Wine Portfolio
Excerpted from DK COMPANION WINES OF THE WORLD - Copyright 2010 DK Publishing
Tasting Wine - Descriptive Terms

Descriptive Terms

There are a large number of commonly used words and phrases for discussing the style and character of a wine. Definitions are not water-tight and there is often a large margin of overlap between the various terms.


Applied to wines that will benefit from further maturation in the bottle. Typical examples of age-worthy wines are young with either powerful tannins, good acidity, or some sweetness.

A wine with lots of perfumed, fruity aromas, which normally leap out of the glass. Aromatic grape varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat.

A wine that lacks fruity flavours and displays harsh, bitter tannins and/or high acidity.

All wines need acidity to keep them balanced, but too much is a fault. Acidity is detected on the sides of the tongue.

A wine with all its components (mainly acidity, alcohol, fruit, tannins, sugar, and extract) in harmony, with no one element prominent.

A full-bodied wine that leaves a major impression on the senses, typically containing high levels of fruit, tannins, and/or alcohol. Also used to mean plenty of flavour.

Normally a negative term used to describe a wine with an excess of harsh tannins, which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, detected at the back of the tongue. In some reds, however, a certain amount of bitterness is a desirable characteristic.

Used to describe exceptionally “big“ wines. Think large amounts of fruit, alcohol, tannins, or oaky flavours.

The weight or feel of wine in the mouth, determined by its alcohol and extract. To work out whether a wine is light-, medium- or full-bodied, it may be useful to compare it to the feel of water.

Lacking faults in terms of aroma and flavour.

A wine with many layers of aroma and flavour many different fruits, plus characteristics such as spice and vanilla. Complexity is one of the elements that separates an average wine from a good or great one. The most complex wines have typically gone through a period of ageing, allowing more flavours to develop.

An intense taste, normally found in wines with high levels of tannin, sugar, and flavouring and colouring compounds.

Noticeable acidity but in a positive, refreshing way. Usually used for white wines with clean, fresh flavours.

No obvious sugar or sweetness in the wine. Note that very ripe, fruity flavours and new oak flavours can sometimes give the impression of sweetness, although the wine itself can still be dry. Dried-out is a term given to red wines which have spent too long in barrel or bottle and have lost their fruit flavour.

A relatively simple wine that can be enjoyed without much thought. It will be fruity and, if red, low in tannin.

A subjective term, used to describe a good quality, subtle, balanced wine which is not too fruity, and is extremely pleasant to drink.

All the solid matter in a wine such as tannins, sugars, and colouring and flavouring compounds. Extract is what gives a wine its body.

Rough around the edges, lacking in subtlety

Normally refers to a full-bodied, tannic red wine, and means it is tough to drink or heavy going. It may indicate that the wine needs to spend further time in bottle.

Ready to drink. Generally used for quality wines that require time in bottle. Over-mature is a euphemism for past its best.

Normally a negative term to describe when oak flavours dominate other flavours in a wine. If the wine is young and good quality, it may lose some of its oakiness with a few years in bottle. Oak flavours can be desirable but only if they are balanced by fruit.

A big wine with high levels of extract and/or alcohol. Can be used in a positive or negative sense.

Word similar in meaning to crisp and fresh, used to describe wines with noticeable levels of refreshing acidity. It is especially associated with Riesling.

Like concentrated, implying deep, intense flavours in the mouth. Can also be used to mean slightly sweet.

Wine made from ripe grapes and showing flavours of richer, warmer-climate fruits, such as pineapples (rather than apples). Ripe wine might also suggest a certain sweetness, even though it may not contain sugar.

Lacking complexity, with one-dimensional flavours. This is a fault in expensive wine, but it may not be a problem for everyday drinking wine

A red wine with gentle tannins. Also known as smooth.

Normally refers to the tannins in a red wine, which support the other elements. In a well-structured wine the tannins are noticeable but still balanced. Sometimes used for acidity in white wines, for example a wine can be described as having a good acidic structure.

Normally linked to finesse, it means a wine contains a number of different nuances and tastes. It can also be a euphemism for a wine lacking in fruity flavours.

A wine with noticeable levels of sugar, detected by the tip of the tongue. The phrase sweet fruit flavours may be used to describe an extremely ripe style of wine.

An excess of tannins, the drying compounds that come from the skins, pips, and stalks of grapes. Some tannic wines simply require further maturation in bottle. Tannins are not necessarily a bad thing, they just need to be balanced by fruity flavours.

Used to describe an easy-drinking style of wine with straightforward, fruity flavours.

A wine with an excess of alcohol leaves a “warm“ finish. Can be used to describe full-bodied, spicy red wines.

Appellation dOrigine Controle
Wine Through The Times
Wine Trivia 7
Fast Wine Facts 3
Grape Harvest
Oh the Horror! Red Wine Stains.
Wine Trivia 6
Grape Growing Problems
Fast Wine Facts 2
Ice Wine
Fast Wine Facts
How Many Grapes
Wine Aromas
Kosher Wine
Wine Trivia 5
When To Send Wine Back
Wine Trivia 4
Great French Wine Blight
Port Wines
Wine Trivia 3
Wine Trivia 2
Wine Trivia
Oak Barrels
Sparkling Wine and Champagne
Organic and Biodynamic Wine
Aging Wine
Wine Varietals
Wine Labels
New World Vs Old World Wines
How Terroir Effects Wine
Clarifying Wine with Egg Whites
Tips On Preserving Open Wine
Why Red Wine Makes Me...
The Biology of Tasting Wine
Choosing the Perfect Glassware
Corks vs Plastic Corks
Wine Laws and AVAs in the USA
Tasting Wine
  Descriptive Terms
  Aromas & Flavors
  Common Faults
Wine and Food Matching
Buying Wine
Storing and Serving Wine