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Drinkaware

Wine Tasting Descriptors (terminology)

Tasting terms:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | XYZ

A

Accessible – A wine that is easy to drink without an overwhelming sense of tannin, acidity, body or extract.

Aftertaste – A term for the taste left on the palate after wine has been swallowed, also known as “finish”.

Aggressive – A wine with harsh and pronounced flavours, the opposite of wines that may be described as “smooth” or “soft”.

Alcoholic – A wine that tends to have too much alcohol presence.

Astringent – An overly tannic white wine.

Acidic – A wine with a noticeable acidity.

Aroma – The smell of a wine. The term is generally applied to younger wines, while the term Bouquet is reserved for more aged wines.

Austere – A wine that is dominated by harsh acidity or tannin and is lacking the fruit needed to balance those components.

Autolytic – Aroma of “yeasty” or acacia-like floweriness commonly associated with wines that have been aged sur lie.

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B

Baked – A wine with a high alcohol content that gives the perception of stewed or baked fruit flavours. May indicate a wine from grapes that were exposed to the heat of the sun after harvesting.

Balanced – A wine that incorporates all its main components – tannins, acidity, sweetness and alcohol – in a manner where no single component stands out.

Big – A wine with intense flavour, or high in alcohol.

Biscuity – A wine descriptor often associated with Pinot noir dominated-Champagne. It is a sense of yeasty or brad dough aroma and flavours.

Bite – A firm and distinctive perception of tannins or acidity. This can be a positive or negative attribute depending on whether the overall perception of the wine is balanced.

Bitter – An unpleasant perception of tannins.

Blowzy – An exaggerated fruity aroma. Commonly associated with lower quality fruity winse.

Body – The sense of ‘weight’ the wine has in the mouth.

Bouquet – The layers of smells and aromas perceived in a wine.

Bright – When describing the visual appearance of the wine, it refers to high clarity, very low levels of suspended solids. When describing fruit flavours it refers to noticeable acidity and vivid intensity.

Buttery – A wine that has gone through malolactic fermentation and has a rich, creamy mouth-feel with flavours reminiscent of butter.

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C

Cassis – The French term for flavours associated with black currant. In wine tasting, the use of cassis over black currant typically denotes a more concentrated, richer flavour.

Cedarwood – A collective term used to describe the woodsy aroma of a wine that has been treated with oak.

Charming – A subjective term used to describe a wine with a range of pleasing properties but nothing that stands out in an obvious fashion.

Chewy – The sense of tannins that is palpable but not overwhelming.

Cheesy – An aroma element characteristic of aged Champagne that develops after an extended period of ageing. It is associated with the aroma of aged, nutty cheeses such as gouda and is caused by a small amount of butyric acid that is created during fermentation and later develops into an ester known as ethyl butyrate.

Chocolaty – A term most often used to describe rich red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot noir with flavours and mouth feel associated with chocolate—typically dark.

Cigar-box – A term used to describe the tobacco aromas derived from oak influence.

Citrous– A wine with the aromas and flavours from the citrus family of fruits.

Classic – A subjective term used to denote a wine of exceptional quality that displays the typicity of its varietal(s), displays layers of complexity and is very well balanced.

Clean – A wine that does not demonstrate any obvious faults or unwanted aromas or flavours.

Clear – A wine with no obvious particular matter.

Closed – A wine that is not very aromatic (at least for the time being).

Cloves – An aroma associated with oak treatment that gives the perception of cloves. It is caused by the creation of eugenic acid by the toasting of oak barrels.

Cloying – A wine with a sticky or sickly sweet character that is not balanced with acidity.

Coarse – A term for a wine with a rough texture or mouth feel. Usually applies to the perception of tannins.

Coconut – Aroma perception of coconut derived from treatment in American oak.

Compact – Opposite of “open knit”. A wine with a dense perception of fruit that is balanced by the weight of tannins and acidity.

Complete – A wine where all the main components – acidity, alcohol, fruit and tannins – are seamlessly integrated into a coherent, pleasing whole.

