Beer & Wine Terminology

With the craft boom of recent times, customers can order from an increasingly large, diverse selection of beers. New microbreweries seem to open every other week, competing with each other as well as established Big Breweries. Beer-makers today employ modern innovations, Old World recipes and everything in between.

This rapidly expanding market has also swelled with terminology. The names of some styles and flavors may be unfamiliar to casual drinkers. Even craft aficionados may read a bar’s beer menu and wonder at the meaning of a certain selection.

Thus, we have compiled a list of major industry terms. This is intended for customers — whether a pub patron ordering a drink, or a manager buying for their store — and thus is lighter on technical brewing terminology.

[Scroll down for the Wine Terminology list below beer]


ABV: Alcohol By Volume. ABV measures the percent of alcohol within a volume of liquid. Low ABV beers come in around 4.5%. Higher ABV beers are around 7-10%, or even higher.

Ale: One of the two beer categories, along with lager. Ales are brewed with yeast strains that ferment at warmer temperatures. These strains are called “top-fermenting yeasts,” because their metabolic process takes place near the top of the fermentation vessel. These types of yeast impart ales with fruity or spicy flavors, compared with lager’s emphasis on clean, crisp flavors. Ales are usually served warmer than lagers.

Amber: A catchall term for beers with lighter complexions. Typically, ambers focus on simple, balanced, toasted-malt flavors, sometimes with a light fruitiness.

American: With the recent craft-beer explosion centered in America, many new brewing styles took on “American” in their names, such as American Imperial Stout or American Double IPA. “American” commonly means more, bolder hops (and thus more bitterness) in a recipe, especially popular hop varieties grown in this country: Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, etc.

Barleywine: A very malty and flavorful beer, with the taste of alcohol up front and present. ABVs are in the 8-12 range. Barleywine as a style originated in Ancient Greece and evolved over the centuries. Today’s Barleywine recipes more resemble their 18th century equivalent: English “strong” beers, also of high ABV.

Belgian: A historic and traditional ale, high in flavor and complexity, and ranging in style from light to dark. The adjective “Belgian” in a beer’s name refers to recipes first written thousands of years ago by Old World brewers, many in Belgium, including Trappist monks who brewed these beers in their abbeys.

Black and Tan: A beer poured first as ½ pale ale/lager, then topped off with ½ stout, porter, or darker lager. Done correctly, the darker beer remains on top. Also commonly known as a “Half and Half,” especially in Ireland, where the term “Black and Tan” can have derogatory implications.

Blonde: A low-ABV ale that is easily approachable and drinkable. Blondes are usually a balance between malty and hoppy. These beers display the complexion of their name, and are sometimes called “golden ales.”

Bock: A German lager recipe dating back to the 1300s. Bocks are full-bodied, richly malty, well-hopped, and commonly taste of caramel. Their complexion ranges from copper to dark-brown. Traditionally a wintertime seasonal beer. In America, bocks are usually outsold by their stronger variant: doppelbocks. Originating in the German town Einbeck, the recipe took the name Bock in 187h century Munich, where locals pronounced the beer “ein Bock,” and then just “Bock.” ein Bock means “a Billy goat,” which is why some Bock labels include the image of a goat.

Body: The body of a beer is comprised of that beer’s thickness, consistency, and mouth-filling properties. Bodies are described on a scale from light- to full-bodied.

Bomber: A 22-ounce bottle of beer, usually made of glass and containing premium products. The average price range of craft-beer bombers is $6 to $20.

Bottle-conditioned: Beer with active yeast purposely left in the bottle, so that the yeast can continue the carbonation process after the beer is shipped out. These beers sometimes contain natural sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Bottle-conditioning allows the beer to remain freshly carbonated, and sometimes to develop over time, gaining complexity and flavor with age. Common to white or witbier beers.

Brewpub: A pub that brews its own beers and sells at least 25% of the product on-premise. It is common for these businesses to dispense beers directly from highly visual storage tanks. Synonymous with “brewhouse.”

