The wine world may seems impenetrable, and that is especially true when it comes to the jargon. Wine has its own language, and oenophiles sometimes use terms mere mortals have a hard time understanding. So what do words like “dumb”, “volatile”, “foxy” or “reduced” really mean? Find out below!


No, “dumb” does not refer to a wine that lacks intelligence (if that even made sense). Some wines (typically age-worthy wines from Bordeaux or the Rhône Valley for example) are known to go through what we call a “dumb phase”, as part of their development. This doesn’t mean the wine is dead, but instead that it’s simply sleeping, or has “shut down” in the bottle – in simple terms, it doesn’t smell much. Wines destined for long life close down for years before developing their gorgeous flavors. A good way to track the development of the wine and making sure it isn’t dumb, or “closed”, is to use your Coravin for a small taste. If you are curious to learn more, here is a very thorough explanation of the phenomenon by Charles Curtis, MW.


The term “foxy” refers to a distinctive note found in some wines – and not a very positive one; especially if that note is too overpowering. A foxy wine smells and tastes sort of musky, funky, wild. If you’ve ever drank a glass of Welch's Concord grape juice, then you have a god idea of what a foxy wine is. It’s generally associated with certain grapes, such as Niagara or Baco Noir.


A reduced wine is one that hasn’t been exposed enough to oxygen during the winemaking process, causing its sulfurous smell. Decanting is usually a good way to get rid of these unpleasant aromas – or not.

Read the rest of the article on The Wall Street Journal.