Wine Terminology As Described By Someone Who Knows Nothing About Wine

Wine Terminology As Described By Someone Who Knows Nothing About Wine

When you reach the part of your life when it’s no longer acceptable to drink boxed wine or beer that comes in packs by the dozen, it’s pretty much expected that you’ll become a beer snob or a wine aficionado. Or, if you’re like me, sometimes pouring a tall glass of red and tossing on a movie is the perfect excuse to ignore everyone’s texts and stay in on Saturday.

Either way, if you’re taking the wine route, you’re about to enter a complex world that will slap you across the face if you don’t learn some basic terms. The second you start discussing the finish and body of a wine with your pretentious friend who took a wine-tasting class with her squad, your back is going to be put against the ropes if you don’t have your terminologies in order.

Which is why I’m here to explain them for you, in the terms of someone who barely knows a damn thing about wine outside of the fact that it tastes phenomenal and makes you feel mature.

Acidity — You know when you put too much lemon in your vodka-soda and it makes your salivary glands go bananas? That’s what happens when there’s a high acidity in wine.

Aeration — This is when oxygen is put into a wine to enhance or change the flavor. So when you see me doing that fake gurgle thing with the wine in the front of my mouth, that’s just me trying to look classy and knowledgeable. But it’s also me trying to boost the aeration (I think).

Aging — Like when a shitty steak tastes better after being marinated overnight, aging is when wine sits in barrels or other vessels to all to enhance the taste of it. So when people refer to cougars as “like a wine that gets better with age,” that’s where it comes from.

Alcohol — The part that gets you drunk enough that you forget you have red lips and teeth, and causes you to have a pounding headache come morning.

Appellation — Some place in France where dope-ass wines come from.

Aroma — How the wine smells; can be commented on after tilting the glass, sniffing, and remarking, “Wow, that’s remarkable” even though you have no idea what wine is supposed to smell like.

Balance — When everything is firing on all cylinders, that’s when you know the balance is hella tight. We’re talking about the acids, sugars, tannins, booze, everything.

Barrel — The big wood thing where wine chills until it’s ready to party.

Barrique — A special type of barrel for Bordeauxs because the French always want to be different.

Bitter — When the back of your tongue starts going wild when you take a gulp, that’s because that wine is bitter as hell.

Blend — It’s like when the vineyard has a bunch of wines leftover and they’re like, “Let’s toss these fuckers together and create a super wine.”

Body — It can be anything from light to medium to full-bodied, but it’s how thick that shit feels in your mouth when you’re holding it in there because you took too big of a sip.

Bordeaux — The type of wine I went all-in on at Whole Foods.

Botrytis — A science-y word for dehydrating a grape. I always thought that was called a “raisin,” but hey, you learn something new every single day.

Bouquet — The Puerto Rican Shower of wine terminology, it’s when there’s a bunch of complex smells coming at you from all different angles.

Breathing — Pretty sure this is the same as aeration, but easier to pull off when you’re trying to discuss a wine with people in the know.

Brilliant — You know when it’s hot as hell out and you toss some ice-cold white wine in a glass? And then said white wine is clear as hell besides the dew that forms on the outside of the glass? The wine being “clear” is the wine just being “brilliant.” Yeah, I don’t understand it either, but if it makes you sound smart, I’m onboard.

Brut — The stuff that’s in your Mimosas.

Bung*Please resist saying a Beavis & Butthead joke, please resist saying a Beavis & Butthead joke*

Bung hole — Okay, now you’re just asking me to be immature. But it’s like the hole in the dike when water spills out, but for casks of wine.

Chaptalization — A taboo of adding sugar to wine. Apparently people shine down on this around the world, which I respect because nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

Claret — The jug they give you if you win The Open Championship.

Closed — One time I popped a bottle of champagne too early and my team ended up losing Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals in heartbreaking fashion. I should’ve kept it “closed” because it wasn’t ready to get pounded yet, much like young wines that are referred to as “closed.”

Complex — It’s like when you go on a Tinder date with a girl that’s really hot, only to find out that she went to a private school and reads more than one book per month. It just means there’s a lot going on and coming at you all at once.

Cork taint — As much as I want to make a really off-color joke, this is just when a wine has been stored in a wet basement and tastes like shit because the moisture infiltrated the fuck out of it.

Corked — It’s the term for describing a wine when “cork taint” occurs. Again, please respect my maturity for not making a vile joke.

Cru classé — A term used for vineyards reserved for ballers only.

Crush — Much like English people use “fag” for cigarettes and drive on the wrong side of the road, this is just the British way to say “harvest.”

Cuvée — A blend, but for champagne campaigns instead of wine without bubbles.

Demi-sec — A French term for champs that’s only somewhat sweet. Perfect to cure your hangover on a Sunday morning with just a little splash of blood orange juice.

Dry — The opposite of sweet, which I always thought was “sour.” I know, I know, it makes no sense but that’s just the way it is.

Earthy — Kind of like when you hook up with a girl on day three of a music festival, it’s when there’s a strong odor or taste of soil prevalent in the situation.

Enology — The scientific term for “makin’ wine.”

Fermentation — It’s when the sugar in the grapes turns into booze. Kind of like when rednecks make moonshine out of fruits that you never knew could turn into blackouts.

Fining — Sometimes wines have unwanted shit in them, so “fining” is the process of tossing some egg yoke or other gelatins in there to somehow get them out. I’ve heard of cracking an egg and adding Worcestershire Sauce to it to cure a hangover, but adding egg to wine? Woof.

