Common Wine Terms
Listed below are several terms you will likely hear or read about as you enjoy your California Wine tasting adventure.
acidity - the liveliness and crispness noted in wine.
aeration - the deliberate addition of oxygen to wine to round out and soften a wine.
aging - holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state.
alcohol - ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the product of fermentation of sugars by yeast.
aroma - the scent of the grape, as well as the smell of wine, especially young wines. (different than "bouquet")
astringent - tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannins.
balance - when the elements of wine - acids, sugars, tannins, alcohol - come together in a harmonious way, it is said to be "balanced".
body - a sensation and a term describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth. A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.
bouquet - a term that refers to the complex aromas in ages wines.
breath/breathing - allowing wine to come in contact with air to open and improve the flavors. (see "aeration")
closed - term describing underdeveloped and young wines whose flavors are not exhibiting well.
complex - a wine exhibiting numerous odors, nuances, and flavors.
cork taint - undesirable aromas and flavors in wine often associated with wet cardboard and/or moldy basements.
corked - a term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint
dry - opposite of sweet. A taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth.
earthy - an odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil, a forest floor scent or smell.
finish - The impression of textures and flavors lingering in the mouth after a wine is swallowed.
flavors - Odors perceived in the mouth.
fruity - a tasting term signifying wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit. Can also describe aromas of cooked fruit, as in "jammy".
full-bodied - a wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as "big".
herbaceous - a tasting term denoting odors and flavors of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary) in a wine.
Jammy - a tasting term (see fruity) signifying wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit.
length - how long the flavors of a wine persist in the mouth after swallowed; a lingering aftertaste.
long - denotes the length of time a wine's presence stays in the mouth after swallowling.
mature - ready to drink.
mouth-feel - how a wine feels in one's mouth - (rough, silky, smooth, velvety).
nose - how a wine smells. A tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine.
oak/oaky - tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla and toast.
oxidation - wine exposed to air that has undergone a chemical change. The deteriorating wine will exhibit stale smells and colors can look brown.
spicy - a tasting term used to note odors and flavors reminiscent of various aromatic spices that are found in certain wines.
structure - an ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins.
tannins - the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, puckery feeling in the mouth.
texture - a tasting term describing how the wine being tasted feels on the palate. "Texture" is used more often when describing heavy, dense wines with a big mouthfeel.
vegetal - tasting term describing characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavors of the wine. Bell peppers, grass, and asparagus are common "vegetal" descriptors.
weight - similar to "body", the thicker or richer a wine feels in the mouth, the more weight is described as having.
wine - fermented juice of grapes.
young - an immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage. Wines meant to be drunk "young" are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.