GLOSSARY OF WINETASTING TERMS.
[A] acetic - acid(ity) -
aftertaste - age(d) -
alcohol - angular -
appley - aroma -
ascescence - astringent -
attack - attractive -
[B] backbone - backward -
balance - berrylike -
big - bitter - body -
botrytis - bouquet -
brawny - breathe/breathing -
briary - brilliant -
brix - browning -
[C] candylike - cedar(wood)
- charming - chewy -
cigarbox - citrusy -
closed-in - cloudy -
cloying - complex -
corked - creamy -
[D] decanting - delicate -
depth - dessert wine -
dirty - dry - dumb
[E] earthy - easy -
elegant - essence -
ethyl acetate -
[F] fat - filtered -
fined - finish - firm
- flat - fleshy -
flint(y) - floral - forward -
foxy - fresh - fruity
- full-bodied - funky
[G] gamey/gamelike - glycerin/glycerol
- grapefruity - grapey -
grassy - green
[H] hard - harsh - hazy
- hearty - herbaceous
- hollow - hot
[L] leafy - lean - lees
- legs - lemony - length - light - lingering - lively -
[M] maderized - malolactic
fermentation - matchstick - meager - meaty -
mouth-filling - musty
[N] nose - nouveau -
[O] oaky - oily - open-up - overipe -
[P] peppery - perfumed -
plump - ponderous -
powerful - pruney -
[R] racking - raisiny -
refined - residual sugar -
rich - rim - ripe -
robust - rotten egg -
rough - round - rustic
[S] salty - sharp - simple - smoky - soft -
sour - spicy - spritzy - stale -
stoney/stonelike - structure -
sturdy - stylish -
supple - sweet
[T] tanky - tannin - tarry/tarlike - tart - taste - tears -
terroir - thin (bodied) -
tight - toasty -
[U] underipe - unfiltered -
[V] vanilla - vanillin -
varietal character - vegetal -
vinous - vitis labrusca
- vitis vinifera - volatile
[W] warm - watery - weighty - well-balanced -
- ACETIC (see also ASCESCENCE).
- All wines contain acetic acid - (ie: vinegar). Normally the amount is
insignificant and may even enhance flavor. At a little less than 0.10%
content, the flavor becomes noticable and the wine is termed acetic.
Above 0.10% content is considered a strong fault. A related substance,
ethyl acetate, contributes the smell associated
with acetic acid content.
- Acid ... term used to describe a tart or sour taste in the mouth when
total acidity of the wine is high.
Acidity ... term used on labels to express the total acid content of
the wine. The acids referred to are citric, lactic, malic and tartaric.
Desirable acid content on dry wines falls between 0.6% and 0.75% of the
wines volume. For sweet wines it should not be less than 0.70% of the
- AFTERTASTE (see also FINISH,
LENGTH) - a.k.a Farewell, Fairwell.
- Term used to describe the taste left in the mouth after swallowing the
wine. Both character and length of the aftertaste are part of the total
evaluation. May be harsh, hot,
soft and lingering, short, smooth, tannic, or nonexistent.
- AGE/AGED (see also MADERIZED,
- White wines tend to turn from a greenish hue in young wines to a yellowish
caste/tone to a gold/amber color as they age. Reds usually possess a
purple tone when young, turning to a deep red - (Bordeaux wines) - or a
brick red color - (Burgundy wines) - detectable at the surface edge in a
wineglass as they age. Rose's should be pink with no tinge of yellow or
Cellar aged red wines at their peak will show a deep golden-orange color
as it thins at the surface edge. If the wine color has deepened into a
distinctly brown-orange tint at the edge it usually indicates a wine past
its peak and declining.
- ALCOHOL (see also LEGS, TEARS).
- This constituent of wine is a natural by-product of fermentation. It
is one of the main pillars of perceived flavor, the others being
"Acid", "residual Sugar"
(and/or "Glycerin") and "Tannin".
The presence of these
components define a wine that has "good balance".
For tablewines the wine
label must, by law, state the alcohol content of the wine within the
bottle, usually expressed as a percentage of the volume.
Table wines do not usually exceed 14% alcohol content - (11% to 12.5% is
generally considered the optimum amount) - although a few, such as the
"jaune vin" of the Jura region of France are fermented in a special manner
to attain consistently higher levels in the 14.5 to 15.5% range. Sweet dessert wines fall in the
same range. Fortified wines - (eg: Sherry, Port
etc) - range from 17% to 21% alcohol content.
- ANGULAR (see also AUSTERE, CRISP, FRESH below).
- The total effect of dominant, tart-edged flavors and taste impressions in
many young dry wines. Has opposite meaning to round, soft or supple.
- Refers to smell or aroma of a wine, usually carrying
"Ripe apples" describes a full, fruity, clean smell
associated with some
styles of Chardonnay wine. "Fresh apples" does the same for some types
types of Riesling. "Green apple", however, is almost always reserved for
wines made from barely ripe or underripe grapes.
"Stale apples" applies
almost exclusively to flawed wine exhibiting first stage oxidation.
