Wine tasting vocabulary and jargon - how to speak like a wine snob or Sommelier

Here are all the basic terms and jargon you need to describe wine and to sound like a pro when you're faced with that wine snob or self obsessed French Sommelier:

  • Aroma - Describes a simple smell of a wine with very strong smells being described as aromatic
  • Balance - Acidity, alcohol, tannin and sweetness, tannins, alcohol are balanced and harmonious. As a good wine ages the balance often improves as the tannins soften and being more mellow.
  • Body - The amount of alcohol in a wine chiefly determines its body as well as its extract. The more body a wine has the less like water it tastes.
  • Bouquet - Multi layered flavours and smells which develop further as a wine ages and certain grape styles are more aromatic than others e.g. Gew├╝rztraminer grape
  • Chewy - Describes the presence of tannin
  • Closed - Lacking in aroma
  • Concentrated - Good intensity of flavours
  • Corked - Tainted, mouldy smelling wine caused by fungal contamination (TCA)
  • Crisp - Used to describe a white wine with good acidity and hence freshness
  • Finish - The impact of the wine on the mouth after swallowing or spitting it which can then be described as short or long. For example a Bordeaux or Barossa Shiraz would normally have a long finish.
  • Firm - Having perceptible tannins
  • Flabby - Insufficient acidity
  • Forward - Aging has occurred more rapidly than expected giving the wine a mature flavour
  • Fresh - Associated with crispness and acidity
  • Fruity - Either used to describe a wine which is slightly sweet or to describe that it has plenty of fruit notes e.g. cherry, blackcurrant, plum etc.
  • Full bodied - A robust wine with plenty of alcohol
  • Green - Insufficient ripening (a problem in cool climates) causes too much acidity
  • Hollow - Not enough fruit notes
  • Hot -  A lot of alcohol which actually causes a burning sensation in the mouth. A problem with new world wines where grapes grow in high climates leading to excess alcohol
  • Jammy - This refers to excessively ripe and heavy red grape flavours causing over sweetness and a jam like profile
  • Lean - Too little fruit notes
  • Legs - Also known as Tears, they are the streams left on the inside of a wine glass after a wine with reasonable alcohol levels (+12%) has been swirled. 
  • Length - How long the finish goes on for. Persistence of the tasting experience on the mouth after swallowing or spitting. A wine with good length is described as having a long finish.
  • Mature - A long lived wine, kept to its full potential
  • Mouth feel - The physical impact of a wine on the mouth, its texture, tannins, acidity, sweetness. The overall balance of a wine directly influences mouth feel.
  • Nose - The aroma/smell of a wine
  • Powerful - High levels of alcohol and/or fruit
  • Round - Good body with no excessive tannins
  • Tannic - Too much or so called aggressive tannins can be unpleasant and have a pronounced drying effect on the mouth. Ripeness and management of tannins is just as important as actual total tannin level. All young red wines which are produced for cellaring initially have high tannin levels which soften as the wine ages
  • Tart - Too much acid
  • TCA - The mouldly smelling chemical trichloroanisole commonly associated with corked wine or cork taint