Wine Terminology for Beginners


Get to grips with the language of wine with our list of definitions for some of the most used wine-related phrases.

As with any industry, the wine world can involve quite a bit of jargon. Words like vintage, terroir, and body can sound vague and confusing to someone at the beginning of their wine journey and can even be a little daunting.

We're here to help and simplify things. Read on as we highlight and explain the meanings of some of the most common wine-related words and terminologies you are likely to come across so you can quickly acquaint yourself with the language of wine. We'll cover terms relating to your wine glass, the sensory experiences in wine tasting, and wine production.

Wine Glass Terminologies

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The rim

The rim of a wine glass is the entire edge of the opening of the glass. The rim significantly affects how a wine can express its aromas; a wider rim allows more of the wine's aromas to escape, while a narrower rim helps concentrate aromas in the glass.

The bowl

The bowl is the rounded part of the glass that holds the wine. The shape and size of a wine bowl are crucial parts of designing glassware that enhances a specific type of wine. The wine bowl can affect several factors that influence wine enjoyment, including aeration, temperature, swirling, the flow of wine when sipping, and appearance.

The stem

The stem is the long, slender part of the glass you hold as you swirl and sip your wine. Wine glass stems help you regulate your wine's temperature as they prevent you from warming your wine in your hands. They also offer stability when holding your glass, prevent smudging on the bowl, and add visual appeal with their slimline elegance. RIEDEL glassware stems are designed to assisting their aesthetic and making them extra comfortable to hold.

The foot

The foot, also known as the base, is the bottom part of the wine glass that keeps it stable. All RIEDEL glassware is designed with a wide, balanced base to provide maximum stability for your wine enjoyment.

Wine Tasting Terminologies

These terms can often come up when you sit down to enjoy a glass of red, white, or sparkling wine, from the moment you begin pouring from bottle to glass, to the final sip of your drink. If you have plans to attend a wine-tasting event at some point, knowing these words will help you to follow along and enjoy yourself as much as possible.
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  • Aroma/Bouquet. These terms are often used interchangeably with wine but differ somewhat in their meaning.
    • Aroma, also known as the primary aroma, refers to a wine's smell that comes directly from the grapes and can be detected when the wine is first poured. Examples of aromas in wine can include fruity notes like citrus and berries, plus herbal and flowery aromas that come directly from the grape used in the winemaking.
    • Bouquet refers to the secondary aromas that develop in a wine as it ages. These aromas are created by factors in the winemaking process, such as the wine's exposure to oxygen, the type of oak used in aging, and the aging time itself. Notes you might find in a wine's bouquet include vanilla, spice, and caramel.
  • Body. A wine's body relates to the weight and texture of the wine on the palate. The body that different wines can possess is a wide spectrum, ranging from light-bodied to full-bodied. Typically, red wines are fuller-bodied than white wines though this is not a hard and fast rule.
  • Tannins are a group of organic compounds found in grapes that are responsible for astringency - a dry and puckering sensation often described as a "mouth-drying" feeling. Tannins are extracted from the grapes' skins, seeds, and stems during the winemaking process, imparting them into the wine we drink. Due to having the skin and seeds left in contact with the juice for longer during fermentation, red wines typically have higher levels of tannins than white wines.
  • Acidity. The acidity of a wine describes its level of tartness or sourness, which gives it freshness and balance. White wines are typically more acidic than red wines - particularly in the cases of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio.
  • Mouthfeel involves a number of the previously mentioned terms. It is a combination of physical sensations a wine creates in your mouth, including its texture, body, and tannins, making it distinct from taste as a concept.
  • Finish. A wine's finish describes the lasting impression wine leaves on your palate after you swallow it. A wine's finish can be short, medium, or long-lasting and can also vary in complexity, flavor, and texture.

General Wine Terminologies

These are the terms you may hear when wine lovers discuss a wine's composition, origin, and the conditions in the region it was produced.
  • Variety. Grape variety refers to a specific type of grape used to make wine. Examples of grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, to name just a famous few. Fun fact: there are a whopping 10,000+ grape varieties in the world - a little too long to include them all here.
  • Varietal. Much like aroma and bouquet, variety and varietal are often incorrectly used interchangeably. While "variety" refers to the grapes used to make wines, "varietal" refers to a wine made from one particular grape. For example, Pinot Noir is a grape variety, but a wine made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes is a Pinot Noir varietal.
  • Varietal-specific glassware is one of the foundations upon which modern RIEDEL glassware is based. Many of our leading glassware collections are designed to get the most out of specific wines. The differences between grape varietal-specific glassware and wine-friendly glassware are detailed in our blog about this very topic.
  • Vintage refers to the harvest year of the grapes a wine is made from. For example, if a wine is a 2018 vintage, the grapes it is made from will have been harvested in 2018.

    Often, to be labeled a vintage, a wine must meet a certain quality standard. In regions such as Bordeaux, vintage wines are made only in exceptional years when the grape harvest is of high quality. In these regions, a wine labeled as non-vintage is made from grapes harvested in multiple years and blended to achieve a consistent flavor profile.
  • Terroir describes the natural environment where wine grapes are grown, such as soil, climate, and topography. The combination of these variables can create a distinct flavor profile in the grapes, resulting in distinctive wines that contrast even to wines made from the same grape in a different region. For example, a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon may differ from a Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon because of the differences between the two regions' respective terroirs and the effect this has on how the grapes develop and the resulting wine tastes.
  • An appellation is a specifically-defined geographic area where grapes are grown and where the wine is made. Appellations can be a country, region, or specific vineyard, and are legally defined, so a wine must be made in that appellation to receive its label. Some famous examples of appellations include Bordeaux, Champagne, Rioja, Burgundy, Port, and Napa Valley.
  • Typicity refers to how much a wine tastes like it should, given the region it was grown in - essentially making it a measure of wine authenticity. For example, a Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon should possess tastes more like the herbal, floral flavors of graphite, violets, and tobacco, so a Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon with typicity would reflect this.

You're sure to come across a long list of other potentially confusing terms as you continue your wine journey, but we hope this list helps you make a positive start.