- AROMA (see also BOUQUET, NOSE below).
- The intensity and character of the aroma can be assessed with nearly any
descriptive adjective. (eg: from "appley" to "raisiny", "fresh" to "tired", etc.).
Usually refers to the particular smell of the grape
variety. The word "bouquet" is usually restricted
to describing the aroma
of a cellar-aged bottled wine.
- "Ascescence" is the term used to mark the presence of acetic acid and ethyl
acetate. Detected by sweet and sour, sometimes vinegary smell and taste
along with a sharp feeling in the mouth.
- Descriptive of wines that have a rough, puckery taste. Usually can be
attributed to high tannin content. Tannic astringency
will normally decrease with age. However, sometimes the wine fails to
outlive the tannin.
- ATTACK (see also LIGHT, THIN below).
- The initial impact of a wine. If not strong or flavorful, the wine is
considered "feeble". "Feeble" wines are sometimes
encountered among those
vinified in a year where late rain just before harvest diluted desirable
- The winetaster liked it anyway; a slight put down for expensive wines, a
compliment for others.
- Usually used in description of dry, relatively hard and acidic wines that
seem to lack depth and roundness.
Such wines may soften a bit with age.
Term often applied to wines made from noble grape varieties grown in cool
climates or harvested too early in the season.
- BACKBONE (see also BODY).
- Refers to big, full-bodied red
wines with evident tannin and/or acidity.
- Describes a wine that retains youthful characteristics despite considerable
aging. This usually indicates that it will take longer to reach maturity
and requires even more aging in the bottle or barrel. Opposite of forward.
- Denotes harmonious balance of wine elements - (ie: no individual part is
dominant). Acid balances the sweetness; fruit balances against oak and tannin content; alcohol is balanced against acidity and flavor. Wine not
in balance may be acidic, cloying, flat or harsh etc.
- BERRYLIKE (see also HERBACEOUS).
- Equates with the ripe, sweet, fruity quality of blackberries, raspberries,
cranberries and cherries. The aroma and taste of red wines, particularly
Zinfandel, are often partly described with this adjective.
- The overall flavor of a wine, white or red, that has full, rich flavors.
"Big" red wines are often tannic. "Big" white wines
are generally high
in alcohol and glycerin.
Sometimes implies clumsiness, the opposite of
elegance. Generally positive, but context is
essential - (eg: A
Bordeaux red wine shouldn't be as "big" as a California Cabernet Sauvignon).
- BITTER (see also SALTY, SOUR and SWEET).
- One of the four basic tastes. A major source of
bitterness is the tannin
content of a wine. Some grapes - (Gewurztraminer, Muscat) - have a
bitter edge to their flavor. If the bitter component dominates in the
aroma or taste of a wine it is considered a fault.
Sweet dessert wines may have
an enhanced bitter component that complements the other flavors making for
a successful overall taste balance.
- The effect on the taster's palate usually experienced from a combination
of alcohol, glycerin and sugar content. Often described as "full",
"meaty" or "weighty".
- "Botrytis Cinerea", a mold or fungus that attacks grapes in humid climate
conditions, causing the concentration of sugar and acid content by making
grapes at a certain level of maturity shrivel. On the Riesling grape it
allows a uniquely aromatic and flavorful wine to be made, resulting in the
extraordinary "Beerenauslese" style of wine.
- BOUQUET (see NOSE).
- Near synonym for "aroma". Term generally restricted to
description of odors from poured bottled wines.
- Term used mainly to describe young red wines with high alcohol and tannin
levels. Certain red wines from Amador County, California, can be examples.
The mild epithet "tooth-stainers" is sometimes applied to this style of
wine, denoting respect for strength.
- BREATHE/BREATHING (see also OPEN-UP).
- Denotes the act of allowing the wine to "breathe"; ie: when wine is poured
into another container, such as a wineglass, the admixture of air seems
to release pent-up aromas which then become more
pronounced, in many cases, as minutes/hours pass.
- BREED (see also COMPLEX, ELEGANT).
- Term reserved for wines from the best grape varieties, the so-called "noble
grapes". Denotes wines judged to have reached classical expectations of
aroma, balance, structure and varietal
- Denotes a wine having an aggressive, prickly taste best described as
"peppery". Sometimes combined with the adjective
"brawny" to characterize a young red wine with high alcohol and tannin content.
- BRILLIANT (see also CLOUDY,
HAZY, UNFILTERED elsewhere).
- Very clear (and transparent in white wines) appearance with no visible
particulates or suspensions. May be sign of flavor deficiency in heavily
- Measurement system used for sugar content of grapes,
wine and related
products. A reading of 20 to 25 deg. Brix is the optimum degree of
grape ripeness at harvest for the majority of table wines.
A quick conversion method for users requiring Specific Gravity units
of measurement is to take the Brix reading, deg. Brix (as Sucrose, for
which most refractometers are calibrated), and multiply by 0.00425 and
then add 0.9988 to the resulting number. This will give a close
aproximation to the equivalent figure for the S.G of Sucrose at 20 deg. C.
