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Words to Describe Wine


The world of wine often introduces new words especially when describing different wines.  Below are  a list of useful terms used when describing wines.


Acetic Describes a sour, vinegary odour referred to as volatile acidity, too much of which will make the wine undrinkable.
Acid The sharp, tart effect of the green fruit of young wine on both the nose and tongue.
Aroma The perfume of fresh fruit. It diminishes with fermentation and disappears with age to be replaced by the “bouquet.”
Astringent The rough, puckery taste sensation caused by an excess of tannin in especially young red wines. It diminishes with age in the bottle.
Baked Quality of red wine made in a very hot climate from very ripe grapes.
Balanced Having all natural elements in good harmony.
Beery The odour of stale beer from a white wine that is over the hill — usually in old Moselles.
Big Full of body and flavour, high degree of alcohol, colour, and acidity.
Bitter Self-descriptive. Sign of ill-health caused by inferior treatment such as excessive stalks during crushing or even metal contamination.
Black currants The slight smell and taste of black currants often found in Bordeaux wines.
Body The weight and substance of the wine in the mouth; actually a degree of viscosity largely dependent on the percentage of alcohol and sugar content.
Bouquet The fragrance a mature wine gives off once it is opened. It develops the two aspects of the olfactory sensations — aroma and bouquet.
Breed Having the character, type, and qualities of its origin.
Brilliant Bright and sparkling in appearance so that one can see the light through the wine. Opposite of dull and cloudy.
Broad Full-bodied but lacking in acidity and therefore also lacking in finesse.
Character Positive and distinctive taste characteristics giving definition to a wine.
Clean A well-constructed wine with no offensive smells or tastes.
Clear Transparent and luminous appearance. Any sediment rests on the bottom of the bottle.
Cloudy Unsound condition of hazy, dull-looking wine. Not to be confused with the condition of a recently shaken old wine whose deposit hasn’t yet settled.
Cloying Too much sweetness and too little acidity.
Coarse Rough texture; little breed or elegance.
Common Adequate but quite ordinary.
Corky Disagreeable odour and flat taste of rotten cork due to a defective cork in the bottle.
Depth Rich, lasting flavour.
Dry Completely lacking sweetness. Should not be confused with bitterness or sourness.
Dull See Cloudy.
Earthy What the French call Goût de terroir. The peculiar taste that the soil of certain vineyards gives to their wine. Disagreeable when too noticeable.
Elegant Well balanced, with finesse and breed.
Fat Full-bodied but flabby, which in white wines is often due to too much residual sugar. When applied to red wines, it means softness and maturity.
Finesse The breed and class that distinguish a great wine.
Finish The taste that the wine leaves at the end, either pleasant or unpleasant.
Flabby Too soft, almost limp, without structure.
Flowery The flowerlike bouquet that is as appealing to the nose as the fragrance of blossoms, as for example, in a fine Moselle.
Foxy A pronounced flavour found in wines made from native American grapes; the same smell as in grape jelly.
Fruity The aroma and flavour of fresh grapes found in fine young wines. It diminishes with age.
Full Having body and colour, often applied to wines that are high in alcohol, sugar, and extracts.
Geranium Smelling of geraniums, an indication that the wine is faulty.
Grapy The strong flavour that certain grape varieties, such as the Muscat, impart to certain wines.
Green Harsh and unripe with an unbalanced acidity that causes disagreeable odour and a raw taste.
Hard Tannic without softness or charm. It can mellow with age.
Harsh Excessively hard and astringent. It can become softer with age.
Insipid Lacking in character and acidity; dull.
Light Lacking in body, colour, or alcohol, but pleasant and agreeable.
Lively Usually young and fruity acidity and a little carbon dioxide.
Long Leaving a persistent flavour that lingers in the mouth, Sign of quality.
Luscious Juicy and soft, filling the mouth without a trace of dry aftertaste. Usually attributed to sweet wine well balanced with acidity.
Maderized Flat, oxidized smell and taste reminiscent of Madeira. Term is applied to wines that have passed their prime and have acquired a brown tinge.
Mellow Softened with proper age.
Metallic The unpleasantly bitter taste a white wine can acquire from improper treatment that did not eliminate traces of the copper that was used to spray the vines.
Musty Disagreeable odour and stale flavour caused by storage in dirty casks of cellars; mouldy.
Noble Superior and distinguished; not only possessing the right credentials but also having an impressive stature of its own.
Oxidized Having lost its freshness cause by contact with air.
Peppery The aromatic smell of certain young red wines from hot climates.
Pétillant Effervescent with an natural light sparkle.
Piquant Dry and crispy acid, prickling the palate with its tartness.
Powerful Usually applied to robust red wines of great substance, such as a Châteauneauf-du-Pape, or to white wines with full, assertive bouquet, such as a big white Burgundy.
Ripe Full; tasting of ripe fruit, without a trace of greenness.
Rounded Well balanced and complete.
Séve The sap of a great wine; the concentrated aromatic savour of a luscious and ripe sweet white wine of inherent quality.
Sharp Excessive acidity, a defect usually found in white wines.
Short Leaving no flavour in the mouth after the initial impact.
Smoky Self-descriptive for the particular bouquet of certain Loire wine, such as Pouilly-Fumé, made from the Sauvignon grape.
Smooth Of a silky texture that leaves no gritty, rough sensation on the palate.
Soft Suggest a mellow wine, usually low in acidity, and tannin.
Sound Healthy, well balanced, clean-tasting.
Sour Like vinegar; wine that is spoiled and unfit to drink.
Spicy Definite aroma and flavour of spice arising from certain grape varieties (Gewürztraminer). The aroma is richer and more pronounced than what we call “fruity
Spritzig A pleasant, lively acidity and effervescence noticeable only to the tongue and not to the eye and mostly found in young wines.
Sulphury Disagreeable odour reminiscent of rotten eggs. If the smell does not disappear after the wine is poured, it is an indication that the wine is faulty.
Sweet Having a high content of residual sugar either from the grape itself or as the product of arrested fermentation.
Tannic The mouth-puckering taste of young red wines particularly from Bordeaux. Too much tannin makes the wine hard and unyielding but also preserves it longer. Aging in the bottle diminishes the tannin and softens the wine.
Tart Sharp, with excessive acidity and tannin. In the case of a young red wine, this may be an element necessary for its development.
Thin Lacking body and alcohol. It is too watery to be called light, and will not improve with age.
Velvety A mellow red wine and a smooth, silky texture that will leave no acidity on the palate.
Vigorous Healthy, lively, firm, and youthful. Opposite of insipid and flabby.
Watery Thin and small without body or character.
Woody Odour and flavour of oak due to long storage in the cask. Often found in Spanish and Australian wines.
Yeasty Smelling of yeast in fresh bread. Sign that the wine is undergoing a second fermentation, possibly because it was bottled too early, and is therefore faulty.

This list was created and Copyright (c) 2002 British Columbia Amateur Winemakers Association (BCAWA)


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