If you enjoy wine, you are likely already familiar with the more common words to describe the wine and the sensations it offers. What you may not know, however, are the more obscure words related to the wine industry. When the sommelier begins talking in terms like “chewy,” “silky” or “fat,” it can seem like a second language!
You may never use these particular terms, but if you’re into wine, it’s fun to know them. Learn them and you’ll truly sound like an “in-the-know” oenophile at your next wine-filled gathering.
TASTE, LOOK & FEEL
Angular – A wine that hits the palate at certain places with high impact, but not anywhere else. These wines generally have high acidity levels.
Backbone – The term describing a full-bodied, balanced and well-structured wine, as determined by its acidity level.
Briary – A description of an earthy or stemmy wild berry-tasting young wine.
Brilliant – A wine that is very clear with no visible suspended particles.
Corked – A musty-tasting wine with a moldy flavor and aroma caused by a tainted cork.
Cuvee – Literally translated from the French as “tank,” it can refer to the blend of wines that create a final wine, or in the case of champagne, it refers to the first, gentle pressing of the grapes.
Feminine – A descriptor relating to wines that are lower in tannins and alcohol, like a delicate or light wine.
Flinty – An extremely dry white wine with a bouquet like flint stuck against steel. Often a Sauvignon Blanc.
Food-Friendly – A wine that cannot stand on its own because it is lacking a certain something. It must be paired with food.
Grip – Definition of the firmness of a wine’s texture. Usually created by the tannin that gives it definition. Often found in a Cabernet or Port.
Heady – Indication of a high alcohol level in a wine.
Hot – Unbalanced wines with a high alcohol content. They tend to burn the throat with heat on the finish. Can be acceptable in a Port-style wine.
Lacey – Wines that provide different flavor and texture sensations as they move through the mouth.
Lees – The remaining dead yeast after the alcohol has fermented.
Masculine – Refers to a strong and muscular, more masculine wine.
Meaty – Description of a concentrated red wine with a chewy quality. This wine may even have the aroma of cooked meat.
Mousiness – A wine flaw detected by tasting like corn chips or popcorn, or like rodents have been there.
Must – The crushed grapes prior to fermentation.
Perfumed – The strong floral or sweet aroma in various white wines.
Rancio – Oxidized still wines that offer complex flavor profiles, like those often found in fortified wines like Ports, Sherries and Brandies. The process related to the Spanish and French methods of exposing wine to dry heat or air during aging. This can reduce primary fruit aromas and offer candied fruit or fruitcake characteristics to the wine.
Tight – A young wine that is not ready to drink.
Vinous – A dull wine that lacks a distinct varietal character. Translates to “winelike.”
TOOLS & TECHNIQUES
Air Lock – A one-way valve used during secondary formation to allow carbon dioxide to escape while not allowing air to enter the tank.
Balthazar – Refers to a 12 liter bottle of wine instead of a 16 liter standard bottle.
Barrel Down – What you do when you fill a wine barrel.
Bung – The stopper that is situated on the side of a barrel. It allows you to add wine or siphon off wine as you need to.
Bung Hole – The hole in the side of barrel where wine is added or removed.
Closures – Another word for the corks or screw caps that seal a bottle of wine.
Cooperage – The name for the barrel or cask that holds the wine. Other meanings include the place where those barrels were created or a winery’s storage capacity.
Crush – The season when grapes are picked and juiced; a busy time also known as harvest.
Demi – A half-sized, or 375 mL, bottle of wine.
Fly Catcher – The final filter as wine is filtered along the bottling line, meant to keep out fruit flies that may have entered the tank.
Jeroboam – A 4.5 liter wine bottle, mainly used for still wine.
Racking – The transferring of wine from a tank to a holding container. Sometimes used as a clarifying step.
Tank Jacket – The additional layer of stainless steel on the outside of a wine tank that enables coolants to flow around the exterior to chill the wine or juice inside.
Wine Thief – A plastic or glass tube that enables you to extract a wine sample from a barrel through the bung hole.
Worm – The corkscrew part of a wine opener.