Brown ale: Known mostly for their dark amber or brown color. Although the term derives from an alternative name for 17th century British “mild” ales, “brown ale” today can mean very different flavors. There are recipes with light hops and roasted caramel malts; others medium in ABV and hoppiness; and others that are both very hoppy and malty.

Cascade hops: The most widely used brewing hops in America. High in floral aroma and citric, fruity flavor. Developed in 1971 at Oregon State University. Common in American Pale Ales. Other popular American hops include Chinook and Centennial.

Cask-conditioned: Beers that are sealed in casks — containers made of wood, steel, or aluminum – while still going through the fermentation process. Brewers will serve “live beers” straight from these casks, containing still-active yeast (though the addition of other materials will settle out the yeast).

Contract beer: When a non-brewing business hires a brewery to make their beer for them. The non-brewing business will handle marketing, sales and distribution, while the brewery creates the product.

Double IPA: Another American-craft innovation, double IPAs are brewed with significantly more hops. To balance the extra bitterness created by the hefty increase of hops, double IPAs often include much more malts and greater alcohol content. Due to the latter, these beers have higher ABVs, usually over 6%. The term “double” has also come to mean “stronger” for other styles.

Doppelbock: The stronger variant of the traditional German bock, a doppelbock has sweet flavors of toasted caramels, chocolates, and/or dark fruits. As a historic nod to 14th century German Bavarian monks who brewed this stronger style and named it “Salvator” (Savor), doppelbochs today will sometimes have the affix “tor” at the end of their name.

Draught beer: Beer served from a keg or cask, rather than a bottle or can.

Dry-hopping: When a brewer adds hops after the primary fermentation process to increase the hoppy aroma and flavor of a beer, without dramatically increasing the bitterness normally brought on by extra hops. This technique is more common in ales than in lagers.

Golden Ale: See: Blonde

Growler: A half-gallon (64 oz.) glass jug sold at breweries to customers who want to buy beer-to-go. A “squealer” is the 32 oz. version of a growler. Customers can usually bring growlers and squealers back to brewers to purchase more beer-to-go.

Hefeweizen: A German — and perhaps the most well-known — wheat beer. Roughly translated to “with yeast and wheat,” Hefeweizens have a yeasty, banana-like taste, often spicy, with vanilla notes. Medium-bodied with a silky mouth feel, unfiltered, cloudy in appearance, with a pale to light-amber color.

Hops/Hoppy: Hops are the cone-like female flower off the Humulis Lupulus plant or vine. Primarily used to add bitterness to beer, hops also can impart additional flavors and aromas. Moreover, they inhibit bacteria growth during the brewing process. There are over 100 varieties of hops harvested across the globe. The use of hops in brewing dates back to 600 BC in Egypt.

IBU: International Bitter Unit. A measuring scale for the bitterness of a beer. More IBUs usually means more hops.

Imperial: Although this term derives from dark, heavy British beers brewed heavier and hoppier for the Russian imperial court in the 1700s, in America the term has become generalized to mean a stronger version of any given style, such as Imperial IPA, Imperial Stout, etc. Imperials tend to have ABVs near or in the double digits.

IPA: India Pale Ale. If you think the name means it was brewed in India, you’re close. IPAs were originally brewed for India, by Britain, in the 19th century. IPAs contain higher hoppiness and ABVs, because stronger beers stood a better chance of surviving the 19th century oceanic voyage from Britain to India. In the modern craft-beer boom, IPAs have emerged as one of the most popular styles, especially in more recent years.

Lager: The other category of beers, along with ale. Lagers are brewed with yeast strains fermented at colder temperatures. These strains are called “bottom-fermenting yeasts,” because their metabolic process takes place near the bottom of the fermentation vessel. The low fermentation temperatures reduce yeast byproducts, creating a clean, crisp flavor, as opposed to the flavor focus on spices and fruits in ales. Lagers are usually served colder than ales.

Lambic: A traditionally sour, dry, sometimes-cidery beer produced by “spontaneous fermentation” (as compared to controlled forms of fermentation) through exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria. Fruits are sometimes added for flavor. “Straight” Lambic recipes can produce earthy, leathery and honey flavors. Historically, Lambics originate in the Pajottenland region of Belgium.

