How to speak ‘wino’: top wine terms to make you sound like an expert

While you’re pretty set if you say anything like, ‘I’m sensing a bit of an oak flavour’ or ‘the legs on this wine are fabulous,’ it sometimes helps to have an actual idea of the wine terms you’re using.

Whether it’s just to stop the awkward encounter with the waiter who asks you to taste the wine or to impress your wine-loving father-in-law, this mini wine glossary will be your new best friend.


The particular area in which the wine’s grapes were grown. Most wine-producing countries have their own guidelines for this; in the United States, for instance, 85% of the grapes used to produce the wine must have been grown in the area used as the appellation (i.e. Napa Valley).


The smell of your glass of wine once it has been poured, also called the ‘nose’. Apparently, the aroma is how the grapes smelled before the fermentation process, and you can determine this information by sniffing the wine in your glass (instead of the ‘smell’ you get when you’re actually tasting the wine).


Wines made from more than one grape variety. Some wine producers do this to create a more complex wine or marry the attributes of the individual grapes.


How the individual elements in wine work together. The alcohol, acidity, fruitiness, sweetness and tannins should all act in harmony with one another for a good, well-balanced wine.


The impression of weight that a wine leaves in your mouth. A full-bodied wine feels ‘big’ and heavy with many different flavors and sensations going on at once, while a light-bodied wine is more delicate. So as you sip a moscato, it’s a poor idea to say it’s full-bodied, as it likely is a sweet, light wine.


After swirling your wine, these are the lines of wine that drip down the inside of the glass. These indicate the level of alcohol in the wine and the speed at which it evaporates. In normal terms, thicker and slower legs usually mean a higher alcohol level.


The substance in wine that can cause your mouth to pucker. Tannins are phenolic compounds derived from all different parts of a plant; in wine they come from the grape stems, skins, and seeds, and also from the barrel in which the wine is aged. Wines that are high in tannins are considered dry, (although ageing a wine high in tannins does soften it a bit).


A wine that is bottled and sold within a year of its vintage. Young wines are not headed to wine cellars for further maturation… they’re meant to be enjoyed straight away. Young wines tend to be light, crisp and lower in tannins.


The year in which the grapes were grown and harvested. This is not necessarily the same as the year that the wine was produced and bottled, so when you hear someone mention vintage, they’re referring to the crop and the conditions for the grapes that year, not the production of the wine.

Want to learn more about wine?

With a variety of wine holidays and short breaks, you can go away to beautiful Italy or romantic France and come back a full-fledged wine snob (in a good way!).