Complex – A wine that gives the impression of being multi-layered in terms of flavours and aromas.

Concentrated – Intense flavours.

Connected – A sense of the wine’s ability to reflect its place of origin or terroir.

Concoction – Usually a pejorative term used to refer to a wine that seems to have many different components haphazardly thrown together, rather than possessing a cohesive profile.

Cooked – A term similar to “bake”, where the fruit flavours of the wine seem like they have been cooked, baked or stewed. It may also indicate the grape concentrate was added to the must during fermentation.

Corked – A tasting term for a wine that has cork tain.

Creamy – A term used to describe the perception of a warm, creamy mouth feel. In sparkling wines, the sense of creaminess arises from a combination of the finesse of the mousse and the ersults of malolactic fermentation. The perception of creaminess is generally picked up at the back fo the throat and through the finish of the wine.

Crisp – A pleasing sense of acidity in the wine.

Crust – Sediment, generally potassium bitartrate, which adheres to the inside of a wine bottle.

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D

Definition – A wine that is not only well balanced but also gives a clear impression of its grape variety and/or place of origin.

Delicate – A term used that is similar to “charm” but more often relates to the more subtle notes of a wine.

Depth – A term used to denote a wine with several layers of flavour. An aspect of complexity.

Dirty – A wine with off flavours and aromas that most likely resulted from poor hygiene during fermentation or the bottling process.

Dry – A wine that lacks sweetness.

Dried up – A wine that has lost some of its freshness or fruitiness due to extended ageing.

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E

Earthy – This can mean a wine with aromas and flavour reminiscent of earth, such as forest floor or mushrooms. It can also refer to the drying impression felt on the palate caused by high levels of geosmin that occur naturally in grapes.

Easy – A term that can be synonymous with “approachable” but more commonly refers to a wine that is simple and straightforward without much complexity but still enjoyable to drink.

Edgy – A wine with a noticeably high level of acidity that heightens the flavours on the palate. May be synonymous with “nervy”.

Elegant – A term used to describe a wine that possesses finesse with subtle flavours that are in balance.

Expansive – A wine that is considered “big” but still accessible.

Expressive – A wine with clearly projected aromas and flavours.

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F

Fallen over – A wine that, at a relatively young age, has already gone past its peak (or optimal) drinking period and is rapidly declining in quality.

Farmyard – A generally more positive term than “Barnyard”, used to describe the earthy and vegetal undertones that some Chardonnay and Pinot noir develop after maturing in the bottle. While for some wine drinkers this may not be very appealing, for others this may be a sign that the wine has entered its peak drinking period.

Fat – A wine that is full in body has a sense of viscosity. A wine with too much fat that is not balanced by acidity is said to be “flabby” or “blowzy”.

Feminine – Describes a wine that emphasises more delicate flavours, silky textures and subtle aromas rather than strength, weight and intensity of fruit.

Finish – The sense and perception of the wine after swallowing.

Finesse – A very subjective term used to describe a wine of high quality that is well balanced.

Firm – A stronger sense of tannins.

Flabby – A lacking sense of acidity.

Flat – In relation to sparkling wines, flat refers to a wine that has lots its effervescence. In all other wines the term is used interchangeably with “flabby” to denote a wine that is lacking acidity, particularly on the finish.

Fleshy – A wine with a noticeable perception of fruit and extract.

Foxy – A tasting term for the musty odour and flavour of wines made from Vitis labrusca grapes native to North America. Usually a negative term.

Fresh – A positive perception of acidity.

Fruit – The perception of the grape characteristics and sense of body that is unique to the varietal.

Full – A term usually used in context of wine with heavy weight or body due to its alcohol content. It can also refer to a wine that is full in flavour and extract.

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G

Grapey – A wine with aromas and flavours reminiscent of grape flavouring, such as those associated with grape jelly. The Muscat family of grapes often produce wines that are described as “grapey”.

