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How to Describe Wine: 25 Wine Terms Everyone Should Know

We would be remiss if we didn’t create a list of great wine terms that are simple and help you describe what you like in a wine, in a way that makes sense. We’ve included some useful terms every wine drinker – bottle or BOXT – should know, as well as some terms we think are way too much hassle, and if we’re 100% honest, a little snobby. 

We’re about simplifying fine wine, not making it harder to understand. And we feel strongly about giving you permission to like what you like and feel free to talk about it in plainspeak, not winespeak. We’ve set out to create a new way of experiencing fine wine. By crafting our wines by taste preference and not varietals, and naming them simply with numbers, we take out the confusion, the aisle staring, the wondering if we’re going to like it or not; and we bring wine back to the basics. 

Here’s our short list of terms you should know, a few that are unique to the BOXT experience and some we think should get tossed out like wine turned to vinegar.

Some wine terms just make sense, and more importantly, they’re not mouthfeel (more on that later).

1. a·cid·i·ty


Acidity is present in every wine and is in direct correlation to the pH, but that’s another article entirely. All you need to know is that a high-acidity wine, like our Profile One, will have a crisper, brighter and more tart taste than a lower-acidity wine, like our Profile Five, which will feel fuller, smoother and rounder. Neither one is negative, it just depends on what you like. Acidity is a great way to describe how a wine feels, and is especially useful for being confident in ordering a wine you know you’ll like. 

2. bright


Bright wines tend to be higher in acidity and can make your mouth water. They are also vivid, flavorful and young and you’ll hear a bright wine described with words like crisp, zesty, lively and ripe. Bright wines are nearly always white and tend to be a great picnic or lunch wine. Our Profile One is a bright wine, and usually so are pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc.

3. big


A wine that feels full bodied and thicker on your tongue. A big wine is the opposite of a bright wine. This is usually applied to reds like cabernet sauvignon or shiraz-grenache. These are wonderful wines in winter to cozy up with in front of the fire or serve with a warm, rich winter meal.

4. bod·y

As in full-, medium- or light-bodied. Body is used interchangeably with weight and describes its feel, heaviness and viscosity (how thick it feels on your tongue). Summer wines like our Profile Nine rosé, our Profile One or a pinot grigio are light bodied, and pinot noir is a great year-round lighter-bodied red. Sangiovese, cabernet franc and our Profile Four are good examples of medium bodied wines. Full-bodied wines will feel like our Profile Six or merlot, zinfandel and malbec.

5. bold


A wine that has a complex and powerful taste. Other words that describe a bold wine: dramatic, rich, round, opulent. Bold wines are usually darker red wines that are higher in alcohol. This is, in a word, our Profile Five. 

6. dec·a·dent


Rich on several levels, complex, bold. Also velvety and full of flavor on the palate. Usually reserved for full-bodied red wines like our Profile Six, malbec or merlot.

7. dry


Dry wines have been left to allow all the yeast present to consume all residual sugar. Also a characteristic of wines that are tannic – the tannins create a sensation of dryness on the palate. This is often what people ask for when they want to make sure they don’t get a sweet wine. 

8. jam·my


A wine that has a vivid palate of sweet fruits that we all love in jams – strawberry, grape, plum. Insider information: The best cabs from Napa get described as Jammy. 


These wines have a balanced, pleasant texture and aren’t particularly tannic or acidic, often described as having soft tannins. Profile Five is smooth as are many merlots. 

10. soft


A soft wine is just plain easy to drink. It feels round and even on your tongue, they’re not particularly tannic or acidic. Like our Profile Four, they are the crowd pleasers. 

11. tan·nins

The things that give a wine its structure and come from the skins, seeds and stems during the winemaking process. Usually applied more to red than white wine, tannins want to be ripe in order to be pleasant on the palate and will taste slightly bitter or astringent (this sounds bad, but isn’t) and will give your mouth a dry feeling. Tannic wines tend to be more complex and are considered the opposite of smooth (again, not a bad thing).

12. va·ri·e·tal


A single certain variety of wine or grape e.g. chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, etc. We prefer to make our wine based on taste expectations, not just varietals. Because a varietal can taste many, many different ways based on where it was grown, the weather that year, the winemaking process. Our mission is to make a glass of wine you’re going to love, every single time, and not limit ourselves to a single grape to do it. 