Ex: A Brix reading of 18 equals S.G. 1.074. Using the conversion technique
above gives a figure of 1.075 which is close enough for most users.
- BROWNING (see also MADERIZED,
- Denotes ageing in a wine. Young wine color tints show no sign of such
"browning". If possessed of good character and depth,
a wine can still
be very enjoyable even with a pronounced "brown" tint. In average wines
this tint, seen along the wine surface edge in a tilted glass goblet,
normally signals a wine is "past its peak", although still very drinkable.
- BUTTERY (see also CREAMY,
- Describes taste sensation found in better white wines, particularly
- Refers to the perfumed fresh fruit aromas and flavors of the
can be attractive in wines made for early
consumption. These include pink
Rose style, "nouveau" Beaujolais etc. Many consider
it a less desirable
characteristic in longer-aging reds and better whites.
- CEDAR/CEDARWOOD (see also CIGARBOX).
- Aroma component often found in fine red wines.
- A patronizing comment applied to wines that don't quite fulfil the first
expectations. Implies lightness, an expression of
used to describe certain wines made from the Chenin Blanc grape and styled
after a type of wine originating from the Loire region of France.
- Refers to a high total tannic component of a wine.
Figuratively, one cannot
swallow this wine without chewing first.
- Near synonym for "tobacco" aroma
detected in the nose, especially if a
"cedarwood" component is present. Spanish cedarwood is
the traditional material for making cigar boxes.
- Describes aroma and flavor reminiscent of citrus
fruits. Most common is
a perception of "grapefruit" content. Most often
detected in white wines made from grapes grown in cooler regions of
California or other countries.
- CLOSED-IN (see also DUMB, OPEN-UP).
- Term descriptive of currently poor character definition but with all the
correct characteristics. Usually expected to develop with age. Applies
mainly to young, intense wines vinified for long life expectancy.
- CLOUDY (see also BRILLIANT,
- Opposite of clear. Noticable cloudiness is undesirable except in cellar
aged wines that have not been decanted properly. A
characteristic of some unfiltered wines showing
the result of winemaking mistakes and often possessing an unpleasant
- CLOYING (see also SWEET below).
- Excessive sugar component annoys with dominating flavor
and aftertaste. The wine is then demonstrably unbalanced relative to the other components.
- COMPLEX (see also ELEGANT).
- Almost a synonym for "breed". Possesses that elusive
quality where many layers of flavor separate a great wine from a very good
one. Balance combines all flavor and taste components in almost miraculous harmony.
- Wine has unpleasant taste/smell. Reason is thought to be chemical changes
in the wine due to insufficiently sterilized cork stopper inserted at
- Refers to "silk-like" taste component of wines subjected to malolactic
fermention as opposed to the "tart/crisp" taste component of the same wine
lacking the treatment. Almost a synonym for "buttery".
Opposite of "crisp".
- Wine has pronounced but pleasing tartness, acidity. Fresh, young and
eager, begs to be drunk. Generally used to describe white wines only,
especially those of Muscadet de Sevres et Maine from the Loire region of
- A method by which cellar-aged bottled wine is poured slowly and carefully
into a second vessel, usually a glass decanter, in order to leave any
sediment in the original bottle before serving. Almost always a treatment
confined to red wines. The traditional method uses a candle flame as the
light for illuminating the neck of the bottle while the wine is passing
by. The low intensity of the light is ideal for viewing since it does not
strain the eyes. Care must be taken NOT to allow the flame to heat the
wine while performing this ritual.
- Any wine demonstrating somewhat mild, but attractive characteristics.
Occasionally used to describe well-made wines from the so-called "lesser
- DEPTH, DEEP (see also LINGERING).
- Refers to a premium wine that demands more attention, it fills the mouth
with a developing flavor, there are subtle layers of flavor that go "deep."
- DESSERT WINE
- Has two meanings:
- Fortified wine - eg: Sherry - where alcohol is
added in the form of Brandy or neutral spirits.
- Sweet or very sweet wines of any alcohol level
customarily drunk with dessert or by themselves and usually in small
- DIRECT (see also EASY, SIMPLE).
- Everything present in this wine is immediately obvious.
- DIRTY (see also YEASTY/YEASTLIKE below).
- Describes any of the undesirable odours that can be present in a wine that
that was poorly vinified. A characteristic imparted by improperly cleaned
barrels or various other processes performed incorrectly. Usually detected
first in a wine by the smell of the cork stopper or from a barrel sample.
Not to be confused with corked wines where the stopper
is thought to be responsible.
- Description of a wine made deliberately to possess little or no sweetness. Commonly defined as containing less than about
0.5% residual sugar.
- Characteristic description of a young wine with yet-to-develop aromas and flavours. A synonym for "closed-in". Named so because it seems "unable
- EARTHY (see also NOSE, STONEY, VEGETAL, YEASTY/YEASTLIKE).
- Covers situations where a "mother-earth" component is present. Earth
is soil-dirt, but an earthy wine is not dirty as in "DIRTY" above. The
term appears to be applicable to wine thought, by some, to be made from
grapes grown on vines planted in land previously used for growing certain
vegetables containing components which "marked" the soil in some way.
