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The Oethical Oenologist’s Complete Guide To Wine Tasting: Basic Tasting Term Round Up

This is the second part in a multi-part series. Check out part one, which describes the series, here. Without further ado, here are the tasting terms I suggest you memorize before moving on to the next part.

Basic Wine Tasting Term List

This list of wine terms are specific to what you’ll come across when tasting and are divided by category and where you’ll use them when tasting and taking a note. Get the printable version of these terms Tasting-Terms.

How’s It Smell and Taste?

Aroma: The way a wine smells from the grape(s).
Bouquet: Odors that come from aging.
Closed: Young wine that has not developed enough of a nose.
Corked: A flaw causing moldy taste and smell.
Fruit Forward: strong sweet fruit aromas.
Fruity: Describes undeniable fruit flavors and aromas.
Foxy: Denotes musk, barnyard, or other animal odors and flavors in wine.
Earthy: Describes notes that are not fruity. Usually refer to reds. Wet leaves, soil, mushrooms.
Green: When a white wine tastes of vegetables or red wine like bell pepper. (negative)
Nose: The qualities of a wine gathered from smelling.
Oak/Oaky: Commonly vanilla, baking spices, wood and mocha. Also dill, caramel and coconut.
Primary aromas: Aromas caused by the grape rather than aging, fermentation style. (See aroma)
Spicy: Black pepper and cinnamon; more experienced tasters may get nutmeg, clove, lavender.
Stemmy: A bitter, vegetal taste from too much contact with stems during fermentation.
Herbaceous: scent of fragrant herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil, etc.).
Finish: The taste that remains in the mouth after spitting or swallowing a wine.

How’s It Feel (Texture)?

Bone Dry: Extreme dryness (no residual sugar).
Dry: No residual sugar to 1 gram per 5 oz serving (150 mL).
Off Dry: 2–3 grams of residual sugar per 5 oz serving (150 ml).
Sweet: 3–28 grams of sugar per 5 oz serving (150 ml).
Angular: Highly acidic. It is often young, tart, bitter.
Astringency: Bitterness from tannins. Dries the mouth, especially behind the lips.
Aggressive: Tasting term for wines high in acidity or tannin.
Acidity: Tartness in a wine; felt on the tip and sides of tongue. Similar to biting into a Granny Smith apple.
Hollow: tasting term denoting a wine that lacks body.
Hot: Wine tastes or feels too alcoholic.
Mouthfeel: The way a wine feels in the mouth such as velvety, creamy or rough.
Rough: having a harsh mouth-feel.
Silky: lush wines, those with a velvety mouthfeel.
Steely: a sharp, high acid wine.

How’s It Feel (Weight)?

Alcohol: Ethanol. Higher alcohol wines have higher body. When the alcohol is out of balance and too strong the wine is referred to as “hot”.
Body: How we describe the “weight” of wine in the mouth.
Light Bodied: Using the spectrum of milk, light-bodied wines are most similar to skim milk. They don’t coat the mouth as full-bodied wines will. As a rule, these are low alcohol and low tannin with higher acidity.
Medium Bodied: This term mostly refers to the heft of a red wine and denotes a wine that is good with food. It’s not light-bodied and it’s not full-bodied. Think of 1-2% milk.
Full Bodied: These wines have weight and texture, think of how whole milk coats the inside of your mouth.
Austere: Tasting term denoting a wine lacking in roundness and body – may be better with age.

Learn The Terms

Memorize these terms and then get ready for part three. Part three includes videos where you can learn by watching. In the videos, some friends and I will show you how to set up and begin a wine tasting by focusing on a wine’s appearance.

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