GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 - Jan. 1995)(Prepared
and Edited by Anthony Hawkins for the FOODWINE List) (Hypertext conversion and
further editing by Tom Beard) Borrowed from: http://metcon.met.co.nz/nwfc/beard/www/wine_glossary.html
INTRODUCING THE GREAT FOODWINE GLOSSARY OF WINETASTER'S TERMINOLOGY.......
IntroductionThe purpose of this glossary is to aid in the understanding
of wine tasting notes posted to this group and other Internet sites.
Wine-tasting group communication is currently evolving into a so-called
"virtual" method invented by individuals who agree on a set of tasting
principles and, although separated by great distances, obtain a previously
approved group-selected bottled wine, or wines. On or about an agreed future
date, the bottles are uncorked, poured and tasted. Notes are then taken which
record each individuals perceptions about the wine and are later transmitted to
the Internet list or Usenet group for comparison purposes.
New readers of this glossary will need to know that experienced tasters notes
have a four-part sequence of events. When analysed, the remarks break down, in
order, into perceptions about:
Using these perceptions, the tasters attempt to communicate their
feelings about the wine under review to others by descriptive words or phrases.
The following glossary is an attempt to categorize those words/phrases.
- a) Colour/clarity of the wine when the wineglass is tilted and its
contents viewed against a light source.
- b) Smell - (known in the general sense as the "nose").
- c) Taste - (first in the "mouth" or "palate", followed by the "finish").
GLOSSARY OF WINETASTING TERMS.
[A] acetic - acid(ity) - aftertaste
- age(d) -
- angular -
aroma - ascescence
- big - bitter - body - botrytis -
- breed -
- brix - browning -
- cedar(wood) -
chewy - cigarbox -
- closed-in -
- complex -
- delicate -
depth - dessert
wine - direct - dirty - dry - dumb
[E] earthy - easy - elegant -
[F] fat - filtered -
fined - finish - firm - flat - fleshy - flint(y) -
- foxy - fresh - fruity - full-bodied
hard - harsh - hazy - hearty - herbaceous
leafy - lean - lees - legs - lemony - length - light - lingering
fermentation - matchstick
- meaty -
nose - nouveau -
oaky - oily - open-up -
- perfumed -
plump - ponderous
- powerful -
- raisiny -
sugar - rich - rim - ripe - robust - rotten
egg - rough - round - rustic
salty - sharp - simple - smoky - soft - sour - spicy - spritzy -
stale - stoney/stonelike
- stylish -
tanky - tannin - tarry/tarlike
- tart - taste - tears - thin (bodied)
- tight -
- vanillin -
character - vegetal -
labrusca - vitis
vinifera - volatile
warm - watery - weighty -
- ACETIC (see also ASCESCENCE).
- All wines contain acetic acid - (ie: vinegar). Normally the amount is
insignificant and may even enhance flavour. At a little less than 0.10%
content, the flavour becomes noticable and the wine is termed acetic. Above
0.10% content is considered a strong fault. A related substance, ethyl
acetate, contributes the smell associated with acetic acid content.
- Acid ... term used to describe a tart or sour taste
in the mouth when total acidity of the wine is high.
Acidity ... term used
on labels to express the total acid content of the wine. The acids referred to
are citric, lactic, malic and tartaric. Desirable acid content on dry wines
falls between 0.6% and 0.75% of the wines volume. For sweet wines
it should not be less than 0.70% of the volume.
- AFTERTASTE (see also FINISH, LENGTH) -
a.k.a Farewell, Fairwell.
- Term used to describe the taste left
in the mouth after swallowing the wine. Both character and length of the
aftertaste are part of the total evaluation. May be harsh, hot, soft and
lingering, short, smooth, tannic, or
- AGE/AGED (see also MADERIZED,
- White wines tend to turn from a greenish hue in young wines to a yellowish
caste/tone to a gold/amber colour as they age. Reds usually possess a purple
tone when young, turning to a deep red - (Bordeaux wines) - or a brick red
colour - (Burgundy wines) - detectable at the surface edge in a wineglass as
they age. Rose's should be pink with no tinge of yellow or orange.
Cellar aged red wines at their peak will show a deep golden-orange colour
as it thins at the surface edge. If the wine colour has deepened into a
distinctly brown-orange tint at the edge it usually indicates a wine past its
peak and declining.
- ALCOHOL (see also LEGS, TEARS).
- This constituent of wine is a natural by-product of fermentation. It is
one of the main pillars of perceived flavour, the others being "Acid", "residual
Sugar" (and/or "Glycerin")
The presence of these components define a wine that has "good balance".
For tablewines the wine label must, by law, state the alcohol content of the
wine within the bottle, usually expressed as a percentage of the volume. Table
wines do not usually exceed 14% alcohol content - (11% to 12.5% is generally
considered the optimum amount) - although a few, such as the "jaune vin" of
the Jura region of France are fermented in a special manner to attain
consistently higher levels in the 14.5 to 15.5% range. Sweet dessert
wines fall in the same range. Fortified wines - (eg: Sherry, Port etc) -
range from 17% to 21% alcohol content.
