There are a large number of commonly used words and phrases for discussing the style and character of wine. Below you will find the most frequently used ones, remember many of them overlap and there are no hard and fast rules. If it tastes good to you, then it tastes good, no matter what anyone else says!
These phrases are not a secret code, only used by an inner circle of wine experts but a way in which we can all communicate the tastes and smells that we experience when we pull the cork on a newly purchased wine.
Simply click on the A-Z links below to start talking like a connoisseur!
Tart, vinegary smell indicating the wine has been ‘got at' by bacteria
An important natural preservative which gives wine freshness and zing. Naturally present in grapes it gives red wines an appetising grip and white wines a refreshing tang. Some grape varieties are higher in natural acidity than others
The aroma, also known as the ‘nose' of a wine, is what the wine smells like. This term is generally applied to younger wines, while the term ‘Bouquet' is reserved for more aged wines
A term for the taste left on the palate after the wine has been swallowed. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Finish'
Describes wines that are overly tannic. Tannic astringency decreases with age
The first impact of a wine on your palate
A wine that is dominated by harsh acidity or tannin and is lacking the fruit needed to balance these components
Immature, not as developed as its age would lead you to expect
A wine that has the character of stewed fruit, probably from a hot vintage or an arid vineyard
A balanced wine is where all its main components - tannins, aciidity, sweetness and alcohol, are in pleasant harmony
The distinctive impact on the wine of tannins or acidity. This can be both positive and negative
The combination of fruit, extract and alcohol registered on the palate. Sometimes referred to as 'weight'
The layers of smells and aromas perceived in a wine
Described a wine that is very clear in appearance
Denotes the act of allowing the wine to ‘breathe', - ie when wine is poured from the bottle into a decanter. This act seems to release pent-up aromas which then become more pronounced
A wine that is too young or is not very aromatic. Yet to show its quality
A wine with a sticky or sweet character that is not balanced with acidity
A wine that has layers of aromas and flavours
A wine spoiled by a bad cork, can have a musty smell and flavour obscuring the normal aromas and flavours of the wine
Fresh and lively with good acidity
A term used to describe a wine with several layers of flavour
Aromas and flavours reminiscent of the earth. This is not a bad thing, some very fine Burgundies can be characterised as being ‘earthy'
An understated, classy wine
Is the finish or aftertaste after swallowing
A wine without enough structure, particularly acidity. It just feels flat and feeble!
A characteristic associated with a wine made from unripe fruit
A wine that has aromas and flavours of grass, herbs and flowers
Indicates a lack of depth and roundness in the wine
Term used when referring to the rivulets that form on the inside of a wine glass after the wine has been swirled. The higher the alcohol content the more pronounced the legs are and the longer they take to settle
The time the flavour of the wine stays in your mouth
How you might imagine a lick of flint or chalk to taste like. The wines of the Loire region in France are said to be high in minerality
An unpleasant damp, moldy aroma
The smell of a wine, same as ‘bouquet
Associated with fortified wines especially sherry, and some chardonnays and premium Burgundian wines
Describes a wine with noticeable oak aromas and flavours, reminiscent of vanilla, toast, chocolate and coffee. The wine acquires these flavours from spending time in oak barrels,
The wine has been exposed to too much air - smells of sherry (nutty aroma). Can also be confirmed by the wines colour, deep yellow in white wines and brown in red wines
The flavour of the wine
An attractive petrol like smell that can develop in wines made from the Riesling grape
A wine with noticeable acidity, often used to describe German Riesling
A sense of sweetness in the wine, or a full, well flavoured wine with plenty of alcohol
A full-bodied, impactful wine with upfront strong flavours
A wine that has a good balance, is smooth and harmonious
Wine with very little aftertaste or finsh. The flavours soon diminish once you have swallowed the wine
Describes a wine with aromas and flavours of exotic spices such as pepper, cinnamon and cloves
Used to descibe the overall balance and body of the wine. All its elements, acidity, sugar, fruit flavours and tannins, are in harmony
This is the chemical added to wine in small amounts to protect it from bacteria
The mouth puckering drying effect in the mouth that certain red wines have. It comes from the grape skins and stems, and from oak barrels. Tends to fade away or soften with age.
A wine with high levels of acidity
Same as legs. Term used when refering to the rivulets that form on the inside of a wine glass after the wine has been swirled. The higher the alcohol content the more pronounced the legs are and the longer they take to settle
The mouthfeel of the wine on your the palate. Ranging from astringent to smooth and velvety
Earthy, cabbagey, farmyard smells that can be present in red Burgundy and big Italian wines. A little bit of these smells can be nice, too much is considered a flaw
Describes a wine which is rich and ripe and is silky smooth like velvet
Smells of freshly baked bread, often found in Champagne and some Muscadets
Used to describe a really fresh and crisp white wine