Wine tasting is a nuanced art. There are many different factors to consider before you even taste the wine. A wine cooler can also keep your wine at the perfect tasting temperature. There’s the vineyard, the region it was grown in, the vintage, the type of grape, the way it was fermented, how long it’s been aged, etc. It can be overwhelming, but there are plenty of terms that wine aficionados use to describe their prized bottles. Use the terms below and you’ll look like a pro!
If you need some tips on how to approach the tasting of a new wine, the 5 S’s can guide you through the process.
- See The first step is the easiest. You are looking for the color and opacity of the wine. This gives clues about the type of grape used and how the wine was aged. Older red wines will have a bit of an orange tinge on the edges. Older white wines will be more opaque than younger white wines from the same vintage
- Swirl Swirling allows air to enter the wine. It also releases the scents of the wine so that you can better appreciate them.
- Sniff Now that you’ve swirled the wine, the smells of the wine can be better captured. Take a few short and quick sniffs and then remove the glass from your nose to give yourself a moment to process the scents. The aroma from the wine can help you identify flaws, fruit scents, herbal scents, or earthy scents, which are indicators of what it will taste like when you finally take a sip.
- Sip There are actually 2 pieces to sipping your wine. Take a small sip of the wine and let it roll around in your mouth. Your initial impression will capture the alcohol content, the tannin, and acidity and sugar levels. The middle phase will be the actual taste of the wine on your palate. Try to seek out the secondary flavors of the wine
- Savor The final appraisal of this wine should give an indication of how long the impression of the wine remains with you after it is swallowed. Look for any particular aftertaste that may be enjoyed.
When you have thoroughly tasted a wine, you are better able to enjoy it. However, enjoying wine is only part of being a wine connoisseur. You need to be able to assess your tasting and decide if a wine is worth recommending. The terms below can help you sound like an expert and a trusted authority on wine. They will also help you verbalize what you like about a particular glass of wine.
Glossary of Wine Terms
Acetic: a wine defect that makes it taste and smell like vinegar
Acetone: usually found in older reds, this too frequent fault will smell like nail polish.
Acidic: the wine tastes sharp or bitter with too much acid in it.
Angular: this type of wine hits parts of your mouth and not elsewhere again and again.
Blind taste: a wine tasting performed without any labels of bottle shapes being seen.
Austere: an unfriendly wine with high acidity and little to no fruit flavor.
Barnyard: smells and tastes like a barnyard, it’s a huge insult to a wine maker.
Big: massive flavor, may have an abundance of fruit or tannins.
Body: the weight and texture of a wine in the mouth.
Bouquet: the smell of the fermented wine that develops in the bottle.
Bright: high acid content
Buttery: these wines have been aged in oak and tend to be rich and less acidic.
Cassis: a black currant like flavor
Character: the personality of a wine that makes it identifiable. Example sweet, dry, etc. grapes will have a “character” that differentiates it from others.
Charcoal: gritty taste, dry and rustic.
Chewy Tannins: dries out the interior of the mouth
Chocolate: a hint of a chocolate taste is often found in some full-bodied red wines.
Complex: the flavor changes when swallowed.
Elegant: a wine that is not big, fruity, opulent, or bold.
Fat: the same as a big wine
Flabby: The wine has NO acidity. It’s a hurtful term for a winemaker to hear, so try not to spew this one out at the winery.
Flamboyant: This wine is trying to get your attention with an over-abundance of fruit.
Food Friendly: This type of wine tastes best with food.
Horizontal testing: wines from the same year/vintage are tested but from different wineries.
Juicy: The wine tastes like it has barely fermented.
Minerally: the wine has a taste of concrete or rocks.
Oaked: the wine has a flavor induced by the oak barrels. In white wines expect a butter or vanilla flavor, in reds expect spice, vanilla, or dill.
Opulent: the wine is rich and smooth
Steely: this wine has high acid and sharp edges.
Tannin: Tannins are one of the main ingredients of red wine. It has a dry taste that can cause the mouth to pucker.
Tasting flight: describes a selection of wines for tasting, usually between three to eight glasses.
Tasting notes: a tasters written notes about the aroma, taste, acidity, texture, balance, and structure of a wine.
Vertical tasting: the selection of wines are taken from the same winery, usually from the same wine type, but different vintages are tested