Drink Like A Somm

Learn the basics of wine knowledge as we share our expertise with you.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y

A

Acid

/ˈasəd/

A compound present in all grapes and an essential component of wine that preserves it, enlivens and shapes its flavors and helps prolong its aftertaste. There are four major kinds of acids--tartaric, malic, lactic and citric--found in wine. Acid is identifiable by the crisp, sharp character it imparts to a wine.

Aftertaste

/‘ˈaftərˌtāst/

The taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is tasted, spit or swallowed. The aftertaste or "finish" is the most important factor in judging a wine's character and quality. Great wines have rich, long, complex aftertastes.

Acidic

\ ə-ˈsi-dik , a- \

Used to describe wines whose total acid is so high that they taste tart or sour and have a sharp edge on the palate.

B

Body

/ˈbädē/

The impression of weight, fullness or thickness on the palate; usually the result of a combination of alcohol, sugar, dissolved solids (including sugars, phenolics, minerals and acids) and, to a lesser extent, glycerin. Common descriptors include light-bodied, medium-bodied and full-bodied. For example, skim milk could be considered "light-bodied," whole milk "medium-bodied" and cream "full-bodied." Although a fuller-bodied wine makes a bigger impression in the mouth, it is not necessarily higher in quality than a lighter-bodied wine.

Balance

/‘ˈbaləns/

A wine is balanced when its elements are harmonious and no single element dominates. The "hard" components—acidity and tannins—balance the "soft" components—sweetness, fruit and alcohol.

Backward

\ ˈbak-wərd \

Describes a young wine that is less developed than others of its type and class from the same vintage.

C

Clarity

/ˈklerədē/

Referring to the amount of suspended particulate matter in a wine, clarity is described in terms of the wine’s reflective quality; brilliant, clear, dull or hazy. A pronounced haziness may signify spoilage, while brilliant, clear or dull wines are generally sound.

Closed

\ ˈklōzd \

Describes wines that are concentrated and have character, yet are shy in aroma or flavor. Closed wines may open up to reveal more flavors and aromas with aging or aeration.

D

Decanting

/dəˈkant/

A technique that removes sediment from wine before drinking. After allowing the sediment to settle by standing the bottle upright for the day, the wine is poured slowly and carefully into another container, leaving the sediment in the original bottle.

Delicate

/delikət/

Used to describe light- to medium-weight wines with good flavors. A desirable quality in wines such as Pinot Noir or Riesling.

E

Earthy

/ˈərTHē/

Describes wines with aromas or flavors of soil or earth. In small amounts the aromas or flavors can add complexity and be positive characteristics, but become negative as the intensity increases. Frequently associated with Pinot Noir.

Elegant

/ˈeləɡənt/

Describes balanced, harmonious, refined wines; subtle rather than a highly-extracted blockbuster.

F

Fruity

/ˈfro͞odē/

Having the aroma and taste of fruit or fruits.

Feminine

/ˈfemənən/

Describes wines with qualities such as smoothness, roundness, gentleness, finesse, elegance and delicacy. Usage of "feminine" is in decline in favor of these more specific terms.

G

Graceful

/ˈɡrāsfəl/

Describes a wine that is harmonious and pleasing in a subtle way.

Grip

/ɡrip/

A welcome firmness of texture, usually from tannin, which helps give definition to wines such as Cabernet and Port.

H

Harmonious

/härˈmōnēəs/

Well balanced, with no component obtrusive or lacking.

Hearty

/ˈhärdē/

Used to describe the full, warm, sometimes rustic qualities found in red wines with high alcohol.

I

Intensity

/inˈtensədē/

Intensity relates to appearance and aroma. When evaluating appearance, intensity describes the concentration of color. The more concentrated and opaque a wine's color, the higher its intensity. Common descriptors for color intensity are pale, medium or dark. When evaluating aroma and flavor, the more pronounced or evident the characteristic, the more intense the wine.

Inoculation

/iˌnäkyəˈlāSH(ə)n/

The process in which a winemaker introduces yeast to the must to kick-start fermentation.

J

Jug Wine

/jəɡ/

American term for inexpensive, ordinary wines sold in half-gallon or gallon jug bottles. Sales in this category are currently declining as wine drinkers look for higher-quality wines.

K

Kabinett

/ˌkabiˈnet/

German classification based on the ripeness level and sugar content of the grapes. At the entry level of Prädikatswein, the highest group of quality German wines, kabinette are usually low in alcohol, with crisp acidity. The wines can be dry, halbtrocken (half-dry) or sweet.

