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Wine Glossary
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Acetic Vinegary taste or smell that develops when a wine is overexposed to air.
Acidity All wines naturally contain acids, which should be in proper balance with fruit and other components. Sufficient acidity gives liveliness and crispness and is critical for wines to age.
Aftertaste The flavor impression the wine leaves after it is swallowed. Also referred to as the "finish" of a wine. Fine wines have a lingering finish, or aftertaste.
Aroma The smell of a wine, especially young wines.
Aromatic A term for wines with pronounced aroma, particularly those redolent of herbs or spices.
Astringent The "puckerish" quality of high tannin content, which has the effect of drying out the mouth. Many young red wines are astringent because of tannin.
Austere Somewhat hard, with restrained fruit and character.
Balance Harmony among the wine's components -- fruit, acidity, tannins, alcohol; a well-balanced wine possesses the various elements in proper proportion to one another.
Big Powerful in aroma and flavor; full-bodied.
Bitter Usually considered a fault in but characteristic of such wines as Amarone and certain other Italian reds.
Body The weight and texture of a wine; it may be light-bodied or full-bodied. Often refers to alcohol content.
Botrytis cinerea A mold that attacks certain grapes, producing honeyed sweet wines like Sauternes and late-harvest Rieslings.
Bouquet The complex of aromas that develops with age in fine wines; young wines have aroma, not bouquet.
Breed Similar to good bloodlines and handling, as in racehorses; the result of soil, grapes and vinification techniques that combine to produce depth and distinctive character in a wine.
Brix Term used to measure the sugar content of grapes, grape juice (must) or wine. Grapes are generally harvested at 20 to 25 Brix, resulting in alcohol after fermentation of 11.5 to 14 percent.
Brut Term for dry Champagne or sparkling wine.
Buttery Descriptor for rich flavor and smoothness of texture, somewhat akin to the oiliness and flavor of butter. More often refers to oak-aged white wines than reds; many Chardonnays and white Burgundies are said to have buttery aromas and flavors.
Chewy Wines with unusual thickness of texture or tannins that one almost "chews" before swallowing.
Clean Fresh, with no discernible defects; refers to aroma, appearance and flavor.
Closed Young, undeveloped wines that do not readily reveal their character are said to be closed. Typical of young Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as other big red wines.
Coarse Rude or harsh in flavor; clumsy or crude.
Complete Mature, with good follow-through on the palate, satisfying mouth-feel and firm aftertaste.
Complex Multifaceted aroma and/or flavor. Most wines considered great exhibit a combination of flavor and aroma elements.
Cooked Heavy, pruney flavor; also said of wines from very hot growing regions or wines that are overripe.
Corked, corky Smelling of cork rather than wine; due to a faulty cork.
Crisp Fresh, brisk character, usually with high acidity.
Deep Having layers of persistent flavor that gradually unfold with aeration.
Delicate Light fragrance, flavor, and body.
Developed Mature. A well-developed wine is more drinkable than an undeveloped one.
Distinctive Elegant, refined character that sets the wine apart on its own.
Dry Opposite of sweet; somewhat subjective in that tasters may perceive sweetness to varying degree.
Dull Lacking liveliness and proper acidity; uninteresting.
Dumb Not revealing flavor or aroma; closed; typical of wines that are too young or too cold.
Earthy Smell or flavor reminiscent of earth. A certain earthiness can be appealing; too much makes the wine
Elegant Refined character, distinguished quality, stylish, not heavy.
Extra Dry A term used on Champagne labels to indicate not-quite-dry; not as dry as Brut.
Fat Full of body and flavor; fleshy.
Fine Distinguished.
Distinctive balance; fineness; elegance and flair.
Finish Aftertaste, or final impression the wine leaves; it can have a long finish or a short one (not desirable).
Firm Taut balance of elements; tightly knit structure; also distinct flavor.
Flat Dull, lacking in liveliness; wine without sufficient acid.
Flavor How the wine tastes.
Fleshy Fatness of fruit; big, ripe.
Flinty Dry, mineral character that comes from certain soils, mostly limestone, in which the wine was grown; typical of French Chablis and Loire Valley Sauvignon Blancs (Sancerre).
Flowery Aroma suggestive of flowers.
Forward Developed ahead of its peers; also, when the fruit is prominent, it is said to be forward.
Foxy The "grapey" flavors of wines made from native American grapes, Vitis labrusca.
Fruity Aroma and/or flavor of grapes; most common to young, light wines but refers also to such fruit flavors in wine as apple, black currant, cherry, citrus, pear, peach, raspberry, or strawberry; descriptive of wines in which the fruit is dominant.
Full-bodied Full proportion of flavor and alcohol; big, fat.
Green A wine made from unripe grapes that is tart and lacking fruit flavor.
Grip Firmness of flavor and structure.
Hard Stiff, with pronounced tannins; undeveloped.
Harmonious All elements -- fruit, acid, tannin -- in perfect balance
Harsh Rough, biting character from excessive tannin or acid.
Heady High in alcohol, very full-bodied
Herbaceous Aromas reminiscent of fresh grass or hay; grassy, as in certain Sauvignon Blancs; also the green pepper character of some Cabernets.
