Wine Dictionary

Aftertaste
The taste of the wine lingering in the mouth after the wine has been swallowed. Finer, complex wines usually have a long aftertaste.

Aroma
The smell of a wine acquired from the grapes from which it is made, as differentiated from Bouquet, which is the smell derived from the ageing process, especially bottle ageing.

Astringent
That puckery sensation in the mouth: it is generally the result of tannin being present in the wine. Tannin occurs naturally in the skins and seeds of grapes. Moderate astringency is not necessarily negative and may enhance a wine's compatibility with certain foods.

Balanced
A positive term to describe flavor, acidity and degree of dryness or sweetness as being properly and harmoniously proportioned in a wine. (Unbalanced wine may be described as tart, flat, acidic, etc.)

Bitter
One of the four basic tastes which we can perceive (the others being sweet, sour and salty). Bitterness is almost always a negative in wine.

Body
The substance, feel or texture of a wine in the mouth. This is a highly subjective judgment based on the wine's characteristics.

Bouquet
The smell a wine derives from the ageing process, especially in bottles. Aging is the gradual oxidation of chemical esters in the wine.

Clean
A wine that is sound, with no noticeable defects off smells or tastes. If clean is the only descriptor, the wine is likely to be simple and not especially interesting.

Complex
An elusive but complimentary term which suggests that the wine presents many elements of flavor and aroma (bouquet, oak-aged character, perhaps a style reflecting the region where the grapes were grown) in an especially attractive way. Winemakers always strive for complexity in fine wines.

Corky
The distinctive taste or smell in a wine resulting from a moldy cork. Disagreeable but not harmful. Natural corks are sound when removed from the tree and are produced with great care, so actual "corkiness" is a rare occurrence.

Delicate
This is a positive term to describe a light wine without intense flavors but one that is well made and elegant.

Herbaceous
The aroma or taste of herbs in wine. It is typical of certain varietal grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc) and can sometimes be described as grassiness but should not dominate the flavors in the finished wine.

Light
A wine with a low concentration of the various characteristics of wine. The opposite of Full-bodied. Light is not necessarily a negative: the winemaker may have intended to produce a wine that is delicate rather than robust.

Maderized>
A term used to describe a wine which has become oxidized and also has been exposed to heat. This is the way that Madeira is produced, but in other wines the adjective is unflattering.

Mellow
Soft in the mouth; this word sometimes suggests a sweet sensation.

Nose
The smell of a wine, which is made up of the aroma and the bouquet.

Oaky
The taste and smell derived from contact with oak barrels during the ageing process. Experienced winemakers can finely control the oaky characteristics in a wine by using new or used barrels, French or American oak from various regions within each country, with interiors lightly, moderately or heavily toasted (charred over a flame), etc.

Oxidized
The characteristic of a wine, especially a white wine, which has had too much contact with the air, has lost its freshness and perhaps darkened in color.

Rough
The astringent, harsh tactile sensation (not bitterness), sometimes from excessive tannins, especially in young red wines. Contrast with mellow.

Round
A wine which has balance, flavor and body with none dominating and none absent and with no major defect. A poor wine could not be described as round but it does not necessarily mean fine or great.

Sediment
The deposit which is a natural by-product of wine during bottle ageing. Sediment is not cloudiness or haziness and is not a defect; it consists principally of tannins and color pigments that combine and precipitate out of solution.

Tannic
Describes a wine high in tannin, a natural substance coming from grape skins and seeds (especially in red wines) and from the wood in oak barrels. Tannin imparts structure, texture and complexity to a wine; it is an antioxidant and contributes to wine ageing. To the taste, tannin is astringent and makes the mouth pucker.