The Wine Glossary

Here are a variety of terms that can help you along your wine journey. If you have any questions regarding these or anything, please email and let us know.

Describing Wine

Acidity – Acidity is an essential aspect of wine. Most wines fall between 3-4 on the pH scale depending on the varietal, style, and other factors. Acidity, when utilized properly, can help balance and structure a wine. Acidity is often referred to as tartness and makes your face squinch. Highly acidic wine can also be a good sign for finding an age-worthy wine.

Tannin – Tannins are another essential aspect of wine that oftentimes goes hand in hand with acidity. Tannins build structure, balance other aspects, and can also point towards a potential age-worthy wine. The tannins come from the grape skins, stems, seeds, and can even come from oak if it’s barrel-aged wine. These are predominantly found in red wine.

Alcohol – Alcohol is the final key apsect that ties a wine together alongside tannins and acidity. Alcohol affects and enhances the flavors, aromas, and structure of the wine. Alcohol percentages (ABV) can range from 5% to 20% depending on the type of wine. Sweet, non-fortified wines will usually have low alcohol ranging between 5%-7%, while semi-sweet and some off-dry wines can range between 7%-11%. The large majority of old-world style wines usually come in between 10%-14%, while new world wines, particularly American wine, can reach limits of 16%. Fortified sweet wines can range anywhere from 18%-20%.

Body – The body of the wine refers to how it feels in the mouth. This could also be worded as the “weight” of the wine. Some wines, such as Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, tend to be on the lighter side, while others, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, tend to be heavier and fuller. It is important to note that this is an oversimplification. For example, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon can still range across the spectrum depending on the region and producer.

Dry and Sweet – The terms dry and sweet can mean what likely comes to mind to many, but do not let that conclude your judgments. The large majority of reds will be dry to some degree, but there are excepts such as Port, Lambrusco, and sweet reds. Most whites will be dry as well with exceptions including Moscato, Sauternes, and some others.

People often describe “dry wine” as bitter, while “sweet wine” can often be described as sugary. These are extremes and oversimplification.

Regional Terms


  • AOC – Appellation d’origine contrôlée is the French term for a particular geographical area that is officially recognized for its specific wine production.
  • INAO Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (National Institute of origin and quality) is the governing body under the Ministry of Agriculture that regulates products and their labels related to French food and drink prodcuts.


  • DOC – Denominación de Origen Calificada is Spain’s highest recognition for wine regions. It is reserved for what has historically been the best of the best, and producers have to follow strict rules and guidelines. Rioja and Priorat are the only two DOCs.
  • DO – Denominación de Origen is a basic Spanish term for a geographical wine region.


  • IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica refers to quality, well-made Italian wines that do not meet the standards of DOC or DOCG. They generally refer to broad regions and produce wines with a range of quality and price. There are at least 120 IGTs.
  • DOCG – This label is given to the wine regions that Italy deems to be the best of the best. The producers are held to extremely high standards and subject to strict regulations. Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, Chianti, and Barbaresco are all famous DOCGs. There are a total of 77 currently.

United States

  • AVA – American Viticultural Area is the American term for a particular area of vineyards and grape growing, and each one is usually fairly unique in some way.

Wine Components

  • Sugar – The primary purpose of sugar in winemaking is to increase the alcohol until it reaches the desired ABV. This affects nearly every part of the wine’s character including body, aromatics, and flavor profile.
  • Yeast – Yeast is essential to wine production, as it eats the sugar and converts the sugars into alcohol. The type and amount of yeast used affect the total ABV and acidity of the wine.
  • Chaptalization Adding sugars during the winemaking process in an effort to increase alcohol.
  • Malolactic Fermentation – Naturally occurring Malic Acid turns into Lactic Acid. This is done by means of the bacteria, Oenococcus oeni. This reduces the acidity and some of the tartness associated with Malic Acid, and it provides some buttery and creamy components.
  • Sulphites – Sulphites in wine are a natural reaction of the yeast’s fermentation. They act as a protecting and preserving agent as well. People often associate sulphites with migraine-like headaches, though it is actually a very small people who are intolerant to them.

Wine Classifications

While many countries and regions rank their different appellations in a variety of ways, there are usually fairly basic. The French have historically ranked a few of their regions, and many of these have stuck. Even with politics and tension, these rankings still play a major role in their wine’s reputation, pricing, and marketing.



Bourgogne (Burgundy)

  • Grand Cru
  • Premier Cru
  • Villages
  • Regional (Bourgogne Rouge/Bourgogne Blanc)

Rhone Valley

  • Crus
  • Cotes du Rhone (Specific) Villages
  • Cotes du Rhone Villages
  • Cotes du Rhone