The use of wine tasting descriptors allow the taster an opportunity to put into words the aromas and flavors that they experience and can be used in assessing the overall quality of wine. Many wine writers, like Karen MacNeil in her book The Wine Bible, note that the difference between casual drinkers and serious wine tasters is the focus and systematic approach to tasting wine with an objective description of what they are sensing. The primary source of a person’s ability to taste wine is derived from their olfactory senses. A taster’s own personal experiences play a significant role in conceptualizing what they are tasting and attaching a description to that perception. The individual nature of tasting means that descriptors may be perceived differently among various tasters.
The following is a list of wine tasting descriptors and a common meaning of the terms.
Astringent An overly tannic white wine.
Acidic A wine with a noticeable sense of acidity.
Balanced A wine that incorporates all its main components—tannins, acid, sweetness, and alcohol—in a manner where no one single component stands out.
Big A wine with intense flavor, or high in alcohol.
Body The sense of alcohol in the wine and the sense of feeling in the mouth.
Bouquet The layers of smells and aromas perceived in a wine.
Chewy The sense of tannins that is not overwhelming.
Closed A wine that is not very aromatic.
Complex A wine that gives a perception of being multi-layered in terms of flavors and aromas.
Concentrated Intense flavors.
Connected A sense of the wine’s ability to relay its place of origin or terroir
Crisp A pleasing sense of acidity in the wine.
Dry A wine that is lacking the perception of sweetness.
Expressive A wine with clearly projected aromas and flavors.
Fat A wine that is full in body and has a sense of viscosity.
Finish The sense and perception of the wine after swallowing.
Firm A stronger sense of tannins.
Flabby A lacking sense of acidity.
Fresh A positive perception of acidity.
Fruit The perception of the grape characteristics and sense of body that is unique to the varietal.
Green Overly acidic wine. Typically used to describe a wine made from unripe fruit.
Hard Overly tannic wine.
Heavy A wine that is very alcoholic with too much sense of body.
Hollow A wine lacking the sense of fruit.
Hot Overly alcoholic wine.
Lean The sense of acidity in the wine that lacks a perception of fruit.
Mature A wine that has aged to its peak point of quality.
Oaky A wine with a noticeable perception of the effects of oak. This can include the sense of vanilla, sweet spices like nutmeg, a creamy body and a smoky or toasted flavor.
Powerful A wine with a high level of alcohol that is not excessive alcoholic.
Rich A sense of sweetness in the wine that is not excessively sweet.
Round A wine that has a good sense of body that is not overly tannic.
Smooth A wine with a pleasing texture. Typically refers to a wine with soft tannins.
Soft A wine that is not overly tannic.
Supple A wine that is not overly tannic.
Sweet A wine with a noticeable sense of sugar levels.
Tannic A wine with aggressive tannins.
Tart A wine with high levels of acidity.
Toasty A sense of the charred or smoky taste from an oaked wine.