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Wine-Tasting Terms

Wine-Tasting Terms
Acidity
A natural element of grapes, acidity helps carry the lively, refreshing flavors in wine. There are several types of acidity in wine.

Appley
Really the taste of malic acid from the grapes (the chief acid found in apples), this sensation is often found in young, unoaked Chardonnay and moderately priced sparkling wine.

Balance
This refers to the relationship among different elements of the wine, such as acidity, fruitiness, tannins and oak.

Berrylike
A wine that has ripe fruit flavors reminiscent of berry fruits, such as blackberries, may be described as berrylike.

Body
The weight of the wine in the mouth, this is a combination of factors such as tannin, fruit concentration and alcohol.

Bouquet
The smell of a wine, particularly a mature or maturing wine that has spent some time in the bottle, is called the bouquet.

Complex
A wine worth some consideration with deep, rich flavor elements of fruit, acidity and oak may be called complex.

Earthy
Reminiscent of the smell of fresh loam and leafy forest floor, this is usually considered a positive term.

Finish
This is the taste that lingers after you have swallowed wine.

Flowery or Floral
These terms are used to describe aromatic white wines such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer.

Nose
Used as a noun, "the nose" is the overall aroma of a wine; used as a verb, "to nose" a wine is to smell it.

Oaky
If you can distinguish an excessive taste or smell of oak in a wine, it is "oaky" and out of balance.

Tannin
Tannin is a substance found in the grape and also in new oak barrels; some tannin is necessary to give wine structure and balance, particularly red wines, but too much can be a defect.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Guides, The Wine Guide, by Larry Walker and Wink Lorch (Time-Life Books, 1999).