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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 (this is the same taste as bittters, a cocktail ingredient you can learn how to make bitters using a bitters recipe)

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

Negociant: A wine negociant is an industry expert that purchases hihg-quality 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! You can even check out some gluten free wine brands or learn how many ounces in a wine bottle.

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