Wine Jargon: Wine Tasting Part II

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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