- ANGULAR (see also AUSTERE,
- The total effect of dominant, tart-edged
flavours and taste impressions in many young dry wines.
Has opposite meaning to round, soft or supple.
- Refers to smell or aroma of a
wine, usually carrying additional modifiers. "Ripe apples" describes a full,
clean smell associated with some styles of Chardonnay wine. "Fresh apples"
does the same for some types types of Riesling. "Green apple",
however, is almost always reserved for wines made from barely ripe or underripe
grapes. "Stale apples" applies almost exclusively to flawed wine exhibiting
first stage oxidation.
- AROMA (see also BOUQUET,
- The intensity and character of the aroma can be assessed with nearly any
descriptive adjective. (eg: from "appley" to
to "tired", etc.). Usually refers to the particular smell of the grape
variety. The word "bouquet"
is usually restricted to describing the aroma of a cellar-aged bottled wine.
- "Ascescence" is the term used to mark the presence of acetic
acid and ethyl
acetate. Detected by sweet and
sometimes vinegary smell and taste along
with a sharp feeling in the mouth.
- Descriptive of wines that have a rough, puckery
Usually can be attributed to high tannin
content. Tannic astringency will normally decrease with age. However,
sometimes the wine fails to outlive the tannin.
- ATTACK (see also LIGHT, THIN below).
- The initial impact of a wine. If not strong or flavourful, the wine is
considered "feeble". "Feeble" wines are sometimes encountered among those
vinified in a year where late rain just before harvest diluted desirable grape
- The winetaster liked it anyway; a slight put down for expensive wines, a
compliment for others.
- Usually used in description of dry,
relatively hard and acidic wines
that seem to lack depth and
Such wines may soften a bit with age. Term often applied to wines made from
noble grape varieties grown in cool climates or harvested too early in the
- BACKBONE (see also BODY).
- Refers to big, full-bodied
red wines with evident tannin
- Denotes harmonious balance of wine elements - (ie: no individual part is
balances the sweetness;
balances against oak and tannin
is balanced against acidity and flavour. Wine not in balance may be acidic, cloying,
- BERRYLIKE (see also HERBACEOUS).
- Equates with the ripe, sweet, fruity
quality of blackberries, raspberries, cranberries and cherries. The aroma and
red wines, particularly Zinfandel,
are often partly described with this adjective.
- The overall flavour of a wine, white or red, that has full, rich
flavours. "Big" red wines are often tannic.
"Big" white wines are generally high in alcohol
Sometimes implies clumsiness, the opposite of elegance.
Generally positive, but context is essential - (eg: A Bordeaux red wine
shouldn't be as "big" as a California Cabernet Sauvignon).
- BITTER (see also SALTY, SOUR and SWEET).
- One of the four basic tastes. A
major source of bitterness is the tannin
content of a wine. Some grapes - (Gewurztraminer, Muscat) - have a
distinct bitter edge to their flavour. If the bitter component dominates in
the aroma or
taste of a wine it is considered a fault. Sweet dessert
wines may have an enhanced bitter component that complements the other
flavours making for a successful overall taste balance.
- The effect on the taster's palate usually experienced from a combination
content. Often described as "full", "meaty" or
- "Botrytis Cinerea", a mold or fungus that attacks grapes in humid climate
conditions, causing the concentration of sugar and
content by making grapes at a certain level of maturity shrivel. On the Riesling grape it allows a
uniquely aromatic and flavourful wine to be made, resulting in the
extraordinary "Beerenauslese" style of wine.
- BOUQUET (see NOSE).
- Near synonym for "aroma".
Term generally restricted to description of odours from poured bottled wines.
- Term used mainly to describe young red wines with high alcohol
levels. Certain red wines from Amador County, California, can be examples. The
mild epithet "tooth-stainers" is sometimes applied to this style of wine,
denoting respect for strength.
- BREATHE/BREATHING (see also OPEN-UP).
- Denotes the act of allowing the wine to "breathe"; ie: when wine is poured
into another container, such as a wineglass, the admixture of air seems to
release pent-up aromas
which then become more pronounced, in many cases, as minutes/hours pass.
- BREED (see also COMPLEX,
- Term reserved for wines from the best grape varieties, the so-called
"noble grapes". Denotes wines judged to have reached classical expectations of
- Denotes a wine having an aggressive, prickly taste best described as "peppery".
Sometimes combined with the adjective "brawny" to
characterize a young red wine with high alcohol
- BRILLIANT (see also CLOUDY, HAZY, UNFILTERED
- Very clear (and transparent in white wines) appearance with no visible
particulates or suspensions. May be sign of flavour deficiency in heavily filtered
- Measurement system used for sugar
content of grapes, wine and related products. A reading of 20 to 25 deg. Brix
is the optimum degree of grape ripeness at harvest for the majority of table
- BROWNING (see also MADERIZED,
- Denotes ageing in a wine. Young wine colour tints show no sign of such
"browning". If possessed of good character and depth, a
wine can still be very enjoyable even with a pronounced "brown" tint. In
average wines this tint, seen along the wine surface edge in a tilted glass
goblet, normally signals a wine is "past its peak", although still very
- BUTTERY (see also CREAMY, MALOLACTIC
- Describes taste sensation found in better white wines, particularly Chardonnay.
