It is easy to know which wines you love, but how do we describe them? You can get the wine that you desire by learning how to correctly use wine tasting terms.
You can also learn the basics of wine tasting descriptions to help you understand wine writing and make wine purchases more confidently.
Wine lovers consider drinking wine and discussing it an event. To celebrate the occasion properly, wine lovers use special terms to describe their senses of smell, taste, and perceptions. This vocabulary can be confusing for non-experts. However, with practice anyone can begin to describe wine’s taste in a meaningful way.
How to Describe a Wine Taste
Wine terms can be broken down into four main categories: sweetness, fruit level, body, finish. The wine’s flavor profile is determined by its fruit level. The wine’s sweetness is the amount of residual sugar. The wine’s body is how it feels on the tongue. The wine’s finish describes its aftertaste.
There are many terms that wine experts use to describe each category. Some terms have a broad meaning, and others can be interchanged. Some refer to specific details about the wine’s taste. We will be discussing the main categories and breaking them down into subcategories.
- The Fruit Level
- The Sweetness Level
- The Body Profile
- The Finish
The main flavor profile of wine is determined by the fruit levels. There are many terms and categories that can be used to describe the primary flavors of a wine.
The easiest way to get started in the wine world is with just two categories: Fruity or savory. These are the extremes of a spectrum. Wines tend to lean towards one side, but you can find wines with both fruity or savory characteristics.
It is easy to tell if a wine tastes fruity or savory simply by tasting it. Your nose is the best way to tell the difference. Your ability to smell aromas is dependent on your memory. You will struggle to recognize fruity wine flavors if you haven’t ever smelled a strawberry, orange, or plum.
Here are some key points when describing a wine taste.
How to Describe a Wine’s Taste
Wines, especially whites, are dependent on acid. Acid gives wine its freshness and zing. As you drink it, it will feel more crisp, refreshing, and mouthwatering.
Wine Folly describes an angular wine as “like putting a triangle into your mouth”: “It hits you in certain places with high impact and no other.” An angular wine usually has very high acidity. This is the opposite of’soft”.
Sometimes called the “bouquet”. This smell is often used to describe older wines. Wines are often associated with aromas such as fruit, herbs, flowers and earth.
A wine with a “backbone” is full-bodied, well structured and balanced.
Balance is a term that means the wine’s main components, fruit, alcohol, and acid are in harmony. This is often very favorable. Tannin is also a core component in red wines.
This is the weight of the wine: how it feels in the mouth, its heft, and viscosity. Experts suggest that you think of body in the same way as you would consider the differences between whole, semi-skimmed, and skimmed milk. Medium-bodied wines are rich in texture and intensity. Reds prefer medium-bodied wines. Lighter-bodied wines, which are reserved for reds, tend to be more refreshing and tingly.
Complex is a term that describes a variety of wine that changes flavours from the moment it’s poured to your mouth to the moment it’s swallowed. Although it’s not a good idea to call wine complex without knowing why, it’s still a clever way to describe wine complexity.
The term can be used to describe two things: a pleasant, clean quality that enhances aromas and flavors; or, a less favorable, a character that smells unpleasant and dirty.
This is the opposite of bold, fruity and big wines. Elegant is a term that describes understated wines with higher acidity, and more reserved characteristics. These wines often have a tight taste when they are first released, but they can age well.
The wine’s “finish” is what you taste after it has been drunk. It can have a significant impact on your overall experience. There are many different finishes to wine. They can be smooth, spicy, or smoky. A wine with a long finish is one that leaves behind a pleasant aftertaste.
11. Flavour Intensity
Flavour intensity is the strength or weakness of a wine’s flavors. This is an important factor in pairing wine with food and determining your personal wine preferences.
When wine is swirled, the streaks called ‘legs’ are what drip down from the wine’s inside. These streaks are caused by alcohol so the more prominent they become, the higher the wine’s alcohol content.
Lively wines are those that are bright, fresh, fruity and vibrant.
This is how wines are described that are not fruit, herb, or spice based. They have a distinctive tang. Think of the smells of forged iron or salty oysters or wet cement.
The oak barrels in which the wine has been aged in oak have the second largest influence on wine’s flavour. It adds vanilla and butter flavours to white wine; it gives red wine smoky, toasty flavors. These wines are known as ‘unoaked’. Unoaked white wines are more zesty and have lemon flavours. Unoaked red wines are typically more tart.
Rich wines have full, pleasant flavors that are sweet and balanced in nature. Richness can be caused by high alcohol, complex flavours, or oaky vanilla characteristics in dry wines. Rich wines that are sweet and dry can also be described as rich if they have ripe, fruity flavours.
Tannins are an essential component of red wines. Tannins can be bitter if they are left alone. However, the way they are combined with other components of wine will produce different results. A wine might be described as either ‘astringent’ (a lot of tannins, which causes a bitter taste in the mouth), or ‘firm’, which results in the mouth feeling dry and irritated.
Typically, the term “Zesty” is used to describe wines that are more lively, have noticeable acidity, and have citrus notes such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
Acidity of wine
All wines contain acid (mainly tartaric Acid, which is found in grapes), however some wines are more acidic than other. White wines have more acidity than red wines. Acidity, which gives white wines their firmness in the mouth, is the backbone of wine’s flavor. White wines that have high levels of acidity are crisp and dry. Flabby white wines.
The middle-palate is where you perceive acidity. This is what wine-tasters refer to as. The amount of saliva you produce after tasting wine can indicate its acidity. This is because high acidity stimulates saliva production. The overall style of the wine can also indicate acidity, or lack thereof. For example, a tart wine might be more noticeable than a sweeter variety. You can also classify the wine that you are tasting as crisp or soft,, Pillsbury Doughboy.
Tannin in wine
Tannin can be found in the skins, stems and pips of grapes. Red wines are fermented using their grape skins, pips and tannin levels are higher than white wines. Wines that have been aged in new oak barrels may also be tanned, red and white.
Ever take a sip from a red wine, and immediately feel a dry feeling in your mouth? It’s as if you have lost all of your saliva. This is tannin.
To put it in a general way, tannin is to red wine what acidity to white wine: a backbone. Although tannins can be bitter by themselves, some wines have less bitter tannins than others. Other elements, like sweetness, can mask the bitterness perception. Tannin is a bitterness, firmness, or richness in texture that you can feel around your mouth, inside your cheeks and on your gums. A red wine can be described as dry, sweet, dry, or firm depending on its tannin content.
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