Need a refresher on wine tasting terms? You might know what the wine tastes like, but describing it can be a bit difficult if you’re not familiar with wine tasting adjectives. If you want to brush up on wine tasting descriptions then you’ve come to the right place!
How to describe wine like a pro
Next time you open up a bottle of wine, try to really experience all that the wine has to offer. The aroma, the flavors, and even the consistency of the wine all come into play when using wine tasting terms.
Wine tasting terms can be broken up into four categories:
1. The Fruit Level
2. How Sweet or Dry It Is
3. The Body
4. The Finish
1. The Fruit Level
Since wine is made from fruit, the first thing you’ll notice is the fruit level.
A wine that is Fruit Forward will have a more sweet and fruity aroma. Common terms to describe a fruit forward wine are:
- New world style
Fruit forward red wines
When shopping for red wine, you’ll notice the description of fruit forward wines include terms like sweet raspberry, maraschino cherry, blackberry, blueberry, jam, prune, candied fruit, black raisin, vanilla, and sweet tobacco.
Fruit forward white wines
When shopping for white wine, you’ll find more of these terms in the descriptions: sweet lemon, baked apple. orange, ripe peach, mango, pineapple, caramel, and vanilla.
A wine that is Savory will have the opposite aroma and flavors than a fruit forward wine. These wines will have a more bitter and tart profile. Common terms to describe a savory wine are:
- Bone Dry
- Old World Style
Savory Red Wines
When shopping for savory red wines, you’ll find descriptive words like black currant, sour cherry, leather, tobacco, and woodsmoke.
Savory White Wines
Savory white wines will be described as having flavors like lime, lemon, thyme, green apple, green papaya, and grass.
2. How Sweet or Dry The Wine Is
When it comes to discussing how sweet or dry a wine is, there are four main levels. Bone dry, dry, off-dry, and sweet.
This term is used to describe a wine with a very bitter taste. This wine will have no residual sugars in it.
A dry wine will have up to 1 gram of sugar per 5 oz serving. Most wines fall into the dry category. They are not super bitter but are not overly sweet.
This wine tasting term refers to a wine with 2-3 grams of residual sugar per 5 oz serving. Most off-dry wines are white, although it is possible to find a red every so often.
Sweet wines are just what the name implies. These types of wines are generally classified as dessert wines and can contain up to 28 grams of residual sugar per 5 oz serving.
3. The body
Now it’s time to move onto the body of the wine. Just as humans have all different bodies, so does wine. You can think of the body of wine like skim milk and whole milk. Although they are both milk, one is much creamier and heavy while the other is light and delicate.
A light bodied wine will have a more delicate consistency in your mouth. These wines can still leave a lingering taste, but they won’t have a heavy feel when you’re drinking them.
Common terms for a light bodied red wine include: subtle, floral, elegant, crisp, and delicate.
Common terms for a light bodied white wine include: light, zesty, lively, crisp, and zippy.
This term applies more to red wines, as white wines don’t have much of a chance to be considered medium bodied. Red wines with a medium body are commonly drank with meals and contain more tannins than a light bodied wine, but less than full bodied wines.
Common wine terms for a medium bodied red include: spicy, tart, mellow, moderate, and elegant.
These are the wines that totally engulf your mouth with their rich texture. Typically, these types of wines have a high tannin level and ABV content above 14%.
Common wine terms for a full bodied red include: rich, lush, structured, intense, bold, and firm.
Common wine terms for a full bodied white include: rich, lush, buttery, and oily.
4. Let’s finish with the finish
The final part of wine tasting is the finish. Wine leaves a lingering flavor and feeling in your mouth, and this is what’s known as the finish.
Wines with a smooth finish can be described as:
There are three types of smooth finishes: A tart finish, a sweet tannin finish or a smokey sweet finish, and a dried fruit finish.
Wines with a spicy finish leave a more intense sensation in your mouth. One of the reasons wine could have a spicy finish is because it was made using a Cabernet grape, which is known for their spicy qualities. These wines will leave a slight sensation in your mouth similar to when you eat something spicy.
Wines with a spicy finish can be described as:
Some wines leave a bitter finish because of their high amount of tannins. If you’ve ever drank wine and felt like your mouth was dry afterwards, that wine can be described as having a bitter finish. Wine with a bitter finish pairs well with fatty and rich foods.
Bitter red wine terms include: structured, harsh, grippy, muscular, and dense.
Bitter white wine terms include: green mango, austere, bitter almond, and chalky.
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