flavors linger and provides a counterpoint to a wine's fruit. Wines with notable acidity are often called crisp, lively or refreshing; however, balance is keyoverly acidic wines can impart a sharp or sour impression, while too little acidity can leave a wine seeming soft or "flabby." Acidity is usually more noticeable in dry whites than reds, although in both styles of wine, the acidity, along with tannin, is an important factor in longevity.
Grape nut (in a good way). An aficionado is a more contemporary and less snobbish term for a connoisseur. While not always a collector, a wine aficionado appreciates the distinctions among wines of varying grapes, origins and ages.
Very strong, often due to the wine's levels of tannin or acid. Wines that are too aggressive seem harsh.
Sweet almond notes (think marzipan) can be found in Pinot Grigio and other dry Italian white wines.
Some call it licorice, others anise; either way, this spicy element is found in red wines, particularly Old World reds (Rhône, Spain, Italy) and Zinfandel.
Place of origin. An appellation is an official, regulated wine region; the term is derived from France's AOC system.
One of the most common fruit characteristics found in white wines. Abundant in Chardonnay and dry Riesling. Sometimes leaning toward tart green apple, other times toward Red Delicious.
Herbaceous is perhaps a nicer, similar term, but funky vegetal aromas reminiscent of canned asparagus are not uncommon in strong Sauvignon Blancs as well as complex, high-end reds.
Pucker power. Applies to red wines that are high in both acidity and tannin. A degree of astringency contributes "bite" and can help complement food; too much makes the wine bitter.
Wines with good structure (tannin and acidity) are said to have a backbone.
Smoky/meaty aroma of bacon fat is typical in Syrah-based wines from the Rhône Valley, often in conjunction with dark fruit and spice.
Harmony. A wine is balanced when its key componentsfruitiness/sweetness, acidity, tannin, and alcoholare all apparent and in synch. In such a case, no single element dominates or sticks out.
An oak cask. An important vessel for aging wine before bottling. A typical barrel holds 225 liters. Barrels may be cleaned and re-used several times; new barrels impart a stronger wood character.
Refers to wine fermented in oak barrels rather than in neutral containers such as stainless steel. Barrel fermentation can contribute complexity and suggestions of spice and vanilla from the interaction of the wine and the wood. Most often used in the fermentation of Chardonnay.
Green pepper aromas and flavors crop up in heavier red wines, notably Bordeaux blends based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. In fact, Franc by itself can be very bell-peppery.
A descriptor for a wine that is high in alcohol, body, and flavor intensity.
Australians developed a practice of using "Bin" numbers to identify distinct bottlings. Bin numbers are just names, and have no official meaning.
As much a textural sensation as a taste, a degree of bitterness comes from a wine's tannin (too much = too bitter). However, wines that seem bitter sipped alone can seem less so when eating.
A classic note found in Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-Merlot blends. Often present in conjunction with berry aromas and flavors.
Commonly found in full-flavored reds made from Syrah/Shiraz, Grenache, and/or Zinfandel. French Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a classic example.
A very common flavor and aroma in red wines from a variety of grapes and origins; frequently found in conjunction with strawberry/cherry flavors as well. May come across as "jammy" in ripe, New World reds.
Blanc de Blancs
Literally, "white from whites," this refers to a white wine made of white grapes; the most common example is Champagne made from all Chardonnay.
Blanc de Noirs
Literally, "white from blacks," this refers to a white wine (technically white but usually pale pink) made from black (red) grapes; the term usually refers to sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir.
An informal term usually applied to off-dry light pink wines made from red grapes, such as White Zinfandel.
Heft. Weight on the palate. Usually wines are gauged as full-bodied (akin to the body of whole milk), medium-bodied (think 2% milk) or light-bodied (think nonfat milk). Red wines tend to be fuller-bodied than whites. Fuller-bodied wines are also usually higher in alcohol.