European tasters use the term in a broader sense to describe
- EASY (see also DIRECT, SIMPLE).
- Undemanding but pleasant, doesn't require good taste, just tastes good.
- ELEGANT (see also COMPLEX).
- What to say when there is great balance and grace in
the wine, but you can't quite find apt words of description. Almost a
synonym for "breed".
- ESSENCE (see also NOSE below).
- Two meanings:
- Refers to "odor kits" containing vials of representative flavor
- Used occasionally by wineries to describe a late harvest, sweet red wine. Most frequently appears on bottle
labels for Zinfandel red wine made from
grapes picked at 35 deg. Brix or higher sugar content.
- ETHYL ACETATE
- A substance which contributes the smell associated
with acetic acid content.
- Refers to the coloring imparted to wines during the fermentation process
by the skins of the grapes used. Can also occur in the further step known
as "maceration" where new wine is allowed to steep with the skins again.
This second step usually results in a "highly extracted" style of wine,
deeply colored with strong flavors and tannin. Rose's, (aka "blush" wines),
are normally made by limiting contact with the skins, the opposite of
- Fills the mouth without aggression. The wine "feels" and tastes a little
obvious and often lacks elegance but is prized by
connoisseurs of sweet dessert
wines. Not quite right even for a late harvest Moselle Riesling, but
just right for a classic Sauternes. Fatness/oiliness is
determined by the naturally occurring glycerol -
(a.k.a glycerin) - content in the wine.
- Wines that have had suspended particulates resulting from the fermentation
process removed. Important for future clarity and stability of a wine.
- Use of various materials for clarifying wines. These materials precipitate
to the bottom of the fermentation process vessel carrying any suspended
particulate matter with them.
- FINISH (see AFTERTASTE).
- As in "this wine has a (whatever) finish".
- FIRM (see AUSTERE).
- Attacks the palate with acid or
tannic astringency. Suggests
that the wine is young and will age. Nearly always a positive comment and
very desirable with highly flavored foods.
- FLAT (see also MEAGER, THIN).
- Opposite of "firm". Usually indicates very low acidity, so tasting insipid and lacking flavor.
- Refers to both body and texture. A fleshy wine tastes
fatter than a meaty
wine, exhibiting some excess oiliness if too pronounced.
Often suggests great smoothness and richness.
- Synonym for "stoney". Derived from French phrase "gout
de pierre a fusil", literally a smoky, whiff of gunflint, almost acrid
taste. These terms are presumably metaphorical
approximations based on the flavor sensations allegedly present in wines
made from grapes grown on a limestone/silica rich terroir.
"Flinty" describes an initial evaluation indicating a young white wine
made from cool region grapes under cold fermentation conditions.
Characterized by high acidity, a tactile "mouthfeel"
that is filling and yet has a flavor sensation that is cleanly
- FLORAL/FLOWERY (see also NOSE).
- Suggests the aroma or taste, usually
aroma, of flowers in wine. "Floral"
usually employed as an adjective without modifier to describe attributes
of white wine aromas. Few red wines have floral aromas.
- Opposite of "closed-in" or, as used by some, backward. Means presence of "fruitiness" is
immmediately apparent. Usually employed as a term denoting that the wine
is in peak condition and on its plateau of maturity.
- FOXY (see also GRAPEY, VITIS LABRUSCA below).
- Common descriptive word used to note the presence of the unique musky
and grapey character attached to native american Vitis. labrusca grapes
such as the Concord or Catawba varieties. Derived from the french phrase
"gout de renard" which literally translates as "odor" or "taste" of fox,
but means something more like "presence of fox" in the intangible sense.
The aroma and flavors defy verbal description.
The best way to imprint
"foxiness" in the memory is to mentally compare the flavors of fresh
Concord grapes and any fresh California table grape. Most people find the
juice or jelly from the Concord grape quite sprightly and delicious. In
dry table wines that same flavor is considered obtrusive
and even quite disagreeable.
- Implies the lively fruity acidity, maybe a little bite of acid, found in
youthful light reds, rose's and most whites. All young whites should be
fresh. The opposite is flatness, staleness.
- Used for any quality that refers to the body and richness of a wine made from good, ripe grapes.
A fruity wine has an "appley", "berrylike" or herbaceous
character. "Fruitiness" usually implies a little extra
- As opposed to "thin" or "thin-bodied". Fills the mouth,
has a winey taste, alcohol is present, the wine has
"weight on the tongue".
- 1970's jargon word. Defies precise definition. Used by some Canadian
tasters when reviewing provincial Liquor Control Board offerings.
- GAMEY/GAMELIKE (see also NOSE).
- Descriptive term for one of the flavors/aromas
considered particular to
Burgundian style Pinot Noir red wines. Reminiscent of taste and flavor
associated with cooked wild duck and other "gamey" meats. Thought to
to be caused by contamination with "brett" - (brettanomyces strain of
yeast). Sometimes referred to as "animale" by french
winemakers or "sweaty saddle" by Australians. Considered a major flaw
when flavour is overly-pronounced.
