Wine Terminology VI: Descriptives
One of the messages that came through repetitiously from our 1987 Membership Survey was the request for a glossary of wine terminology. So, here is the continuation of a series that appears regularly unless bumped by a pressing topic. When the series is complete, it will be reprinted, and appear as a permanent section in the membership newsletter binder.
Select: A term used to imply something special about a wine.
Sensory Evaluation: The evaluation of wine by sight (color and appearance), smell (aroma, bouquet, off-odors), taste (sweet, sour, bitter), and feel (viscosity, temperature, ‘pain’ [burning, tingly, or prickly] sensations).
Short: Used to define the finish of a wine, implying quick.
Slightly Sweet: A degree of sweetness that is a barely perceptible amount of residual sugar.
Smoky: A smell and taste sometimes found in white wines.
Smooth: Absence of harshness in the taste of a wine.
Soft: A taste of wine usually lacking tannin.
Sour: A taste that is tart or acidic, that causes a sharp sensation in the mouth. A minimal amount is desirable for balance. Excess is characteristic of wines made from underripe grapes.
Spicy: The smell or taste of a wine resembling aromatic spices.
Spritzy: The presence of minor amounts of carbonation in a wine, usually undesirable.
Stemmy: An odor of stems.
Sulfury: A smell in a wine that indicates it has been treated during production with excessive sulfur. If due to sulfur dioxide gas, it frequently dissipates.
Sweet: A level of intensity of sugar in wine, the suitable amount depending on the type of wine, or the style of the winemaker.
Tanky: An odor and taste in a wine aged, stored, or left too long in an unclean tank. Musty and unpleasant in nature.
Tannin: A natural ingredient in wine contributed from the skins, seeds and stems of grapes. Gives young red wine an astringent, puckery quality, but contributes to its longevity and normally decreases as the wine ages. Too much of it causes a bitter taste.
Tart: A desirable sour taste derived from the acidity of the wine.
Tartrates: Harmless insoluble crystals, of salts of tartaric acid that can form in unstabilized bottled wine. They are tasteless, and should be decanted.
Taste: The sensation of the four categories: sour, bitter, sweet and salt (rarely in wine). Sometimes the terms used to describe “taste” in wine are actually odors and their cumulative effect with taste.
Thin: The texture of a wine lacking body because it is low in alcohol. Often called watery.
Tired: A wine that shows significant oxidation due to age.
Turbidity: A cloudiness in a wine due to suspended sediment. Brilliant is the term used for a wine with no suspended solid material.
Unctuous: A heavy taste feeling of body to a wine, akin to oily.
- Domestic Selection: Fume Blanc, 1990. Haywood
- This Matter of California Wine Labels
- Adventures in Eating: The Best Wontons in the World
- Import Selection: Riesling, 1989. Roemische Weinstrasse
- Domestic Selection: Mourvedre, 1988. Francal
- This Matter of Table Wines
- Adventures in Eating: Minestrone Soup
- Import Selection: Cabernet Sauvignon, 1989. Villa Montes
- Domestic Selection: Chardonnay, 1989. Plume Ridge
- This Matter of Vintage Charts