Wine terms are fun to know. But they’re important to understanding and describing the wine you enjoy. And knowing wine terms is essential if you want to make your own wine.
I. Books on Wine and Eating
II. Popular Resources on Wine
III. Serious Readings on Wine
IV. Wine Terms
For words about distilled spirits, visit Liquor Terms. For those about beer, see Beer Terms. You’ll find words about alcohol in general at the Alcohol Glossary. If you like history, you might enjoy the Alcohol and Prohibition Dictionary and Glossary.
You might like these.
I. Books on Wine and Eating
- Baiocchi, T. and Anderson, E. Sherry: with Cocktails and Recipes.
- Franks, J. Wine Greats: Delicious Wine Recipes.
- Goldfinger, T. and Lynn Nicholson, L. The Wine Lover’s Healthy Weight Loss Plan.
- Lobel, S. Lobel’s Meat and Wine. Great Recipes for Cooking and Pairing.
- Mitchell, P. The Spirited Vegetarian. Over 100 Recipes made Lively with Wine and Spirits.
- Scott-Goodman, B. The Vineyard Cookbook. Seasonal Recipes & Wine Pairings.
- St. John, B. How to Pair Wine.
II. Popular Resources on Wine
You don’t need to know wine terms to enjoy these resources. But while reading or watching, you might learn more wine terms.
- A & E TV. Wine. [Video]
- Blanning, B. Wine Tasting.
- Henderson, J. and Rex, D. About Wine.
- Johnson, H. The Story of Wine.
- Kolpan, S. et al. Exploring Wine.
- McCarthy, E. Champagne for Dummies.
- McCarthy, E. and Ewing-Mulligan, M. Wine for Dummies.
- ______. Red Wine for Dummies.
- ______. White Wine for Dummies.
- MacNeil, K. The Wine Bible.
- Robinson, J. and Harding, J. Oxford Companion to Wine.
- Slinkard, S. Wine. [Idiots Guide]
- Stahl, L. Making Your Own Wine at Home.
- Stevenson, T. Wine. [101 Essential Tips]
III. Serious Readings on Wine
- Charters, S. Wine and Society.
- Esteicher, S. Wine from Neolithic Times to the 21st Century.
- Symonds, J. Wine, Women and Song. Students’ Songs of the Middle Ages.
IV. Wine Terms Listed Alphabetically
You might enjoy Wine Trivia.
Aeration or breathing. Drinkers often expose wine to air so it can absorb oxygen. Decanting or swirling wine promotes air contact. However, researchers find little evidence that opening a bottle for an hour or so is effective.
Agraff or agraf (uh–graf). The wire cage holding the cork in a bottle of sparkling wine.
Alcohol equivalence is a simple fact. Standard drinks have the same amount of pure alcohol. It’s 0.6 of an ounce. Standard drinks of regular beer, dinner wine, or spirits (liquor) are the same. Two beers equals two shots of whiskey. A breath tester treats them both the same.
American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) identifies the appellations of American Viticultural Areas. See appellation.
Amontillado (ah-mon-tee-yah-doh) is a nutty dry sherry from Spain.
Anjou (ahn-zhew) a white wine from the Loire Valley of France.
Appellation is the area where farmers grew all or most of the grapes in a wine.
Appelation contrôlleé. The French government introducedthis system in 1855. It based it on wine prices at that time. The system regulates the variety of grapes, quantity produced and geographic origin of wines that bear a specific place name.
Appellation d’Origine Protégée. The European Union created this designation to replace the old Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.
Aroma. Grapes provide the aromas or smell in wine. Don’t confuse with bouquet. See bouquet.
Auslese (OUSE lay seh). See Prädikatswein.
Bacchus (bock-us) is the mythological god who was said to have spread wine culture throughout Europe.
Balthazar is a large bottle holding 12 liters or the equivalent of 16 standard bottles.
Barbera (bar-bear-ah) is a red grape. Farmers plant this Italian grape around the world.
Barolo. Vintners make this Italian wine entirely from Nebbiolo grapes in Piedmont.
