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It isn't a secret language the wine pros use. Utilize this glossary if you're at a loss of words to describe the flavor and aroma of a wine. The purpose of this vocabulary is to help you understand the most commonly used wine tasting terms. Let's start.
Acidic- Used to describe wines having high acidity. They taste zesty or sour and have a sharp edge on the palate. Think of acidity like a squirt of lemon.
Aeration-It is the addition of oxygen or letting the wine breathe in the open air. Aeration softens young tannic wines, it can also fatigue older ones.
Aftertaste- The taste that lingers in the mouth or which is left on the palate after a wine is tasted or spit. Its synonym is Finish
Aggressive- Wines those are harsh in taste or texture, over drying on the palate with too much tannin or high acidity level. This characteristic indicates a wine is young.
Aging- Keeping wines in barrels, tanks, and bottles so as to improve the taste and flavor of wine over time. It also adds additional texture and territory aromas.
Astringent- It refers to dry, puckering or rough feeling in the mouth. Astringency is usually due to high acidity or high tannin levels found in some red wines (and a few white wines).
Austere- An austere wine is the one with very less fruity flavor which lacks depth and richness. Usually attributed to young wines that need time to soften.
Barrel- The oak container used for aging wine and fermentation.
Balance- A wine that consolidates all its main components- acid, alcohol, sugars and tannins- in a manner that no single element dominates.
Body- The impression of weight and fullness of wine on the palate. Commonly a wine is expressed as full bodied, medium bodied and light bodied
Blend- A wine made of more than one varietal.
Backbone- Wines that are full-bodied, well structured and balanced by a correct level of acidity.
Blunt- Strong in flavor and often alcoholic, lacks aroma and development of the palate.
Bright- Used for lively, young, fresh wines. They make your mouth water with focused flavor.
Big- A wine with intense flavor, that takes up all sections of your mouth and tongue. A big wine is not necessarily a fruit-focused wine, it can also mean that it has big tannins.
Bouquet- Complex aromas that are perceived in wine after it has been bottled and aged.
Burnt- Used to describe wines that have an overdone, toasty edge. Also used for overripe grapes.
Buttery- A wine with buttery characteristics is generally rich and with less acidity. It has a creamy texture and hits the middle of your tongue with flavors similar to butter.
Closed- Underdeveloped wines that do not display aroma or flavor.
Chewy- A full-bodied wine, both in texture and flavor with high-tannin structure and thick texture that you almost feel like chewing the wine before swallowing.
Corked- A wine that has suffered cork taint. Wines that are corked have an off-putting and musty flavor and odor with a dry aftertaste.
Cuvee- It refers to the batch of a special selection of wine that is made from vineyards highest quality grapes and processes.
Coarse- Used to describe with robust texture in particular rough tannin.
Concentrated- With intense flavors.
Cigar box- Flavours that hints toward sweetness and cedar wood aroma.
Dense- Attributed for bold red wines with concentrated aromas on the nose and palate. It is often used to describe the aroma of a young wine that shows the potential of various descriptors but is too closed to note each separately.
Depth- A wine with several layers of flavor. Describes the complexity and concentration of flavors in a wine
Dry- A wine which has no sensation of sugar.
Decanting- The process of slowly and carefully pouring the wine from its bottle into another container.
Dirty- Off-putting smell and flavor that occurs in wine that is a result of poor winemaking usually by bad barrels or corks.
Elegant- Wines that possess beauty grace and subtle flavors that are in balance.
Earthy- Used to describe both positive and negative attribute of wine. Use this word to describe an unpleasant and drying finish of the wine. On the positive side this means a wine with aroma and flavor resembling earth.
Enology- The study of wine and winemaking.
Fermentation- The process of converting grape sugars into alcohol by yeast.
Finish- The sense of texture and flavor that linger in mouth after the wine is tasted. The key to judge wine's quality is its finish.
Fruity- Having a strong taste and smell of fresh fruit.
Fat- A full-bodied, high in alcohol, low in acidity wine that gives a fat impression on the palate. Since it is flabby, it is the least desirable of them all.
Flabby- Lacking a sense of acidity.
Flat- A wine that lacks balance in its structure, particularly in its acidity on the finish.
Full-bodied- A wine with high alcohol and flavor, also described as "big".
Green- Used to describe the taste of wines made from unripe grapes. Usually negative, this can apply to white wine with vegetal notes.
Grip- A firmness of texture which is usually from tannins. Wine with grip is hard to drink and better to sip. It helps wines avoid seeming flabby.