- Refers to the perfumed
fresh fruit aromas and
flavours of the grape which can be attractive
in wines made for early consumption. These include pink Rose style, "nouveau"
Beaujolais etc. Many consider it a less desirable characteristic in
longer-aging reds and better whites.
- CEDAR/CEDARWOOD (see also CIGARBOX).
component often found in fine red wines.
- A patronizing comment applied to wines that don't quite fulfil the first
expectations. Implies lightness,
an expression of "attitude". Sometimes used to describe certain wines made
from the Chenin Blanc grape and styled after a type of wine originating from
the Loire region of France.
- Refers to a high total tannic
component of a wine. Figuratively, one cannot swallow this wine without
- Near synonym for "tobacco"
detected in the nose,
especially if a "cedarwood"
component is present. Spanish cedarwood is the traditional material for making
- Describes aroma and
flavour reminiscent of citrus fruits. Most common is a perception of "grapefruit"
content. Most often detected in white wines made from grapes grown in cooler
regions of California or other countries.
- CLOSED-IN (see also DUMB, OPEN-UP).
- Term descriptive of currently poor character definition but with all the
correct characteristics. Usually expected to develop with age. Applies mainly
to young, intense wines vinified for long life expectancy.
- CLOUDY (see also BRILLIANT,
- Opposite of clear. Noticable cloudiness is undesirable except in cellar
aged wines that have not been decanted
properly. A characteristic of some unfiltered
wines showing the result of winemaking mistakes and often possessing an
- CLOYING (see also SWEET
- Excessive sugar
component annoys with dominating flavour and aftertaste.
The wine is then demonstrably unbalanced
relative to the other components.
- COMPLEX (see also ELEGANT).
- Almost a synonym for "breed".
Possesses that elusive quality where many layers of flavour separate a great
wine from a very good one. Balance
combines all flavour and taste
components in almost miraculous harmony.
- Refers to "silk-like" taste of some wines. Almost a synonym for "buttery".
Opposite of "crisp".
- Wine has pronounced but pleasing tartness, acidity. Fresh,
young and eager, begs to be drunk. Generally used to describe white wines
only, especially those of Muscadet de Sevres et Maine from the Loire region of
- A method by which cellar-aged bottled wine is poured slowly and carefully
into a second vessel, usually a glass decanter, in order to leave any sediment
in the original bottle before serving. Almost always a treatment confined to
red wines. The traditional method uses a candle flame as the light for
illuminating the neck of the bottle while the wine is passing by. The low
intensity of the light is ideal for viewing since it does not strain the eyes.
Care must be taken NOT to allow the flame to heat the wine while performing
- Any wine demonstrating somewhat mild, but attractive
characteristics. Occasionally used to describe well-made wines from the
so-called "lesser grape" varieties.
- DEPTH, DEEP (see also LINGERING).
- Refers to a premium wine that demands more attention, it fills the mouth
with a developing flavour, there are subtle layers of flavour that go "deep."
- DESSERT WINE
- Has two meanings:
- Fortified wine - eg: Sherry - where alcohol
is added in the form of Brandy or neutral spirits.
- Sweet or
very sweet wines of any alcohol level customarily drunk with dessert or by
themselves and usually in small amounts.
- DIRECT (see also EASY, SIMPLE).
- Everything present in this wine is immediately obvious.
- DIRTY (see also YEASTY/YEASTLIKE
- Describes any of the undesirable odours that can be present in a wine that
that was poorly vinified. A characteristic imparted by improperly cleaned
barrels or various other processes performed incorrectly. Usually detected
first in a wine by the smell of the cork stopper or from a barrel sample.
- Description of a wine made deliberately to possess little or no sweetness.
Commonly defined as containing less than about 0.5% residual
- Characteristic description of a young wine with yet-to-develop aromas and
flavours. A synonym for "closed-in".
Named so because it seems "unable to speak".
- EARTHY (see also NOSE, STONEY, VEGETAL,
- Covers situations where a "mother-earth" component is present. Earth is
soil-dirt, but an earthy wine is not dirty as in "DIRTY"
above. The term appears to be applicable to wine thought, by some, to be made
from grapes grown on vines planted in land previously used for growing certain
vegetables containing components which "marked" the soil in some way.
- EASY (see also DIRECT, SIMPLE).
- Undemanding but pleasant, doesn't require good taste, just tastes good.
- ELEGANT (see also COMPLEX).
- What to say when there is great balance
and grace in the wine, but you can't quite find apt words of description.
Almost a synonym for "breed".
- ESSENCE (see also NOSE below).
