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