The ultimate Wine Glossary for the instant wine sommelier

Posted by: Marisa Leitão

Post Date 24-Sep-2019 12:33:00

This wine tours will take you to secret places. Wine estates located in almost secret locations will unveil its secular history, full of curiosities and mysteries. It is time to sharp your wine lingo knowledge and book your trip to Portugal.

Although choosing the right wine tasting may seem daunting at first if you have never been to one before this is a must when visiting the old continent. Even for those who are not very keen on wine (yet!).

A wine tour will surely take you to fairy tale places. Wine estates located in almost secret locations will unveil its secular history, full of curiosities and mysteries.

Don't be intimidated if you don't usually use the wine lingo. We show you the basic wine glossary bellow so you can impress your friends and family when joining a wine tasting in Portugal in your 2020 vacations. 

 It is time to learn the wine vocabulary to impress! 


Let’s start by the basics.

The wine tasting and the wine glossary.

In your mind a wine tasting is a group of people using fancy words, and all of them you don’t really know the meaning, just yet. Wine tastings can be fun, informative, and super tasty as wines are paired with delicious combinations like chocolate, fruits and the match we all treasure, the beloved cheese. 

“A full-bodied wine? That must be heavy! What is a Brut? Isn’t that written on champagne bottles?”

Well, fear not. Here is a glossary of wine terms to help you out.

First, to be part of our wine tours you don’t need any previous knowledge of wine and wine tasting. Maybe you know the ropes around the subject or maybe you don’t and that is perfectly fine.

People who guide the wine tours are passionate wine professionals, and will adequate their speech to your level of knowledge and to your interests. So don’t be shy and ask! 

With that in mind, we gathered a list of wine terminology, a glossary of wine terms just for you to feel more familiar. With a little help from The Wine School.

enologo-exp alentejo

A playful tip:

Memorize 3 or 4 and then randomly insert them into conversations back home. That will make you look like a real wine savvy. And you can tell everyone you learnt that during a wine tasting in Europe. How trendy, hum? You can thank me later.

Read more about Wine and Wine making made simple to understand:
What is wine? And other questions wine will answer.