- Gives a sweet taste on the tongue
tip. Higher concentrations are found
in high-alcohol and late-harvest wines, leading to
sensations of smooth
slipperiness giving a sense of fullness to the wine body. Is a natural
by-product of the fermentation process.
- Grapefruit flavours are characteristic of cool-climate Chardonnays. See
- GRAPEY (see also VITIS
- Content has simple flavors and aromas reminiscent of a
certain type of
fresh wine or table grape. Used by some as adjective alternate for "foxy".
- Slightly vegetal-tasting undertone often part of the
of Sauvignon Blanc and certain
other grape varietals. European tasters
sometimes use the word "gooseberry" to describe this flavor. In minute
presence it can enhance flavors. As it becomes more dominant the more
it loses appeal leading to unattractiveness.
- GREEN (see also ANGULAR).
- Strictly applied refers to the taste of wines made with
More loosely used it refers to some white wines, especially Riesling,
possessing the greenish colour tint indicating youth; does not necessarily
mean the sour and/or grassy taste of
unripe fruit content as well.
- High acidity and/or tannin content
leading to a sensation of dryness in
the mouth, a degree of puckery-ness. Useful for
detecting young red wines
suitable for aging. Characteristic preferred in dry white wines that will
- Very astringent wines, usually with high alcohol component, often have
this rough, rustic taste
characteristic. May become more tolerable with
ageing but also may not be worth the wait.
- HAZY (see also BRILLIANT, CLOUDY, FILTERED).
- Refers to wines with slight particulate content when viewed against the
light. Occurs most often in unfiltered or unfined wines where there is no
need to worry. If the haziness is intense enough to cause loss of clarity
however it may indicate a flawed wine.
- HEARTY (see also STURDY).
- Most often applied in description of full, warm qualities found in red
wines with high alcohol component. Examples are
found in the sturdier
so-called "jug wines", some California Zinfandels, lesser French Rhone or
Algerian red wines and in the occasional lesser Australian Shiraz.
- HERBACEOUS (see also GRASSY).
- Adjective used in description of wine with taste and
aroma of herbs,
(usually undefined). Considered to be a varietal characteristic of
Cabernet Sauvignon, and to less
extent, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
- HOLLOW (see also AFTERTASTE).
- Missing middle between "attack" and "finish". Caused by too many grapes
on insufficiently pruned vines. If very noticeable, called "empty".
- HOT (see also AFTERTASTE).
- Defines a wine high in alcohol and giving a prickly
or burning sensation
on the palate. Accepted in fortified wines, but not considered as a
particularly desirable attribute in Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay.
Positively undesirable in light, fruity wines, (eg: Moselle Rieslings).
- Word most often encountered in descriptions of California Zinfandel wines
made with Amador County grapes. Refers to the natural berrylike taste of this grape.
- LEAFY (see YEASTY/YEASTLIKE).
- Somewhat analogous to "vegetal". Desirable in minute
if adding to notes of complexity in the wine.
- LEAN (see also BODY, THIN elsewhere).
- More body would be good, sort of thin
in the mouth, often too much
astringency, sometimes a compliment for certain
- LEES (see also NUTTY).
- Refers to residual yeast and other particles that
precipitate, or are
carried by the action of "fining", to the bottom of the
vessel. US winemakers use the term "mud". Imparts distinctive flavors
to the wine depending on type. Derived from French term "lies" as in
- LEGS (see also FIRM, TEARS).
- Two interpretations.
- Term used when referring to the liquid rivulets that form on the inside
of a wineglass bowl after the wine is swirled in order to evaluate the
concentration present. Usually the higher the alcohol content,
the more impressive the rivulets appear because of reduced surface tension
effects. (Some still cling to the erroneous belief that glycerin content
causes these rivulets). Valuable technique when used in "blind" tasting
- Alternatively, is used by some as a near synonym for "balance" as in
"This wine has _legs_", ie: underpinnings. Indicates the wine has all
the basic characteristics looked for in when making an initial assessment.
- Descriptive of a somewhat acidic white wine. These
wines contain flavors
reminiscent of that fruit. Apart from that, may be well balanced in all
other respects, sometimes with a touch of extra sweetness.
- LENGTH (see also AFTERTASTE).
- How long the total flavor lasts in the back of the throat after swallowing.
Counted in time-seconds. Ten seconds is good, fifteen is great, twenty is
superb. Almost a synonym for "finish", as in "this is
a wine with an long, extraordinary finish".
- Low alcohol and/or sugar. Since
about 1981 a wine containing fewer
calories per comparable serving than a regular glass of wine has been
legally designated as such. Used as a tasting term, "light" is usually
a polite expression meaning "watery".
- LINGERING (see AFTERTASTE,
- Almost a synonym for fresh. Implies detection of
spritzyness. Applies most often to white wines, but
some reds also qualify.
- LUSH (see also SWEET below).
- Describes impression of wines with high amounts of residual
Adjective almost entirely reserved for sweet
- Distinctive brown color in wine due usually to
period of air exposure.