Malts/Malty: Barley or other grains that have been soaked in water to induce germination, and then kilned to convert insoluble starches into the fermentable sugars required to make beer. Malty beers taste of toastiness, biscuit, nuts, toffee or caramel.

Microbrewery: As defined by the Brewers Association: A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year, with 75% or more of its beer sold off-site.

Nitro: Adding nitrogen to beer to create a smoother, creamier product with a finely bubbled head. Guinness Stout is the most common version of this technique.

Noble hops: Traditional European hops that are produced only in four small areas: Hallertau, Spalt and Tettnang in Germany, and Saaz in the Czech Republic. Noble hops are soft, refined, and prized for their subtle, less-bitter, somewhat spicy flavors. Strains of “nearly noble” hops either exhibit characteristics similar to, or were bred from, those four “noble” areas.

Pale ale: Ales brewed with lightly roasted “pale” malts, which creates more of a balance between hops and malts than in hop-dominated India Pale Ales. The pale-malt recipe also results in a lighter color. First brewed in the 1700s. American Pale Ales like the trend-setting Sierra Nevada Pale Ale contain more hops (especially American hops) than their counterparts in other countries.

Pilsner: The most common beer worldwide, pilsners are pale lagers that are typically crisp, clear, low-ABV, light-bodied and refreshing. Most American “big beers” – Budweiser, Coors, Heineken, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc. – are pilsners. The name derives from Pilsen, a Czech Republic city where the brewing style originated in 1842.

Porter: Rich, dark, roasted, malty beers, brewed with brown, black, pale, or chocolate malts. Can be dry and pleasantly acidic. Originated in London in the 1700s when the palates of beers drinkers began to evolve dramatically. The name porter may originate from the beer’s popularity among transportation workers (or porters) in London from that period. Comparatively less dark and less dry than stouts, a similar style.

Red ale: Typically a crisp, heavier, maltier, more-caramel version of the pale ale, with varying degrees of hoppiness, particularly at the finish. The name comes from the roasted malts that can give these ales a reddish, coppery appearance. Oftentimes synonymous with amber ale.

Reinheitsgebot: Also known as the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, this law in the Holy Roman Empire and its successor state, Germany, regulated the ingredients of beer to just water, barley and hops. Yeast was amended into the law in the 18th century, after Louis Pasteur discovered yeast’s role in fermentation. The Reinheitsgebot held until being replaced in 1993 by a new law that allows slightly more ingredients. However, many German brewers claim to adhere to Reinheitsgebot regulations.

Rye beer: A style of beer in both ales and lagers brewed with Rye malt in the recipe. These beers usually have a grainy, hearty flavor with a “kick” to it, are dark in color and low in ABV.

Scotch ale: Also known as a Wee Heavy, Scotch ales are the stronger, maltier version of Scottish ales. Flavors tend to be caramel and/or nutty. Mild hops and a clean, smooth composition, and colors that are copper to dark brown.

Scottish ale: A traditional Scottish beer that focuses on sweet malt flavors and is low on hops. The longer brewing process creates flavors of burnt sugar and dark, bitter molasses, plus a deep-red, coppery color.

Sediment: Some sediment in a beer bottle is perfectly normal. This is usually the result of bottle-conditioning, in which brewers add additional yeast and sugar into the bottle to continue the carbonation process as the beer ages and grows more complex.

Session beer: A beer of lower ABV and lighter body that a drinker may consume multiple of in a single session of drinking.

Sour: A beer brewed to have an acidic, tart, or sour taste. Lambics are sours, and the style overall is seen mostly in Belgian beers.

Stout: Born out of Arthur Guinness’ 18th century attempts to brew heavier and darker products to counter the rising popularity of British porters in the Irish beer market, stouts are darker in color and dryer in taste than porters. Common flavors include sweet, caramel, chocolate, toffee, toasty, roasty or burnt. The mouth feel is smooth and silky, the body is medium to full, and the color is medium brown to black. American stouts are much more hoppy than their Irish or British counterparts.

Strong: A beer with higher ABV, and more malts and/or hops.

