A Wine Descriptor Cheat Sheet

Do you speak wine? Can you describe what you’re drinking in a language that’s widely understood? Or do you feel left out of the conversation when you hear wine being spoken?

Be inarticulate no more, I’ve created a wine descriptor cheat sheet for you to take a picture with your smartphone and keep in your pocket for when you’re confronted at a wine tasting.

These are just a sampling of the wine descriptors you can possibly use, but they are basic. Using them will fool anyone into thinking you know what you are tasting. Give it a try!

Wine Descriptor Cheat Sheet

Acidic:  The sharp, tingling effect on the nose and tongue.

Think: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Champagne, Sancerre and Vouvray, Alsacian and German wines, Beaujolais, Burgundy and Sangiovese, Valpolicella and Chianti.

Aromatic: Big, pleasant smells detected on the nose.

Balanced:  Where no single component stands out.

Biscuity:  Yeasty or bread dough aromas and flavours.
Think: champagne, chardonnay, pinot noir

Bitter:  Flavours of drying tannins.

Buttery:  Rich, creamy mouthfeel, like butter.

Citrusy:  Aromas and flavours of citrus fruits
Think: chardonnay, chenin blanc, Gewürztraminer, marsaunne, muscat, pinot blanc/gris/grigio, reisling, sauvignon blanc, semillion, viogneir, grüner veltliner

Clean:  No faults, flaws or unwanted aromas and flavours.

Cloying:  An unbalanced sticky or sickly sweet character.

Closed:  Not very aromatic.

Complex:  Multi-layered in terms of flavours and aromas.

Concentrated:  Intense flavours.

Complex:  Multi-layered flavours and aromas.

Crisp:  A pleasing sense of acidity in the wine.

Dry:  Completely lacking sweetness.

Earthy:  Aromas and flavours of soil, forest floor, tree bark

Elegant:  Well balanced, with finesse.

Fruity:  Aromas and flavours of fresh fruit in young wines.

Full:  Big Body and colour, often high in alcohol, sugar, and extracts.

Green:  Harsh and unripe with unbalanced acidity.

Hot:  Overtly alcoholic.
Think: 14.5% and above

Mouth: Flavors and texture detected on the tongue.

Nose: The smell, aroma, bouquet detected by sniffing the glass.

Quaffable: Easy to drink.

Short:  Leaving no flavour in the finish.

Sweet:  High content of residual sugar.
Think: Alsacian and German wines, late harvest, ice wine,

Soft:  Smooth rather than crisp mouthfeel, a low amount of acidity.

Tannic:  Mouth-puckering, hard, dry taste felt on the back of the tongue.
Think: Bordeaux and Cahor reds, syrah, petit sirah, carignan, montepulciano, garnacha, monastrell/mouvedre, nebbiolo, tannat, touriga nacional, tempranillo and zinfandel.

Thin:  Lacking body and alcohol, too watery to be called light.

Oaky:  Woody, smoky, toasty, vanilla flavours from oak barrels.

Vegetal:  Aromas and flavours of vegetation, cooked or raw.

Happy tasting!

Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Studio.com. Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.

2 thoughts on “A Wine Descriptor Cheat Sheet

  • May 12, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    This is a very useful blog. Thanks. (In preparation for the next New Zealand tasting this week.)

    • May 13, 2015 at 9:08 am

      Thanks Ruth! Yes it will come in handy on Thursday.

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