The Unalternative Wine Glossary: H

Here is a lexicon of definitions of key wine words. The definitions are not intended to be scientifically objective and, in many cases, will be somewhat simplistic. Some will describe the technical side of wine(s), others will examine the more abstract and aesthetic ideas behind wine.

Previously: A’s, B’s, C’sD’s , E’s & F’s and G’s (that’s right, this is so unalternative we’re even posting alphabetically…)


Hard. In wine tasting terms this relates to a wine that is tannic, to the extent of being unbalanced at the time of tasting. The tannins mask the fruit or it may be that the fruit is insufficient to fill out the tannins. This is a function of youth for some wines, and these wines may “soften” with age, or it may be a result of over-extraction, or to do with the quality of oak used in the barrels.

Harmonious. Describes a wine that is perfectly balanced. Usually, this means that the wine has a certain degree of complexity and various elements which need to come together in organoleptic proportion to each other for it to be harmonious such as fruit, acidity, tannin, extract, and aromatics. When everything is perfectly combined, then the wine becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Harsh. A hard wine with excessive acidity will be “harsh”. The acid accentuates the tannins and increases the drying sensation known as astringency. This will leave a bitter, occasionally even a metallic, sensation in the mouth.

Head-trained. Refers to a method of vine training. Head-trained vines are free-standing; a trunk is formed from which several branches will grow vertically, resembling a small tree. Often used interchangeably with gobelet vines. A throwback to the times when metal wiring was scarce and a training found in warm and dry regions, where humidity is less of an issue.

Heavy. Used in wine tasting to imply that the wine is out of balance and feels clumsy, particularly with regard to the tannins. The other definition is that it is noticeably alcohol and therefore difficult to drink.

Hectare. The metric unit for measuring land area. It is 10,000 square meters. One hectare = 2.471 acres.

Herbaceous. A green, vegetable – or vegetal – smell in wine. For example, Sauvignon Blanc is grassy when subtle, herbaceous when prominent. Not to be confused with herby which often references the aromas and flavours of the garrigue, maquis, fynbos – rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon verbena, dill and so forth. In cooler vintages or when grapes are harvested underripe, wines can display vegetal notes. However, for those not so keen on dark extractive wines, this can be quite a pleasant taste.

Hollow. A wine lacking both mid-palate and a defining structure. Hollow wines will tend to have diluted fruit-flavours (often the result of high yields and insufficiently ripe fruit). When oak dominates the fruit, or the wine is lacking in sufficient acidity, the wine will also be hollow.

Hot. The burning sensation of excessive or out-of-balance alcohol in wine.

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