Barsac (bar-sack) is a dessert wine from the Sauternes region of France.
Beads. Sparkling wines make streams of small bubbles. Each stream is a bead.
Beans. Vintners sometimes add small bean-shaped pieces of wood (beans) to wine to add oak flavors.
Beaujolais (bo-jo-lay) is a light, fruity red wine produced in the Beaujolais region of France.
Beaujolais nouveau (bo-jo-lay noo-vo) is a light red wine from the Beaujolais region of France. Producers release it after fermenting the wine for a few weeks.
Beerenauslese (Beer en OUSE lay seh). See Prädikatswein.
Blanc (blahn) is French for white, as in Chenin Blanc, which is a white grape variety.
Blanc de Blancs. Producers make blanc de blancs entirely from white grapes.
Blanc de Noirs. Producers make blanc de noirs entirely from black or red grapes.
Blind tasting. Drinkers taste without knowing certain information about the wines. This reduces bias. See single blind and double blind tasting. One of the most important of the wine terms.
Blush. A blush wine is the same as a rosé wine.
Bodega is a Spanish wine cellar. Also refers to a seller of alcohol beverages.
Bordeaux (bore-doe) is a large wine growing region in southwestern France. Includes the areas of Medoc (meh-doc), Pomerol (paw-meh-rawl), St.Emilion (sant eh-mee-lyon) and Sauternes (saw-tairn).
Botrytis Cinerea (See noble rot.)
Bouquet. Bottle-aging creates the bouquet (smells) of a wine.
Breathing. See aeration.
Brut (brute) refers to dry Champagne. It’s brutally dry.
Burgundy is a wine district in France. Producers sometimes use the name generically for other wines that resemble those made in Burgundy.
Cabernet Sauvignon (cab-air-nay so-vee-n´yohn) is the most important red grape variety in the world.
Capsule is the foil that covers the cork and part of the neck of a wine bottle.
Cellared By. Vintners did not produce a “cellared by” wine where workers bottled it.
Chablis (shah-blee) is a dry white wine made of Chardonnay grapes in the Chablis region of France. Producers sometimes also use it generically for wines that resemble those made in Chablis.
Champagne is an effervescent wine made in the Champagne region of France. It’s generally blended from several different years. And from as many as 40 different wines. Rarely a vintage is so good that producers make a vintage Champagne. Some producers in other part of the world make semi-generic champagne. However, increasingly producers elsewhere are now labeling such products “sparkling wine.”
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (shah-toe-nuff doo pahp) or “new castle of the Pope” is a village in the Rhone valley of France whose red wines are made from Grenache and Syrah grapes.
The French didn’t invent sparkling wine. The English did. Learn more at Wine Trivia.
Chardonnay (shar-doh-nay) is a white grape variety that is widely planted around the world and can produce fine wine.
Charmat or bulk fermented sparkling wines receive a second fermentation in large tanks. Compare with Methode Champenoise.
Chenin Blanc (sheh-nan blahn) is a versatile white grape variety widely grown in California and South Africa.
Chianti (k’yahn-tee) is a red wine from the Tuscany region of Italy.
Claret is a dry red wine from the Bordeaux region of France.
Classified growths classification has five ranks or growths of Burgundy wine. The French government based each rank on the price each wine carried in 1855. It assumed price reflected quality. But blind tasting research now finds no correlation between price and wine preference.
Cold duck is a mixture of red and white sparkling wine that has a high sugar content.
Corkage Fee. Restaurants commonly charge a corkage fee when customers bring their own bottle.
Cups are wine cocktails made with brandy and triple sec mixed with sweet wine, dry sparkling wine or cider.
Cuvee (cue-vay) is a large vat used for fermentation.
Dégorgement (day-gorj-mahn) is the disgorging. That’s removal from bottles of sediment that results from a secondary fermentation. See remuage.
Degree days is a systemthat classifies climate. It’s based on the number of days the temperature is within a grape vine’s growing range.
Demi (or split) is a half bottle. It has 375ml.
Demi-sec is moderately sweet to medium sweet sparking wines.