13. vel·vet·y


Aka rich, soft, silky, lush, opulent. This is a wine that has a deep, luxurious mouth feel. Pro tip: A velvety wine generally has soft tannins.

Fair warning – arguments may arise with those who feel like describing something as having “creamy mouthfeel” is a plus. We strongly disagree. But we’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourselves.

14. bo · jo

/bō ˈ jo/

Shorthand for Beaujolais, the varietal at the epicenter for the neo natural wine movement and said by the guy who drives up in his Porsche and tosses the keys at the valet as he walks away. This is the guy who also gets back into his car by jumping over the door rather than opening it.

15. glou · glou

/glouˈ glou/

Often applied to Beaujolais, glou-glou is French for, “glug, glug”. The term describes a wine that is easy to drink. So easy in fact, that you just glug more into your glass, (or directly into your mouth) hardly noticing you’ve drunk the whole bottle. In other words, the bougie way to say the wine you’re drinking is a porch pounder. Ex: “They have the best bojo here. Obsessed. Seriously. It’s totally glou-glou. We’re definitely going to need two bottles.”

16. zero · zero 

/zirō, zirō/

The trendy way to talk about a wine with nothing added and nothing taken away – see natural wines. Ex: “Um, yes, excuse me? Are you sure this wine is zero-zero? Because I only drink zero-zero wine. Otherwise, I get wrinkles.”

17. vins · de · soif

/voonˈ duˈ swaf/

An easy to drink wine, that’s simple and enjoyable. Much like a glou glou wine. Please only say this if you’re French.

18. legs


Legs are the drips that happen inside your wine glass when you swirl or sip and the wine settles. They appear because the alcohol and water in your wine have different surface tensions and move away from each other. Point of fact: Legs don’t tell you anything about the quality of your wine, that’s an urban myth. This one reminds us of guys with mustaches standing around in the early 80s trying to talk about wines. 

19. mouth·feel 


Just like it sounds – how a wine feels in your mouth. It’s texture, the sensations it brings up: heavy, light, silky, smooth, velvety are all mouthfeel terms. Why not just say, “It feels heavy”? When we blow out the candles on our cake every year, our wish is to never hear this term again. For as long as we live.

20. nose (or nosing)


How the wine smells in the glass – it’s aroma, aromatics, perfume or bouquet. Can also be used as a verb, e.g. “nosing” (smelling) the wine. Just please don’t. 

We’re doing something different here at BOXT, so we came up with our own way to describe the BOXT fine wine experience.

21. house · wine
/housˈ wīn/

The BOXT wine you love to drink, every single time, delivered right to your door and always on tap. We are changing the way we all think about wine at home and are emulating the European tradition of simple, delicious house wines that you know you’ll love, every time.

22. no · hang·o·ver ·wine1

/nō ˈhaNGˌōvər ˈwīn/

Wine that stays fresh for up to six weeks in its BOXT while you tap in to as much – or as little – as you want, with no pressure to finish the bottle just because you opened it for a single glass. Note: You can still get a hangover from BOXT, but it will never again be because you had to finish the bottle.

23. tap · in

/ˈtapˌ in/
What you do when you get your BOXT instead of having to find a corkscrew, or wondering if you should open a whole bottle.

24. taste · pro·file

/tāstˈ prōˌfīl/

The way a wine tastes, not just what grape it’s made from. So many factors go into how a wine tastes and what we each individually like in a wine. Why should we be limited to liking just a varietal, what someone else likes or what’s popular this year? We see this as a whole new way of approaching wine, one that gives you the freedom to like what you like and know how to talk about it. 

25. wine·bliss1


The feeling you get when you see that your BOXT has just been delivered. 

So the next time you go to a wine tasting, or have some friends over for dinner, try a few of these on for size or make up some of your own. Because wine should be simple and hassle free. Especially the way we talk about it. 

Did we miss something? We’re sure we did. These terms are just a drop in the barrel (pun intended). We’re always open to suggestions and feedback, so reach out to us at or on social @drinkboxt.

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