Grassy – A term used to describe a herbaceous or vegetal element of a wine, ranging from freshly mown lawn grass to lemon grass flavours.

Green – Overly acidic wine, typically used to describe a wine made from unripe fruit.

Gutsy – A wine with noticeable body, extract and fruit.

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H

Hard – Overly tannic wine.

Harsh – Similar to “coarse”, but usually used in a more derogatory fashion to denote a wine that has unbalanced tannins and acidity.

Heavy – A wine that is very alcoholic with too much sense of body.

Herbaceous – The herbal, vegetal aromas and flavours that may be derived from varietal characteristics or decisions made in the winemaking process, such as harvesting under-ripened grapes or using aggressive extraction techniques for a red wine fermented in stainless steel.

Hollow – A wine lacking the sense of fruit.

Hot – Overly alcoholic wine.

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I

Inky – A term that may refer to a wine’s dark colouring and opacity.

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J

Jammy – A wine that is rich in fruit but maybe lacking in tannins.

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L

Lean – The sense of acidity in the wine that lacks the perception of fruit.

Legs – The tracks of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. Often said to be related to the alcoholic or glycerol content of a wine. Also called “tears”.

Lemony – A term referring to the tangy acidity of a wine with fruit flavours reminiscent of lemons.

Light-struck – A tasting tem for a wine that has had long exposure to ultraviolet light, causing aromas reminiscent of wet cardboard.

Linalool – The characteristic flowery-peach aroma associated with Muscat and Riesling wines. It is derived from the chemical compound linalool.

Liquorice – A term used to describe the concentrated flavour from rich sweet wine.

Liveliness – A term used to describe a wine with slight carbonation and fresh, bright acidity.

Luscious – Similar to “voluptuous” but more commonly associated with sweet wines that have a rich, concentrated mouth feel.

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M

Mature – A wine that has aged to a peak point of quality.

Mean – A wine without sufficient fruit to balance the tannins and/or acidity of the wine, making it unbalanced and unpleasant to drink.

Meaty – A wine with rich, full body (and often pronounced tannins and extract) that gives the drinker the impression of being able to “chew” it.

Mellow – A wine with a soft texture that is nearing the peak of its maturity.

Mid-palate – A tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine when held in the mouth.

Minerality – The perception of mineral flavours in the wine, for example flavours of slate, shist, silex, etc.

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N

Nervy – A wine with a noticeable amount of acidity but is still nevertheless balanced with the rest of the wine’s components.

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O

Oaky – A wine with a noticeable perception of the effects of oak. This can include the sense of vanilla, sweet spices like nutmeg, a creamy body and a smoky or toasted flavour.

Oily – A generally full bodied wine with a viscous mouth feel. If the wine is lacking acidity, this term may be used in conjunction with “flabby”.

Opulent – A rich tasting wine with a pleasing texture mouth feel that is well balanced.

Oxidised – A generally negative term describing a wine that has experienced too much exposure to oxidation. A wine that has been oxidized is considered faulty and may exhibit sherry-like odours.

Oxidative – Unlike “oxidised”, this is generally a more positive term used to describe wines that have experienced constrained exposure to oxidation over the course of their ageing process. The aromas and flavours that develop as a wine oxidatively matures can range from nuttiness, biscuity and butteriness to spicier notes.

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P

Palate – A tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine in the mouth.

Peak – The point where a wine is at its most ideal drinking condition for an individual taster. This is a very subjective determination as for some tasters a wine will be at its peak when the fruit is still fresh and young, while for some tasters the peak will arrive when a wine has matured in flavour.

Peppery – A wine with the aromas and flavours, perhaps pungency, of the fruit from the Piper family of plants such as black peppercorn. This is often associated with Syrah and Grenache based wines, or the aroma of crushed white pepper associated with Gruner Veltliner.

Perfume – A generally positively used term to describe an aspect of a wine’s aroma or bouquet.

Plummy – A wine with juicy, fresh fruit flavours of plum.

Polished – A wine that is very smooth to drink, with no roughness in texture and mouth feel. It is also well balanced.