The technical name for the fog-induced fungus that causes ripe grapes to shrivel and become concentrated and sweet like raisins. Also called "noble rot," botrytis is responsible for the honeyed richness of many classic dessert wines like French Sauternes.
Effectively interchangeable with aroma, but some tasters apply this term to secondary scents that develop as wine ages, as opposed to the fruity, primary aromas of young wine.
Suggesting thorny bush fruits (blackberries, raspberries) of significant intensity; usually applied to full-bodied red Zinfandel.
A French term used worldwide to indicate a dry sparkling wine. Sparklers labeled Brut are actually drier than those labeled Extra Dry.
Rich flavor and smoothness of texture akin to butter. More frequently found in whites than reds, especially Chardonnays that have undergone malolactic fermentation and/or barrel aging.
Artificial, candied version of fruit (as opposed to fresh or dried) is sometimes found in New World wines made from very ripe grapes. May suggest that some sugar may be left in the wine, even if it is technically dry.
Also perceived as butterscotch and/or toffee, caramel aromas and flavors are typical of barrel-aged Chardonnays; a sign of richness.
An evolved aroma commonly found in aged red wine, especially Bordeaux-style blends, and sometimes alongside tobacco and cigar box scents.
Both a region in France and the famous sparkling wine made there. While imitated around the world, real Champagne can only come from the French appellation of the same name. American wines called "champagne" will also have an additional geographic identifier, such as "California Champagne."
Some wines are decidedly un-fruity and emit aromas and flavors that suggest chemical substances such as petroleum (common in Riesling), sulfur, nail polish remover, rubber, or plastic. In excess, chemical aromas are unpleasant.
Very common red wine aroma and flavor. Find it in Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah/Shiraz. May come across as a black cherry
Actual chocolate is never in wine, but big reds (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot primarily) can give an impression of chocolate or cocoa based on their combination of dark fruit and wood.
A common element in crisp dry white and sparkling wines, reminiscent of lemon, lime, tangerine, or grapefruit. A sure sign of bright, tangy acidity. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can be aggressively citrusy.
Fresh, pure, unflawed; applied to both nose and palate and suggests a simple, palatable wine. A clean, long finish is always a good thing.
Well-made, with no off smells or flavors.
A specific genetic strain of grape variety. Relevant only to winegrowers and studious enophiles.
When a wine's aroma is surprisingly "tight" and un-giving, it's closed. The term is likely to be used when comparing several wines of the same type, and one seems decidedly less aromatic than the others. A high-end wine is more likely to be closed, but it can "open up" as it is exposed to air.
A complex wine offers interest on multiple levels. The aromas and flavors are plentiful and interesting; the wine's structural elements (tannin, acidity) are evident and in balance; and there is layering and depth in general. Complexity is one of wine talk's highest compliments.
Always a flaw! Corky or wet-cardboard aromas that get stronger as a wine is exposed to air indicate a wine with cork taint. If it happens in a restaurant, send the wine back.
Batch. Blends of wines effected prior to bottling are referred to as cuvées. As with "Bin," the term appears on labels as an unregulated term.
Abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, the Italian version of the French AOC system of geographically based wine regulation. There are more than 300 DOCs; some of the designations provide information on both grape and place, as in Vernaccia di San Gimignano (wine made from Vernaccia grapes in San Gimignano)
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. A second, higher designation for Italian wine. Twenty-four have earned DOCG status and are considered the country's best (hence the "guarantee"). Examples include Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, and Moscato d'Asti.
The act of pouring wine from the bottle into another container. For old reds the process separates wine from its sediment and revives dormant flavors; for young reds decanting helps open up the fruit and soften tannins.
Literally "partly dry." Found on sparkling wines, demi-sec indicates medium sweetness. Demi-Sec is sweeter than Extra Dry and Brut.
Real substance on the palate. A wine of depth has flavor intensity and/or complexity that lets you discover layers beyond a first impression.
Dry is not a flavor. Technically dry means that all or most of a wine's sugar is gone, having been converted during fermentation to alcohol. The vast majority of table wines today are dry, though their degree of fruitiness may make them seem sweet.
