The definitive glossary of wine tasting terms

There’s a lot of ego in wine speak, both on the part of eager oenophiles who want to assert their expertise and occasional wine drinkers who keep mum for fear of saying the wrong thing. 

For those who identify with the latter, this glossary of wine tasting terms will get your vocabulary off to a roaring start. The list is a group effort by some of our favorite sommeliers and winemakers, all of whom are photographed below, plus Business Insider’s own Matthew DeBord, author of “Wine Country USA.”


Pertains to the acid level in both red and white wines. It’s the sensation you get after sucking on a lemon, when your mouth gushes with saliva. Sometimes it can have a negative connotation — underripe, astringent, tart — but without acid, wine would be flabby and unstructured. Acid is the balancing agent to sugar and fruit. —Christine Wright, wine director.


When a wine feels almost sharp in your mouth, with lots of acid and structure. It’s the opposite of “velvety” or “flabby.” Jessica Brown, wine director


Smells literally of a barnyard — manure, wet hay, game, fur, leather — but in a good way! —J.B.