- Two meanings:
- Refers to "odour kits" containing vials of representative flavour
- Used occasionally by wineries to describe a late harvest, sweet red
wine. Most frequently appears on bottle labels for Zinfandel red wine made from grapes
picked at 35 deg. Brix or
- ETHYL ACETATE
- A substance which contributes the smell associated with acetic
- Fills the mouth without aggression. The wine "feels" and tastes a little
obvious and often lacks elegance
but is prized by connoisseurs of sweet dessert
wines. Not quite right even for a late harvest Moselle Riesling, but just right for a
classic Sauternes. Fatness/oiliness is
determined by the naturally occurring glycerol
- (a.k.a glycerin) - content in the wine.
- Wines that have had suspended particulates resulting from the fermentation
process removed. Important for future clarity and stability of a wine.
- Use of various materials for clarifying wines. These materials precipitate
to the bottom of the fermentation process vessel carrying any suspended
particulate matter with them.
- FINISH (see AFTERTASTE).
- As in "this wine has a (whatever) finish".
- FIRM (see AUSTERE).
the palate with acid or tannic astringency.
Suggests that the wine is young and will age. Nearly always a positive comment
and very desirable with highly flavoured foods.
- FLAT (see also MEAGER, THIN).
- Opposite of "firm".
Usually indicates very low acidity, so
tasting insipid and lacking flavour.
- Refers to both body and
texture. A fleshy wine tastes fatter than a
wine, exhibiting some excess oiliness if
too pronounced. Often suggests great smoothness and richness.
- Synonym for "stoney".
Derived from French phrase "gout de pierre a fusil", literally a flinty taste.
These terms are presumably metaphorical approximations based on the actual taste
sensations allegedly experienced when stones/minerals are licked (older books
on chemistry etc. always included the taste, feel and smell of the compounds
being described). Presumably refers to rate of moisture absorption etc by
different stone surfaces and detectable by the tongue. "Flinty" describes an
initial evaluation indicating a young white wine made from cool region grapes
under cold fermentation conditions. Characterized by high acidity, a
tactile "mouthfeel" that is filling and yet has a flavour sensation that is
- FLORAL/FLOWERY (see also NOSE).
- Suggests the aroma or taste,
usually aroma, of flowers in wine. "Floral" usually employed as an adjective
without modifier to describe attributes of white wine aromas. Few red wines
have floral aromas.
- Opposite of "closed-in".
Means presence of "fruitiness"
is immmediately apparent.
- FOXY (see also GRAPEY, VITIS LABRUSCA below).
- Common descriptive word used to note the presence of the unique musky and
character attached to native american Vitis.
labrusca grapes such as the Concord or Catawba varieties. Derived from the
french phrase "gout de renard" which literally translates as "odour" or "taste" of
fox, but means something more like "presence of fox" in the intangible sense.
The aroma and
flavours defy verbal description. The best way to imprint "foxiness" in the
memory is to mentally compare the flavours of fresh Concord grapes and any
fresh California table grape. Most people find the juice or jelly from the
Concord grape quite sprightly and delicious. In dry table
wines that same flavour is considered obtrusive and even quite disagreeable.
- Implies the lively fruity acidity,
maybe a little bite of acid, found in youthful light reds, rose's and most
whites. All young whites should be fresh. The opposite is flatness, staleness.
- Used for any quality that refers to the body and richness of
a wine made from good, ripe grapes.
A fruity wine has an "appley",
character. "Fruitiness" usually implies a little extra sweetness.
- As opposed to "thin" or
"thin-bodied". Fills the mouth, has a winey taste, alcohol
is present, the wine has "weight on the tongue".
- 1970's jargon word. Defies precise definition. Used by some Canadian
tasters when reviewing provincial Liquor Control Board offerings.
- GAMEY/GAMELIKE (see also NOSE).
- Descriptive term for one of the flavours/aromas
considered particular to Burgundian style Pinot Noir red wines. Reminiscent
and flavour associated with cooked wild duck and other "gamey" meats. Thought
to to be caused by contamination with "brett" - (brettanomyces strain of yeast).
Considered a major flaw when flavour is overly-pronounced.
- Gives a sweet taste on
the tongue tip. Higher concentrations are found in high-alcohol
and late-harvest wines, leading to sensations of smooth slipperiness giving a
sense of fullness to the wine body. Is a natural by-product of the
- Grapefruit flavours are characteristic of cool-climate Chardonnays. See citrusy
- GRAPEY (see also VITIS
- Content has simple flavours and aromas
reminiscent of a certain type of fresh wine or table grape. Used by some as
adjective alternate for "foxy".
- Slightly vegetal-tasting
undertone often part of the overall character of Sauvignon Blanc and certain other
grape varietals. European tasters sometimes use the word "gooseberry" to
describe this flavour. In minute presence it can enhance flavours. As it
becomes more dominant the more it loses appeal leading to unattractiveness.
- GREEN (see also ANGULAR).
- Strictly applied refers to the taste of
wines made with underripe
fruit. More loosely used it refers to some white wines, especially Riesling, possessing the
greenish colour tint indicating youth; does not necessarily mean the sour and/or
taste of unripe fruit content as well.