On the nose and/or palate, characteristics that suggest soil. A positive term, especially when applied to European wines, where it suggests complexity. Too much earthiness, however, can overwhelm. Earthy aromas may lean toward barnyard or forest floor.
Delicate, graceful, subtle?the opposite of big. Elegance is a positive term when applied to a wine that is also balanced. Elegant wines are often said to have finesse (as opposed to power) and refinement; commonly used to describe lighter-bodied French wines.
The study of winemaking; also spelled oenology.
Someone who enjoys and appreciates fine wine; also spelled oenophile.
Indicates a winery owns (or has long-term deals with) the vineyards that supplied the grapes. "Estate bottled" on a label implies hands-on control of the winemaking, but it does not ensure quality.
A term used to describe sparkling wines that are not as dry as Brut, but not as sweet as Demi-Sec.
The concentration of fruit in a red wine is called extract, as in the fruit flavors that get extracted from the grape skins during the winemaking process. Over-extracted wines may seem harsh.
A textural term for wines that are full-bodied and mouth filling; usually applied to rich whites or dessert wines.
How juice becomes wine. Fermentation is the chemical process by which yeast turns sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
The final taste left by a wine after you swallow (or spit). Also called aftertaste. Wines can be said to have a short, medium, or long finish; a long, balanced finish is a reliable indicator of quality.
Noticeably tannic and/or acidic; in a positive way. Firmness in general suggests age-ability, and is usually applied to reds. A wine that is too firm might be called hard.
A negative term (unlike fat); flabby wines are soft and lacking acidity; the opposite of firm.
Soft, smooth texture indicating moderate tannins.
A dry, stony/mineral aromatic quality found in European white wines like Chablis and Pouilly-Fumé.
Usually an aromatic quality rather than a flavor. Scents of honeysuckle, jasmine, and orange blossoms are most often found in white wines made from delicate varieties like Riesling and Chenin Blanc. In reds you might find violets (Rhône blends) and rose petals (Italian Barolo).
A category of wines with higher than normal alcohol due to the addition of neutral brandy or spirits. Port, Sherry, and Madeira are the best-known fortified wines.
A cheeky term often applied to very ripe, bold wines of the New World (California in particular); white or red, fruit bombs offer an explosion of fruit.
Surprisingly few wines actually smell like grapes. Notable exceptions include sweet kosher reds made from Concord grapes as well as Beaujolais Nouveau and Port.
The sharp, pungent aroma of fresh-cut grass is common to Sauvignon Blanc.
Too acidic or herbaceous, possibly deriving from under-ripe fruit or from the stems of grape clusters.
A bottletypically Champagne or sparkling winecontaining 187 ml, which is half the size of a Split, and approximately a quarter of the size of a standard bottle.
Tough with tannins. An extreme form of firm. Hard can also mean extremely high in acidity; either way, it's not a compliment.
A sweetish aroma often found in white Burgundy and other Chardonnays that have been barrel-fermented, and in Champagne; a sign of depth and complexity.
High in alcohol and/or aromatics.
. White wines, notably Sauvignon Blanc, are often redolent of fresh herbs (oregano, tarragon) and fresh-cut grass. Full-flavored Cabernet or Syrah wines lean toward mint and eucalyptus; reds from the southern Rhône Valley and Provence can be reminiscent of sage and thyme.
Lacking in mid-palate impression; a sense that little is happening between first taste and finish.
Characteristic of late-harvest dessert wines like Sauternes; also common in Gewürztraminer, which may be dry or sweet.
A wine whose alcohol is out of balance with other elements (fruit, acidity, tannin); can stick out aromatically and/or in the finish.
Negative term for unbalanced, high-alcohol wines that leave a burning sensation.
A genetic cross between two species of grapevines. Most hybrids are crosses between American and European species, designed in response to the phylloxera scourge. Hybrids, such as Seyval Blanc and Chambourcin, are considered of lesser quality than Vinifera vines.
