Wine 101

Wine 101

Want to sound like you know how to talk wine???

Learn this terminology and you can fool anyone!!!!

Grape Variety:

A specific type of grapevine (ex. cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, etc.) from which a wine may be made. There are over 2500 grape varieties used in making wine. Grape varieties can stand on their own or be blended with one or more varieties to make a more balanced, complex wine.


A type of wine made primarily from grapes of one type of grapevine, the name is usually identified on the label. In California, there must be at least 75% of the named grape variety in the wine for the name to be listed on the label.

Table Wine:

Broadly speaking, wine that is enjoyed during meals. Also called "still" wine (since it is not sparkling), table wine typically has between seven and fourteen percent alcohol by volume, although some may be lower (like some Moscatos) or higher (very ripe red Zinfandels). Table wine is by far the largest type of wine produced. In some countries, such as France, Germany and Spain this term legally defines wines of "good wuality" (as opposed to "finer wines with special attributes").

White Wines:

Generally, table and sparkling wines which have little or no red color in them, and which range from watery white (often with a slight green tint) to golden amber. A white wine can be made from red skinned grapes (just no skin contact).

Red Wines:

Wines made from red, blue, purple, or black skinned grapes and which range in color from light red ot deep blue-purple. The color in wine comes from the grape skins. As red wines age they lose their vibrant color. The color shift to orange, amber and brown.

Rose' Wine:

Wines which are pink or salmon colored made from red or purple grape varieties just with slight skin contact to the juice. Rose' wines range from pale pink to pale red color, and may be dry, semi-dry or sweet.

Blush Wine:

Virtually the same as rose' wine although it often is used to connote a semi-dry or slightly sweet wine usually made from the red grape Zinfandel and called "White Zinfandel".

Sparkling Wine:

Sparkling wine is known for and recognized by its bubbles (carbon dioxide dissolved in wine). It ranges dramatically in color (it may be white, red or rose), taste (it may be very dry or very sweet), quality (from mediocre to exceptional), price (from inexpensive to extremely expensive), and sparkle (from lightly fizzy to very fizzy).

Fortified Wines:

Fortified wines are wines to which brandy has been added usually to stop fermentation (and most times to retain natural sweetness). Fortified wines range from 16% to 24% alcohol, and may be dry or sweet, white or red, and produced from nearly any grape variety or blend of varieties. Two of the world's greatest fortified wines are Port and Sherry, produced classically in Portugal and Spain, respectively.

Some other wine words to impress your friends with.


A wine tasting term describing the sensation of agreeable sharpness or tartness produced by the natural fruit acids int he grape. Acidity is necessary for proper balance in wine.


The name of the area where a wine's grapes originate.


The fruity "grapey" scent in a wine when you swirl the glass.


The mouth puckering sensation produced by tannin in wine.


A tasting of fresh fruit in a light wine that is easy to drink


When fruit, acid, sugar tannins and alcohol are in harmony and none dominate. This is a very important consideration when evaluating a wine

Barrel Aged:

Wines placed in small oak barrels to age before being bottled, resulting in a slight oxidation giving the wine rounder and deeper flavors. The flavor imparted is usually described as "vanilla" or "vanilla spice".

Barrel Fermented:

Wine which is fermented in oak barrels, resulting in fuller body and deeper complex favors


The feel of wine in the mouth; described as thin or light-bodied, medium-bodied, rich or full bodied.


The complex fragrance of a wine which develops as the bottled wine matures.


An adjective used to describe sparkling wine which generally indicates a relatively dry style.


A term that refers to cloudiness or sediment in a wine.


A group of vines originating from a single individual plant whose descendants have usually been propagated by means of cuttings and or grafts. A clone is selected for its special viticultural and wine merits (productivity, resistance to disease, adaptability to particular growing conditions and wine quality).


French for an "enclosed vinyard". Adapted to some California winery names, five at last count.


A term referring to a disagreeable smell and taste due to a tainted cork. The wine will smell musty and taste a little metallic.


Means "growth" in French and refers to specific vineyards of better quality. Think of it as meaning classification.


A special blend of wines


Wine made from frozen grapes. These wines are extremely sweet and generally quite expensive.


A winemaker


A lover of wine a wine connoiseur.

Estate bottles:

An indication that the wine was produced at the owner's winery from grapes grown on or controlled by the estate.


The process of clarifying wine during the aging process. Sometimes egg whites are used.


The flavors that remain in the mouth after swallowing also called the after taste or "length".


A variety of grape developed by crossing two or more different species. Commonly done with European and native American varietals to produce French American hybrids.

Late Harvest:

Grapes picked overripe, having a high concentration of sugar. Sometimes these grapes are affected by Botrytis (the noble rot). A mold which grows in the vineyard that shrivels the grapes (like raisins) concentrating flavor and sugar.


Swirl wine in the glass, then watch the rivulets of wine slowly descent. These are the legs, they indicate the fullness of body.

Library Release:

An older wine held back by the winery and released for restaurants to offer a well-aged, mature wine to the guest.


A term referring to wines that are not identified by a specific year on the label. Non-vintage wines often contain a blend of wines from various years to create a consistent style of wine year after year. You often see this in Champagne and Port.


The way a wine smells, its aroma and bouquet. Many tasters consider the "nose" of a wine its most important attribute.


A light, fruity, youthful grapey wine released shortly after harvest. These wines are intended to be consumed young.


A term referring to a flawed wine where the cork has blown its seal and air got in the bottle. The wine will have lost some of its flavor and all its charm. An oxidized white wine becomes darker while a red wine will lose color becoming brickish red or tawny.


A term used in the douro region of Portugal to disignate a specific vineyard from which port is produced.

Reserve, Vintner's Reserve, Private Reserve, Special Reserve, Proprietor's Reserve:

Terms used to indicate wines the producer considers special. Wines with this disignation are probably something better than average, however these phrases are not regulated and are sometimes inappropriately used on the labels of not so special wines.

Residual Sugar:

The amount of sugar remaining in a wine after fermentation. Often stated on the label of sweet wines as a guide. Slight sweetness becomes apparent to most of us at about 1%RS.


French for "wine waiter". In better restaurants this person is in charge of all wine service from the cellar to the dining room.


Solid matter consisting of coloring matter and tannins in the form of a fine powder, which falls to the bottom of a bottle during the aging process (especially in red wines).


Widely used to preserve freshness in fruit and vegetables and a natural by product of fermentation. A very small amount is produced naturally by the yeast (well under the government standards). A small percentage of people are allergic to any amount of sulfites and should avoid foods that contain them. Wines containing sulfites must state so on the label.


The part of the wine that creates a puckery feeling in the mouth. It is found primarily in young red wines. Tannin is an acid derived from the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes as well as from the oak barrels used in wine making. If kept in balance tannin acts as a natural preservative that helps the wine develop as it ages, adding dimension and complexity. If excessive, it can long outlive the other flavors in the wine and dominate the taste so that the wine is bitter or astringent.


Used to describe the aromas and flavors imparted from fermenting and aging the wine in oak barrels or casks.


Covers the entire process of growing making and marketing wine.


The process of turning grape juice into fine wine.


One who makes or sells wine.


On the label the year in which the grapes were harvested and the wine was born.

Vineyard Designated:

The name of a special vineyard which appears on the label but the label must also include a geographic appellation and the wine must contain grapes at least 95% from the named vineyard.


Grape growing.