Al dente – To cook food until just firm, usually referring to pasta, but can include vegetables.

Bake – To cook food in an oven using dry heat.

Baste – To moisten food while cooking by spooning, brushing, or squirting a liquid, such as meat drippings to stock, to add flavor and prevent it from drying out.

Beat – To stir rapidly in a circular motion to make a smooth mixture, using a whisk, spoon, or mixer.

Braise – To cook first by browning the food in butter or oil, then gently simmering in a small amount of liquid over low heat for a long period of time in a covered pan until tender.

Broil – To expose food to direct heat on a rack or spit, often used for melting food like cheese.

Brown – To cook over high heat (usually on the stove-top) to brown food.

Caramelize – To heat sugar until it liquefies and becomes a syrup.

Chop – To cut vegetables into large squares, usually specified by the recipe.

Cream – To beat ingredients (usually sugar and a fat) until smooth and fluffy.

Cube – Like chopping, it is to cut food into small cubes, usually about 1/2 inch.

Dash – 1/8 teaspoon.

Dice – To cut into small pieces, usually 1/4 to 1/8 chunks.

Dollop – A spoonful of a semi-solid food, like whipped cream or masted potatoes, placed on top of another food.

Dredge – To lightly coat uncooked food with a dry mixture, usually with flour, cornmeal, or bread crumbs, to be pan fried or sautéed.

Dress – To coat foods with a sauce, such as salad.

Drizzle – To pour liquid back and forth over a dish in a fine stream, usually melted butter, oil, syrup, or melted chocolate.

Dust – To coat lightly with a powdery ingredients, such as confectioners’ sugar or cocoa.

Fillet – To cut the bones from a piece of meat, poultry, or fish.

Flambé – To drizzle a flammable spirit over a food while its cooking, to ignite the just before serving.

Fold – To combine light ingredients, such as whipped cream or beaten eggs whites, with a heavier mixture, using a over-and-under motion.

Glaze – To coat foods with mixtures such as jellies or sauces.

Grate – Creates tiny pieces of food, best for things like cheese to melt quickly or a vegetable used in a sauce.

Grease – To coat the interior of a pan or dish with shortening, oil, or butter to prevent food from sticking during cooking.

Julienne – Cutting vegetables until long, thin stripes, approximately 1/4 inch thick and 1 inch long.

Knead – The process of mixing dough with the hands or a mixer

Marinate – To soak in a sauce or flavoured liquid for a long period of time, usually a meat, poultry or fish.

Mince – To cut as small as possible, most commonly used with garlic.

Pan Fry – Cook larger chunks of food over medium-heat, flipping once only.

Parboil – To partially cook by boiling, usually to prepare the food for cooking by another method.

Poach – To cook gently over very low heat, in barely simmering water just to cover.

Pinch – 1/16 teaspoon.

Purée – To mash or grind food until completely smooth.

Roast – Like baking but concerning meat or poultry, it is to cook food in an oven using dry heat.

Sauté – To cook small pieces of food over a medium-high heat with oil in a pan, usually to brown food.

Scald – To heat liquid almost to a boil until bubbles begin forming just around the edge.

Sear – To brown the surface of meat by quick-cooking over high heat into order to seal in the meat’s juices.

Shred – Done on a grater with larger holes, resulting in long, smooth stripes to cook or melt.

Simmer – Bring a pot to a boil, then reduce the heat until there are no bubbles.

Skim – To remove fat or foam from the surface a liquid.

Slice – To cut vertically down, thickness sometimes specified by the recipe.

Smidgen – 1/32 teaspoon.

Steam – To cook food on a rack or in a steamer set over boiling or simmering water.

Steep – To soak a dry ingredient in a liquid just under the boiling point to extract the flavor, such as with tea.

Stew – To cook covered over low heat in a liquid for a substantial period of time.

Whip – To beat food with a whisk or mixer to incorporate air and increase volume.

Whisk – To beat ingredients with a fork or a whisk.

Zest – The outer, colored peel of a citrus fruit.



Terroir – The complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.

DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Denomination of Controlled Origin). The regulations for each DOC wine delimit the production area, wine color, permitted grape varieties and max/min proportions, styles of wine, max/min alcohol levels as well as permitted or mandated viticultural, vinification and maturation techniques. There are about 330 DOC wines in Italy today.

DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin, DOCG). The regulations for DOCG wines are tighter and more restrictive. For example maximum permitted grape yields are lower. Also each wine must pass an in-depth technical analysis and tasting to receive the official DOCG seal of approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Acidity – The liveliness and crispness in wine that activates our salivary glands.


Aeration – The deliberate addition of oxygen to round out and soften a wine.

Aging – Holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state.

Alcohol – Ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the product of fermentation of sugars by yeast.

Anosmia – The loss of smell.

Appellation – A delineated wine producing region particular to France.

Aroma – The smell of wine, especially young wine (different than “bouquet”).

Astringent – Tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, and drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannin.

Balance – A term for when the elements of wine – acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol – come together in a harmonious way.

Barrel – The oak container used for fermenting and aging wine.

Barrique – A 225-liter oak barrel used originally for storing and aging wines, originating in Bordeaux.

Bitter – A taste sensation that is sensed on the back of the tongue and caused by tannins.

