Wine Jargon: Wine Tasting Part II

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This is our final installment on wine terms, and Part II in our discussion of the most common descriptives used in wine tasting. Click here for Wine Jargon: Wine Tasting Part I.
Once you’ve committed these to memory, you’ll feel confidant describing what’s in your glass.

  • MATURE: A wine with age; one that has shed its tannins and “baby fat,” and is considered ready to drink.
  • MEATY: Red wines that show lots of concentration and chewy qualities. May have aroma/taste of cooked meat.
  • MINERALY: An aroma of chalky or mineraly elements.
  • MOUTHFEEL: Usually used with a modifier (big, sweet, tannic, chewy) to describe the general sensation on the PALATE.
  • NOSE: The various aromas of a wine.
    -OAKY: Aroma and taste imparted by oak barrels or casks. Descriptors such as toast, vanilla, dill, cedar, and smoke can indicate the positive side of oak: charred, burnt, and lumber describe the unpleasant side.
    -OFF-DRY: Indicates a slightly sweet wine in which the residual sugar is barely perceptible.
  • OXIDIZED: Exposed a long time to oxygen. The aroma of fruit is largely gone, replaced with more woody aromas. This can also alter the color of a wine.
  • PALATE: The combined surfaces within the mouth, frequently divided into sections, such as mid-palate or latter-palate. For instance, a wine could be described as tasting SOFT from mid through latter palate. Often seen as interchangeable with MOUTHFEEL. However, PALATE is a place, where MOUTHFEEL is a sensation.
  • PERFUMED: A strong, usually sweet and mostly floral aroma.
  • PRUNY: Having the flavor of overripe fruit. May smell and taste cooked or stewed.
  • PUCKERY: The sensation of highly tannic or very dry red wines.
  • REDUCED: Commonly used to describe a wine not exposed to air, which gives off an initial rubber aroma.
  • RESTRAINED: Aromas or flavors that are shy and not very forthcoming. Less severe than CLOSED.
  • RICH: Big, smooth, full, pleasant flavors.
  • ROUND: A texture that is smooth, not coarse, edgy, or tannic, sometimes tending to have a low acidic content.
  • RUSTIC: A style of wine that smells and tastes less refined and elegant, even harsh.
  • SMOKY: A smoky quality in AROMA or flavor. Usually an oak barrel byproduct; can add COMPLEXITY to wines.
  • SOFT: Low in ACID and/or TANNIN. Usually an easy drinking wine, and can be quite FRUITY.
  • SOUR: Similar to TART in sensation, but usually imparts more of a green or underripe fruit quality than acidic.
  • SPICY: The presence of spice flavors such as anise, cinnamon, cloves, mint, and pepper, often present in complex wines. Can be imparted by the grape or the barrel.
  • STRUCTURE: The combination of factors such as ACID, tannin, glycerin, alcohol, and body as they relate to a wine’s texture and MOUTHFEEL. Often spoken in terms of “nice structure” or “lacking in structure.”
  • SUBTLE: Delicate wines with finesse and elegance. Understated flavors that are well integrated and inspiring.
  • SUPPLE: Describes texture, mostly with reds, as it relates to tannin, body, and oak. Tends to indicate well balanced.
  • SWEET: Usually used to describe the general sweetness of the fruit itself. More frequently used to describe dry wines than dessert wines, which are meant to be sweet.
  • TANNIN: The mouth-puckering substance derived primarily from grape skins, seeds, and stems of red wines, but also from oak barrels. Can result in a cottony mouth feel. Tannin acts as a natural preservative that helps wine age and develop.
  • TART: Sharp-tasting, usually due to acidity.
  • THIN: Lacking body and depth.
  • TOASTY: Flavor derived from wine aged in oak barrels, or, with older white wines from lees contact.
  • ULLAGE: A reduction of the unfilled air space at the top of a bottle, due to evaporation during wine aging.
  • UNDERFILLED: Almost a synonym of THIN, but usually describing a wine that has the framework, but not the filling.
  • VARIETAL: Made from a specific grape variety (or, mostly from that variety). In the U.S., wines are generally varietally labeled, such as cabernet sauvignon.
  • VOLATILE ACIDITY: An excessive and undesirable amount of acidity, which gives a slightly sour, vinegary edge. At very low levels (0.1 percent), it is largely undetectable; at higher levels it’s considered a major defect.
  • WATERY: Wine that is THIN, diluted, or otherwise lacks concentration of fruit. Sometimes, an excessive rainy growing season may impart this.

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  1. Rusty Gaffney

    August 22, 2013 at 11:20 pm


    You left out one important word in your wine tasting jargon listing: good, as in “It tastes good.”