L

Leafy

/ˈlēfē/

Describes the slightly herbaceous, vegetal quality reminiscent of leaves. Can be a positive or a negative, depending on whether it adds to or detracts from a wine's flavor.

Lingering

/ˈliNGɡ(ə)riNG/

Used to describe the persistence of flavor in a wine after tasting. When the aftertaste remains on the palate for several seconds, it is said to be lingering.

M

Masculine

/ˈmaskyələn/

Describes wines with firmness, power and strength.

Mousse

/mo͞os/

The frothy head that forms at the surface of sparkling wine.

N

Nutty

/ˈnədē/

Used to describe oxidized wines. Often a flaw, but when it's close to an oaky flavor it can be a plus.

Nouveau

/ˈno͞ovō,no͞oˈvō/

A style of light, fruity, youthful red wine bottled and sold as soon as possible. Applies mostly to Beaujolais.

O

Oaky

/oak·y/

Describes the aroma or taste quality imparted to a wine by the oak barrels or casks in which it was aged. Can be either positive or negative. The terms toasty, vanilla, dill, cedary and smoky indicate the desirable qualities of oak; charred, burnt, green cedar, lumber and plywood describe its unpleasant side. See also American oak, French oak.

Oxidized

/ˈäksəˌdīz/

Describes wine that has been exposed too long to air and taken on a brownish color, losing its freshness and perhaps beginning to smell and taste like Sherry or old apples. Oxidized wines are also called maderized or sherrified.

P

Palate

/ˈpalət/

The flavor or taste of a wine; also referred to as different sections of taste in the mouth. As the wine travels through the mouth, it first contacts the front palate, then the midpalate and finally the back palate, all which can process different tastes, such as sweet, sour and bitter.

Perfumed

/ˌpərˈfyo͞omd/

Describes the strong, usually sweet and floral aromas found in some wines, particularly white wines.

Q

Quinta

\ ˈkin-tə , ˈkēn- \

Portuguese term for Estate.

R

Racy

\ ˈrā-sē \

A tasting term referring to a style, rather than a smell or taste, generally marked by lively acidity and light juiciness.

Rich

/riCH/

Describes wines with generous, full, pleasant flavors, usually sweet and round in nature. In dry wines, richness may be supplied by high alcohol and glycerin, by complex flavors and by an oaky vanilla character. Decidedly sweet wines are also described as rich when the sweetness is backed up by fruity, ripe flavors.

S

Soft

\ ˈsȯft \

Describes wines low in acid or tannin (sometimes both), making for easy drinking. Opposite of hard.

Sommelier

/ˌsəməlˈyā/

A wine steward; is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing. The role in fine dining today is much more specialized and informed than that of a wine waiter.

Subtle

/ˈsədl/

Describes delicate wines with finesse, or flavors that are understated rather than full-blown and overt. A positive characteristic.

T

Tannins

/ˈtanən/

The mouth-puckering polyphenols, most prominent in red wines, that are derived primarily from grape skins, seeds and stems, but also from oak barrels. Tannins are an important component of a wine's structure and texture, and act as a natural preservative that help wine age and develop.

Toasty

/ˈtōstē/

Describes a flavor derived from the oak barrels in which wines are aged. Also, a character that sometimes develops in sparkling wines.

U

Ullage

\ ˈə-lij \

Refers to the small air space in a wine bottle or barrel. Excessive air in the bottle increases the speed of oxidation.

V

Velvety

\ ˈvel-və-tē \

Having rich flavor and a silky, sumptuous texture.

Viscous

/ˈviskəs/

Describes full-bodied, thick, rich wines.

W

Winemaking

Winemaking is the process by which harvested grapes are crushed, fermented (and otherwise manipulated through yeast inoculations, temperature control, punch-downs, pump-overs, racking, oak-chip additions, filtering, etc.), aged in barrel, steel tank or other vessel, and finally bottled.

Y

Yeast

\ ˈyēst\

Micro-organisms that convert sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide in the process known as fermentation. The predominant wine yeast, saccharomyces cerevisiae, is the same micro-organism that ferments beer and makes bread dough rise.

Yield

/yēld/

The quantity of grapes or wine produced measured in tons per acre or hectoliters per hectare. Although it is true that overcropped vines with high yields produce less-concentrated grapes, it is not true that lower yields always mean higher quality. Different soils, vineyards and varieties are able to successfully carry different levels of crop.