Blend – 
 A wine made from more than one grape varietal.

Body –  A tactile sensation describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth.  A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.

Bordeaux – The area in Southwest France considered one of the greatest wine-producing regions in the world.

Botrytis – A beneficial mold that pierces the skin of grapes and causes dehydration, resulting in natural grape juice exceptionally high in sugar.  Botrytis is largely responsible for the world’s finest dessert wines.

Bouquet – A term that refers to the complex aromas in aged wines.

Breathing – Exposing wine to oxygen to improve its flavors.

Brettanomyce – A wine-spoiling yeast that produces barnyard, mousy, metallic, or bandaid-ish aromas.

Brilliant – A tasting note for wines that appear sparkling clear.

Brut – French term denoting dry champagnes or sparkling wines.

Bung – The plug used to seal a wine barrel.

Bung hole – The opening in a cask in which wine can be put in or taken out.

Chaptalization – Adding sugar to wine before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels.  Chaptalization is illegal in some parts of the world, and highly controlled in others.

Citric acid – One of the three predominate acids in wine.

Claret – The name the English use when referring to the red wines of Bordeaux.

Class growth – See cru classe.

Closed – Term describing underdeveloped and young wines whose flavors are not exhibiting well.

Complex – A wine exhibiting numerous odors, nuances, and flavors.

Cork taint – Undesirable aromas and flavors in wine often associated with wet cardboard or moldy basements.

Corked – A term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint (not wine with cork particles floating about).

Cru classé – A top-ranking vineyard designated in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855.

Crush – The English term for harvest.

Cuvée –  In Champagne, a blended batch of wine.

Demi-sec – French term meaning “half-dry” used to describe a sweet sparkling wine.

Fry –  A taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth; the opposite of sweet.

Earthy – An odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil.

Enology – The science of wine and wine making.

Fermentation – The conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast.

Fining – The addition of egg whites or gelatin (among other things) to clear the wine of unwanted particles.

Finish – The impression of textures and flavors lingering in the mouth after swallowing wine.

Flavors – Odors perceived in the mouth.

Foxy – A term that describes the musty odor and flavor of wines made from vitis labrusca, a common North American varietal.

Fruity – A tasting term for wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit.

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

Herbaceous – A tasting term denoting odors and flavors of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary, etc).

Hot – A description for wine that is high in alcohol.

Lees – Sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seed, and other grape matter that accumulates during fermentation.

Leesy – A tasting term for the rich aromas and smells that results from wine resting on its lees.

Length – The amount of time that flavors persist in the mouth after swallowing wine; a lingering sensation.

Malic acid – One of the three predominate acids in grapes.  Tart-tasting malic acid occurs naturally in a number of fruits, including, apples, cherries, plums, and tomatoes.

Malolactic fermentation – A secondary fermentation in which the tartness of malic acid in wine is changed into a smooth, lactic sensation.  Wines described as “buttery” or “creamy” have gone through “malo”.

Mature – Ready to drink.

Mouth-feel – How a wine feels on the palate; it can be rough, smooth, velvety, or furry.

Must – Unfermented grape juice including seeds, skins, and stems.

Negociant – French word describing a wholesale merchant, blender, or shipper of wine.

Noble rot – The layman’s term for botrytis.

Nose –  A tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine.

Oak/oaky – Tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla, baking spices, coconut, mocha or dill caused by barrel-aging.

Oenology – The science of wine and wine making.

Open – Tasting term signifying a wine that is ready to drink.

Oxidation – Wine exposed to air that has undergone a chemical change.

Phenolic compounds – Natural compounds present in grape skins and seeds.

Phylloxera – A microscopic insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots.

Plonk – British slang for inexpensive wine; also used to describe very low-quality wines.

Rough – The tactile “coarse” sensation one experiences with very astringent wines.

Sec – French word for “dry”.

Sommelier – A wine butler; also used to denote a certified wine professional.

Spicy – A tasting term used for odors and flavors reminiscent of black pepper, bay leaf, curry powder, baking spices, oregano, rosemary, thyme, saffron or paprika found in certain wines.

Structure – An ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins.

Sweet – Wines with perceptible sugar contents on the nose and in the mouth.

Tannins – The phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in the mouth.

Tartaric acid – The principal acid in grapes, tartaric acid promotes flavor and aging in wine.

Texture – A tasting term describing how wine feels on the palate.

Typicity – A tasting term that describes how well a wine expresses the characteristics inherent to the variety of grape.

Ullage – The empty space left in bottles and barrels as a wine evaporates.

Vegetal – Tasting term describing characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavors of the wine.  Bell peppers, grass, and asparagus are common “vegetal” descriptors.

Vinification – The process of making wine.

Vinology – The scientific study of wines and winemaking. Also, the website for the Wine School of Philadelphia.

Vitis vinifera – The species of wine that comprises over 99% of the world’s wine.

Vintage – The year a wine is bottled.  Also, the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.

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

Wine – Fermented juice from grapes.

Yeast – A microorganism endemic to vineyards and produced commercially that converts grape sugars into alcohol.

Yield – The productivity of a vineyard.

Young – An immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.  Wines meant to be drunk “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.