Regarded as synonym for "oxidized". Originates from
of Madeira wines. "Sherrified" is commonly used synonym.
- MALOLACTIC FERMENTATION
- Secondary fermentation occasionally detected in bottled wines. Its action
converts the naturally occurring Malic acid into Lactic acid plus Carbon
Dioxide gas. Reduces total acidity by this action.
Since the gas is
contaminated with undesirable odors, if it remains trapped in the bottle
it becomes a minor fault unless allowed to dissipate. Malolactic
fermentation is a commonly used technique for reducing the sharpness of
cool climate Chardonnays and
the Lactic acid component gives an admired "creamy"
or "buttery" texture.
- Describes the odor of Sulphur Dioxide gas, described by some as similar to
the smell of "burnt matches", found in minute amounts very occasionally
trapped in bottled white wines. Dissipates with airing or decanting.
- MEAGER (see also THIN, WATERY).
- Lacks "body" and "depth". Has
definite feeling of flavor dilution. Seems
to occur in some select varietal wines vinified from grapes subjected to
late season rain, although there are other explanations as well.
- MEATY (see also FAT, OILY).
- With much body as though you could chew it. The
reference is to lean
meat, so indicates less body present than "fleshy".
- Wines possessing intense flavors which seem to affect every sensory nerve
in the mouth. Usually slightly high glycerin
component, slightly low acid.
- MUSTY (also see DIRTY, CORKED).
- A wine that displays unpleasant "mildew" or "moldy" aromas. Results from
improperly cleaned storage vessels, moldy grapes or cork.
- Not the fleshy sense-organ/projection on the human face. Is near synonym
word for "aroma" and includes "bouquet". Strictly applied it refers to
the totality of the detectable odor, (grape variety,
fermentation smells), whether desirable or defective, found in a wine.
One would speak of a mature wine as having, for example, "varietal aromas,
flowery bouquet and hint of vanilla oak combining to give balanced
The sense organs of the human nose can be educated by the use of purchased
odor comparison kits known by such names as "Le Nez du Vin", "Component
Collection" or "Winealyser". These can sometimes be obtained at the
various Home Wine Makers mail suppliers (etc.) around the country.
- NOUVEAU (a.k.a. "Nuevo").
- Indicates young, immediately drinkable wine - (eg: "nouveau Beaujolais").
- NUTTY (see also MADERIZED,
- Table wines that have been exposed to air display this aroma which
resembles that of certain sherry wines. Considered a flaw by some
in red wines, but a desired flavor component in certain white wines
by others. (eg: Chardonnays with extended "lees"
contact in the fermentation vessel).
- The taste or aroma of freshly sawn
oak. When a wine, especially a red,
is "oaked" just right, the "nose" will carry a bare
whiff of vanilla
aroma. Sometimes, oak flavors overpower other component wine flavors,
in which case it is considered overoaked. Oak flavor is introduced from
contact with storage barrels made from that wood. New oak barrels
contribute stronger flavor to a wine than older storage barrels. The
"oaky" components encountered include "vanillin",
and so-called "toasty"
"charred" or "roasted" elements. "Vanillin" comes from the character of
the hardwood. The three others derive from the "charring" of the barrel
which occurs from heating the iron stave-rings which hold the barrel
staves in place after contraction and the flaming of the interior.
- OILY (see also FAT, GLYCERIN/GLYCEROL elsewhere)
- Describes the vaguely fat, slippery sensation on the
palate in contact
with the combination of high glycerin and slightly
low acid content.
Mostly encountered in high quality Chardonnays and late harvest sweet wines.
- OPEN-UP/OPENING-UP (see also CLOSED-IN).
- Some bottled cellar-aged red wines possess the peculiarity that, when the
cork is first pulled and the wine poured, the full flavors do not
immediately make an appearance. However, after the passage of several
minutes in an open glass goblet, the wine develops unsuspected flavor
characteristics that can verge on the sublime. This phenomenon is referred
to as "opening-up". Conversely, these flavors can disappear just as fast
in just 30 minutes, leaving a subsequent impression of a flat, stale,
"over-the-hill" and/or mediocre wine.
- A grape precondition necessary for making certain styles of Californian
Zinfandel wines. Left on the vine to dry in the sun, certain grape
varietals will develop the desirable "raisiny"
character and concentrated
sugar necessary for making specialty wines such as the
famous Hungarian Tokay.
- OXIDIZED (see MADERIZED,
- Term almost solely applied to "spicy" wines, such as
among the whites, or the red Rhone Syrah and Australian Shiraz wines.
Component which can almost be described as pungent in quality, being
reminiscent of anise, cinnamon etc.
- PERFUMED (see CANDYLIKE,
- Synonym for "floral". Implies also a degree of extra
- The diminutive of "fat", also implying a degree of
"charm" as well.
- Even less balanced than a "hearty" or "sturdy" wine. The sole impact
is one of high alcohol and "body"
character. Little or no acid/tannin
content. An everyday red wine, similar to a french "vin ordinaire"
country wine sold by alcohol content, can be an example.
- Close to being a synonym for BRAWNY.
