How many times have you heard about the “nose” of a wine or its tannins and aftertaste? How about friends who taste a wine and talk about acidity, depth and maturation? If all this sounds strange to you, the following glossary will help you get to know the wines better and learn to enjoy them with knowledge and opinion!

Acidity: The liveliness and crispness in wine that activates our salivary glands.

Aeration: Exposing wine to oxygen to improve its flavour (breathing).

Aging: Holding wine in barrels and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state.

Alcohol: The product of fermentation of sugars by yeast.

Aroma: The smell of wine, especially young wine. It is commonly used for wines with fruity and floral smells, although it can be used for any wine with strong aromatic compounds (different than “bouquet”).

Balance: A term for when the elements of wine – acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol – come together in a harmonious way with no particular constituent standing out among the others.

Bitter: A taste sensation that is sensed on the back of the tongue and caused by tannins.

Blend: A mixture of two or more different wines. It can apply to wines made from different grapes, different regions, or different vineyards.

Body: A tactile sensation describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth. A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.

Bouquet: The term is used when referring to the smell of an aged wine where the maturing process has brought out things like the aging in wood and subtle smells from the fermentation process. Young wines are not considered to have a bouquet, only an aroma.

Bottle age: The length of time a wine matures after it has been bottled. Most wineries age in the bottle a short time. Consumers may age the wines in bottles longer, particularly for finer wines.

Chaptalization: Adding sugar to wine before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels. Chaptalization is illegal in some parts of the world, and highly controlled in others.

Closed: Term describing underdeveloped and young wines whose flavours are not exhibiting well.

Demi-sec: French term meaning “half-dry” used to describe a sweet sparkling wine.

Dry: A taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth.

Earthy: An odour or flavour reminiscent of damp soil.

Estate: A place that both grows grapes and produces wines from its own vineyards.

Fermentation: The conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast.

Finish: The impression of textures and flavours lingering in the mouth after swallowing wine.

Fruity: A tasting term for wines that exhibit strong smells and flavours of fresh fruit.

Full-bodied: A wine high in alcohol and flavours, often described as “big”.

Length: The amount of time that flavours persist in the mouth after swallowing wine; a lingering sensation.

Mature: Ready to drink.

Mouth-feel: How a wine feels on the palate; it can be rough, smooth, velvety, or furry.

New World: Wine producing countries outside of Europe.

Nose: A tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine.

Oenology: The science of wine and winemaking.

Oxidation: Wine exposed to air that has undergone a chemical change.

Sommelier: A wine butler; also used to denote a certified wine professional.

Palate: The sensation of taste in a taster’s mouth.

Primary aromas: The smells of a wine that come directly from the grapes used to make the wine.

Structure: An ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins.

Sweet: Wines with perceptible sugar contents on the nose and in the mouth.

Tannins: The phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, and dry feeling in the mouth. It helps preserve wines during the aging process.

Terroir: French for geographical characteristics unique to a given vineyard/ in French, the overall vineyard growing conditions including climate, soil, moisture in the soil, etc.

Texture: A tasting term describing how wine feels on the palate.

Varietal: Wines made totally or predominantly from a single variety of grape.

Varietal character: The characteristics of a wine that come from the grape variety it was made from.

Vinification: The process of making wine.

Weight: Similar to “body”, the sensation when a wine feels thick or rich on the palate.

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.