DO is the abbreviation for Denominacion de Origen, or “place name.” This is Spain’s designation for wines. The name, origin of grapes, grape varieties and other factors are regulated by law.
DOC is the abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or “controlled place name.” This is Italy’s designation for wine. The name, origin of grapes, grape varieties and other factors are regulated by law. It is also the abbreviation for Portugal’s highest wine category. It has the same meaning in that country.
DOCG is the abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guarantita. Or controlled and guaranteed place name, which is the category for the highest-ranking wine in Italy. See DOC.
Doux (doo) is the French word for sweet. Usually refers to the sweetest category of sparking wines.
Double blind tasting. Drinkers have no information about the wines they’re tasting to eliminate bias.
Dry refers to the absence of sugar or sweetness in a beverage. Areas that prohibit the sale of alcohol are also dry. Finally, people call those who advocate prohibition dry or drys.
Eiswein (ice-vine). See Prädikatswein. Vintners make eiswein from frozen grapes. Same as ice wine.
English wine. Vintners must make English wine from grapes grown in England. But they can make British wine from grapes grown elsewhere.
Enology (or oenology) is the science and art of wine making. Also called viniculture. One of the very important wine terms
Enophile. People who love wine are enophiles.
Estate-Bottled. A producer either owns the vineyard or has a long-term lease to purchase its grapes.
Extra dry, when referring to sparking wines, actually means sweet.
Fermentation. In fermentation, yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Fiasco. A fiasco is a bottle of Chianti with straw wrapping.
Fifth-growth. The fifth highest priced Bordeaux wines in1855. See classified growths.
Fine lees. The dead yeast cells left over from fermentation. See gross lees.
Fining. Vintners use to fining techniques to clarify wine.
Wine has about the same number of calories as the same amount of grape juice.
Finish. Drinkers have a lingering aftertaste (the finish) after they swallow a wine.
First-growth. The highest priced Bordeaux wines in1855. See classified growths.
Flight. See wine flight.
Fortified wine. Producers add alcohol to wine to fortify it. They do this to increase the proof higher than possible from fermentation alone.
Fourth-growth. The fourth highest priced Bordeaux wines in1855. See classified growths
Foxy refers to a musty odor and flavor common to wine from vitis labrusca grapes.
French Colombard is a white grape variety. Farmers grow it widely in California. Producers typically blend it with other white wines.
Gamay is a red grape variety. Farmers widely plant it in Beaujolais and elsewhere.
Gamay Beaujolais is a red grape variety. Viniculturists plant this vine widely in California.
Generic wines resemble those produces in specific regions of Europe.They include Burgundy, Champaigne, Chablis, and Sherry. Generics are generally blends of common grape varieties. Vintners usually use the better varieties to make varietal wines. One of the most important wine terms. See both varietal wine and semi-generic wine.
Gewurztraminer (geh-vurtz-tra-mee-ner) a pink grape variety. Vintners use it to make a distinctively spicy-flavor white wine.
Goliath (or Primat) holds 27 liters. That’s three cases of wine.
Graft. Viticulturists join vitis vinifera vine shoots to vitis labrusca rootstock which is resistant to phylloxera.
Grenache is a red grape variety. Farmers widely grow it in the Rhone Valley region of France.
Gross lees. The dead yeast cells, pips, stems, pulp, etc. left after fermentation. See fine lees.
Half bottle (demi or split) has 375ml.
Hectare is a 10,000 square meter area of land equivalent to 2.47 acres.
Hogshead is a 60-gallon oak barrel.
Horizontal wine flight (horizontal tasting). Drinkers taste wines of a single vintage.
Ice wine is made from frozen grapes. Same as eiswein.
Imperial (or Methuselah) holds six liters or eight bottles of wine.
Jeroboam is a large bottle holding three liters or four bottles of wine.
Judgment of Paris. In 1976, French wine experts blind tasted major French and virtually unknown American wines. They judged the best red and white wines to those from California. This event proved that vintners could make great wines in the U.S. and elsewhere. This makes one of the important wine terms. Discover more at The Historic Paris Wine Tasting.
