If you’ve never been to a wine tasting, or have only been to one or two events, there is no question that there are a ton of terms that you are unfamiliar with. In order to effectively communicate within a group at a wine tasting, you should have a basic understanding of the common terminology. Some of these terms may have heard before, others may not ring a bell at all, but keep your mind open as you review the basic wine tasting terminology..
- Acidity– Helps preserve wine. All grapes (and by extension all wines) have acid. Wines extremely high in acidity often have a sour or tart taste. Wines low in acidity are described as tasting “fat” or “flabby.”
- Aeration – Occurs by either swirling the wine around in a glass or decanting the bottle into another container. Aeration softens the tannins by allowing the wine to “breathe” before consumption. Young red wines benefit most from aeration.
- Ascescence– Marks the presence of ethyl acetate and acetic acid. Noticeable by sweet and sour, sometimes vinegary smell and taste along with a sharp feeling in the mouth.
- Astringent– Rough, puckery taste caused by high tannin content. Astringency normally mellows out with age.
- Austere– Dry, hard and acidic wines that attacks the palate with tannic astringency. Often a young wine that will get better with age.
- Balance– No individual part dominates or overpowers the other. Sweetness balances acid; oak and tannin content is balanced by fruitiness.
- Big– Describes the overall body and taste of a wine. Big red wines are usually high in tannins while big white wines are high in alcohol and glycerin.
- Buttery– A texture as creamy as butter. Often used to describe a taste of better white wines such as Chardonnay.
- Finish– The aftertaste, or amount of time the flavors linger in your mouth. A exceptional finish will last anywhere from 15 to 40 seconds. Anything less than this is considered standard, or if under 8 seconds, a poor finish.
- Flinty– The taste experienced when stones/minerals are licked. High acidity and brings to mind a clean, earthly flavor.
- Green– The taste of wine made with under-ripe fruit. Often loosely describes some white wines with a greenish hue, such as Rieslings, which indicate a youthful wine. In recent years, the term “green wine” has taken on an alternate meaning, made with environmentally friendly production methods.
- Hollow– Wines missing a mid-palate taste often caused by too many grapes on inadequately pruned vines. Hollow wines have a strong initial impact and aftertaste but not much flavor while in the mouth on the tongue.
- Legs– The liquid rivulets that appear inside of a wineglass after the wine is swirled in order to evaluate alcohol content.
- Nose– The aroma or bouquet produced as you inhale the aroma of wine. Refers to the delectable odor or fermentation smells – whether desirable or undesirable – found in wine.
- Tannin– Naturally occurring bitter compounds found in grape skins, seeds and stems. Tannins have a hard, astringent taste. Also acts a preservative in aging wine.
This is just a very short basic list of common wine tasting terms. There are enough terms here to help you get comfortable when communicating with others at a wine tasting event. If you rub elbows with any group of wine tasters long enough, you will slowly but surely become familiar with these terms and even find yourself fluently using a few of these terms yourself!