The terms below are a short list of common wine description terms. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather, a condensed group of some of the most common terms used by wine professionals to describe what they are tasting.
TERMS FOR OFF ODORS
- Often (mistakenly) used as a generic term for any wine that is bad.
- More specifically used to refer to wines that have been infected with TCA, Trichloro anisole, a compound infecting corks or other wood-based material that has contact with the wine, and can impart a musty/moldy smell.
- The smell of wet cardboard or a musty basement - this appears when a wine is corked.
- The smell of sweat and animal skin that is often associated with Brettanomyces.
- A type of yeast that can produce off odors such as band-aid, saddle leather, and mouse feces.
- Often associated with old-world wines from Rhone, Bordeaux, older Napa valley Cabs and Northern Italy.
- Small levels can be considered part of the terroir.
- A wine that has sulfurous aromas, such as onion, cabbage, or rotten eggs.
- May not be truly off, and it may often blow off with exposure to oxygen.
- Often associated with screw-cap or Stelvin closure bottles rather than cork closures, but can happen to either.
TERMS FOR DESCRIBING FRUIT CONDITION
- Fruit that is under ripe such as lemon pith, and under-ripe peach.
- Fruit that is just about ripe, but still has some tartness to it.
- Fruit that has a pure or classic quality to the smell, such as juicy fruit.
- Fruit that is overly ripe and reminds you of fruit jam.
- Fruit that has fallen off the tree and sat on the ground for a couple of days.
- Fruit that seems like it has sat out in the hot sun, and has lost the fresh aromas.
- Fruit that has lost most of its moisture and the flavors have concentrated, such as craisins, raisins, dates, and prunes.
- Fruit that has dried out and started to rot.
- This could be found in older wines, and may resemble baked/dried fruit that has some mustiness present
TERMS FOR DESCRIBING SWEETNESS LEVELS IN STILL WINES
- virtually zero residual sugar on the tongue
- Considered a dry wine, but may have a couple grams of residual sugar that is very difficult to detect.
- May seem dry in high acid wines like Riesling, but there is technically some sugar present.
- noticeably sweet, but not unbalanced
- considerably sweet
- very sweet
TERMS FOR DESCRIBING TEXTURE OR BODY IN A WINE
- Often refers to the tannins, and applied to a wine that is smooth, without harsh or astringent tannins.
- Similar to silky, may refer to a wine with slightly lower alcohol and gentle tannins.
- Similar to silky, but usually conveying a richer density to the wine, with smooth, but present tannins.
- Many Napa Valley red blends fit this description.
- Often refers to a wine with fairly high alcohol and mod plus to high tannins.
- Barolo would be a good example.
- Refers to a wine that is heavily extracted, such as a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Barossa Valley Shiraz.
- The color is usually deep ruby/purple.
- The wine is probably from the new world.
- It also implies a heavy, glycerin-like quality to the wine as well.
- A wine that is likely not fully ripe, and therefore it feels more like skim milk regarding texture.
- There is likely little new oak, and is more often found in the old world.
- Similar to muscular, but the tannins may be unbalanced and prominent.
- Similar to aggressive, but may be extremely unbalanced, and could also have some off odors or high alcohol levels.
- Acid descriptor, often refers to white wines with medium / medium + acidity.
- Acid descriptor, and often refers to white wines with high acidity.