Wet hops: Hops used in brewing that are fresh off the vine and unprocessed, meaning they must be used immediately (within 24 hours or so) after their fall harvest. The flavor and aroma of wet hops are freshly vibrant, like just-picked greens, and mellower and more delicate than normal bitter hops.

Wheat beer: Recipes with splits around 30% wheat, 70% grain, wheats have a clean grain flavor and a bigger, longer-lasting head when poured into a glass. The mouth-feel is smooth and silky, with a long finish. Unfiltered wheats leave yeast in “suspension,” or floating throughout the beer, causing a pale, cloudy complexion. Due to its unobtrusive flavor qualities, wheat makes for a good base grain from which brewers can add their own unique flavors and twists.

White: A white beer – or witbier – is a wheat-heavy ale descended from Medieval-era Belgium and the Netherlands. Unfiltered, and spiced with coriander, orange, or other light flavors. Low ABV and light-bodied. Often served with an orange slice. The name comes from their light, pale, cloudy complexion, typically caused by bits of yeast and wheat purposely left floating throughout the beer.

Witbier: See: White.

Wine terms are sometimes used in articles and blogs in a language that is too technical for average readers to follow.

Our glossary is intended to define these terms in a clear, straightforward manner. Retailers can use this terminology list as needed, for handy reference when dealing with wine retailers and customers, or they can make it available for customers to peruse themselves.


Acetic acid: A cause of wine that has gone bad, normally recognizable through the telltale smell of vinegar or nail-polish remover. This is caused by microbial spoilage and/or oxidation. A low level of acetic acid is acceptable in some wines, such as dry, full-bodied, red table wines. Sometimes when wine becomes acetic it actually can be used for cooking in dishes that call for vinegar.

Acidity: The lively, crisp tartness of a wine that affects the salivary glands.

Alcoholic fermentation: The process by which yeast turns grape sugar into carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethanol alcohol. In most fermentations, the CO2 is allowed to evaporate, but in Methode Champenoise (see later entry) fermentations used to make Champagne and other sparkling wines, the CO2 is captured under pressure and becomes the bubbles in the bottle.

American Oak: A mostly Midwestern U.S.-grown oak (quercus alba), from which are crafted barrels used in the process of aging whiskey and wines. Usually imparts a more assertive oak component, similar to resin, and is favored in the making of full-bodied red wines. French Oak, on the other hand, is known more for finer, delicate flavors.

American Viticultural Area (AVA): A demarcated, geographical grape-growing area officially granted appellation status by the American Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are both AVAs, for example. The French equivalent is an Appellation d’origine contrôlée.

Appellation: A legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where grapes for a wine were grown.

Astringent: The austere, drying, furry or bitter mouth feel of wines, normally due to high tannin levels. More typical in reds than whites.

Austere: Term used for wines that are low on fruit flavors and high on acidity and/or tannins. Sometimes said of young wines that need more time to soften with age.

Balance: A harmony between all elements within wine: acids, sugars, tannins and alcohol.

Barbaresco: A dry, tart red wine made entirely of Nebbiolo grapes from the northwestern district of the same name in Piedmont, Italy.

Barolo: A bigger, richer and often-pricier wine than Barbaresco, Barolo is also a dry, tart red wine from Piedmont, Italy.

Barrel: An oak container (usually around 55 gallons) used for aging and fermenting wine.

Barrel-fermented: The process of fermenting wine in oak barrels rather than in stainless steel tanks. Can increase the complexity, texture, body, and oakiness of wines, though the process is riskier and more labor-intensive than alternative methods.

Barrique: French term for a small wooden barrel in which wine is aged.

Beaujolais: A French wine-growing district where the red wine grape Gamay Noir a jus Blanc is prominent, and makes a light, delicate red wine.

Bitter: The tannin taste sensation on the back of the tongue.

Blend: A mixture of different grape varietals, regions or vintages, to add complexity, balance and/or consistency.

Body: A tactile sensation of a wine’s mouth-feel in terms of weight and fullness.  A wine can be light-, medium- or full-bodied.

Bordeaux: A large area in Southwest France, known as one of the preeminent wine-producing regions on the planet.

