Wine Terms Glossary

Here is a list of commonly used words in the world of wine, with explanations, to help you learn more about wine tasting, and wine and food pairing.

  • Acidity:
    In wine this refers to the freshness, tartness and sourness of the wine. Malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid are the main acids that contribute to acidity in wine. Foods with high acidity are those which measure quite low on the pH scale.
  • Astringency:
    The taste experience when a substance causes the mouth to pucker, sharp perception.
  • Body:
    A term used to describe the fullness and mouthfeel of the wine, in particular its weight in the palate.
  • Crisp Wine:
    A common description when referring to a wine with fresh, pleasing acidity.
  • Dessert Wine Sweetness:
    This means a very high sugar content. Dry wines have below 5 grams/litre of sugar, off dry wines between 5 and 12 grams/per litre, semi-sweet wines have between 12 and 30 grams/litre of sugar, whereas dessert wines normally have more than 50 grams/litre but are often more than 100 grams/litre.
  • Fermentation:
    In wine, fermentation refers to the metabolic process whereby yeast converts the sugar from grapes into alcohol with Carbon Dioxide as a byproduct.
  • Food and Wine Pairing:
    This is process of matching wines to dishes in a way that will enhance the experience of both.
  • Mouthfeel:
    This is the general perception of the wine on the palate.
  • Noble Late Harvest:
    A special type of dessert wine which is made from grapes which have had Noble Rot form on the grapes while on the vine. Noble Rot is a fungus called Botrytis cinerea which penetrates the skin of the grapes and causes water to evaporate thus concentrating the sugar levels. These wines are generally high in sugar with a notable honey sweetness.
  • Off Dry:
    See Dessert wine sweetness
  • Residual Sugar Level:
    This is measurement of the amount of sugar which remains in the wines, normally after fermentation. It is measured in grams/litre.
  • Semi Sweet:
    See Dessert wine sweetness
  • Single Vineyard:
    Special designated block within a specific vineyard site, where the grapes are used to produce wines with unique characteristics. In South Africa we have to register the vineyard with the Wine and Spirits board and may not refer to a wine as being “Single Vineyard” without registration.
  • Syrah:
    A synonym for the Shiraz grape. Syrah is often regarded as a more French style version of wine, whereas Shiraz a more Australian/New World style.
  • Tannic Wine:
    This is a wine with high levels of tannin which have not had the chance to polymerise over time, thus making the wine astringent in perception.
  • Tannin:
    Tannin is an organic compound, a polyphenol, which contributes to the texture of wines. It originates from plant material (leaves, stems, skins, pips, oak barrels) and adds astringency and bitterness to wine, to enhance complexity.
  • Texture:
    The feel of the wine or food in your mouth.
  • Weight:
    See Body.
  • Wooded:
    A wine which has spent a period of time in oak barrels or in a tank in contact with oak staves or chips.