Wine tasting terms

Wine tasting is an art of sensory examination and evaluation of wine that tastefully lacks precision. The individual perceptions may differ, but a systematic approach of analysing the taste is rather consensual, as far as experts are concerned. Tasting terms or descriptors allows the wine tasters to put into words the quality of the wine as they perceive.

Wine tasting terms that denote Neutral qualities of wine

Acetic – Volatile acid, often found in cool- fermented whites, not good when excessive.
Aroma – The flavour of a young wine. Bouquet is the word used for more aged wines.
Aggressive: A younger wine with harsh and pronounced flavours
Bright – High clarity and low level of suspended particles
Body – Important characteristic of a wine determined by its alcoholic content.
Bouquet – The flavours of a wine developed due to ageing
Chewy- some tannins, but not overwhelming
Citrous – a wine with citrus aroma
Cheesy: An aroma element characteristic of aged Champagne that develops after an extended period of aging. 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.
Closed – Not very aromatic, assumed because of its stage of maturity
Coarse: Perception of tannins gives a rough texture
Dumb – No aroma
Dry – Wine is lacking perception of sweetness
Esterified – Often intensively aromatic
Extracted: A wine with concentrated flavours, often from extended skin contact, trading a rougher youth for enhanced ageability.
Finish – The sensory impact of a wine after it has been swallowed. Wines can be said have long or short finish
Feminine: Describes a wine that emphasizes delicate flavours, silky textures and subtle aromas rather than strength, weight and intensity of fruit.
Fruit – Sense of body and aroma coming from grape rather than the wine making process.
Fruity – wines with good fruit or slightly sweety.
Full or Full bodied – Wine with considerable alcoholic strength
Gutsy: A wine with noticeable body, extract and fruit.
Jammy – Lacking in tannins but rich in fruit
Lifted – Wine with perceptible but not excessive volatility
Nose – Used as both noun and verb, a in ‘It’s a bit DUMB on the nose’ and ‘Have you nosed this ? ‘ ( Courtesy: Jancis Robinson )
Rapid – quicker ageing than expected
Soft – Not much tannin
Spritz – slightly gassy
Texture – Mouth feel of wine
Peppery : A wine with the aromas and flavours reminiscent of the fruit from the Piper family of plants such as black peppercorn associated with Syrah and Grenache based wine or the aroma of crushed white pepper associated with Gruner Veltliner.

Wine tasting terms that denote Good qualities of wine

Balanced: A wine with all main components like Tannins, acidity, sweetness and alcohol present harmoniously.
Concentrated – Intense flavours
Clean – A wine without unwanted aromas or flavours
Complete – Balanced
Crisp – Pleasing or perceptible acidity
Elegant: A wine that possess finesse with subtle flavours that are in balance.
Firm – Strong sense of tannins
Finesse: A wine of high quality that is well balanced
Fresh – Attractively acidic
Mature – Aged to the full extend
Mellow: A wine with a soft texture that is nearing the peak of its maturity.
Powerful – High level of alcohol or extract.
Polished – Well balanced and smooth to drink.
Rich – Apparently sweet but not excessive
Round – Good body and not too much tannin
Robust – Mature wine with aggressive flavours.

Wine tasting terms that denote Bad or critical qualities of wine

Astringent – Critical term used for relatively tannic white wine.
Austere: A wine that is dominated by harsh acidity or tannin and is lacking the fruit needed to balance those components
Baked: High alcohol content gives an impression of baked fruit flavours. Or made from an over sun exposed grapes
Bitter – Tannins at an unpleasant level
Blowzy: Overwhelming fruity aroma usually found in lower quality fruity wines.
Corked – cork tainted wine.
Dried out – An old wine that lost its freshness or fruitiness because of ageing
Flabby – Too low in acid
Green – Too acid
Hard – Too tannic
Hollow – Lacking fruit
Hot – too alcoholic
Lean – Lacking fruit but not acid
Oxidized – Harmfully exposed to oxygen
Tart – too acidic
Tannic – aggressive tannins
Volatile – not stable, it smells almost vinegary.
Watery – Excessively thin.

A sample wine tasting report

Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 2005 Hunter Valley
Stunningly good. Sweet, focused dark fruits nose is pure and well defined. The palate is concentrated and fresh with lovely definition to the dark fruits and tight structure. Massive potential for future development. 95/100

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