Abbreviation for Vino a Indicazione Geografica Tipica, a relatively new official term (developed in the 1990s) used to indicate a quality wine made with untraditional grapes but from a defined area. For example, Super Tuscan blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese are labeled IGT Toscana.
Reminiscent of jam or cooked fruit. Especially ripe red grapes can yield flavors and aromas that suggest preserves or jam, as opposed to fresh or dried fruits. Excessively jammy wine might be called "cooked" or "stewed."
The term "juicy" is applied to wines whose combination of evident fruit and bright acidity leave a sense of palate-cleansing freshness.
Refers to wines made from grapes picked later than normal (and therefore with higher sugar content), usually dessert wines. Some but not all late-harvest wines are affected by Botrytis cinerea.
A wine whose palate is shy on fruit is said to be lean. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if the wine's elements are balanced. Often used for Old World whites, whose grapes generally start off less ripe coming in from the vineyard.
A wine whose palate is shy on fruit is said to be lean. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if the wine's elements are balanced. The term is used most often for Old World wines, whose grapes generally start off less ripe coming in from the vineyard.
A distinct, almost animal-y aroma most likely to appear in high-end Syrah/Shiraz or red Burgundy.
Literally the "spent" yeast cells left over from fermentation; sometimes (especially in New World Chardonnays) winemakers leave wine in the barrel sur lie (French for "on the lees") for added complexity.
The drops of wine that slide down the sides of the glass after being swirled. Typical of rich reds and fortified and dessert wines, thick legs are a sign of viscosity and full body, but not necessarily quality.
The amount of time a wine's flavor lingers after it has been swallowed. Closely related to finish; a long palate impression and finish implies good quality.
Showing signs of excess oxidation, including a brownish color and a strong, fortified, Madeira-like flavor.
A bottle that holds 1.5 liters of wine, the equivalent of two standard bottles.
fermentation. A secondary fermentation which converts the malic acid in a wine to softer lactic acid. This winemaker's trick reduces the overall acidity of the wine, softening most red wines and imparting a creaminess to white wines such as Chardonnay.
Ready to drink. Usually used to refer to red wines that are expected to evolve over years; the majority of wines are mature when released.
Suggestions of cantaloupe and honeydew may lurk where peach, apple, or pear is prominent; usually the sign of a juicy white wine.
An official term coined in California for Bordeaux-style blends (usually red, based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). If a winery produces a Meritage wine, it is frequently their most expensive table wine. Many Meritage wines feature proprietary names, such as Flora Springs "Trilogy."
Most commonly found in European white wines, these aromas and flavors come from the soil and are reminiscent of chalk, slate, or iron. Good when subtle.
Grape juice before it is fermented.
Featuring stale, dusty aromas. Some European wines (Spanish Rioja) are slightly musty by design, but too much is not good.
The methodperfected if not actually invented in the Champagne region of Franceof inducing a secondary, inside-the-bottle fermentation to create authentic sparkling wine. The process is expensive and labor-intensive; cheaper bubblies are made in huge tanks.
Everywhere but Europe--California, Australia, New Zealand, South America, etc. Thanks to generally warmer climates, New World regions tend to produce fruitier, bolder wines than their Old World conterparts do using the same grapes.
See Botrytis cinerea.
Wine blended from multiple harvests; most typical in Champagne and sparkling wines, sherries and ports. The basic aim is to keep the wine's style consistent year after year.
While almonds and hazelnuts can be found in young white wines, the term "nutty" is usually applied to older white wines, Champagne, Tawny Port, and Sherry.
(aromas and flavors) When barrels are used for aging wine before bottling, aromas of smoky/charred oak are imparted to the wine, usually more noticeable on the nose rather than the palate. New oak barrels tend to generate the most intense sense of oak.
