Wine Tasting Terms

This list of wine terms and definitions will give you a head start at your next wine tasting. It is often helpful to carry a small notepad with you to tastings so you can jot down your impressions of wines. Develop your own list of wine terms: using your own words to describe different tastes and aromas will help you to remember and apply them.

Wine Definitions:    Nose / Character / Taste


Wine Definitions: Nose

Acetic Wine smells and or tastes of vinegar.

Aggressive Harsh tastes or impressions due to excesses of tannin, acid or alcohol.

Aromatic Used to describe perfumed or very distinctive aromas such as from Gewürztraminer.

Blackcurrant Aroma associated with Cabernet Sauvignon often referred to as cassis.

Body Impression in the mouth of weight and consistency mainly due to alcoholic strength and extract.

Bouquet Smells / aromas that develop as a wine matures.

Buttery Smell and flavours of butter. Sometimes seen in heavily oaked Chardonnays.

Caramel Taste and or smell of caramelised sugar.

Cardboard Smell of damp papers or cardboard.

Cedar Smell associated with many red wines that have been matured in oak. Similar to the smell of pencil shavings.

Corked Wine fault recognised by a distinctive mouldy rotting smell.

Crisp A marked level of acidity.

Ethyl Acetate Smell of solvents such as some glues or lacquers or pear drop sweets.

Eucalyptus A pleasant aroma sometimes found in red wines from Australia.

Farmyard Vegetal or animal odours.

Flinty Mineral aromas and flavours usually associated with dry white wines.

Flowery / Floral Fragrant scents like fresh flowers.

Geraniums Smell of geranium leaves, usually associated with excess sorbic acid.

Often used to describe the aroma of young /sauvignon Blanc.

Grapey Smell of grapes – often found with Muscat.

Herbaceous Vegetal, grassy and smell of leaves.

Musk Heavy waxy / vegetal aroma of mature Semillon and Sauternes.

Nose Bouquet or aroma.

Pear Drops Smell similar to nail polish remover or acetate.

Perfumed Fragrant

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Wine Definitions: Character  

Acidic Having an excess of acid.

Aftertaste Flavours that linger after the wine is swallowed.

Astringent Dry puckering effect in the mouth usually caused by an excess of tannin.

Balance A wine is in balance if the relationship of acid, tannin, alcohol and fruit is such that none of these is in excess or lacking.

Bottle Age Time spent maturing in the bottle.

Buttery Smell and flavours of butter. Sometimes seen in heavily oaked Chardonnays.

Chewy Wine with lots of tannin and full bodied. Big wine

Clean No off flavours. Fresh in the mouth.

Closed Young wines that are not displaying their full potential of aromas or taste yet.

Cloying Usually sickly sweet wines that lack acid to balance the sweetness.

Coarse Harshness sometimes found in over tannic young red wine.

Cooked Aromas and taste that associated with cooked fruit – baked, jammy.

Crisp A marked level of acidity.

Crisp Used to describe white wines that have refreshing acidity.

Delicate Light wine with subtle flavours.

Earthy Impression of damp earth on the nose and palate.

Flabby Lacking in acid.

Flat Lacks acidity and character. Sparkling wine that has lost the bubbles

Fleshy Smooth full bodied reds usually.

Fruity Abundance of fruit flavours.

Full Bodied Heavy in texture and flavour as opposed to light wines.

Gamey Rich pungent aromas sometimes found in big reds.

Grapey Smell of grapes – often found with Muscat.

Green Young wine that is harsh. Tastes of unripe fruit.

Harmony Well balanced.

Hot Too high in alcohol producing a warm / burning sensation.

Inky Opaque purple colour and a metallic flavour.

Light Light bodied – as opposed to full or medium bodied. Wines meant to be drunk
young are often light bodied.

Meaty Substantial chewy wine.

Mellow Soft wine with no harshness. Can have a hint of sweetness.

Oily Referring to texture or consistency. Mature Rieslings can often have this character.

Petillant Slightly sparkling.

Robust Full bodied wine.

Round Well balanced wine.

Short When flavour does not linger on the palate.

Spritz Slight sparkle, same as prickle.

Thin Lacking in body.

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Wine Definitions: Taste  

Buttery Flavour of butter.

Cassis See blackcurrant.

Cigar Box See cedar.

Citrus Aroma or flavours of citrus fruits.

Complex Displaying a range flavours, often developing constantly in the glass.

Finish Flavours lingering after the wine has been swallowed. A wine that has lingering
flavours will be described as having good length.

Flinty Mineral aromas and flavours usually associated with dry white wines.

Fruitcake Aromas and flavours of a rich mixture of dried fruits.

Jammy Usually wines from warm climates and soft dark fruit, cooked flavours dominate.

Length Used to describe the lingering flavours (or not) after the wine has been swallowed.
See Finish.

Liquorice Sometimes found on the palate of reds.

Maderised Taking on the character of a Madeira through oxidation.

Oxidised Wine that has had excess contact with air. It will be flat and characterless.

Peppery Spicy impression .

Prickle Slight sparkle on what should be a still wine. Same as spritz.

Residual Sugar Sugar remaining in a wine that has not been fermented out.

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