Botrytis: Also known as “Noble Rot,” a mold that pierces the skin of grapes late in the growing season, resulting in a natural grape juice substantially higher in sugar. Used in as the basis for dessert wines, though it can ruin some grapes.

Brix: A system, popular in America, which measures sugar content (and thus the ripeness) of grapes. Most table wines are harvested between 20 and 26 degrees Brix. To get an alcohol conversion level, multiply the stated Brix by 0.55.

Brut: A term to describe dry wine, usually Champagne or sparkling wine.

Burgundy: A well-known growing region in France, where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes flourish. The name can also generally refer to a blended red wine.

Buttery: Indicates the smell of melted butter or toasty oak, or a rich texture.

Cabernet Sauvignon: A major red wine grape that grows in a variety of climates. A dominant grape of Bordeaux, it also grows well all over the planet.

Carbonic Maceration: Method of making light-bodied, fresh and fruity red wines by dumping whole grape clusters into a bin that is rich in carbon dioxide, and then letting the clusters ferment inside their own grape skins. Commonly practiced in Beaujolis.

Champagne: A sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. Champagne is produced under regulations requiring a secondary fermentation in the bottle to create carbonation. The sweetness of Champagne (and sparkling wine in general) is measured from driest to sweetest: Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry, Sec, Demi-Sec and Doux.

Chaptalization: The process of adding sugar to sugar-deficient grape juice, to ensure that the resulting wine contains sufficient alcohol. Common in northern Europe countries, where cold climates can prevent grapes from fully ripening. Illegal in southern Europe (including Italy and southern France) and California.

Chardonnay: A primarily white wine grape first grown in Burgundy, including the Chablis and Champagne regions. One of the most widely planted grape varieties worldwide.

Charmat: The less-expensive, mass-production method of making sparkling wine in a large vat rather than in bottles. This decreases lees contact and produces larger, coarser bubbles. Also known as “tank method.”

Chateau: A French term that typically refers to an estate that makes wine from vines grown onsite.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape: One of the most renowned appellations in France’s southern Rhône Valley. Produces more reds than whites, with Grenache the most common grape variety. Wines from this appellation are typically sold in heavy, dark bottles. More wine is produced here than in the entire Northern Rhône region.

Chenin Blanc: An acidic white wine grape most widely grown in the Anjou region of France. Can produce a variety of wines, from sparkling to dessert. Also known as Steen, or Pineau de la Loire.

Chewy: A tasting term that refers to wine with noticeable tannins that have a mouth feel, as if you could chew the wine.

Chianti: Red Wine from Tuscany, Italy, made almost exclusively from the Sangiovese grape.

Claret: The British term for the red wines of Bordeaux.

Colombard: A French white grape variety, generally used in blends, such as “jug wines.” Sometimes called French Colombard, or Colombar.

Corked: A wine that displays an off-putting, musty, moldy-newspaper flavor and aroma and dry aftertaste, as caused by a tainted cork.

Decanter: To pour wine from the bottle into another container, as to aerate the wine — allowing it to breathe and “open up” — or to separate it from sediment.

Dolcetto: Red wine grape of Italy that typically makes a dry, light, easy-drinking red wine with flavors of black cherry, licorice or prune, with a characteristic bitter finish.

Dosage: Sugar syrup added to Champagne and sparkling wine to lessen the acid and increase the sweetness.

Douro: Portuguese town where Port is produced, near the town of Oporto.

Dry: A term that refers to wines lacking the taste of sugar. Rather, tannins are very present, and lead to a puckering sensation in the mouth. The opposite of sweet.

Durif: See Petite Syrah.

Eiswein: Very sweet dessert wine made from grapes still frozen on the vine. Also known as Ice Wine.

Enology: The science and study of winemaking.

Enophile: A lover of all things wine.

Esters: Naturally occurring chemical compounds in wine that taste and smell fruity. Many are created by yeast during fermentation, and then decrease as the wine ages.

Fermentation: See Alcoholic Fermentation.

Fighting Varietal: A varietal wine priced as competitively as generics.