Powerful – A wine with a high level of alcohol that is not excessively alcoholic.

Prickly – A wine with some slight residual carbonic gas, though not necessarily to the point of the wine being considered a sparkling wine. Some very young white wines and dry blush wines may be described as “prickly”.

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R

Racy – A wine with noticeable acidity that is well balanced with other components of the wine.

Reticent – A wine that is not exhibiting much aroma or bouquet characteristics, perhaps due to its youth. It can be described as the sense that a wine is “holding back”.

Rich – A sense of sweetness in the wine that is not excessively sweet.

Robust – A term with similar connotations as “aggressive”, except that “robust” is more commonly applied to older, mature wines while “aggressive” tends to describe younger wines.

Round – A wine that has a good sense of body without being overly tannic.

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S

Sassy – A wine with bold, brash and audacious flavours.

Sharp – A term normally used to describe the acidity of a wine though it can also refer to the degree of bitterness derived from a wine’s tannin.

Sherry-like – A term used to describe a non-Sherry wine that exhibits oxidised aromas that may have been caused by excessive amounts acetaldehyde.

Short – A wine which will develop aromas and mouth feel but has a finish that is little to non-existent due to the fruit quickly disappearing after swallowing.

Smokey – A wine exhibiting the aromas and flavours of various types of smoke, such as tobacco smoke, roasting fire smoke or a toasty smoke derived from oak influences.

Smooth – A wine with a pleasing texture, typically referring to a wine with soft tannins.

Soft – A winethat is not overly tannic.

Spicy- A wine with aromas and flavours reminiscent of various spices such as black pepper and cinnamon. While this can be a characteristic of the grape varietal, many spicy notes are imparted from oak influences.

Stalky – A woody, green herbaceous note in the wine.

Structure – A term used to describe the solid components of a wine - acidity, sugar, density of fruit flavours and phenolic compounds such as tannins in relation to the overall balance and body of the wine.

Supple – A wine that is not overly tannic.

Sweet – A wine with a noticeable sense of sugar levels.

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T

Tannic – A wine with aggressive tannins.

Tart – A wine with high levels of acidity.

Texture – A tasting term for the mouth feel of wine on the palate.

Thin – A wine that is lacking body or fruit.

Tight – A wine with a significant presence of tannins that is restraining the other qualities of the wine, such as fruit and extract, from being more noticeable. A “tight wine” is expected to age well as the tannins often soften up to reveal those other qualities.

Toasty – A sense of the charred or smoky taste from an oaked wine.

Transparency – The ability of a wine to clearly portray all unique aspects of its flavour—fruit, floral and mineral notes. The opposite would be a wine where the flavours are diffused and thoroughly integrated.

Typicity – A wine tasting term used to describe how much a wine expresses the typical characteristics of a varietal.

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U

Unoaked – Also known as “unwooded”, this term refers to wines that have been matured without contact with wood/oak.

Undertone – The more subtle nuances, aromas and flavours of wine.

Upfront – A wine with very perceivable characteristics and quality that do not require much thought or effort to discover.

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V

Vanilla – An oak induced characteristic aroma reminiscent of vanilla.

Vegetal – A wine with aromas and flavour reminiscent of vegetation, as opposed to fruit or floral notes.

Vivid – A wine with very expressive ripe, fruit flavours.

Voluptuous – A wine with a full body and rich texture.

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W

Warm – A wine with noticeable but balanced alcohol as opposed to a wine with excessive alcohol that may be described as “hot”. It can also refer to a creamy texture derived from oak treatment.

Watery – A wine that is excessively “thin” in body and fruit.

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XYZ

Yeasty – Often used synonymously with “biscuity” and can describe a wine with aromas and flavour reminiscent of bread dough or biscuits.

Young – A wine that is not matured and usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.

Zesty – A wine with noticeable acidity and usually citrus notes.

Zippy – A wine with noticeable acidity that is balanced with enough fruit structure so as to not taste overly acidic.


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