Herby Reminiscent of herbs, such as mint, sage, thyme, or of eucalyptus.
Honest Without flaws, typical and straightforward, simple but not great.
Honeyed Smell or taste reminiscent of honey, characteristic of late-harvest wines affected by "noble rot" (Botrytis cinerea).
Intricate Interweaving of subtle complexities of aroma and flavor.
Legs The viscous rivulets that run down the side of the glass after swirling or sipping, a mingling of glycerin and alcohol.
Length Lingering aftertaste.
Light Refers to wines light in alcohol but also to texture and weight, how the wine feels in the mouth. Lightness is appropriate in some wines, a defect in others.
Lively Crisp, fresh, having vitality.
Long Fine wines should have a long finish, or aftertaste; see Length.
Luscious Rich, opulent, and smooth; most often said of sweet wines but also intensely fruity ones.
Maderized Wine that has oxidized; has brown or amber color and stale odor.
Mature Fully developed, ready to drink.
Meaty A wine with chewy, fleshy fruit; sturdy and firm in structure.
Mellow Smooth and soft, with no harshness.
Moldy Wines with the smell of mold or rot, usually from grapes affected by rot or from old moldy casks used for aging.
Muscular Vigorous fruit, powerful body and flavor; robust.
Musty Stale, dusty or rank aromas.
Noble Great; of perfect balance and harmonious expression. The so-called "noble" grapes are those that produce the world's finest wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling (some would also include Syrah, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese).
Nose The smell of the wine; it may have a "good nose" or an "off-nose," meaning defective odors.
Nutty Nutlike aromas that develop in certain wines, such as sherries or old white wines.
Oak, oaky Aroma and flavor that derive from aging in oak casks or barrels. Characterized by smokiness, vanilla, clove or other spices. Should not be overly pronounced.
Off-dry Not quite dry, a perception of sweetness too faint to call the wine sweet.
(also off-aromas or off-nose)
Not quite right; flavors or odors that are not correct for a particular type of wine; opposite of clean; defective.
Open Revealing full character.
Oxidized Flat, stale or sherrylike aroma and flavor; spoiled as the result of overexposure to air.
Petillant A light sparkle.
Rich Full, opulent flavor, body and aroma.
Ripe Mature, fully ripe fruit
Robust Full-bodied, powerful, heady
Rough Harsh edges, biting, unpleasant.
Round Smooth and well-developed flavor, without angularity or rough edges.
Sharp Biting acid or tannin.
Short Refers to finish, or aftertaste, when it ends abruptly.
Silky Smooth, sinuous texture and finish.
Simple Opposite of complex; straightforward.
Smoky Aroma and flavor sometimes associated with oak aging.
Soft May refer to soft, gentle fruit in delicate wines, or to lack of acidity in wines without proper structure; used on a label occasionally to indicate low alcohol.
Solid Sound, well structured, firm.
Sour Sharply acidic or vinegary
Sparkling Wines with bubbles created by trapped carbon dioxide gas, either natural or injected.
Spicy Having the character or aroma of spices such as clove, mint, cinnamon, or pepper.
Spritzy Slight prickle of carbon dioxide, common to some very young wines; frizzante in Italy.
Steely Firmly structured; taut balance tending toward high acidity.
Stiff Unyielding, closed; dumb.
Strong Robust, powerful, big.
Structure The way a wine is built; its composition and proportions.
Stuffing Big, flavorful, full-bodied wines are said to have "stuffing."
Sturdy Bold, vigorous flavor; full-bodied; robust.
Sulphur, SO2 An anti-oxidant used in making most wines; the fermentation process creates minute natural amounts.
Supple Yielding in flavor; a wine that is readily accessible for current drinking.
Sweet Usually indicates the presence of residual sugar, retained when grape sugar is not completely converted to alcohol. Even dry wines, however, may have an aroma of sweetness, the combination of intense fruit or ripeness. Considered a flaw if not properly balanced with acidity.
Tannin A natural component found to varying degrees in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes; most prominent in red wines, where it creates a dry, puckering sensation in young reds of concentrated extract; mellows with aging and drops out of the wine to form sediment; a major component in the structure of red wines.
Tart sharp; acceptable if not too acidic.
Thick Dense and heavy in texture.
Thin Lacking body and flavor.
Tired Past its peak of flavor development; old.
Tough Astringent or hard; wiry; tannic

A scent imparted by aging in oak.

Velvety Smooth and rich in texture.
Vigorous Firm, lively fruit, strong body; assertive flavor.
Vinegary Having the smell of vinegar; see also Acetic.
Volatile, Volatile Acidity (VA) Smells of acetic acid and/or ethyl acetate, quite disagreeable when excessive though a tiny amount may enhance aromas.
Watery Thin, lacking in flavor.
Weak Lacking grip typical for the wine; without character.
Weedy Aromas or flavors reminiscent of hay or grasses; not necessarily unpleasant unless exaggerated.
Weighty Strong, powerful, full-bodied, forceful.
Woody Excessive aromas of wood, common to wines aged overlong in cask or barrel.

A bready smell, sometimes detected in wines that have undergone secondary fermentation, such as Champagne; very appealing if not excessive.

Young In simple wines signifies youthful freshness; in finer wines, refers to immaturity, wines as yet undeveloped.
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