- Overripe, sun-dried grapes can induce an undesirable
pungent quality into
table wines; sometimes compared to "the taste of dried prunes".
- PUCKERY (see also HARD,
- Synonym for ASTRINGENT.
- RACKING (see also FILTERED,
- Traditional method of wine clarification. Sequential transfer of wine
to several containers, each transfer leaving behind some particulate
- Mildly rich flavor due to excessive heat in the growing area which dries
out grapes still on the vine. Considered a fault in most dry table wines.
- Term for well-balanced wines. Mostly refers to reds,
such as Zinfandel,
which normally turn "powerful" in the barrel.
Almost a synonym for "elegant".
- RESIDUAL SUGAR (see also SWEET).
- Percentage, by weight or volume, of the unfermented grape sugar in a
- Giving a full, opulent flavor impression without
necessarily being sweet.
Richness supplied by alcohol, glycerin and oak vanilla nuances in dry
wine. The sweeter wines qualify for this adjective if also characterized
by ripe, fruity flavors.
- RIM (see also AGE/AGING,
- Refers to edge of wine surface as seen through a "ballon" (goblet) style
wineglass held at an angle of about 30-40 deg. from the vertical and
viewed against white piece of paper or cloth using natural light. Used in
evaluation of wine age. In "blind" tasting is about the only way to get an
informed perception about the probable life and/or condition of the wine
from that date on.
- Favorable adjective bestowed when the varietal
characteristics of the grape
are optimally present in a well balanced wine.
Ripe-tasting wines tend
toward being slightly more fruity and sweet than otherwise normal wines.
- ROBUST (see also BRAWNY).
- Vigorous, full with a lot of heart, a big scaled wine.
- ROTTEN EGG
- Smell of Hydrogen Sulphide gas in wine. Thought to be a characteristic
imparted by certain yeast strains. A decided flaw.
- ROUGH (see also ASTRINGENT).
- Flavor or texture give no pleasure. Acidity and/or
tannin are predominant and coarse.
- ROUND (see also REFINED).
- Describes flavors and tactile sensations giving a feeling of completeness
with no dominating characteristic. Almost the same as fat, but with more
approval. Tannin, acid and
glycerin are sufficiently present but appear
as nuances rather than distinct flavors.
- Synonym for "rough".
- One of the four basic taste sensations detected by the
Sensed by the taste buds that lie close to the tip of the tongue and
- SHARP (see also CRISP,
- Excess acid predominates, disturbing the otherwise
- Normal, everyday, well-vinified table wine of straightforward character.
- SMOKE/SMOKY (see also OAKY,
- Apparently has two meanings:
- Some use the word in the same sense as the smell/flavor that separates
smoked (anything) from ordinary (anything).
- Refers to aroma contributed by the charred oakwood
in barrels. It
can have a variety of impressions - (eg: such as the remains of a
burnt-out fire). Needs a variant, such as "wood-smoke" or "barbeque
smoke" or "sooty" to fully convey the meaning.
- SOFT (see also LIGHT).
- Generally has low acid/tannin
content. Also describes wines with low
alcohol content. Consequently has little impact on
- SOUR (see also CRISP,
- Almost a synonym for ACIDIC. Implies presence of
acetic acid plus excess
acid component. (Is also one of the four basic taste
sensations detected by the human tongue).
- Almost a synonym for "peppery". Implies a softer,
more rounded flavor
- SPRITZY (see also LIVELY).
- Considered a fairly minor fault stemming sometimes from the onset of a
brief secondary malolactic fermentation in the bottle.
pinpoint carbonation typically released when the bottle cork is pulled.
Frowned on more if occurring in white wines vinified to be
- STALE (see also TANKY).
- Wine with lifeless, stagnant qualities. Usually found in wines that were
kept in large vessel storage for an excessive length of time.
- STONEY/STONELIKE (see also FLINT/FLINTY).
- Describes a _set_ of perceptions that seem to indicate a relatively young
white wine fermented from ripe, but not overly so, grapes under cold
fermentation conditions. Classic examples are made from Chardonnay grapes
in the Chablis region of France. Wines from the Carneros region of the
Napa Valley in California are sometimes so described as well. High
coupled with a tactile, mouth-filling
sensation that has a cleanly "earthy"
flavor characterize this type of wine. Term is commonly used to describe
initial impact, as in "Ah, _thats_ a flinty", (or stoney), "wine".
- The flavor plan, so to speak. Suggests completeness of the wine, all
parts there. Term needs a modifier in order to mean something - (eg:
- STURDY (see also HEARTY)
- STYLISH (see also LIVELY).
- The style is bold and definite, jaunty and a little pesky.
- Term often used for young reds which should be more aggressive. More
than an easy wine with suggestions of good quality.
The near synonym
"amiable" is also sometimes employed but does not quite emphasise the extra
connotation of "leanness" implied.
- SWEET (see also CLOYING,
- Refers to one of the four basic tastes detected by the
sensory nerves of
the human tongue. In the description of wine taste-flavor the term "sweet"
is almost always used as an identifier denoting the presence of residual sugar and/or glycerin.
