Wine Glossary: A to C


Acidification — Addition of acid, such as tartaric acid added during fermentation. Often required in hot climates where grapes tend to over-ripen, become deficient in acidity, and lose their freshness.

Acidity —Amount and kind of acid(s) in a wine including tartaric, malic, citric and lactic. The right balance of acids gives wines their vigor, balance, and longevity. Over acidity creates a sour or sharp taste; too little creates a flat, featureless wine. (See tannin)

Aftertaste — The flavor that lingers in your mouth after you swallow the wine. (see Finish, Length).

Aging —Process of allowing wines to become enriched with desirable flavors, aromas, body, texture, and length.

Appearance — The look of the wine, its clarity and color.

Aroma — The scent of wine, consisting of the smells that have references to similar fragrances such as flowers, foods, or many other organic substances. (See Bouquet)

Astringent — Containing harsh tannins; rough, puckery.

Austere — A flavor that is too “robust,” too dry, and/or difficult to comprehend.


Barrel or Cask — Most wines are at least partially aged in oak barrels. (See aging)

Balance — A harmony of components where no single element dominates. The proportions of a wine’s key characteristics, such as sweetness, type of aroma, acidity, tannin and alcoholic content.

Body or Backbone— The effect or “weight” of a wine on the palate; its alcoholic strength and amount of extract, a range express as  from light-bodied to meaty or full-bodied.

Bouquet —A richer, more complex fragrance or aroma, especially emanating from poured bottled wines.

Briary — An aggressive, prickly taste; peppery.

Buttery — Rich, creamy flavor associated with barrel fermentation


Cask — See Barrel.

Chaptalization — Addition of sugar during fermentation to increase a wine’s alcoholic content.

Character — Describes distinct attributes of a wine

Chewy— Wine that has a very deep, textured and mouth-filling sensation

Clarity — Clear and brilliant as opposed to cloudy or hazy

Clean — Wine without disagreeable aromas or tastes

Closed—Wine that needs to open up; aging and/or decanting can help

Close-In — Not having favorable characteristic; also known as “dumb.”

Complexity — The “elegance” of a wine; the quality of fine wine that is distinguished by the many layers of flavors and other components.

Cooked—Wine that has been exposed to excessively high temperatures; spoiled

Corky — Contamination of wine caused by a cork containing undesirable mold spores that produces a musty odor.

Crisp — A favorable fresh flavor, usually due to well-balanced acidity.