- High acidity
content leading to a sensation of dryness in the mouth, a degree of puckery-ness.
Useful for detecting young red wines suitable for aging. Characteristic
preferred in dry white wines that will accompany shellfish.
- Very astringent
wines, usually with high alcohol
component, often have this rough, rustic
taste characteristic. May become more tolerable with ageing but also may not
be worth the wait.
- HAZY (see also BRILLIANT,
- Refers to wines with slight particulate content when viewed against the
light. Occurs most often in unfiltered
wines where there is no need to worry. If the haziness is intense enough to
cause loss of clarity however it may indicate a flawed wine.
- HEARTY (see also STURDY).
- Most often applied in description of full,
qualities found in red wines with high alcohol
component. Examples are found in the sturdier so-called "jug wines", some
California Zinfandels, lesser
French Rhone or Algerian red wines and in the occasional lesser Australian
- HERBACEOUS (see also GRASSY).
- Adjective used in description of wine with taste and
herbs, (usually undefined). Considered to be a varietal characteristic of Cabernet Sauvignon, and to less
extent, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
- HOLLOW (see also AFTERTASTE).
- Missing middle between "attack"
Caused by too many grapes on insufficiently pruned vines. If very noticeable,
- HOT (see also AFTERTASTE).
- Defines a wine high in alcohol
and giving a prickly or burning sensation on the palate. Accepted in fortified
wines, but not considered as a particularly desirable attribute in Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. Positively undesirable
in light, fruity
wines, (eg: Moselle Rieslings).
- Word most often encountered in descriptions of California Zinfandel wines made with Amador
County grapes. Refers to the natural berrylike
taste of this grape.
- LEAFY (see YEASTY/YEASTLIKE).
- Somewhat analogous to "vegetal".
Desirable in minute detectable amounts, if adding to notes of complexity in
- LEAN (see also BODY, THIN elsewhere).
- More body would
be good, sort of thin in the
mouth, often too much astringency,
sometimes a compliment for certain styles.
- LEES (see also NUTTY).
- Refers to residual yeast and
other particles that precipitate, or are carried by the action of "fining", to
the bottom of the fermentation vessel. US winemakers use the term "mud".
Imparts distinctive flavours to the wine depending on type. Derived from
French term "lies" as in "sur lies".
- LEGS (see also FIRM, TEARS).
- Two interpretations.
- Term used when referring to the liquid rivulets that form on the inside
of a wineglass bowl after the wine is swirled in order to evaluate the alcohol
concentration present. Usually the higher the alcohol content, the more
impressive the rivulets appear because of reduced surface tension effects.
(Some still cling to the erroneous belief that glycerin
content causes these rivulets). Valuable technique when used in "blind"
- Alternatively, is used by some as a near synonym for "balance"
as in "This wine has _legs_", ie: underpinnings. Indicates the wine has all
the basic characteristics looked for in when making an initial assessment.
- Descriptive of a somewhat acidic white
wine. These wines contain flavours reminiscent of that fruit. Apart from that,
may be well balanced
in all other respects, sometimes with a touch of extra sweetness.
- LENGTH (see also AFTERTASTE).
- How long the total flavour lasts in the back of the throat after
swallowing. Counted in time-seconds. Ten seconds is good, fifteen is great,
twenty is superb. Almost a synonym for "finish",
as in "this is a wine with an long, extraordinary finish".
- Low alcohol
Since about 1981 a wine containing fewer calories per comparable serving than
a regular glass of wine has been legally designated as such. Used as a tasting
term, "light" is usually a polite expression meaning "watery".
- LINGERING (see AFTERTASTE,
- Almost a synonym for fresh.
Implies detection of barely discernible spritzyness.
Applies most often to white wines, but some reds also qualify.
- LUSH (see also SWEET below).
- Describes impression of wines with high amounts of residual
sugar. Adjective almost entirely reserved for sweet dessert
- Distinctive brown
colour in wine due usually to period of air exposure. Regarded as synonym for
Originates from the taste/appearance of Madeira wines. "Sherrified" is
commonly used synonym.
- MALOLACTIC FERMENTATION
- Secondary fermentation occasionally detected in bottled wines. Its action
converts the naturally occurring Malic acid into Lactic acid plus Carbon
Dioxide gas. Reduces total acidity by
this action. Since the gas is contaminated with undesirable odours, if it
remains trapped in the bottle it becomes a minor fault unless allowed to
dissipate. Malolactic fermentation is a commonly used technique for reducing
the sharpness of cool climate Chardonnays and the Lactic acid
component gives an admired "creamy" or
- Describes the odour of Sulphur Dioxide gas, described by some as similar
to the smell of "burnt matches", found in minute amounts very occasionally
trapped in bottled white wines. Dissipates with airing or decanting.
- MEAGER (see also THIN, WATERY).
- Lacks "body" and
Has definite feeling of flavour dilution. Seems to occur in some select
varietal wines vinified from grapes subjected to late season rain, although
there are other explanations as well.
- MEATY (see also FAT, OILY).
- With much body as
though you could chew it.