Jug Wine. Some producers make inexpensive wine sold in half-gallon or gallon bottles.
Kabinett (KAB ee net). See Prädikatswein.
Kosher wine. A rabbi must supervise the production of kosher wine. That ensures its ritual purity. Although commonly sweet, they need not be so.
Landwein (LANDT-vine) Germans rate this “country wine” higher than their tafelwein (table wine).
Lees. The dead yeast cells, seeds, stems, pulp, etc. left over from fermentation. See fine lees and gross lees.
Legs are the streams of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents are swirled. Commonly believed to be an indicator of quality. But there is little evidence to support this belief. Also called tears.
Liebfraumilch (leeb-frow-milsh) or “milk of the virgin.” German vintners blend this white wine.
Liter is a measure of volume equal to 33.8 ounces.
Loire (l’war) is a region of France. It includes the areas of Anjou (ahn-zhew), Touraine, and Vouvray (voo-vray). Also Pouilly-Fume (poo-yee-fume-aye) and Sancerre (san-sair).
Madeira (muh-deh-rah) is a dessert wine. Vintners make it on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
“Made with organic grapes” (or “made with organically grown grapes”). Producers must use organic grapes. Yet they may add additional sulfites. (Sulfites occur naturally in grapes and wine.)
Magnum is a bottle holding 1.5 liters. That’s the equivalent of two regular bottles.
Malolactic fermentation. Vintners use this secondary fermentation. It converts malic acid into lactic acid.
May wine is light German wine. Vintners flavor it with sweet woodruff as well as strawberries or other fruit.
Médoc (meh-doc) is a region of France. It includes the villages of Margaux (mar-go) and Saint-Julien (san-jew-lee-en). Also Pauillac (po-yack), and Saint Estephe. See Bordeaux.
Melchizedek (or Midas). Holds 30 literss or 40 bottles of wine.
Melchoir is a bottle that holds 18 liters. That’s 24 bottles or two cases of wine!
Merlot (mair-lo) is a red grape variety. Producers use it to make fine wine. They often often blend it with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Méthode Champenoise (may-tud sham-pah-n’wahz). Vintners give these sparkling wines a second fermentation in the bottle. Compare with Charmat or bulk fermented.
Methuselah is the same as an imperial bottle.
Midas. A Midas is the same as a Melchizedek. See Melchoir above.
Midi (mee-dee) is a large region in the south of France. Vintners there produce vast amounts of ordinary wines.
Mis en boutielle au château (meez ahn bootay oh shah-toe) is French for “bottled at the winery,” usually in Bordeaux.
Mull is a sugared and spiced hot drink of beer, wine or distilled spirits.
Muscat (moos caht). This is one of the most important white wine grapes in the world.
Muscat Blanc is grape of the Muscat family. Vintners use it to produce sweet floral wines.
Nebbiolo is a red grape variety grown in the Piedmont region of Italy.
Nebuchadnezzar is a large bottle holding 15 liters or 20 standard bottles.
Négociant (nay-go-syahn) is French for a wholesale wine merchant, blender and shipper.
Noble rot is another name for the botrytis cinerea (bo-trie-tiss sin-eh-ray-ah) mold. It can pierce grape skins causing dehydration. The resulting grapes produce a highly prized sweet wine.
Oenology. See enology.
Oloroso is a type of sherry, which is usually dark and often sweet.
Organic Wine. Producers must use certified organic grapes. In addition, they may not add any organically prohibited substances to the wine. See wine made with organic grapes.
Petite Sirah (puh-tee see-rah) is a red grape grown in California. Not the same as Syrah.
Phylloxera vatatrex is a microscopic underground insect that kills grape vines. It does this by attacking their roots. The insects destroyed virtually all of Europe’s vineyards in the last quarter of the 19th century. But American grape varieties are resistant to the insects. Therefore, viticulturists have grafted virtually all of Europe’s grape vines onto the roots of American vines. One of the important wine terms.
Piccolo is a 1/4 bottle of wine. That is, it has 187.5 milliliters.
