Wine Terms Glossary

There’s quite an array of terminology to describe a drink that is essentially fermented grape juice. Some of them are less obvious than others, and some sound like they were made up by someone who had already started on the wine. So, here are some of the basic terms you might hear if you hang out around seasoned wine drinkers. 

Acidity: the right amount of acidity gives wine a crisp, refreshing taste. Too much and you’ll feel like you’re drinking sour patch kids.

Appellation: a geographic region where grapes are grown. 

Aroma: specific scents you can pick up after sniffing a glass of wine, such as peach, cherry, or blackberry. The aroma depends heavily on the grapes used.  

Body: the fullness, density, or weight of a wine in your mouth. 

Bouquet: the overall smell of the wine, usually reserved for older wines that have been aged in oak barrels.

Brix: a fancy scientific scale used the measure the sugar content of unfermented grapes. The higher the Brix, the higher the alcohol content will be.

Dry: the opposite of sweet, not the opposite of wet. 

Legs: the streaks that a wine leaves after swirling it around in your glass. Lighter-bodied wines will have thinner legs that dissipate quickly, while full-bodied wines cling to the inside of the glass.

Finish: the lingering flavour and sensation of the wine after drinking. It can be short, long, dry, complex…you get the idea.

Ice wine, or “Icewine”: a sweet dessert wine made from frozen grapes. They can be red or white depending on the grapes used. Ice wines are usually a fair bit more expensive than other wines because of the strict conditions required to make them, but it's worth it. 

Nose: the overall smell or aroma of the wine. 

Sugar scale: a numerical system used to describe how dry or sweet a wine tastes, with 0 being the most dry. This system is being phased out and replaced with the more vague qualitative categories of extra dry, dry, off-dry, medium sweet, and sweet. 

From the LCBO website. 

Tannins: more common in reds, tannins are what make your mouth pucker after taking a sip and make a wine taste more dry or bitter. Tannins come from contact with the grapes’ seeds, skins, stems, and sometimes wooden barrels that the wine is aged in.

Varietal: the type of grape (or grapes, if it's a blend) used in a wine. Different appellations are conducive to growing different kinds of grapes, which is why some areas are known for a certain type of wine.

Vintage: the year the grapes were harvested in. Not all wines specify the vintage, because sometimes they use grapes from different years and hope that no one will notice the difference. 

VQA (Canada only): stands for Vintner’s Quality Alliance. In Ontario, a VQA wine must use 100% Ontario grapes and jump through a series of hoops before they get to put a special sticker on the bottle. 

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