Herbaceous- A tasting term which denotes herbal and vegetal aromas.
Hot- High in alcohol, tends to burn with heat on the finish.
Hard- Overly tannic wine.
Legs- The sticky droplets that are formed and ease down on the sides of the glass when the wine is swirled.
Length- The amount of time the flavors stay in the mouth after swallowing, the longer the better.
Lees- This term describes the dead bits of yeast particles, pulp, seed and other grape matter that sink to the bottom of wine. Lees are stirred up once in a day to make wine have a thick texture.
Lean- This word can be used as a positive or negative tasting term. When used positively it means a wine is slim and yet enjoyable, the negative term describes a wine that lacks a perception of fruit. lean wines tend to be sharper.
Lingering- If the persistence of flavor in a wine stays on the palate for several seconds, it is said to be lingering.
Mature- Ready to drink wine.
Musty- A wine with an old-attic smell which arises from processing moldy grapes.
Mouth-Feel- The texture of wine on the palate; it can be smooth, rough or velvety.
Nose- This term describes the aroma and bouquet of a wine.
Nutty- Most often used to describe oxidized wines. But it can also be a plus for wines if they are close to their oaky flavor.
Noble rot- Grapes that have been attacked by Botrytis (a type of fungus), which is needed for the production of many sweet wines like Sauternes from Bordeaux, Tokaji Azsu from Hungary, German Riesling etc.
Nouveau- A light, youthful and fruity red wine which is bottled and sold as soon as possible.
Oxidized- A wine that has experienced too much exposure to air. They become bricky in color and exhibit Sherry like taste.
Oaky- A wine that imparts a noticeable perception of oak barrels when it is aged. This term denotes the smell of vanilla, baking spices, dill with a creamy body and a toasted flavor.
Open- This tasting term signifies a wine that is ready to drink.
Opulent- This word describes the style of wine with a sensuous texture that is rich, bold and smooth. These wines are highly desirable.
Pruny- Wines with a flavor of overripe, dried out grapes.
Plonk- An inexpensive wine.
Perfumed- Wine that has matured to develop complex aromas similar to that of perfume. Applicable to white wines and some rose wines. Perfumed wines possess a sweet and floral aroma.
Raw- Undeveloped and young wines. They are often tannic and high in acidity or alcohol.
Rich- Rich wines display ample texture, body, and flavor along with a long finish.
Raisiny- Wine with a slight taste of raisins which occurs from overripe grapes.
Rough- A young tannic wine with a coarse texture.
Round- Describes a wine with a smooth texture, not coarse or tannic.
Robust- Full-bodied and intense wine.
Ripe- A wine produced from grapes that have reached optimum level o maturity.
Reticent- A wine that holds back or does not exhibit aroma or bouquet characteristic due to its youth.
Smooth- A wine with soft tannins and pleasing texture.
Silky- Creamy and velvety wines.
Spicy- A wine with flavor and aroma of different spices such as cloves, thyme, black pepper, bay leaf, paprika etc.
Steely- Used to describe wines that are prominent in acidity. Such wines can be served as an aperitif or to balance with food that contains high-fat content like creamy cheeses.
Structured- The relationship or blend of alcohol, tannins, residual sugars, acidity, and fruit in a wine.
Supple- Not overly tannic wine.
Sweet- A wine having a noticeable sense of sugar contents on the nose and in the mouth.
Sec- French word for dry wine.
Tannins- A compound in wine that leaves a dry, bitter and puckery feeling in the mouth. The drying sensation is felt on the inner cheeks, tongue, and gums. It is derived from grape skin and seeds. It also acts as a natural preservative that helps the wine age and develop.
Toasty-Most commonly used to describe the flavor of wine derived from oak barrels in which wine is aged. It is burnt on the finish.
Tight- A tight wine holds its personality and has hard-to-identify fruit characteristic.
Typicity- This term describes how well a wine expresses the characteristics of the grape varietal or the winemaking techniques of that region.
Texture- How a wine feels on the palate.
Tart- A wine with a high level of acidity. Synonym for acidic.
Vintage- It refers to the year the grapes were harvest and the wine was bottled. Vintage wines are famous for being made from an outstanding yield of grapes, the older is the vintage year the better is the wine.
Vegetal- used to describe characteristics of cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavor. It is an undesirable quality noted produced from unripe grapes.
Velvety- Synonyms for silky, smooth wine. Used to describe opulent wines.
Vinification- the process of winemaking
Vin- Wine in French.
Young- an immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its production. Young wines are noted for their crisp flavors.
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