Wine Tasting Term List



Here are various words I use in my reviews. Every person's mouth is different, and it's difficult to get across an exact sensation you're experiencing with mere words. Maybe someday a Vulcan Mind Meld will really work ...

Acid: A wine with acids in it tends to make your mouth juicy. Just as stomach acids are stirred up when you are ready to eat, drinking a wine with full acids makes your saliva go.

Aftertaste: I don't like this word much. I'd much rather use "finish" - 'aftertaste' makes it sound like a mediciny mouthwash that leaves an unpleasant lingering reminder. In any case, it is the taste that remains after you swallow the wine - this can be far different than the taste you sensed while actually drinking the wine.

Balanced: Something most wines want to be - not too sweet, not too sour, not too fruity, not too dry. A good mix of everything.

Corked: This is a bad thing for any wine. The fungus that grows on cork sometimes turns a wine into a damp-cardboard tasting liquid. I've had slightly corked wines that were still drinkable, but in general, if it smells like damp cardboard, send it back. Note that this does NOT have anything to do with the wine having cork bits in it, or being old. It is a *taint* caused by cork mold.

Crisp: Like a good apple - fresh, lively, sharp tasting. Many whites are crisp.

Dry: This is one that amuses wine beginners. How can a wine be dry? It's obviously wet! No no, dry means "not sweet". A dry wine is usually great with food.

Finish: I like this term far more than 'aftertaste'. It's the flavor that's stuck in your mouth after you finish drinking the wine. It can be short, in that it vanishes right away, or it can be long, if it lingers in your mouth for a while.

Gamy: Sort of like venison and earth rolled together. Rough and ready, like a good Baco Noir. This kind of wine holds its own against strongly-flavored foods.

Legs / Tears: When an alcoholic wine is drunk and the glass is put back down, 'drips' of the wine slide back down the inside in long streaks, looking sort of like legs. It's most obvious in wine of 12% alcohol or higher. It is formed by an interaction between the alcohol and the water.

Oaky: Tasting like oak! Many Chardonnays can taste oaky - it depends what kinds of barrels the wines were aged in.

Sweet: Sweet is the opposite of dry in wine. Sweet wines are usually drunk for dessert - such as port and ice wine. Sweet wines can also be perfect pairings for spicy food.

Tannic: Red wines have tannins, which gives you that mouth-drying sensation when you drink them. Tanning leather is what makes it waterproof - and the inside of your mouth actually "tans" if you drink a wine with a lot of tannin in it. You can feel the drying sensation as it does this.

Vinegar: When a wine gets old, it tends to taste more and more like vinegar. If the wine is not stored on its side, the cork can dry out and let air in, and make this happen prematurely.

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