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.

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