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Understanding Varietals
Glossary
Pronunciation Glossary
Tasting Terms
How to Taste Wine
How Wine is Made
How Wine is Stored
Wine Regions
Wine Tidbits
 

Tasting Terms




Approachable
Drinkable, easy to enjoy

Aromatic
Descriptive term for wines of a markedly flowery, spicy or grapey character

Beefy
Term for reds meaning solid or chunky

Big
Ample amount of concentrated fruit, character, tannins, etc.

Buttery
A smell, especially in oak-aged Chardonnay, not a tactile sensation

Chewy
Wine with a lot of tannin and strong flavor

Clean
Wine with no bacterial or chemical faults and a simple direct flavor

Complex
Depth of flavor and nuances, an interesting wine that reveals lots of different aromas and flavor characteristics

Crisp
Has generous amounts of acidity, generally a fresh, clean wine in a lighter style

Deep
Term for full-flavored reds and whites, often applied to wines still not at their peak

Dry
Has no residual sugar or sense of sweetness. This doesn't mean all you taste is acid

Dusty
Usually applied to hot, country reds, in particular wines from the southern Rhone

Earthy
The smell of rich earth or minerals. A positive comment

Fat
A heavy, sometimes slightly clumsy wine. Though if made from fully ripe grapes it can imply a rather unctuous richness in the wine, sweet or dry

Finish
Flavors and feel of the wine on the back of your tongue and after you swallow. The finish can be big, smooth, etc.

Freshness
The youthful aromas in a wine, usually associating good acidity with floral or fruit flavors

Fruit
Term, literally, for the fruit element in a wine. It may not taste of grapes, but it will resemble a fruit of some kind -- e.g., black currant, strawberry, apple -- and is crucial to the flavor of any wine

Fullness
The feel, or weight, of a wine in the mouth

Grapey
Quite rare flavor of the grape itself in wine. Most common with Muscat, Beaujolais, Gewürztraminer and Riesling

Green
Unripe, or tart, not necessarily an unattractive taste in a light wine

Hard
Usually applied to reds which have an excess of tannin. In young reds, this is often necessary to support the aging process

Honeyed
Applied to ripe wines which, sweet or dry, have a taste or aroma of honey

Jammy
Rather big, cooked sweetish red wines

Length
The way a good wine's flavors continue to evolve in the mouth even after swallowing

Nutty
Usually for dry whites -- a soft brazil or hazelnut flavor in Chardonnay, a woodier taste in Chenin or Sauvignon, and a dry richness in medium dry or Madeiras

Oaky
The slightly sweet vanilla flavor imparted by maturation in oak casks

Oxidized
A wine exposed to too much air

Plummy
Often applied to big, round, ripe reds from Pomerol, St-Emilion, Cote Du Nuits and Napa

Prickly
A wine with slight residual gas in it. Usually attractive in light young whites, but in reds it is often a sign of refermentation in bottle

Racy
A light wine of quality with lively acidity

Smoky
Many wines do have a smoky taste, especially when slightly charred oak barrels have been used for maturation

Soft
Mellow, well-rounded, mature tannins and little evidence of acidity

Spicy
Exotic fruit and spice flavors in whites, particularly Gewürztraminer, but also a peppery or cinnamony clovey perfume in some reds

Steely
Applied to top Riesling for the very dry, almost metallic flavor they develop

Supple
Soft textured, round on the palate, fully mature tannins

Sweet
Tasting term, applied not only to sweet wines, but tannins to the elements of ripeness or richness which good quality dry wines can often suggest

Tart
Green, unripe wine. Can be desirable in light dry wines

Toasty
The barrel smell and taste imparted to oak-fermented white wines and barrel-aged white burgundy

Tough
Usually implying too much tannin

Vanilla
The smell of new oak

Varietal
Dominating grape in the wine. U.S. wines must be at least 75% of the varietal that appears in the label

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