Move aside Collins, step back Oxford, this is the only dictionary you’ll really need.
Here the Language of Wine (LOW) will be debunked and explained – simply. No more nonsense, no more jargon, just plain old English...and all of the sarcasm that comes with it.
It's almost hard to believe that some of these words actually exist - I promise they do, I like to get creative but fabricating a new language would be excessive even by my standards - so it's no wonder that few people understand them. This glossary aims to shed some light on everything from the ridiculous to the sublime...though it's likely most words are of the former.
Acetic - a vinegary smell, but not in the kind vinegar lovers want coming from their fish and chips as it often indicates that the wine is spoiled.
Appellation - just a fancy word for 'area'. Appellations are specific zones where wines are produced e.g. Pomerol in Bordeaux or Napa in California.
Astringent - that Sahara desert level dryness that hits your mouth with very tannic red wine.
Austere - similar to that super harsh teacher you once had and hated, austere wines are hard and un-comprimising. However, unlike said teacher they tend to soften with age.
Backward - like the majority of the male population backward wines are unexpectedly immature for their age.
Balance - think along the Goldilocks line: when it's just right, all of the components of a wine (i.e acidity, fruit, tannin and alcohol) work harmoniously to produce a balanced wine.
Biodynamic - biodynamic vineyards incorporate astrology into their winemaking techniques (yes, really). In short it's taking organic farming to a more 'spiritual' level. Read more about it here.
Blend - when more than one grape variety is used to make a wine.
Body - basically how 'heavy' the wine feels in your mouth - the more intense the flavour, the fuller the body.
Botrytis - a special fungal disease (I know it sounds gross but hear me out) that is used in the making of sweet wines. When used it can often give wines a lovely marmaladey smell.
Brut - you see it on Champagnes everywhere, but its meaning isn't half as fancy as the drink: it's literally just 'dry' - i.e not sweet.
Chateau - no, not a French castle in the case of wine, but just an estate that produces wine.
Cloying - a sweet wine that lacks balance, almost sickly sweet.
Complexity - one of the more baffling tasting terms. Basically a wine that makes you think, like a beautiful but intrinsically complicated woman.
Corked - gone bad, off, past it, generally just not okay. This is the reason the whole sniffing process happens when you order wine in a restaurant, to check you haven't bought a duff bottle. Corked wines have a musty smell generally caused by problems with the cork (clue's in the name).
Cru - French for 'growth'.
Cuvée - refers to the blend of grape varieties in a wine.
Demi-sec - the halfway house - not dry, but not sweet either.
Depth - not dissimilar to discussing a particularly vapid, or at the other end of the scale, pretentious human being. Depth in wine refers to the extent of it's intensity.
Disgorge - it may sound like a horror film title, but this is actually part of the process of making Champagne/sparkling wine. It is the removal of the frozen clump of yeast cells from the bottle.
Dosage - the sweetness level of a sparkling wine
Dry - not sweet (not rocket science either).
Dumb - a tasting term used, rather brutally, to describe wines that don't have much to offer.
Earthy - one of those pretentious tasting terms that do actually make sense if you give it some thought. Earthy wines have mushroom, truffle and forest floor like aromas - ergo, all things that are close to the ground/earth. Genius.
Elegant - wines that are soft and light on the mouth, if grapes were dainty this would be their vibe.
Élevage - literally meaning 'raising' (like a child - that's how seriously they take this stuff), élevage refers to the care and attention the wine maker gives the wine throughout the process of it being made.
Enology - basically (if you're paying any attention) what you are currently doing: the study of wine.
Fermentation - how wine is made: the process of grape sugars being converted into alcohol.
Fine Wine - put simply: the good stuff.
Finesse -if a wine is considered classy, then it has 'finesse'.
Finish - the taste wine leaves in your mouth after you've swallowed it - as a general rule; the better the wine, the longer the finish.
Flabby - a wine with poor acidity.
Fleshy - Admittedly 'fleshy' sounds absolutely gross, but it's actually a positive tasting term for full bodied wines with round textures (I know, I was surprised too).
Flinty - wines that have a slightly stoney vibe going on, often displayed in Chablis.
Fortified Wine - Wines that have had more alcohol added to them (e.g. sherry, port and Medeira)...drink at your own peril students.
French Paradox - in short, this is the Americans getting a little jealous. They use it to describe the sensation that is the low level of heart disease amongst the French, in spite of their rich and wine-filled diets. They primarily attribute this to red wine consumption - but then they also voted in Trump, so I'm not sure that can really be taken at face value.
Garagiste - a small-scale wine maker - a French term implying they're making the wine in a garage. But name a better use for a garage. I'll wait.
Grand Cru - a big deal. This is the highest possible status for vineyards in Burgundy.
Grand vin - equally big deal. A term used in Bordeaux for a chateau's best wine.
Gran reserva - *surprise* another big deal. High quality Spanish wine, often from Rioja.
Green - wines made from unripe grapes, which isn't really recommended. These wines are often vegetal...and not terribly enjoyable.
Grip - a Brit term for tannic wines.
Herbaceous - wine that smells like herbs (clues in the name). A little is great, too much and you're in danger territory as the wine will loose it's fruitiness.
Hollow - wines lacking fruit - they're just not really doing the job.
Ice wine - sweet wine made from frozen grapes, a perfect match for your pudding fix.
Intensity - the amount of flavour in a wine.
Jammy - wine that are either extremely ripe (passable) or over-ripe (not so much). They have jam (quel surprise), raisin and prune aromas.
Jeroboam - ancient King of Israel/giant bottle of wine...same, same really.
Jug wine - the American for 'distinctly average'.