Finish: The lingering sensations in the mouth of texture and flavor after swallowing wine.

Fortified: A wine whose alcohol content has been increased by the addition of brandy or neutral spirits at some point during the wine’s making.

French Oak: Tighter-grained wood grown in France and used in the process of aging whiskey and wines. Known for imparting finer, more-delicate flavors of vanilla, cedar and sometimes butterscotch. More expensive to purchase than American Oak barrels, sometimes twice as much.

Full-bodied: A wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as “big.”

Generic: A lower-quality wine usually made from inexpensive varieties.

Grenache: One of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties worldwide, including in Spain, California and southern France, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Soft on the palate, with red fruit flavors and subtle, white-pepper spices. Grenache wines tend to lack tannins, acid and color, and are commonly used in blends.

Gruner Vetliner: White grape from Austria that makes a fresh, fruity wine, many of which age nicely.

Herbaceous: A term describing aromas and flavors herbal or green-vegetable like. Characteristic of grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hot: A term for wine that is high on alcohol.

Hybrid: Grape that is a cross between two varieties from different families, with hybrids typically a European-American blend. Hybrids have great fungal resistance, making them ideal for growth in warm climates with much rainfall in summer.

Ice Wine: See Eiswein

Isinglass: An agent used in the process of fining overly harsh wines, by reducing tannins. Made of proteins extracted from the swim bladders of sturgeons and other fish.

Jug wines: Inexpensive, generic wines sold in half-gallon or gallon jug bottles. Jug wines are on the decline sales-wise, due to the rise of consumer interest in premium products.

Lees: Sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seed and other grape matter that accumulates during fermentation. Typically removed via “racking,” or pumping the wine off to leave the residue behind. In some wines — especially Chardonnay — the lees are purposely left in the barrel to grant more complexity and palate creaminess to the wine.

Length: How long the taste, flavor and mouth-feel of a wine lasts in the mouth after swallowing. A longer finish is a trait of better wines.

Lively: Description term for a fresh, bright and youthful wine, with good fruit and acidity.

Made and Bottled By: On labels of American wines, this denotes that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled at least 10 percent of the wine.

Magnum: A 1.5 liter bottle.

Malolactic Fermentation: Conversion of the sharper malic acid in wine to softer lactic acid. The process also prevents additional fermentation in the bottle. Most commonly done in Chardonnay, to soften wine into big, rich, buttery liquids.

Mature: A wine that is ready to drink.

Médoc: The largest wine district in Bordeaux. Produces almost entirely red wines, which have been among the most historically celebrated throughout French history.

Methode Champenoise: The technique of making sparkling wine with a second, controlled fermentation in a sealed bottle to develop the bubbles. More time-consuming and expensive than Charmat or transfer methods.

Merlot: A dark-blue grape variety related to, and often blended with, Cabernet Sauvignon in red wines. The most widely planted grape variety in Bordeaux, and one of the most planted worldwide.

Montrachet: A vineyard in Burgundy, France that makes what many consider to be the best dry white wine in the world.

Mouth-feel: The sensation of a wine on the palate, usually described as rough, smooth, velvety or furry.

Muscadet: A delicate, crisp white wine made from the Melon grape in the western Loire Valley of France.

Muscat: A diverse family in the world’s oldest grapes, which make a light, usually sweet wine.

Nebbiolo: A tart red Italian grape variety widely grown in the Piedmont region that makes some of the country’s longest-lived reds.

Negociant: French term for a merchant who purchases wine from various sources before blending them and bottling them to sell under their own label.

New World: A term for countries that have started producing wine more recently than European countries, such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.

Noble Rot: See Botrytis

Nose: The smell of wine.

Nouveau: A light, youthful, fruity red wine bottled and sold as soon as possible. Most common to Beaujolais.

Oak: The wood primarily used for aging wines, imparting flavor when the barrel is new. Desired “oaky” notes are toasty, vanilla, dill, cedary and smoky. Undesired oak notes are charred, burnt, green cedar, lumber and plywood.

Oenology: The science of wine and winemaking.

Off-dry: A wine that has a slight amount of residual sugar.

Old World: European countries where winemaking dates back centuries.