Finish — It’s the flavor that stays in your mouth after you swallow the wine, much like when you eat a salad for lunch and everyone can smell the onion on your breath until you brush your teeth.

Flavors — Tastes and shit. I don’t know but this one seems like you can figure it out on your own.

Foxy — When a wine has a musty smell to it, that’s “foxy.” I know, I don’t want a “musty” tasting wine either.

Full-bodied — Also called “big,” this is when a wine has a ton of booze and flavors in it. Also known as my favorite kind of wine.

Herbaceous — When the wine tastes like plants. You know, like basil, rosemary, whatever. Or when you’re pulling a Drake and “smoking good weed with white wine.”

Hot — Comin’ in hot, this is when a wine is high in alcohol which I think we can all get onboard with.

Lees — It’s the gross shit that settles at the bottom of the bottle and comes out when you fully invert the empty bottle making sure you get every last drop.

Length — How long you can taste the wine after you swallow it, much like when you take a shot of Fireball and can taste it for the next five minutes while trying not to puke.

Mature — You know when a 21-year-old girl is really hot but way too young for you? A wine isn’t “mature” enough when it’s too young to drink. You understand.

Mouth-feel — Me trying to describe “mouth-feel” is like Gronk trying not to laugh when someone says “sixty-nine,” but it’s when a wine feels “rough, smooth, velvety, or furry” in your mouth.

Must — When all the fruit and shit doesn’t get boozy, it results in must. Ergo, must sucks.

Negociant — A French word for the dude or company that hustles wine.

Noble rot — This was technically described as “the layman’s term for botrytis” which means nothing to me (or you, probably).

Nose — When you’re tasting wine with your friends, it’s a term that you use to describe the smell or “bouquet” of the wine. You can use “bouquet” now because I told you what it meant earlier.

Oak/oaky — It’s when a wine has flavors of vanilla, spices, coconut, and mocha. So essentially when a wine tastes like a Piña Colada or something.

Oenology — The same thing as enology, because wine people love making things confusing as hell.

Open — When a wine is ready for drankin’, that means that wine is open.

Oxidation — It’s when you pass out on your couch and leave a bottle of red sitting on the island in your kitchen. And then when you go to have another glass the next night, it tastes like shit because the air got to it.

Phylloxera — Wines greatest enemy, it’s a little bug that infiltrates the vines by the roots and ruins the fun for everyone.

Plonk — British for “shitty wine,” which I’m totally going to use to big-time my friends when they bring wine to the next dinner party I attend.

Sec — How the French say “dry,” which means sour in Will deFries terms. Like I said, keeping all this straight isn’t going to be easy for any of us.

Sommelier — A guy or girl who is crazy knowledgable about wine. Like, the type of person that will put you on blast from their high horse if you try to use this guide out in the wild.

Spicy — Apparently when a wine tastes like “black pepper, bay leaf, curry powder, baking spices, oregano, rosemary, thyme, saffron or paprika.” I mean, if you can taste any of those in a wine, you shouldn’t even be here. You’re next level.

Structure — A word that gets tossed around willy-nilly when someone has no idea what they’re talking about because there’s so much going on with the wine. You can pretty much bet on your pretentious friend Caroline to toss this term out in an effort to sound better than you.

Sweet — Sugary. This isn’t all complex, guys. Sometimes you just gotta go back to basics.

Tannins — The shit that makes wine taste bitter and dry and causes you to pucker and wince causing everyone to know that you’re a fuckin’ rookie.

Tartaric acid — The important acids in grapes that make the wine what it is. I could act like I fully understand how they work, but I’d be lying if I even tried.

Terroir — The way French people refer to the lay of the land on a vineyard.

Texture — It’s kind of like the mouth-feel, a term that I’m still trying not to make fun of.

Ullage — When a wine starts evaporating out of the bottle, that’s the space it creates. Instead of the wine evaporating, I’d like to think of it as little angels taking it for their own personal use. Everyone’s gotta get their fix, you know?

Vegetal — Apparently it’s when you can taste bell peppers, grass, and asparagus notes in your wine, which sounds so unappealing that I almost want to completely transition to brown liquors exclusively.

Vinification — From start to finish, it’s the heaven-sent process of making wine.

Vinology — The study of wine, which is something every girl between the ages of 23 and 30 considers taking up as a hobby. #ThingsGirlsDoAfterGraduation

Vitis vinifera — Described as “the species of wine that comprises over 99% of the world’s wine,” it’s like the you and I of the wine community. Sure, we’d love to be in the 1%, but this is just how the world works.

Vintage — The year a wine is bottled, and the perfect term to act like you “get” wine. Just ask, “Oh, was this a good vintage?” and roll with it.

Weight — Again, mouth-feel and stuff. Feel thick? That’s the weight. Feel light? That’s the weight. This isn’t rocket science, Elon Musk.

Wine — Grape juice that gets you hammered.

Yield — How much wine comes from a specific vineyard during a specific vintage. I think I used “vintage” right there, but it’s entirely possible I mucked it up and someone in the comments is going to call me out.

Young — When a wine isn’t matured. So again, like a 21-year-old girl that’s not mature enough to take out on date. Gotta let it age. You know what I’m sayin’, Campbell?

Image via Unsplash

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Will deFries (Twitter / Instagram) is a Senior Writer at Grandex and the world's foremost authority on Sunday Scaries (Twitter / Instagram). Email me at

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