Leafy - wines with a vegetive vibe.
Legs - when you swirl your wine around your glass, you'll be left with clear 'legs' running down it's sides. They are formed from the glycerin in the wine, and is often a sign of how much alcohol is in the wine.
Length - the taste wine leaves in your mouth after you've swallowed it - as a general rule; the better the wine, the longer the length.
Lifted - a tasting term referring to a wine's fruitiness, a lifted wine will have a striking level of fruit.
Limpidity - another one that sounds a bit dodgy but is actually positive. Limpidity is an indication of a good wine, it is the best kind of colour; firm and clear.
Maceration - part of the wine making process, maceration involves keeping crushed grapes (i.e the skins) in contact with the juice. This is a sneaky trick to extract flavour, colour and tannin.
Maderised - oxidised wine that is brown - like Madeira if you hadn't guessed.
Magnum - a bottle that is twice the normal size - it contains 1.5l.
Mise en bouteille - translation: 'bottled' - sounds a little less exotic really.
Mouth-feel - quite simply how the wine feels in your mouth, in a word: texture.
Noble rot - another name for Botrytis (see above, I'm not typing that all out again).
Nose - not the thing on your face, no. In terms of wine 'nose' refers to its smell.
Oak - many wines spend time in oak barrels while they mature. The process alters the wine's taste and texture. Learn more about it here.
Old vine - on French bottles you might see 'Vielles Vignes' instead, this means that the grapes used in the wine have been taken from vines that are at least 35 years old, if not more. I'm not sure how Mum would feel if I told her 35 is considered 'old' so I think I'll keep quiet about this one...
Organic wine - made from grapes grown organically, wine producers have to get a little creative to ward off pests without using pesticides - some even let livestock graze the vineyards to eat unwanted guests...whatever works I suppose.
Oxidised - when wine is over-exposed to oxygen is oxidised. A little oxygen is wonderful thing (it enhances flavour), but a lot is a total disaster.
pH - the measure of acidity in wine.
Petillant - a lightly sparkling wine - but the French made is sound prettier.
Piquant - a tasting term: refreshing, wonderfully refreshing - acidity at it's finest.
Plonk - student, you'll know all about this one: it's what you drink on a regular basis - the bad stuff.
Premier Cru - a term used in Bordeaux for the highest possible quality of wine.
QPR - quality, price ratio. This is how wine is valued...as are most things in life really.
Quaffer - inexpensive, easy to drink wine - exactly what every overly polite dinner party guest wants to bring with them.
Racy - a questionable tasting term. Refers to wine with high acidity levels. The Collins dictionary went for 'sexually titillating'...so how critics managed to get that from acidity will forever remain a mystery to me.
Racino - a tasting term used with fortified wines. It describes a christmas cake aroma (yeah, it's that specific) that occurs when the wine is exposed to oxygen.
Reserva - In Spain reserves must aged for at least 3 years if red or 2 if white.
Reserve - a word with no legal definition, so do with it what you will - it's usually misused anyway. However seeing as I'm supposed to be helpful I should probably tell you it's used to denote quality.
Robust - a wine that isn't overly complex, just simple and to the point.
Round - low acid wines in which the tannins have softened - no sharp edges here, just nicely softly rounded curves.
Rustic - This term can take on different meanings depending on where the wine if from. Some feel it relates to a rougher texture, others are more in the stream of it having a simple, country vibe.
Sec - dry...but in French.
Second wine - the wine world's equivalent on 'the ugly sister'. Second wines are wines released by an estate with a different name, that are of a lesser quality than their best stuff. This is a common practise in Bordeaux e.g. Le Petit Mouton from Mouton-Rothschild and Carrudes de Lafite from Lafite.
Sediment - the annoying solid bits you sometimes find at the bottom of a wine bottle.
Soft - a reference to a wine's texture; soft wines are elegant and light.
Split - a quarter-bottle of wine.
Stalkiness - a tasting term that refers to hardness in wine - caused by, wait for it...stalks (crazy I know) in the fermentation process, or unripe grapes.
Steely - a crisp, acidic wine that hasn't been aged in barrels.
Stickie - Aussie for sweet wine.
Structure - defined as the 'build' of a wine...which doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, but the general gist of it is the make-up of the wine and how all it's components (acidity, tannin etc.) work together.
Table Wine - not exactly what it says on the tin here. Table wine is wine that has been produced outside of regulated regions or by unapproved methods.
Tannin - tannins are compounds that are found in grape skins. They give the wine backbone. When drinking red wine, for instance, the drying sensation have in your mouth is a result of tannin - some compare it to the taste of stewed tea.
Tart - no, not the pastry. Tart wines are made from unripe or very acidic grapes.
Terroir - a French words that describes the combination of climate, soil and any other factor that might influence the character of wine...so it's kinda a big deal.
Texture - from astringent to velvety, the texture of wine is how it feels in your mouth.
Ullage - this one's a little specific. It's the amount of air between wine and the top of the bottle/container it's in.
Varietal - a wine made from one grape variety. This word is used and abused a little...just because it looks similar to the word 'variety' does not mean that it's a synonym.
Vegetal - a cabbagey vibe you can sometimes find in red wines.
Vintage - the year a wine was made in.
Viticulture - the practise and study of managing vineyards and growing vines.
Woody - wines that have spent time in oak tend to have a woody aroma - somewhat unsurprisingly. They often have hints of vanilla, coffee and smoke.
Yeast - an organism needed in order for fermentation to take place...without those little guys no alcohol would be produced, and wouldn't that be a sad story.
Yield - the amount of fruit a vineyard produces in any given year.
Zesty - crisp, zingy wine - just like the citrus fruit it usually describes.