Have you ever gone wine tasting and had no clue about anything anyone was saying? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with these 40 common wine terms and tasting descriptions. For a full breakdown of wine terminology, we suggest our Wine Dictionary.
Wine Scent Descriptors
- Nose: In wine terms, you can’t just mention ‘the smell,’ so you talk about ‘on the nose’ instead.
- Aroma: In fancy terms, it’s what you smell; and the more you smell, the better.
- Closed: Not a good description – and refers to the inability to smell much.
- Open: When you have a range of different aromas coming forth, the wine is described as open.
- Fruity: Yes, you guessed it; it’s when you have strong aromas of fruit.
- Herbaceous: When you’re smelling herbs or any vegetables, you can describe it as herbaceous.
The Compendium of Flavor & Scent Descriptions
Wine Terms: Acidic to Cigar Box
- Acidic: When a white wine pulls the sides of your cheeks like a lemon, your wine is acidic.
- Aftertaste/finish: The taste left in your mouth after you’ve swallowed.
- The longer the taste lasts, the better the quality is. Phrases like “Long, smooth finish” will give you the wine-connoisseur-edge you’re looking for.
- Balance: How well the wine is able to juggle acidity, alcohol, sugar, aromas, and flavors in a single taste.
- A well-balanced wine won’t have an unpleasant dominance of one characteristic above the rest.
- Bitter: The phrase most loved by newbies to describe all red wine.
- Body: How heavy the wine feels in your mouth. Common descriptors are “light, medium, or full-bodied.”
- Buttery: A wine term often dedicated to Chardonnay, but can be applied to any wine that has gone through malolactic fermentation.
- Burnt: Red wines often have a smoky characteristic to it (which can be good.) However, it is considered burnt when that characteristic is unpleasant and overpowering.
- Chewy: Chewy Wine is wine with extremely high tannins and body – it dries out your mouth so much that it feels like you have to chew your way through the sip.
- Complex: This wine term is used to describe a wine that magically changes flavors from when it was first sipped to after you’ve swallowed. Here is a great time to use aftertaste in your sentence.
- Corked: In some cases, a faulty cork leaks of a chemical and contaminates the wine. The wine is then considered corked. Although it cannot make a person ill, it is extremely unpleasant.
- Crisp: The fresh, firm feeling in the mouth indicating a wine with high acidity.
- Cassis: A rich, dark wine often has these flavors of liquid-black-currents.
- Cigar box: A common flavor in red wine that resembles smokey cedar.
Wine Terms: Earthy to Tannic
- Earthy: If you taste anything in the wine that could be linked to nature, you can describe the wine as earthy. This includes everything from leaves, dust, woodlands, and even manure.
- Elegant: An adjective to use when a wine is smooth, with no harsh edges, and a light mouthfeel.
- Grippy: When you’ve swallowed a red wine and had a lingering feeling around your gums that almost pull throughout your mouth.
- Jammy: A flavor similar to jam: Sweet and berry-syrupy flavors.
- Jammy flavors are a result of low acidity and high alcohol. It does not imply residual sugar.
- Mouthfeel/texture: The texture of the wine in your mouth. Common mouthfeel descriptions include, silky, dusty, numbing, chewy and creamy.
- Minerally: Any flavors that come through that represent rocks, stone and gravel.
- Mocha: A combination of chocolate and coffee flavors found in red wine with extensive oak aging.
- Oak: Logically, when a wine has been placed inside a wine barrel, it will express flavors of wood. So, when those flavors are prominent, try the phrase, “I pick up quite a bit of oak.”
- Spicy: Often noted in red wine, spicy refers to flavors similar to black peppers.
- Tannic: Tannins are bitter compounds extracted from the seeds and skins of the grapes during red wine fermentation. Tannins give wine a dry, grippy mouthfeel.
Essential Sommelier Jargon & Wine Terms
- Appearance: When describing what the wine looks like in the glass, aim for descriptions such as cloudy and clear and try to be more specific about the shade of red or white.
- Aeration: To release all the great flavors hidden in the wine, air is often forced through the wine. It can be done in different ways, including simply leaving the wine in the glass to breathe.
- Aging: Many beginner wine lovers think it’s common knowledge that older wine is better wine. That is not always true. During wine production, wine is kept in cellars and barrels to allow the wine to age, and in return, deliver some smashing flavors. Oftentimes, that is all the time required for aging.
- Blanc de Blanc: When bubbly is made from just white grapes, oftentimes Chardonnay.
- Brut: When wine, especially sparkling wine, has little or no residual sugar, it’s called Brut.
- Bordeaux Blend: Bordeaux is a region in France, and this blend refers to two or more classical Bordeaux grape varieties present in the blend. This includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
- Browning: With Years and years of aging, red wine becomes slightly browned – and when you see it in the glass, you can say that browning has occurred.
- Decant: A form of aerating – the wine is poured into a jug-like glass (a decanter) and is either poured back into the bottle or served straight from the fancy-looking jug.
- Bottle shock: When bottles are shaken too much during transportation and it temporarily alters the flavors.
- Lees: During wine-production, wine is often left to lie in the dead yeast to add different textures – and those dead yeast particles are known as the lees.
- Vintage: The year that the wine was made is printed on the label and is known as the wine’s vintage.
We hope that this list of wine terms has helped you feel a little more confident in your next wine tasting and that it allows you to throw around some of these words like a real wine-knower!