The reference is to lean meat, so indicates less body present than "fleshy".
- Wines possessing intense flavours which seem to affect every sensory nerve
in the mouth. Usually slightly high glycerin
component, slightly low acid.
- MUSTY (also see DIRTY).
- A wine that displays unpleasant "mildew" or "mouldy" aromas. Results from
improperly cleaned storage vessels, mouldy grapes or cork.
- Not the fleshy sense-organ/projection on the human face. Is near synonym
word for "aroma" and
Strictly applied it refers to the totality of the detectable odour, (grape variety,
vinous character, fermentation smells), whether desirable or defective, found
in a wine. One would speak of a mature wine as having, for example, "varietal
bouquet and hint of vanilla
combining to give balanced nose".
The sense organs of the human nose can be educated by the use of purchased
odour comparison kits known by such names as "Le Nez du Vin", "Component
Collection" or "Winealyser". These can sometimes be obtained at the various
Home Wine Makers mail suppliers (etc.) around the country.
- NOUVEAU (a.k.a. "Nuevo").
- Indicates young, immediately drinkable wine - (eg: "nouveau Beaujolais").
- NUTTY (see also MADERIZED,
- Table wines that have been exposed to air display this aroma which
resembles that of certain sherry wines. Considered a flaw by some in red
wines, but a desired flavour component in certain white wines by others. (eg:
Chardonnays with extended "lees"
contact in the fermentation vessel).
- The taste or aroma of
freshly sawn oak. When a wine, especially a red, is "oaked" just right, the
will carry a bare whiff of vanilla
aroma. Sometimes, oak flavours overpower other component wine flavours, in
which case it is considered overoaked. Oak flavour is introduced from contact
with storage barrels made from that wood. New oak barrels contribute stronger
flavour to a wine than older storage barrels. The "oaky" components
encountered include "vanillin",
and so-called "toasty"
"charred" or "roasted" elements. "Vanillin" comes from the character of the
hardwood. The three others derive from the "charring" of the barrel which
occurs from heating the iron stave-rings which hold the barrel staves in place
after contraction and the flaming of the interior.
- OILY (see also FAT, GLYCERIN/GLYCEROL elsewhere)
- Describes the vaguely fat, slippery
sensation on the palate in contact with the combination of high glycerin
and slightly low acid
content. Mostly encountered in high quality Chardonnays and late harvest sweet
- OPEN-UP/OPENING-UP (see also CLOSED-IN).
- Some bottled cellar-aged red wines possess the peculiarity that, when the
cork is first pulled and the wine poured, the full flavours do not immediately
make an appearance. However, after the passage of several minutes in an open
glass goblet, the wine develops unsuspected flavour characteristics that can
verge on the sublime. This phenomenon is referred to as "opening-up".
Conversely, these flavours can disappear just as fast in just 30 minutes,
leaving a subsequent impression of a flat, stale,
"over-the-hill" and/or mediocre wine.
- A grape precondition necessary for making certain styles of Californian Zinfandel wines. Left on the vine to
dry in the sun, certain grape varietals will develop the desirable "raisiny"
character and concentrated sugar
necessary for making specialty wines such as the famous Hungarian Tokay.
- OXIDIZED (see MADERIZED,
- Term almost solely applied to "spicy"
wines, such as Gewurztraminer
among the whites, or the red Rhone Syrah and Australian Shiraz wines.
Component which can almost be described as pungent in quality, being
reminiscent of anise, cinnamon etc.
- PERFUMED (see CANDYLIKE,
- Synonym for "floral".
Implies also a degree of extra residual
- The diminutive of "fat", also
implying a degree of "charm"
- Even less balanced than a "hearty" or
wine. The sole impact is one of high alcohol
character. Little or no acid/tannin
content. An everyday red wine, similar to a french "vin ordinaire" country
wine sold by alcohol content, can be an example.
- Close to being a synonym for BRAWNY.
sun-dried grapes can induce an undesirable pungent quality into table wines;
sometimes compared to "the taste of dried prunes".
- PUCKERY (see also HARD, TANNIC)
- Synonym for ASTRINGENT.
- RACKING (see also FILTERED,
- Traditional method of wine clarification. Sequential transfer of wine to
several containers, each transfer leaving behind some particulate matter.
- Mildly rich flavour due to excessive heat in the growing area which dries
out grapes still on the vine. Considered a fault in most dry table wines.
- Term for well-balanced
wines. Mostly refers to reds, such as Zinfandel, which normally turn "powerful"
in the barrel. Almost a synonym for "elegant".
- RESIDUAL SUGAR (see also SWEET).
- Percentage, by weight or volume, of the unfermented grape sugar in a
- Giving a full,
opulent flavour impression without necessarily being sweet.
Richness supplied by alcohol,
nuances in dry wine. The sweeter wines qualify for this adjective if also
characterized by ripe, fruity
- RIM (see also AGE/AGING, BROWNING,
- Refers to edge of wine surface as seen through a "ballon" style wineglass
held at an angle of about 30-40 deg. from the vertical and viewed against
white piece of paper or cloth using natural light . Used in evaluation of wine
age. In "blind" tasting is about the only way to get an informed perception
about the probable life and/or condition of the wine from that date on.