Wine Glossary 

  1. Acidity — the liveliness and crispness in wine that activates our salivary glands
  2. Aeration — the deliberate addition of oxygen to round out and soften a wine
  3. Ageing — holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state
  4. Alcohol — ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the product of fermentation of sugars by yeast
  5. Anosmia — the loss of smell
  6. Appellation — a delineated wine producing region particular to France
  7. Aroma — the smell of wine, especially young wine (different than “bouquet”)
  8. Astringent — tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, and drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannin
  9. Balance — a term for when the elements of wine – acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol – come together in a harmonious way
  10. Barrel —the oak container used for fermenting and ageing wine
  11. Barrique  — a 225-litre oak barrel used originally for storing and ageing wines, originating in Bordeaux
  12. Bitter — a taste sensation that is sensed on the back of the tongue and caused by tannins
  13. Blend — a wine made from more than one grape varietal
  14. Body — a tactile sensation describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth.  A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.
  15. Bordeaux — the area in Southwest France considered one of the greatest wine-producing regions in the world
  16. Botrytis — a beneficial mold that pierces the skin of grapes and causes dehydration, resulting in natural grape juice exceptionally high in sugar.  Botrytis is largely responsible for the world’s finest dessert wines.  (see “noble rot”)
  17. Bouquet — a term that refers to the complex aromas in aged wines
  18. Breathing — exposing wine to oxygen to improve its flavours  (see “aeration”)
  19. Brettanomyce — a wine-spoiling yeast that produces barnyard, mousy or metallic aromas
  20. Brilliant — a tasting note for wines that appear sparkling clear
  21. Brut — French term denoting dry champagnes or sparkling wines
  22. Bung — the plug used to seal a wine barrel
  23. Bung hole — the opening in a cask in which wine can be put in or taken out
  24. Chaptalization — adding sugar to wine before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels.  Chaptalisation is illegal in some parts of the world, and highly controlled in others.
  25. Citric acid — one of the three predominate acids in wine
  26. Claret — the name the English use when referring to the red wines of Bordeaux
  27. Class growth — see cru classe
  28. Closed — term describing underdeveloped and young wines whose flavours are not exhibiting well
  29. Complex — a wine exhibiting numerous odors, nuances, and flavours
  30. Cork taint — undesirable aromas and flavours in wine often associated with wet cardboard or moldy basements
  31. Corked — a term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint (not wine with cork particles floating about)
  32. Cru classé — a top-ranking vineyard designated in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855
  33. Crush — the English term for harvest
  34. Cuvée — in Champagne, a blended batch of wine
  35. Demi-sec — French term meaning “half-dry” used to describe a sweet sparkling wine
  36. Dry — a taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth; the opposite of sweet
  37. Earthy — an odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil
  38. Enology — the science of wine and winemaking (see “oenology”)
  39. Fermentation — the conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast
  40. Fining — the addition of egg whites or gelatin (among other things) to clear the wine of unwanted particles
  41. Finish  — the impression of textures and flavours lingering in the mouth after swallowing wine
  42. flavours — odors perceived in the mouth
  43. Foxy — a term that describes the musty odor and flavor of wines made from vitis labrusca, a common North American varietal
  44. Fruity — a tasting term for wines that exhibit strong smells and flavours of fresh fruit
  45. Full-bodied — a wine high in alcohol and flavours, often described as “big”
  46. Herbaceous — a tasting term denoting odors and flavours of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary, etc.)
  47. Hot — a description for wine that is high in alcohol
  48. Lees — sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seed, and other grape matter that accumulates during fermentation
  49. Leesy — a tasting term for the rich aromas and smells that results from wine resting on its lees
  50. Length — the amount of time that flavours persist in the mouth after swallowing wine; a lingering sensation
  51. Malic acid — one of the three predominate acids in grapes.  Tart-tasting malic acid occurs naturally in a number of fruits, including, apples, cherries, plums, and tomatoes.
  52. Malolactic fermentation — a secondary fermentation in which the tartness of malic acid in wine is changed into a smooth, lactic sensation.  Wines described as “buttery” or “creamy” have gone through “malo”.
  53. Mature — ready to drink
  54. Mouth-feel — how a wine feels on the palate; it can be rough, smooth, velvety, or furry
  55. Must — unfermented grape juice including seeds, skins, and stems
  56. Negociant — French word describing a wholesale merchant, blender, or shipper of wine
  57. Noble rot — the layman’s term for botrytis
  58. Nose — a tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine
  59. Oak/oaky — tasting term denoting smells and flavours of vanilla, baking spices, coconut, mocha or dill caused by barrel-aging
  60. Oenology — the science of wine and winemaking (see “enology”)
  61. Open — tasting term signifying a wine that is ready to drink
  62. Oxidation — wine exposed to air that has undergone a chemical change
  63. Phenolic compounds — natural compounds present in grape skins and seeds
  64. Phylloxera — a microscopic insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots
  65. Plonk — British slang for inexpensive wine; also used to describe very low-quality wines
  66. Rough — the tactile “coarse” sensation one experiences with very astringent wines
  67. Sec — French word for “dry”
  68. Sommelier — A wine butler; also used to denote a certified wine professional. For a full overview go here: sommelier courses.
  69. Spicy — a tasting term used for odors and flavours reminiscent of black pepper, bay leaf, curry powder, baking spices, oregano, rosemary, thyme, saffron or paprika found in certain wines
  70. Structure — an ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins
  71. Sweet — wines with perceptible sugar contents on the nose and in the mouth
  72. Tannins — the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in the mouth
  73. Tartaric acid— the principal acid in grapes, tartaric acid promotes flavor and aging in wine
  74. Terroir — French for geographical characteristics unique to a given vineyard
  75. Texture — a tasting term describing how wine feels on the palate
  76. Typicity — a tasting term that describes how well a wine expresses the characteristics inherent to the variety of grape
  77. Ullage — the empty space left in bottles and barrels as a wine evaporates
  78. Vegetal — tasting term describing characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavours of the wine.  Bell peppers, grass, and asparagus are common “vegetal” descriptors.
  79. Vinification — the process of making wine
  80. Vinology — the scientific study of wines and winemaking. Also, the website for the Wine School of Philadelphia.
  81. Vitis vinifera— the species of wine that comprises over 99% of the world’s wine
  82. Vintage — the year a wine is bottled.  Also, the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.
  83. Weight — similar to “body”, the sensation when a wine feels thick or rich on the palate
  84. Wine — fermented juice from grapes
  85. Yeast — a microorganism endemic to vineyards and produced commercially that converts grape sugars into alcohol
  86. Yield — the productivity of a vineyard
  87. Young — an immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.  Wines meant to be drunk “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavours.

 Book a 3-Day Tour in Douro with River Cruise


Ready to join us for wine tastings in Douro Valley and a private wine cruise?

There is more to this wine tour, just click bellow to find what else.

7-Day Private Tour in Douro and Porto

We are a team of Portuguese tourism professionals and by booking your wine tour in Europe with Wine Tourism in Portugal, you will work with a dedicated consultant, who will listen to your requests and present you the best options for an unforgettable time in Portugal.

Here is more about Portugal and its wine regions. 

Ready to book? Contact us: +351 226 10 20 75

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Topics:   Wine Tours Wine & Food wine tasting

Marisa Leitão

Written by: Marisa Leitão

Marisa has been working on Digital Marketing and Advertising for the past years. Born in Lisbon and hopelessly in love with Porto, she knows the trendy places and the hidden-gems of both. Ask her about Portuguese heritage and curiosities, she knows some funny facts that you will enjoy to uncover.

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