Pinot Blanc (pee-no blahn) is a white grape. Vintners often blend it with Chardonnay.
Pinot Gris (pee-no gree) is a grayish-rose colored grape. Vintners use it to make white wines with full body.
Pip. A pip is a grape seed.
Pomace refers to the skins and seeds that remain after making wine.
Port is a fortified dessert wine from Oporto, Portugal.
Pouilly-Fuissé (poo-yee fwee-say) is a dry white wine from Pouilly-Sûr-Loire in southern Burgundy.
Pouilly-Fumé (poo-yee fume-aye) is a white wine from the Loire valley of France.
Primat. A Primat is the same as a Goliath. See Goliath.
People still sometimes crush grapes by walking on them (“foot treading”). They typically do so in producing a small quantity of the most expensive port wines.
Prädikatswein (pray dee KAHT vine). Germans use this system for their best wines. They earlier called it Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP). It uses grape ripeness at harvest time. The system ranks wines in these increasing levels of ripeness.
Produced And Bottled By. The US producer crushed, fermented and bottled at least 75 percent of the wine in the bottle.
Punt. The indentation in the bottom of a wine bottle.
Qualitätswein Bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) (kvah-lee-tayts-vine be-shtimter ahn-bough-ge-beet-eh). Germans give “quality wine from designated cultivation areas” this designation. It’s inexpensive wine for everyday drinking.
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP). Prädikatswein replaces this former category for German “quality wines with distinction.” (See Prädikatswein.)
Racking is moving wine from one container to another during vinification.
Rehoboam is a large bottle holding 4.5 liters or the equivalent of six regular bottles.
Rémuage (ray-mew-ahje). The process of vintners successively turning and tilting bottles of sparkling wine upside down. They do this to make the sediment settle into the necks of the bottles. This prepares the bottles for degorgement. See degorgement.
Reserve is a term on some wine labels that implies superior wine. But no agency regulates the term. And researchers report that the term is essentially useless.
Resveratrol is a substance in wine some researchers believe has great health benefits.
Retsina (rhet-seen-uh) is wine with pine resin flavor. Greeks make it a very popular beverage.
Rootstock. Viticulturists use the root systems (rootstock) of disease-resistant varieties for grafting purposes.
Rosé wines (ro-zay) are pink wines. Vintners don’t give the juice long contact with the red skins of the grapes from which they make them.
Ruby is a style of Port that is generally sweet.
St. Emilion. See Bordeaux.
Salmanazar is a large bottle holding nine liters or the equivalent of 12 regular bottles.
Sangarees. Bartenders make them with whiskey, gin, rum or brandy. Then they float port wine on top. Some bartenders make them with wine, ale, porter or stout with nutmeg. Don’t confuse with sangria. Sangria is a tart punch. Bartenders make it from red wine which they mix with orange, lemon and apricot juice plus sugar.
Sauternes (saur-taire) is a sweet wine made in the Bordeaux region of France. Vintners make it from grapes with noble rot. See noble rot.
Sauvignon Blanc (saw vee nyon blahnk). Viticulturists grow Sauvignon Blanc around the world. But wine critic Robert Parker says it reaches its height in New Zealand.
Screwcap. Many producers use a metal twist-off closure for wine bottles. Screwcaps provide better protection for wines than do corks.
Second-growth. The second highest priced Bordeaux wines in 1855. See classified growths.
Semi-generic wines. Vintners in the U.S. make these wines. Yet they carry names of other places. Therefore, they also carry the name of their actual geographic origin. Examples would be New York Chablis, Napa Valley Burgundy, or California Champagne.
Sherry is a fortified wine. Vintners subject it to controlled oxidation to produce a distinctive flavor
Shiraz or Syrah?
Shiraz (shee-raz). Australians call the Syrah grape Shiraz.
Single blind tasting. Drinkers know some information about the wines they’re tasting.
Solomon. A Solomon holds 20 liters or 26 bottles of wine.
Sommelier (so-mel-yay) (wine steward or wine server). The sommelier is responsible for wine and wine service in a restaurant.
Sparkling wine is carbonated wine.
