Wine Tasting Vocabulary & Template


Over the years, I've discovered that tasting terminology is often as individual as the taster. Seasoned professional tasters share a reasonably well-defined vocabulary. Many other wine drinkers - amateurs and trade alike - are unclear as to the language of tasting or simply put too much emphasis on allusions to flavors, foods or odors that have some uniquely personal meaning.


There is another way to taste are useful terms and a disciplined approach to sensory analysis.


Key terminology a taster should know


A Grid with Key Descriptors

How to taste like a pro - and not miss important details

Sample entries in the Wine Tasting Vocabulary

Aroma Olfactory sensations vital to perception and pleasure of wine and derived primarily from fermentation. Aroma is perceived directly when holding a glass to the nose, and through the retro nasal passages when the wine is in the mouth. Customarily, the nose of a young wine is termed aroma while that of a mature or aged wine is described as bouquet.

Body The fullness or weight of a wine mainly due to its alcohol content. Neither positive nor negative; certain types of wines tend to be light-, medium-, or full-bodied.

Complexity A highly desirable if elusive attribute of wine, referring to the range of aromatic and taste sensations. The greatest wines offer heightened complexity.

Fruity The aromatics of young wines which tasters associate with fruits (apple, lemon, raspberry, etc.). Most youthful wines may be described as fruity to varying degrees, unless they are dominated by oak. Fruity is not synonymous with sweet.

Minerality The invented English equivalent of a French word favored by some tasters to describe a dry wine with "stony" flavors akin to a salty mineral water (which contains dissolved solids leached from soil). Scientists dispute the direct conversion of soil chemical constituents into specific wine taste characteristics. To be used with care.

Here is a diagram of the complex and varied expressions of Riesling which I created for one of my seminars for the Society of Wine Educators entitled "The Crystalline Beauty of Riesling."

Writing tasting notes on barrel samples at Château Latour (Pauillac)

Evaluating wines that are still in barrel in an "unfinished" condition is particularly demanding, and ratings for such wines should be considered provisional and subject to revision once the wines are in bottle.