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Wine Tasting Terms


Tomori Wine Tasting Wheel


Fleshy - Wines with concentrated flavours and a low level of acidity.

Forward - Ready to drink early

Full-bodied - Wines with a lot of fruit concentration and alcohol.

Hard - Wines with astringent tannins.

Length - The length of time you can taste the wine after it’s been swallowed. An indication of quality: the longer the length, the better the quality.

Mouth-Filling - Concentrated wines that have a high fruit extract.

Oxidized - When a wine loses its freshness and becomes too old and takes on a stale smell and taste.

Rich - Wines with a good concentration of ripe fruit.

Soft - Wines that are round and fruity with balanced acidity.

Sweetness - Comes from the natural sugars in very ripe grapes that remains after the wine has been fermented.

Tannic - Wines with a firmness or roughness which gives ageing potential when backed with ripe fruit.

Tannin - Detected all around the gums and mouth by an astringent mouth-drying sensation (similar to drinking a very strong cup of tea). Tannin comes from the grape skins and pips, and from oak ageing; it is mainly found in red wines.

Tightly knit - Young wines with high acidity and tannins, yet to open and develop.

Unctuous - Layers of concentrated fruit, with layers of glycerine, particularly in sweetwines.

Viscous - Concentrated, fat, almost thick wines with a great density of fruit extract and glycerine.


A Glossary of Wine-Tasting Terms

To communicate the characteristics of a wine to someone else & to define particular meanings, most wine enthusiasts share a universal language of recognizable terms:

Acetic A defect in wine that has been exposed to air; smells and tastes like vinegar.

Acetone The smell of nail polish remover; a fault if too predominant. Usually prevails in older reds.

Acidic Too much acid in wine gives it a sharp, biting smell & taste, while the right balance gives it liveliness.

Aftertaste The impression left on the palate after swallowing the wine; also called the "finish". A quality wines' aftertaste remains on the palate longer. 

Aerate Forcing air to mix with wine, in order to further bring out the aromas and flavours. Aerating techniques include swirling wine in your glass & decanting.

Aroma The smell of the fresh grapes in the wine, as opposed to "bouquet" which is the smell of the fermented wine.

Astringent The harsh, dry taste of immature tannin in red wines that causes the mouth to pucker.

Barrel-Aged Maturing the wine in wooden barrels, as opposed to stainless steel, glass, etc. Red wines can be aged in the barrel anywhere from 6 months to 2 years; few whites remain in the wood for longer than 3 to 6 months.

Barrel-Fermented A process that accentuates "toasty oakiness" and integrates it more deeply into the wine that has actually been fermented in the barrel. 

Bitter An acrid aftertaste that signifies the fruit of immature vines or overabundant tannin.

Black currant The dominant smell in Cabernet grapes.

Blending A wine making technique of combining different wines to create a superior result. Often, wines from different varietals are blended.

Body The texture and weight of wine as felt in the mouth. Alcohol, tannin, and acidity all play a part in a wine's body: light, medium or full, depending on the amount of extract and alcohol.

Botrytis This is a fungus that attacks grapes, causing them to rot & shrivel, concentrating the sugars and acids; this type of "noble rot" makes the wines sweet and long-lived. 

Bottle-Age The refinement that results from aging the wine in the bottle as opposed to in barrel.

Bouquet The smell of the fermented wine that develops during it's evolution in the bottle.

Breathe Wine "breathes" when it is exposed to air. Rich young wines with high tannins will often benefit from breathing. You should pour (or decant) the wine into another container, such as a carafe to provide more aeration. Even allowing a wine to sit in your glass will allow it to breathe somewhat and the wine may "open up"---meaning that the aroma will become more intense and enjoyable.

Brix A scale used to measure sugar content of grapes & wine. Each degree of Brix is equivalent to 1 gm. of sugar /100 gm. of grape juice. This is the usual method of determining the alcohol potential of unfermented juice or must.

Buttery Refers to a smell, especially in Chardonnay that has been aged in oak.

Carbonic maceration Fermentation for light red wines that takes place inside the skins of uncrushed grapes in sealed tanks. This method produces especially fresh & fruity wines that are best drunk young & chilled.

Character The distinguishing personality of a wine that makes it instantly identifiable. Specific types of grapes will have a “character” that differentiates it from others.

Charmat Method The method of incorporating bubbles into sparkling wine by adding sugar and yeast to a sealed pressurized tank, then letting the second fermentation take place there; then transferring to a bottle under counter pressure to maintain the natural bubbles.

Chocolate This discernible smell and aftertaste can be found in some full-bodied red wines.

Citric The perfume of lemon, grapefruit or lime in the bouquet and finish of a wine.

Clean A wine free from "off" odours or tastes.

Closed An immature wine that does not reveal it's character; unreleased bouquet and flavour. Many fine wines go through a closed period when young. 

Cloying A dessert wine with too much sweetness; in need of more acidity to balance the sugar & lighten it on the palate. 

Colour As a wine ages, its color will change; red wines will fade toward brick orange and/or pink, and white wines become golden.

Complex Refers to a wine with many facets of different smells and tastes. 

Corked A bottle of wine tainted in flavour because of improper cellaring or air deterioration.

Creamy Refers not to the taste, but the texture of champagne; or the smell of vanilla imparted by new oak. 

Crisp A desirable acidity indicated by a green apple taste & freshness in white wines.

Cuvée A blend or special lot of wine.