Do You Know These Bizarre Wine Terms?

A wine thief goes in the bung.

by Erin

There’s a reason those of us in the wine industry are often considered pretentious. Well, there’s a lot of reasons.

But today I’m talking about one case in particular: our bizarre wine language that’s tough to decipher unless you really take serious study.

These wine terms are often flung about so casually by sommeliers, it’s understandable the casual wine lover would get irritated with our ridiculousness.

Here’s a quick primer on the bizarre – and often hilarious – words of the wine world, so you can see a somm’s bung hole and raise them your punt.

Seriously, these are official wine terms

Bottle Sickness:

I feel like I experienced this last Saturday morning after a lovely night out on the town. But that’s another story. Instead, bottle sickness, also known as bottle shock explains the temporary muted or disjointed flavours of a wine that can happen right after bottling. This is also why wineries have the bottles rest for a few weeks or months before selling them.

Bung hole:

I find it shocking people can say this with a straight face. But I’ve never been accused of being mature. A bung is simply the hole in the top of the barrel where wine is poured in and out. There’s also a bung stopper, FYI.

Cold soak:

Some of us may have done this after a date that didn't turn out the way we had hoped. But in wine, this is a common wine making technique that happens when just-picked grapes are allowed to sit for a while in a chilled tank prior to pressing and fermentation.


Good gawd, who thought this is a proper expression to casually drop into dinner party conversation? When someone blathers on about committing infanticide, they’re not discussing their murderous exploits of under agers. When it comes to wine, the snob no one admits to inviting is talking about opening a wine bottle years before it's ready. Typically a posh bottle that would be better after cellaring a few years to allow the flavours to come together. 


One of my favourite wine stories is of the great Mae West who had ordered Champagne. The server poured it for her, placing his thumb in the divot at the bottom of the bottle. Mae took a long drag off her cigarette, and with a slow exhale, turned to him and said, “my dear sir, get your thumb out of my punt!” While many servers and somms might use the indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle as a resting place for their first digit, a punt's role is not for ease of pouring. According to physics, punts came about to help distribute weight and pressure in the glass and therefore avoid breakage.


Whether it be in people, the stock market, airplanes, or wine, no one likes volatility. In the case of wine, volatile refers to excessive acids which can taste excessively sour or vinegary.

Wine Thief:

Nope. This is not what my parents called me when I raided their liquor cabinet as a teenager. This is a glass or plastic tube used by wine makers to extract wine samples from the barrel – through the bung, incidentally.

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