Wine aromas require a descriptive term to identify
the source of the perceived sensation - (eg: "ripe",
- Synonym for "stale".
- TANNIN (see also ASTRINGENT,
- A naturally occurring substance in grapeskins, seeds and stems. Is
primarily responsible for the basic "bitter" component
in wines. Acts
as a natural preservative, helping the development and, in the right
proportion, balance of the wine. It is considered a
fault when present in excess.
- Descriptive term used when comparing odor detected in the "nose" of a
wine with similar odor retained in a memory trained by the use of a
comparison kit of scent essences. Such kits include tar, mercaptan,
apricots, mushrooms and other flavoring essences isolated from wines.
- TART (see also SHARP, SOUR).
- Synonym for "acidic".
- The four basic sensations detectable by the human tongue. The tip of
the tongue contains the taste receptors registering "sweetness". Just
a little further back, at the sides, taste will appear "salty". Behind
that, flavour will have a "sour" taste at the sides,
finally dissolving into "bitterness" at the near
center-rear of the tongue.
- TEARS (see also ALCOHOL).
- Synonym for "legs".
- TERROIR (see also EARTHY,
- French language term for all the characteristics of the vineyard site
thought to be imparted to a particular wine. It is a term that includes
geographic, geological, climatic and other attributes that can affect
an area of growth as small as a few square metres.
- THIN/THIN-BODIED (see also LIGHT,
- Opposite of "full-bodied".
- TIGHT (see also ANGULAR,
- A term for young wines. Almost an synonym for "dumb".
- TOASTY (see also OAKY, SMOKE/SMOKY, VANILLIN).
- Other, similar descriptors are "caramel" and "toffee". Some also add
spicy flavours, such as "cinnamon" or "cloves".
- Descriptive term, used by some, to describe a flavor component resembling
the taste of raw tobacco leaf in the finish of certain
red wines. Seems
to mainly apply to Cabernet Sauvignons from Bordeaux, France or the Napa
region of California. "Cigarbox" is a common term
often used as a near synonym
especially if a cedar-wood note in the
aroma is detected.
(Non-smokers may have trouble with this word and its implication).
- UNDERIPE (see also ACIDIC,
- Resulting flavor when grapes that failed to reach optimum maturity on the
vine are used in the vinification process.
- Opposite of "filtered". However, does not exclude
other clarifying processes such as "fining" etc.
- Opposite of "fined". However, does not exclude other
clarifying processes such as "filtering" etc.
- VANILLA (see also SWEET,
- Component detectable in the "nose" of a wine. The
novice taster can
compare odors with the vials of artificial ones provided in kit form.
- Component contributed by oakwood barrel staves.
Considered to add a
degree of "sweetness" to red wines when present in
amounts, so adding to a desirably complex style prized
- VARIETAL CHARACTER (see also BREED, HERBACEOUS,
- The particular flavor characteristics associated with a grape picked at
optimum maturity - (eg: distinctive "berrylike"
taste of California
Zinfandels, "blackcurrants" of Cabernet Sauvignon etc).
- VEGETAL (see also EARTHY,
- Considered a flavor flaw when present in distinctive amounts over and above
that occurring naturally in the grape. "Grassy" has
somewhat the same connotation.
- VINOUS (see also SIMPLE).
- Akin to "amiable". Nothing basically wrong with the wine, just has no
impact on the taster. Implies good "character" in that characteristics
of a certain grape fruitiness are detectable but apparent lack of other
flavor nuances amount to a dull experience.
- VITIS LABRUSCA (see also GRAPEY).
- The grape species believed to be an impure, cross-pollinated version of
the wild grape native to North America. Makes tasty juice, jelly but
has wine flavor often termed as "foxy".
- VITIS VINIFERA (see also BREED,
- The premier grape species used for the world's most admired wines. Also
referred to as the "European vine".
- VOLATILE (see also HARSH).
- Powerful, attack aroma. Usually
denotes high level of acidity, alcohol and/or other flavor faults.
- Possesses high alcohol flavor offset by
counterbalancing flavors and
other desirable qualities. Unlike "hot", is a positive
- Synonym for MEAGER or THIN.
- WEIGHTY (see also BODY).
wines with an implication of mildly excessive
flavor or "heaviness".
- Contains all of the essential elements - (ie: alcohol,
flavors, acid or
astringency etc) - in good proportions.
- Almost a synonym for OAKY. However, implies an overstay
in a wooden
container which resulted in the absorption of other wood flavors besides
- YEASTY/YEASTLIKE (see also DIRTY,
EARTHY, NUTTY, VEGETAL).
- Term describing odors deriving from varietal yeasts carried on grapeskins,
molds etc. Includes both desirable and undesirable characteristics.
Examples would be the presence of "brett" - (brettanomeyces) - a strain
of yeast that produces "gamey/smokey"
odors that are considered to add to
the character of the wine when barely detectable. Considered a flaw when
presence is pronounced. Another, similar example is the "dekkera" wild
yeast strain which gives a "fresh dirt/cement-y" flavor component.