- Favorable adjective bestowed when the varietal
characteristics of the grape are optimally present in a well balanced
wine. Ripe-tasting wines tend toward being slightly more fruity and
than otherwise normal wines.
- ROBUST (see also BRAWNY).
- Vigorous, full
with a lot of heart, a
- ROTTEN EGG
- Smell of Hydrogen Sulphide gas in wine. Thought to be a characteristic
imparted by certain yeast strains. A decided flaw.
- ROUGH (see also ASTRINGENT).
- Flavour or texture give no pleasure. Acidity
and/or tannin are
predominant and coarse.
- ROUND (see also REFINED).
- Describes flavours and tactile sensations giving a feeling of completeness
with no dominating characteristic. Almost the same as fat, but with
more approval. Tannin, acid and glycerin
are sufficiently present but appear as nuances rather than distinct flavours.
- Synonym for "rough".
- One of the four basic taste
sensations detected by the human tongue. Sensed by the taste buds that lie
close to the tip of the tongue and just behind.
- SHARP (see also CRISP, HARD).
- Excess acid
predominates, disturbing the otherwise balanced
- Normal, everyday, well-vinified table wine of straightforward character.
- SMOKE/SMOKY (see also OAKY, TOASTY, VANILLIN).
- Apparently has two meanings:
- Some use the word in the same sense as the smell/flavour that separates
smoked (anything) from ordinary (anything).
- Refers to aroma
contributed by the charred oakwood in barrels. It can have a variety of
impressions - (eg: such as the remains of a burnt-out fire). Needs a
variant, such as "wood-smoke" or "barbeque smoke" or "sooty" to fully convey
- SOFT (see also LIGHT).
- Generally has low acid/tannin
content. Also describes wines with low alcohol
content. Consequently has little impact on the palate.
- SOUR (see also CRISP, SHARP).
- Almost a synonym for ACIDIC.
Implies presence of acetic
acid plus excess acid component. (Is also one of the four basic taste
sensations detected by the human tongue).
- Almost a synonym for "peppery".
Implies a softer, more rounded
flavour nuance however.
- SPRITZY (see also LIVELY).
- Considered a fairly minor fault stemming sometimes from the onset of a
brief secondary malolactic
fermentation in the bottle. Consists of pinpoint carbonation typically
released when the bottle cork is pulled. Frowned on more if occurring in white
wines vinified to be dry.
- STALE (see also TANKY).
- Wine with lifeless, stagnant qualities. Usually found in wines that were
kept in large vessel storage for an excessive length of time.
- STONEY/STONELIKE (see also FLINT/FLINTY).
- Describes a _set_ of perceptions that seem to indicate a relatively young
white wine fermented from ripe, but not overly so, grapes under cold
fermentation conditions. Classic examples are made from Chardonnay grapes in the Chablis
region of France. Wines from the Carneros region of the Napa Valley in
California are sometimes so described as well. High acidity
coupled with a tactile, mouth-filling
sensation that has a cleanly "earthy"
flavour characterize this type of wine. Term is commonly used to describe
initial impact, as in "Ah, _thats_ a flinty", (or stoney), "wine".
- The flavour plan, so to speak. Suggests completeness of the wine, all
parts there. Term needs a modifier in order to mean something - (eg: "brawny"
- STURDY (see also HEARTY)
- STYLISH (see also LIVELY).
- The style is bold and definite, jaunty and a little pesky.
- Term often used for young reds which should be more aggressive. More lively
than an easy wine
with suggestions of good quality. The near synonym "amiable" is also sometimes
employed but does not quite emphasise the extra connotation of "leanness"
- SWEET (see also CLOYING,
- Refers to one of the four basic tastes
detected by the sensory nerves of the human tongue. In the description of wine
taste-flavour the term "sweet" is almost always used as an identifier denoting
the presence of residual
sugar and/or glycerin.
require a descriptive term to identify the source of the perceived sensation -
(eg: "ripe", "lush").
- Synonym for "stale".
- TANNIN (see also ASTRINGENT,
- A naturally occurring substance in grapeskins, seeds and stems. Is
primarily responsible for the basic "bitter"
component in wines. Acts as a natural preservative, helping the development
and, in the right proportion, balance
of the wine. It is considered a fault when present in excess.
- Descriptive term used when comparing odour detected in the "nose" of a
wine with similar odour retained in a memory trained by the use of a
comparison kit of scent essences. Such kits include tar, mercaptan, apricots,
mushrooms and other flavour essences isolated from wines.
- TART (see also SHARP, SOUR).
- Synonym for "acidic".
- The four basic sensations detectable by the human tongue. The tip of the
tongue contains the taste receptors registering "sweetness".
Just a little further back, at the sides, taste will appear "salty".
Behind that, flavour will have a "sour" taste
at the sides, finally dissolving into "bitterness"
at the near center-rear of the tongue.