Petit Verdot: Dark red grape used primarily in Bordeaux blends, including Cabernet Sauvignon.

Petite Sirah: A red grape, and the primary grape grown in America and Israel. Makes a dense, dark, red, spicy, plummy, long-lasting tannic wine. Also known as Durif.

Piedmont: A wine-growing region in Italy best known for Nebbiolo, Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera and Dolcetto grapes.

Pinot Gris: A white variant of Pinot Noir. Also known as Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Noir: A red grape variety grown worldwide, but chiefly associated with Burgundy. Usually produces a light-colored, medium-bodied, long-lived wine.

Plateau: The time during which a wine is at its peak.

Port: Dark, rich, red, fortified dessert wine, made exclusively in the Douro Valley in Portugal.

Punt: The indentation in the bottom of wine bottles. Deeper punts can add extra strength to the bottle.

Qualitatswein: German label classification for a wine of higher quality than simple table wine.

Rhône wine region: A wine region in Southern France.

Rosé: A wine that incorporates some of the color of grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as red wine. Often light red or pinkish in color.

Riesling: A white grape variety that originated in the Rhine region of Germany. Produces wines that have a wide variety of sweetness levels, from dry to very sweet. Is considered “terroir-expressive,” meaning that the wine takes on flavors from the areas in which it grows.

Sangiovese: An Italian red grape variety used to make Chianti and other Tuscan reds, including Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino. Often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to make the so-called Super Tuscan blend.

Sauternes: A sweet wine from Bordeaux made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle grapes affected by Botrytis, or noble rot. In America, “Sauterne” — missing the ‘s’ at the end — is sometimes used as a generic term for sweet, white dessert wines.

Sauvignon blanc: A white grape variety planted worldwide, originating from Bordeaux. Produces a crisp, dry, refreshing wine. Depending on the terroir, it can have grassy and/or tropical aromas.

Sémillon: A white grape variety grown mostly in France and Australia, which makes dry, sweet wines.

Sherry: Fortified white wine made from white Spanish grapes. Ranges from light and delicate, to heavier and darker variants allowed to oxidize as they age in barrel. In Europe this style has protected-designation-of-origin status, and must be made in the “Sherry Triangle” to have “Sherry” on its label.

Shiraz: See Syrah

Sparkling Wine: Wine containing significant levels of carbon dioxide, making it fizzy. The classic example is Chardonnay.

Syrah: A classic red grape grown throughout the world. The flavor of Syrah wine is very dependent on the terroir. In moderate climates, Syrah produces medium to full-bodied wines with medium to high tannin levels and mint, blackberry and black pepper. In hotter climates, produces more consistently full-bodied wines with softer tannin, jam fruit and spice notes of licorice, anise and earthy leather. No relation to Petite Syrah, a synonym for Durif.

Tank Method: See “Charmat”

Tannins: Natural component derived from wine skins, stems and seeds of grapes — as well as from oak barrels — that gives a wine an stringent, bitter, puckering mouthfeel. Predominantly in red wines. Acts as a natural preservative that helps wine age and develop.

Terroir: The special characteristics of a place — in terms of geography, geology and climate — that interact with plant genetics and can impart flavor and other compositional aspects on agricultural products like wine.

Varietal: A wine made from a single grape variety.

Vermouth: A fortified wine flavored with herbs. Primarily used as a cocktail ingredient.

Viognier: White grape variety, and the only permitted grape for the French wine Condrieu in the Rhône Valley. Makes a wine that has the weight of chardonnay, but with floral notes similar to Riseling.

Yeast: Catalyst that converts sugar to alcohol and CO2, and which is used to turn grape juice into wine.

Young: Wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage. Wines intended to be drunk “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.

Vintage: the year a wine is bottled. Also can mean the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.

Vitis vinifera: the species of vining plant that produces more than 99% of the world’s wine

Weight: Similar to “body,” the sensation when a wine feels thick or rich on the palate.

Zinfadel: A red grape variety common throughout California vineyards. Makes a high-alcohol red wine, or a semi-sweet, high-selling rosé wine, “White Zinfadel.”