Spätlese (schpate-lay-zuh). See Prädikatswein.
Split is a bottle holding 375 milliliters. That’s half the equivalent of a typical bottle holding 750 milliliters.
Spumantes are effervescent wines from Italy. Spumante means sparking in Italian.
Still wine is any wine that is not effervescent.
Sulfites are naturally occurring compounds. They prevents microbial growth. Sulfites are on grapes, onions, garlic and many other growing plants.
Sur lie. Vintners sometimes let white wines age on the lees (sur lie) to enhance them. (They always do this with red wines.)
Syrah (see-rah) is a red grape variety. It’s important in the Rhone valley of France. Don’t confuse with Petite Sirah.
Tafelwein (TOFF el vine). Germans rate this table wine as their basic or bottom level wine.
Tannin is a naturally-occurring astringic acid found in many alcohol beverages. It imparts a slight dry “puckering” sensation in the mouth.
Tears. See legs.
Terroir. Soil, micro-climate, topography and grape variety create a unique effect in a specific plot of ground. One of the wine terms to remember.
Thief is a tubular instrument for removing a sample from a cask or barrel.
Third-growth. The third highest priced Bordeaux wines in 1855. See classified growths.
Toasted Barrels. Coopers use fire to char the inside surfaces of the staves of “toasted barrels.”
Toasting is drinking an alcohol beverage along with a statement wishing good health or other good fortune.
Trokenbeerenauslese (traw-ken-bear-en-ouse-lay-zah) is the sweetest German wine. Vintners make it from vine-dried grapes. See Prädikatswein.
T.T.B. (or TTB). Abbreviation of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. This U.S. federal agency is a major regulator of wine.
Varietal wine must be at least primarily from one variety of grape. U.S. vintners must make at least 75% of a wine one variety to give it the variety name. For example, to be labeled Zinfandel, at least 75% of the wine must be from Zinfandel grapes.
Vermouth is a white wine. Producers soak it with up to 40 flavorful aromatics.
Vertical wine tasting (vertical wine flight). Drinkers taste wines of a single category that vary by vintage.
Vin is French for wine.
Vinho verde (veen-yo vair-day) is an effervescent white wine. Producers make it in Portugal.
Vintage technically means harvest. When a vintner indicates a vintage year, all the grapes were from that year. Except perhaps in the case of Champagnes, vintage is not a clear indicator of quality.
Viniculture is the art and science of making wine. Also called enology (or oenology). Don’t confuse with viticulture. See viticulture.
Vinification is the process of making grape juice into wine.
Vinify. When vintners vinify, they’re making wine.
Vintner is a person who makes wine.
Viognier (vee oh nyay). Viticulturalists around the world have not yet extensively planted this popular grape.
Viticulture is the cultivation of grapes. Not the same as viniculture. See viniculture.
Vitis labrusca is a breed of grapes native to North America.
Vitis riparia is a grape native to North America. Its roots are resistant to phylloxera.Therefore, it’s a common source of rootstock.
Vitis vinifera is a breed of grapes native to Europe. One of the important wine terms.
Vouvray (voo-vray) a white wine from the Loire valley of France.
White Riesling (reece-ling) is a white grape variety. Farmers plant it widely in cool regions of the world. Germans call it Riesling and Americans call it Johannesberg (yo-hahn-iss-bairg) Riesling.
Wine is fermented juice of grapes.
Wine flight. Tasters evaluate wines in a set of wines (a flight) one with another.
Wine Institute is the trade association of California wineries. Other states vand regions have their own associations.
Wine made with organic grapes.
Winemaking is vinification.
Wine Thief. See Thief.
Xeres is a cocktail of dry sherry and orange bitters.
Yeast. Micro-organisms that convert sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Yield is the quantity of grapes farmers produce per area of land. It’s also the quantity of wine that a vintner produces per area of land.
Zinfandel is a red grape variety. Farmers widely plant it in California.
Any wine terms missing from this list? If so, contact hansondj[at sign]potsdam.edu with an suggested wine terms.
After reading any of these books, you’ll have a much better understanding of wine terms.