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15 Wine Tasting Terms to Know
Whether you are headed to a wine tasting, planning dinner at a restaurant known for its impressive bottle list, or just want to more mindfully enjoy your nightly glass of vino, having a few wine descriptors in your vocabulary can be beneficial. Some common wine tasting terms are straight forward, while others are vaguer. Among those that fall into the latter category, here are 15 of our favorites.
- Angular; An angular wine is sharp and pointed in your mouth; It is the opposite of smooth. The term is typically associated with young and highly acidic wines, but any wine lacking elegant roundness might be described as angular. Related terms: austere, crisp, lean
- Bretty; Bretty is the adjectivization of brett, which is shorthand for Brettanomyces – a wild yeast naturally occurring on grapes that can impart funky aromas in wine. Connoisseurs use the term when they perceive notes of barnyard, cheese, sweat, old leather, or cured meat in a wine’s bouquet. The presence of Brettanomyces is more common to red wines than white, and it is generally considered a flaw. That said, in small doses brett can add desirable nuance. Related terms: Funky, gamey, barnyard
- Disjointed; A disjointed wine is one whose acidity, tannins, and/or flavors (like herbaceousness or fruitiness) are misplaced, too aggressive, or otherwise stick out. Because wines evolve over time, a particular vintage wine might come off as disjointed before eventually falling into coherence.
- Flabby; A flabby wine is completely lacking in acidity. It’s loose and soft, some might even say flaccid, in comparison to a high-acid wine’s sharp angularity. Related term: flat
- Flinty; To describe a wine as flinty is to say it has a specific sort of minerality. And that is to say it tastes or smells, to some degree, of wet stone or gravel. Flintiness is generally considered a favorable trait. It is often (and somewhat romantically) attributed to deposits of limestone, chalk, granite, or other mineral deposits in the soil where the grapes are grown, but scientists have yet to prove this association. In any case, white wines from mineral-rich growing regions like the Loire Valley and Burgundy, for example, are more likely to be called flinty. Related terms: chalky, gravelly, stony
- Full-Bodied; Body refers to how a wine feels in the mouth. With that in mind, a full-bodied wine is one that is mouth-coating and heavy. The perceived weight of a wine is influenced by its percentage of alcohol by volume, which contributes to a wine’s viscosity, and its density of non-volatile solids such as sugar, minerals, glycerol, proteins, and pectin. Related terms: light-bodied, medium-bodied
- Grippy; A grippy wine is one that grabs you by the mouth with texture and astringency. It doesn’t describe a flavor, but a tactile sensation imparted by chemical compounds called tannins that are natural to grape skins, seeds, and stems. Reds, which experience much more skin contact during production, have higher tannin levels than whites or roses and are more likely to be called grippy. Related terms: tannic, astringent, chewy
- Hollow; A hollow wine is as it sounds: without substance in the middle. It may have flavor up front and/or a perceptible finish but lacks complexity or interest in the mid-palate.
- Hot; If a wine is so high in alcohol that is finishes with a perceptible burn in the back of the throat, it is hot. Generally speaking, a hot wine is considered imbalanced.Related terms: heady
- Jammy; If a wine tastes of cooked berries, preserves, or jelly, it could be described as jammy. Jam is the result of using very ripe fruit in a concentrated way and may come with some perceptible sweetness and high alcohol levels. Zinfandel and Australian shiraz are two examples of grapes often used to make jammy-style wine.It is said that winemakers do not appreciate the descriptor and consider it pejorative. Laypeople, on the other hand, often use it favorably, because who doesn’t like jam?
- Lush; Broadly speaking, if something is lush, it is sumptuous and rich. Lush wine is no exception. It’s soft, viscous, and velvety thanks to high dose of residual sugar which further adds to its decadence. The term reserved almost exclusively for opulent dessert wines like sweet, honey-redolent Sauternes. Related term: luscious
- Racy; If a wine is racy, it is brightly acidic, light, zippy, and invigorating. Racy wines stand in contrast to heavy, hulking, full-bodied wines.
- Steely; Steely is a descriptor reserved for strikingly crisp, dry white wines with a bracing acidity that imparts a metallic sensation in the mouth. Wines designated steely are likely to be unoaked. It is a term commonly applied to certain expressions of sauvignon blanc, riesling, and pinot gris.
- Supple; A supple wine is the opposite of an angular wine. It’s soft, round, and unaggressive, with mature tannins and harmonious acidity that do not dominate the wine’s profile.Related term: amiable
- Vegetal; When a wine tastes of green plant matter or even specific vegetables like bell pepper or asparagus, it might be called vegetal. The attribute is characteristic of certain varietals like cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, and in small amounts it can be pleasant. If the vegetal notes are too strong or associated with underripe fruit flavors, it is considered a flaw.Related terms: leafy, stemmy, grassy herbaceous, green, herbal