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33 Wine Terms to Know To Sound Like a Wine Expert

Confused by wine? We don’t blame you. With so many variables that change from bottle to bottle—and National Wine Day on May 25th—it can be hard to scope out the wines you prefer, or even begin to pinpoint the common thread between you ones like (or don’t).

Deciphering a wine label can seem like a feat, but when equipped with the right tools, translating them can be surprisingly straightforward. We’ve distilled the wine terms we see most frequently into one straightforward glossary to make the world of wine way less overwhelming (because believe us, we’ve been there too). 

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  • A sharpness that a wine takes on, sometimes starting in the soil (hi, potassium!). Not-quite-ripe grapes, or a cooler climate, can also cause acidity.


  • The primary, often fruit-forward notes that make up a wine’s smell. While often used interchangeably with “bouquet”, it can be used to summarize the leading fragrances found in more youthful wines.


  • When opposing attributes of flavor or scent come together to strike a harmony.


  • A holistic approach to winemaking based on Biodynamic Demeter Guidelines that views a winery as a synergistic organism, and focuses on strengthening each part of the process to form a more robust whole. 


  • A wine containing more than one type of grape. Certain wines are inherently blends—but not all blends are their own specific type.


  • The weight of the wine in your mouth, influenced by a grape’s flavor and skin. Lighter-bodied wines are made from grapes with bitter skin; full-bodied wines have bold, thicker-skinned grapes to thank. (A good comparison: whole milk versus skim.)


  • All of the notes that make up a wine’s smell. While often used interchangeably with “aroma”, it can be used to specify the layer of nuanced notes that more mature wines exhibit. 


  • When a wine exhibits multiple layered flavors at various points, from nose to finish.


  • When wines exhibit little to no sweetness, letting other qualities like minerality and acidity stand out. 


  • A flavor that often accompanies dryness and minerality, and has similar notes as dirt or rocks. Hear us out: we think this draws the closest resemblance to petrichor, aka the scent pavement gives off after a fresh sprinkling of rain.


  • Aka how grape juice transforms into wine. This core process—when yeast snacks on the sugars in grapes, converting them to alcohol—can be stopped prematurely by the winemaker to nail a specific level of sweetness.


  • The lingering presence a wine leaves on your palate once you taste it (aka aftertaste).


  • A catch-all category for wines that lead with sweet, nectar-like flavor notes.

High environmental certified

  • HVE (“Haute Valeur Environnementale,” or “high environmental value”) is a French certification that applies to both grape growing and farming in general. For winemakers, this is considered to be the step before organic production, and aims to minimize environmental impact by reducing pesticide and fertilizer use and improving water management.

Low intervention/low winemaking intervention

  • A post-harvest approach where the winemaker is deliberately more hands-off than usual, allowing the wine to develop naturally, but giving up some—or most—of their control over it.


  • A process that comes before fermentation, during which grape skins and juice soak together, allowing tannins, flavor, and colors to prolong and mingle.


  • Not so shockingly, it’s the way a wine feels in your mouth. This can be tied to properties like acidity (perceived as sharp) or sweetness (the higher the sugar, the thicker the feel).


  • An earthy, slightly metallic taste that can be more pronounced depending on the grape variety, or the qualities of the soil it grows in.

New World Wine

  • A wine made from grapes grown outside of Europe and typically in warmer climates, namely Argentina, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, and California. This can affect flavor profiles and characteristics such as dryness, minerality, and prominent flavor notes, usually leading with fruit.


  • The detectable scents and fragrances a wine gives off.

Oak Aging

  • “Oaked” wines have spent time in barrels made of (you guessed it) oak wood, letting some of the wood’s earthiness absorb into the wine’s final flavor profile.

Old World Wine

  • A wine that’s produced from grapes grown in a certain few countries historically renowned for wine production: primarily Italy, France, and Spain. Others like Portugal, Croatia, and Hungary are less common, though still fit the bill. Broadly speaking, old world wines traditionally exhibit fruit flavors more evenly rather than prominently. 


  • A wine produced from grapes grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. In most cases, organic wines contain little to no added sulfites, which are thought to lower shelf life and impact flavor. 

Red Wine

  • A category of wines made from one or more types of red grapes (no surprises here!). Based on the variety (or varieties) involved and the winemaking process, red wines can range in hue from a translucent ruby to a deep purple.


  • A category of wines—like red or white—that’s not tied to any region (*cough* champagne *cough*) and can be made from any type of red grape. Like red wine, its signature blush color comes from skin contact, though not for nearly as long.

Sparkling Wine

  • Short answer: fizzy wine. Full answer: Often white wine (but sometimes red—we’re talking about you, lambrusco) that’s infused with carbon dioxide to give it its signature bubbles, which can range from fine to bursting and abundant. The signature “pop” is what makes Champagne, prosecco, cava, and other sparkling wines a hallmark of celebrations.

Sustainable Winemaking Practices

  • A way of producing wine with the goal of minimizing negative environmental impacts, specifically when talking about farming practices. 


  • All the environmental factors that impact the characteristics and expressions of a grape (and ultimately, the wine they produce), like climate, soil composition, temperature, and more. 


  • Compounds in grape skins that wines tend to absorb during maceration. Most often associated with reds, they can create a weighty, desirable bitterness that dryly lingers in the mouth much like black tea on teeth.


  • A wine made from only one grape variety. Think Merlot, chardonnay, or sauvignon blanc, for three. 


  • The type of grape a wine is made from. (A good comparison? Think apple types: Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, and so on.)


  • The year that the grapes in a given wine were harvested (ya know, the one that’s usually printed on the front of the bottle).

White Wine

  • A category of wines made from light-colored grapes (despite the name, think: green). Based on the variety (or varieties) involved and the winemaking process, white wines can range in hue from near-ivory to a robust goldenrod with tinges of green.


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