An Insider’s Guide to Weird Wine Words

IF SOMEONE GAVE you a glass of wine and said it was “foxy,” would you gladly accept it or quickly turn it down? Would you buy a bottle that a wine merchant described as “lifted,” or would you worry that he or she might be trying to pawn off stolen goods? What if a drinker declared that a wine was “volatile”? Would you think it dangerously unpredictable, possibly unsafe to be around?

Perplexing tasting terms like these are frequently employed by wine professionals, much to the consternation of non-oenophiles. What do they mean and why do wine drinkers use them instead of “regular” words? It’s jargon worth learning if you want to appear knowing, or keep up with the pros. Here are short definitions of seven frequently heard yet often quite baffling wine terms.


A budding oenophile might wonder: What kind of wine could possibly taste like cream—and why would anyone want to drink one that did? “Creamy,” however, almost always describes not so much a wine’s taste as its texture, also referred to as “mouthfeel,” another beloved wine-geek word. The quality is most often invoked when talking about aChardonnay fermented and/or aged in oak barrels instead of stainless steel, or one that has undergone malolactic fermentation, a softening technique for both reds and whites that transforms tart malic acids into softer lactic acids.

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