Wine Lingo

Wine Lingo

Wine Lingo
Learn to talk like a wine expert with a few of our must have terms

By Jordan Brons, SFV Marketing

The first thing I want you to know is, you don’t have to know what vintage, ML or acidity is to enjoy wine. I remember the first time I sat down with the owner, Cal Schmidt. I was freshly dating Spencer and he invited me to a Wine Makers dinner… that he was cooking for. So, he sent up to the round room alone with a bunch of wine snobs. They poured me a couple tastings and gave me a sheet where I had to score the wine.
Wait, what? People do this!? YES! and then they start spouting off words like balance and clarity and nose. Cal looks over at me the amateur who only drank the sweetest roses and says “if you like it, you like it.” To this day those words have stuck.

In this newsletter I’ll give you the ammunition to speak like a wine connoisseur.

  • Acidity- Refers to the PH of the wine, or the tart and sour flavor.  Often this will lead to a crisp refreshing taste at the end of a wine.
  • Balance- Refers to when a wine is seamless and harmonious in its different flavor elements. Different flavors will balance each other out,  for instance a sweeter wine could be balanced with a higher acidity.
  • Body- Refers to how heavy a wine feels in your mouth. Heavy or rich (big/bold) wines are full-bodied. Less rich or feathery wines with little weight are light-bodied.
  • Finish- This is the taste a wine leaves in your mouth or the aftertaste.  Better quality wines tend to have a longer finish of fruit, acidity, oak or tannins that is complex and flavorful.
  • Minerality- A poetic term for the flavor that reminds us of wet stones, rocks, metals or seashells.
  • Oxidized- A wine fault due to the presence of oxygen. It will start to turn brown in color and will develop off flavors.  This is usually caused when a wine is stored improperly either in tanks, barrels or bottles.
  • Legs- Drops that run down the side of the wine glass after its swirled. The higher the alcohol content the thicker the legs.
  • Malolactic Fermentation (ML)- A process where some of the sharp malic acid in a wine is converted to the softer, smoother lactic acids through a secondary fermentation. This can cause the wine to develop a buttery characteristics. 
  • Round- Describes a wine that is smooth or soft in texture. Often this is a wine without a lot of tannins or with a small amount of residual sugar.
  • Sweet/Dry- Refers to presence or lack of sugar in wine. Wines range from dry with no residual sugar to sweet dessert style with a lot of residual sugar.
  • Tannins- Come from the grape skins, leaves, seeds and stem tissues of grapes.  They add structure and texture to wine. These are found mostly in red wine when the juice stays in contact with the skins during fermentation. Tannins can taste bitter or puckery and have a dry grippy feel. 


  • Barrel Aged- Wine aged in wood (usually oak) barrels before being bottled.  This can bring out different flavors which can be rich creamy aromas and flavors like vanilla coconut and baking spices to wine.
  • Blend- A wine made from blending two or more already fermented wines together before bottling.
  • Estate- Wine that comes from the grapes grown on the winery’s own vineyard.
  • Fortified- A wine that has a distilled spirit, usually brandy, added during or after fermentation.
  • Reserve- Used by the winemaker to mark their best products.
  • Sediment- Natural solid grape fragments that settle to the bottom of the wine.  This is the dark gooey stuff at the bottom of the bottle or stuck to the cork.  Sediment adds body and flavor to the wines and is most seen in unfiltered wines reds.
  • Stainless Steel Aged- Wine that is aged in stainless steel tanks instead of wood barrels.  Depending on varietal, grapes will be aged in stainless steel to help creating bright, youthful fruit flavors.
  • Still Wine- A wine that is not sparkling.
  • Sparkling Wine- a wine that has carbon dioxide added to make it fizzy or bubbly.  Champagne is a sparkling wine. 
  • Varietal –  Refers to the type of grape used to make the wine.
  • Vintage – Refers to the year the grapes were harvested and the wine made.