The wood of choice for wine barrels. French and American oak are considered the best, American being a bit more aggressive. Both impart vanilla and spice aromatics and flavors. Increasingly, oak chips may be used (added to wines in large tanks) as a less- expensive means of adding oak character to bulk wines.
Slightly sweet. Off-dry wines are usually white and have alcohol between 10-12%. White Zinfandel and many light German Rieslings are off-dry.
An unregulated term used by wineries (usually Californian, French, or Australian) indicating significant age in the vineyard (usually 40-100 years). Old vines are believed to yield more concentrated fruit flavors. The French term is Vieille Vignes.
Europe, basically. But "Old World" as a term is also used to describe traditional means of winemaking, as well as wine styles that lean toward refinement and subtlety.
A big no-no. Wines that have been over-exposed to air may seem "tired" and flat (lacking acidity); browning and off flavors are also signs. An extremely oxidized wine will give the impression of vinegar.
This stone fruit is a fairly common aromatic and flavor component in Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Albariño (Spain), and Moscato (Italy). Peachy wines usually taste fairly ripe, as opposed to lean.
Very close in character to apple and commonly found in Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio.
A complex aromatic peculiar to Bordeaux as it ages; may start to appear after 10 years or so.
Name of the vine louse that devastated European vineyards in the late 19th century; as a result, most vineyards now use resistant rootstocks. Phylloxera reared its head recently in California, prompting much replanting.
Another common red wine aroma and flavor; typically associated with Merlot.
Descriptor for a white wine with a pleasant amount of zing (due to acidity) that's in balance with zippy fruit flavors.
In its best sense, Reserve on the label indicates a producer's finest bottling. While the term is widely used, especially by American wineries, it has no legal definition; variations on the word are applied to modest bottles (e.g., K-J Vintner's Reserve) and collectibles alike. The terms Riserva (Italy) and Reserva (Spain), however, are legal terms indicating longer aging before release.
The amount of sugar remaining in a wine after fermentation. Dry wines have little or no residual sugar; dessert wines have a lot.
Relatively full-bodied and intense; usually refers to a red wine.
White wine made from red grapes. Usually, the rosy pink color comes from a brief period of skin contact (as opposed to extended skin contact which renders the wines fully red and richer); rosés are typically dry. Many of the best hail from the South of France.
Indicating a smooth wine with some depth; red or white.
A variation on "oaky." Smokiness is a sign that the barrels used to age a wine were predominantly new and/or heavily "toasted" (dried using fire) when they were made.
Wines that are low in acid and tannin leave a smooth impression in the mouth.
A wine steward in a restaurant. While there is a certification system for sommeliers in the U.S., the term is most often applied informally as a job designation. Formal sommeliers are dwindling in number and these days are usually found in restaurants whose long wine lists require frequent maintenance and where diners often seek advice on specific bottles.
Having a character suggestive of spices, usually of the baking variety (cinnamon, clove, allspice, ginger) or black pepper (particularly Syrah/Shiraz.)
A bottle containing 375 ml, which is half the size of a standard bottle.
A pleasant, light sparkling sensation sometimes found in young white wines; not a flaw if the wine tastes fresh.
An almost metallic taste typical of dry European white wines high in acidity and minerality.
A green, sometimes astringent character found in wines fermented too long with the grape stems.
A term that applies to any wine that is not sparkling. Synonymous with table wine.
A fresh, vibrant red-berry character found widely in wines ranging from dry rosés, Blanc de Noir and rosé sparkling wines, and red wines, particularly Pinot Noir.
A comprehensive term that relates to a wine's "framework", or how a wine is "built." Encompasses a wine's non-fruit elementsnamely tannin, acidity, body, texture, and lengththat work to hold a wine together.
A derivative of sulfur and a natural by-product of fermentation. Also can come from the addition of sulfur dioxide, widely used during fermentation as a preservative. Most fine wines contain very low levels of sulfites; bulk wines contain more. Under U.S. law, wine with sulfites higher than 10 ppm (parts per million) must state "contains sulfites" on the label; effectively, this threshold means that all wines bear the same notation, even though the precise level of sulfites varies.
