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Wine Slang Dictionary: Wine Lingo and Tasting Terms

Scott Schulfer
Table of Contents
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Folks in the wine business have an especially developed way of talking about their passion. And wine menus and digital wine list descriptions follow suit. It makes sense; few subjects in food and beverage have as rich a history or devoted a following. Restaurants with great wine lists have their own language (you can also hear things like 86 meaning).

So here's a list of wine slang, including tasting and bouquet terms, that'll have you sounding like a sommelier in no time.

Wine Slang

Acidic: A wine with high levels of acidity, typically manifests as tartness or crispness on the palate, along with mouth-watering feeling

Aeration: Wondering what does a wine aerator do? This is the process of exposing wine to air to trigger oxidation and evaporation, done by either letting wine rest in a glass, decanting it, or using a wine aerator

Aggressive: A wine with high acidity or tannins

Appearance: The clarity of a wine, not it's color, determined by the amount of suspended particles in a wine

Aroma: The smell of wine resulting from the grapes used in the winemaking process; fruit aromas, spice aromas, etc.

Backbone: Characterizes a full-bodied, structured, and tannic wine with noticeable levels of acidity

Bite: A high level of acidity of tannin

Bitter: One of the four basic tastes; some grapes are more bitter than others, some bitterness in wine comes from its tannin or stems

Bouquet: The smell of wine resulting from the winemaking process itself, often describing woody or funky flavors from the aging and fermentation processes, respectively

Brilliant: The appearance of a wine with no visible floating particles or sediment; completely clear

Burnt: Wine with a smokey, toasty character

Buttery: Wines with a smooth, warm texture

Chewy: Heavier, richer wines that are particularly tannic

Cork taint: A fault in a wine characterized by an overpowering musky, dank smell and a dull taste

Corkage fee: Cost added to a bill for bringing your own wine into an establishment to drink; often includes wine service for the bottle

Decanter: A glass or crystal vessel designed specifically to increase the amount of wine exposed to air to enhance a wine's flavor and aroma. Learning how to decant wine with a wine decanter is one of the best ways to elevate a wine experience.

Delicate: Another term for light- or medium-bodied wines

Depth: Wine with layers of flavors and sensations

Dry: A wine that's not sweet

Fleshy: Similar to chewy, notes a wine with a full mouthfeel

Floral: Aromas and tastes that resemble flowers

Fruit forward: Aromas or tastes that are primarily fruity

Full-bodied: A heavy, complex, and well-rounded flavor that lingers in the mouth, higher in alcohol content

Funky: A characteristic, typically of smell, derived from the yeast used in winemaking; also called "barnyard"

Grassy: A specific kind of herbaceousness

Green fruit: A characteristic referring to younger, brighter fruit, like melon and green apple, versus darker fruits like berries or plums

Heady: A wine with high alcohol content

Herbaceous: A taste or smell of herbs

Horizontal tasting: Wine tasting that surveys multiple producers of similar wines from the same vintage, i.e., multiple Sonoma County Sauvignon Blancs from 2012

Legs: The streaks of water that drips down the inside of a wine glass as the wine is swirled around

Length: The amount of time smells and tastes last after swallowing

Light-bodied: The opposite of full-bodied; wines with a more delicate mouthfeel with less alcohol

Lively: A wine with fresh, energetic characteristics, typically fruit-forward wines with above-average acidity

Lush: A wine with a soft mouthfeel, typically rich and sweet

Meaty: Similar to fleshy and chewy, a wine with a full, chunky mouthfeel

Medium-bodied: In between light- and full-bodied in both flavor profile and alcohol content

Mouthfeel: The sensations produced in the mouth by wine

Nose: How wine smells in the glass

Nutty: An aroma or taste similar to nuts

Oenology: The study of wine

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Off-dry: Dry, but not entirely; a dry wine with a slightly sweet character

Open: Opening up a wine, or allowing a wine to open, is allowing it to aerate; can be done by simply pouring, using a wine aerator, or using a decanter.

Peak: The subjective ideal age of an individual wine

Rustic: A wine with earthy, hearty characteristics; like many wine terms, can be both good or bad depending on context

Savory: The opposite of a sweeter, fruit-forward wine; a wine with vegetal, earthy, dry characteristics

Smoky: A smoke aroma, imparted by the barrel aging process

Smooth: A soft mouthfeel, like buttery but not not necessarily with warm or oily characteristics

Soft: Similar to smooth, but with a more delicate character

Sommelier: The definition of sommelier is a wine professional trained in all aspects of wine service and food and wine pairing; certified by the Master Court of Sommeliers

Spicy: A wine with spicy taste and aroma characteristics; common spice profiles are black pepper, cinnamon, anise, clove, nutmeg, and ginger

Structure: The major elements that make up a wine's flavor profile: acid, tannin, sugar, alcohol, and body

Subtle: Understated aromas and flavors present in wine

Tannins in wine: Naturally occurring compounds in grapes that impart the bitter, dry sensations in wine; wines high in tannins are "tannic"

Tart: A sharp-tasting characteristic present due to high acidity

Toasty: A characteristic imparted from oak barrels during the aging process

Vegetal: A characteristic that brings to mind plant life and vegetation; herbaceous, medicinal, fresh

Velvety: A wine with a smooth, silky texture

Vertical tasting: Wine tasting that focuses on one bottling of wine from one winery over the course of time, i.e., tasting multiple vintages

Vinification: The process of turning grapes into wine

Wanna learn more? Check out our bar and restaurant dictionary!

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