Posts Tagged ‘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

  • 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.
  • Gooseberry 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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(Edel Rodriguez for The Wall Street Journal)

(Edel Rodriguez for The Wall Street Journal)


GOOD wines have stories to tell, but sadly, they are at a loss for words. As articulate as a fine wine may be, it is left to humans to supply the translation.

Yet certain words in the lexicon of wine are prisoners of their own connotations, robbed of their meanings because they so readily touch off prejudicial thoughts or emotions. This gives added responsibility not just to writers, but to sommeliers, merchants and anyone else who seeks to make concrete what is essentially elusive, to ensure that they are heard without distortion.

Here are five words often used to describe wine, along with an effort to liberate them from their connotations.



It is not wine writers but history and human nature that give bitterness its biblically negative meaning. What would many dry red wines be, particularly those from Italy and parts of France, without their element of mild bitterness? Certainly not refreshing. A touch of bitterness can help frame and shape a wine. Along with acidity, it adds snap and zest, tapering off one sip and inviting the next. White wines, too, use mildly bitter flavors to their advantage.


We’re conditioned to avoid bitterness and certainly bitterness in wine is a bad thing sometimes. Wood tannins from new oak barrels can be overwhelmingly bitter, and too much bitterness of any kind means a wine is out of balance. But a little bitterness can be desirable, so don’t shrink back at the sound of the word. After all, what’s more refreshing than a cold (bitter) beer? And speaking of cold …

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