The aroma of sulfur in wine comes from sulfur dioxide used as an antioxidizing agent during fermentation. It's a bad thing if noticeable, but it sometimes goes away after the wine is in the glass awhile.
A complimentary term for wines that are pleasantly textured, as opposed to noticeably tannic or acidic.
The term "sweet" is obviously applied to wines that still contain significant residual sugar (White Zinfandel and dessert wines, for example.) Also used to describe intensely ripe, jammy red wines.
Still wine. In the United States, the term applies legally to wine that is under 14% alcohol, but the term is usually not found on labels. These wine are also called dinner wines because they are intended to be consumed with food. In European countries, any form of "table wine" on the label (vin de table, vino da tavola) indicates a very basic wine, considered of lesser quality than wines with a stated region of origin.
The rough stuff. Tannin is a compound, found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. Though tannin is in both red and white grapes, it is only found in red wines because reds are made with extended skin contact, allowing the tannins to become part of the wine's character. In wine, tannins contribute texture, sometimes to the point of making the wine feel rough and astringent (think strong black tea). Tannin is more potent in big young reds; over time (ten-plus years) tannins tend to soften, making firm wine more palatable.
Natural crystals sometimes found in wine. These deposits come from the tartaric acids present in wines and are totally safe.
A French term, not easily translated, used to define the total environment of a grapevine––not just soil, but also climate, rainfall, drainiage, elevation, slope, and sun exposure. Connoisseurs often ascribe particular characteristics in wine to a vineyard's terroir. Most often used in reference to Old World wines.
Mouth-feel. The way a wine feels in the mouth, based mainly on body, alcohol, tannin, and acidity.
Lacking body; often used to describe a wine that tastes diluted.
A wine that lacks freshness or seems past its peak is said to be tired.
A toasted- (or smoky or charred) wood character imparted by oak barrels. Also used to describe aromas in Champagne reminiscent of toasted bread.
Astringent or hard.
Exotically fruity aromas and flavors reminiscent of pineapple, mango, lychee, coconut, even banana. Serious Chardonnays from California and Australia can put you right on the beach.
The distinct aroma of vanilla in wines, both red and white, comes from barrel aging. Common in Chardonnays and Bordeaux-style reds.
As a noun, it means a grape variety. Syrah, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, Riesling?these are all varietals. Varietal character refers to the qualities one expects to find in wines made from a particular grape variety.
Suggestive of vegetables, particularly bell pepper or asparagus. Among red wines, Cabernet Franc can be aggressively vegetal. Overly pungent herbaceous/vegetal aromas are not welcome.
Silky or lush in texture; a positive trait perhaps most famously found in fine Burgundies and Pinot Noirs.
Having the smell of vinegar. A sure (and bad) sign that the wine has "turned"? and there's no turning back.
The science of winemaking.
The year on the label, which represents the year the grapes were harvested, not when the wine was bottled.
Wine producer or winery proprietor.
The science of grape growing.
The technical name for the species of grapevine capable of producing the world's best wines. The best-known Vinifera varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Riesling, but there are thought to be thousands of varieties of the species.
Reminiscent of vinegar; sometimes called VA (volatile acidity). A slight amount of VA can intensify a wine's other aromas, but if VA comes across as too sharp, it's a flaw.
Aroma akin to earthy, specifically suggesting a forest or wet leaves; a positive aroma when found in red wines, notably Burgundy and Pinot Noir.
Yeasts (natural or lab-made) induce fermentation when they come into contact with sugary grapes. Wines can smell/taste yeasty when the yeast cells are given extra time in the wine, as in barrel-fermented Chardonnay and Champagne.
Fresh and vibrant. In simple wines, youth is desirable; in finer wines, youth implies immaturity, or at least prospects for further development as the wine ages.
Another word for place of origin, often used in Italy, as in the Chianti Classico zone.