- TEARS (see also ALCOHOL).
- Synonym for "legs".
- THIN/THIN-BODIED (see also LIGHT, MEAGER).
- Opposite of "full-bodied".
- TIGHT (see also ANGULAR,
- A term for young wines. Almost an synonym for "dumb".
- TOASTY (see also OAKY, SMOKE/SMOKY,
- Other, similar descriptors are "caramel" and "toffee". Some also add spicy
flavours, such as "cinnamon" or "cloves".
- Descriptive term, used by some, to describe a flavour component resembling
the taste of raw tobacco leaf in the finish of
certain red wines. Seems to mainly apply to Cabernet Sauvignons from Bordeaux,
France or the Napa region of California. "Cigarbox"
is a common term often used as a near synonym especially if a cedar-wood
note in the aroma is
detected. (Non-smokers may have trouble with this word and its implication).
- UNDERIPE (see also ACIDIC, GREEN).
- Resulting flavour when grapes that failed to reach optimum maturity on the
vine are used in the vinification process.
- Opposite of "filtered".
However, does not exclude other clarifying processes such as "fining"
- Opposite of "fined".
However, does not exclude other clarifying processes such as "filtering"
- VANILLA (see also SWEET, TARLIKE).
- Component detectable in the "nose" of a
wine. The novice taster can compare odours with the vials of artificial ones
provided in kit form.
- Component contributed by oakwood
barrel staves. Considered to add a degree of "sweetness"
to red wines when present in barely detectable amounts, so adding to a
style prized by connoisseurs.
- VARIETAL CHARACTER (see also BREED, HERBACEOUS,
- The particular flavour characteristics associated with a grape picked at
optimum maturity - (eg: distinctive "berrylike"
taste of California Zinfandels,
"blackcurrants" of Cabernet
- VEGETAL (see also EARTHY, LEAFY, YEASTY/YEASTLIKE).
- Considered a flavour flaw when present in distinctive amounts over and
above that occurring naturally in the grape. "Grassy"
has somewhat the same connotation.
- VINOUS (see also SIMPLE).
- Akin to "amiable". Nothing basically wrong with the wine, just has no
impact on the taster. Implies good "character", but dull experience.
- VITIS LABRUSCA (see also GRAPEY).
- The grape species believed to be an impure, cross-pollinated version of
the wild grape native to North America. Makes tasty juice, jelly but has wine
flavour often termed as "foxy".
- VITIS VINIFERA (see also BREED, ELEGANT).
- The premier grape species used for the world's most admired wines. Also
referred to as the "European vine".
- VOLATILE (see also HARSH).
- Powerful, attack aroma.
Usually denotes high level of acidity, alcohol
and/or other flavour faults.
- Possesses high alcohol
flavour offset by counterbalancing flavours and other desirable qualities.
Unlike "hot", is a
- Synonym for MEAGER or
- WEIGHTY (see also BODY).
wines with an implication of mildly excessive flavour or "heaviness".
- Contains all of the essential elements - (ie: alcohol,
flavours, acid or astringency
etc) - in good proportions.
- Almost a synonym for OAKY.
However, implies an overstay in a wooden container which resulted in the
absorption of other wood flavours besides "oak".
- YEASTY/YEASTLIKE (see also DIRTY, EARTHY, NUTTY, VEGETAL).
- Term describing odours deriving from varietal yeasts carried on
grapeskins, moulds etc. Includes both desirable and undesirable
characteristics. Examples would be the presence of "brett" - (brettanomeyces)
- a strain of yeast that produces "gamey/smokey"
odours that are considered to add to the character of the wine when barely
detectable. Considered a flaw when presence is pronounced. Another, similar
example is the "dekkera" wild yeast strain which gives a "fresh dirt/cement-y"
Acknowledgements.The preparer of this glossary adapted the "Language"
section of "The Connoisseurs Handbook of California Wines" by Charles Olsen,
Earl Singer and Norman Roby, published 1982 by Alfred A. Knopf for use as a
basic alphabetic outline in order not to stray too far afield from accepted
Other material was adapted from:
- "Alexis Lichines Guide to the Wines and Vineyards of France", (2nd Edn)
pub. 1982 by Alfred A. Knopf.
- "The Art of Winemaking in America" by Phillip M. Wagner, pub. by Alfred A.
- "From Vines to Wines" by Jeff Cox, pub. by Harper & Row, 1988.
I wish to thank Ralph Amey, Tom Beard, Dan Graham and T. Ulf Westblom for
their extremely helpful comments re. this glossary and previous contributions to
this list on the subject of wine. Information about two contaminating yeasts was
obtained from "The Internet Guide to Wine" by Bradford S. Brown (with Dri
Brown), which shows promise of being a seminal work on WWW (World Wide Web).
Along the way several other individuals made helpful comments privately and
via the list. My sincere thanks to them also.
Disclaimer: The content of this glossary does not reflect the views or have any
connection whatsoever with Alfred University. Affiliation email address below is
for identification only. The descriptions above are those of the undersigned and
are intended only for use as a general information source available to all.