View basic wine guide poster.

120 Most Common Wine Descriptions (Infographic)


September 10, 2013 Blog » Wine Tips & Tricks » 120 Most Common Wine Descriptions (Infographic)

Check out over 120 different wine descriptions defined.

You can split up wine descriptions into 12 main categories of characteristics such as body, fruit, herb, yeast and oak. Even though wine is just fermented grape juice (the non-fortified kind…) you can identify an incredibly wide range of flavors within it. Learn wine descriptions from astringent to zippy.

To make this chart:
We looked at thousands of different wine descriptions from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and various major wine retailers. If that wasn’t enough, we took a look at the the Court of Master Sommelier analysis grid to compare the difference between sommelier sensory analysis vs. ‘flowery wine writing’. With all raw data in front of us, we focused on traits that were generally included in both sides of wine writing. This wine decriptions chart covers the basics and it doesn’t include everything. However, it is a great place to start your understanding of where wine flavors originate.
Now available as a poster.
 

Wine Descriptions Chart (Infographic)

Wine Descriptions (Infographic) by Wine Folly

ORDER A POSTER (NOW SHIPPING!)

$24 Unlock FREE shipping. (view all posters) Buy Now

Do you need a frame?

Easy to Embed Copy/Paste the code.


12 Categories of Wine Descriptions

BODY

Thin
a wine that has acidity but little substance
Cliff-Edge
the taste of a wine disappears quickly
Hollow
a wine with no mid-palate
Mellow
a wine without major intensity
Short
a wine with short lasting flavor
Austere
a wine that’s hard to drink
Angular
a wine that has rough edges
Delicate
a wine that is faintly bodied
Elegant
a wine tasting light-bodied with high acidity
Light-Bodied
a wine that is light on the palate
Finesse
a wine that has well integrated acid and tannin
Closed
a wine that doesn’t have much flavor but has tannin
Polished
a wine that tastes clean and well-made
Complex
a wine that keeps on delivering more interesting flavors
Full-Bodied
a big, bold flavored wine
Tight
a wine with high tannin that interferes with other flavors
Firm
a wine with high tannin that dries out your mouth
Powerful
a bold wine with high intensity
Concentrated
a wine with bold fruit flavors, moderate acidity and tannin
Dense
a wine with bold fruit flavors and moderate tannin
Opulent
a bold wine with smooth tannins and lower acidity
Rich
a wine saturated with fruit flavors
Extracted
a wine that is darker and richer than most wines in its style
Flabby
a wine that has very low acidity
Fat
a wine with fruit but no acidity or tannin
common wine descriptions and what they really mean

Wine Writer Lingo

Take a look at some of the more hilarious wine descriptions out there… such as ‘laser like’ in

Wine Writer Speak


STYLE

Barnyard
a wine that smells like a farmyard
Smokey
a wine that smells like a camp fire
Earthy
a wine that has a distinct dirt-like aroma
Leathery
a wine that has the smell of leather
Musky
a wine that smells richly of musk ox
Fleshy
a wine that tastes fruity and meaty at the same time
Accessible
a wine that is easily appreciated by drinkers
Clean
a wine that doesn’t have earthy or rustic flavors
Delicate
a wine that is faintly flavored
Elegant
a wine that has higher acidity
Polished
a wine that tastes clean and well-made
Refined
a wine that tastes very clean
New World vs. Old World Wine: Not Better. Just Different.

Earthy vs. Fruity

Sometimes a wine will taste more earthy because of where it’s grown. Learn the differences between New World and Old World wine.

Old World vs New World Wine


TANNIN

Bitter
bitter tannin is very intense and ‘green’
Harsh
tannin that dries out your mouth
Aggressive
tannin that drowns out the other wine flavors
Grippy
tannin that sticks to the sides of your mouth
Angular
tannin that hits one spot on your palate
Powerful
big smooth tannins
Coarse
tannins with a choppy grit, like course sandpaper
Leathery
delicate but earthy tannin often found in older wine
Rigid
aggressive tannins in the front of your mouth
Muscular
aggressive chalky tannin; used to describe young wines
Firm
persistent fine-grained tannin
Structured
well integrated but persistent fine-grained tannin
Chewy
a tannin that makes you want to chew it from the sides of your mouth
Chocolate
fine-grained smooth tannin with very little bite
Silky
fine-grained ultra smooth tannins with very little bite
Smooth
well integrated tannin
Round
smooth tannin with no bite
Opulent
more fruit than tannin
Velvety
very smooth tannin
Voluptuous
more fruit than tannin
Supple
well integrated tannin
Soft
low tannin
Mellow
little-to-no tannin
Spineless
lack of tannin makes wine taste weak
Flabby
lack of tannin makes wine taste weak
Where Wine Tannin Comes From

What the heck is tannin?

Learn all the secrets about tannin… (and not the boring ones) in

What are Wine Tannins?


ACIDITY

Bright
a wine with pronounced acidity
Astringent
a wine with aggressive acidity and tannin
Austere
a wine with aggressive acidity and tannin
Thin
a wine that has acidity but little substance
Lean
usually used to describe a white wine with low fruit and high acidity
Angular
when a wine’s acidity and tannin hit focused points on your palate
Racy
a wine with bracing acidity
Tart
a wine that tastes sour due to acidity and/or yeast (see ’sour’)
Edgy
a richer wine with high acidity
Nerve
another word for bracing acidity in wine
Zippy
a lighter wine with very noticeable acidity
Zesty
a lighter wine with noticeable acidity
Lively
a lighter red or white wine with noticeable acidity
Fresh
a wine with moderate acidity; often used to describe young wines
Crisp
a wine with noticeable acidity
Delicate
a wine that may have heightened acidity, but lighter on tannin and fruit
Soft
a wine with lower acidity
Flabby
a wine with very low acidity
Fallen Over
a wine that no longer has acidity due to age
Flat
a wine with no acidity
characteristics of wine tasting wine

Did you know?

Acidity is one of the secrets to the longest lived wines. Find out more about basic wine characteristics in

Basic Wine Characteristics


ALCOHOL

Jammy
a wine made with ripe fruit with high alcohol
Hot
a wine that has high alcohol
Burn
when the alcohol ‘burns’ the back of your throat
Legs
wine with thick legs have more alcohol and/or sugar content

FRUIT

Jammy
the fruit flavors in the wine taste like jam
Ripe
the wine is produced with very ripe grapes
Juicy
used to describe young wines
big on fruit but low FINESSE
Flamboyant
a wine that is very showy with fruit flavors
Fleshy
a wine that tastes fruity and meaty at the same time
Extracted
wine that is darker ∓ richer than other wines made
with the same grape
Plumy
a red wine with fresh plum flavors
Red Fruit
usually red fruit flavors indicate a lighter bodied wine
Dark Fruit
‘full bodied’ red wines have more ‘dark fruit’ flavors
Grapey
a wine that tastes more like grape juice
Berry

possible berry flavors found mostly in red wine

  • Strawberry
  • Raspberry
  • Cherry
  • Blueberry
  • Blackberry
Cassis
(aka ‘black currant’) a very earthy fruit
Citrus

citrus flavors found mostly in white/rosé wine

  • Lime
  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Orange
  • Citrus Zest
Stone Fruit

possible stone fruit flavors found mostly in white/rosé wine

  • Apricot
  • Nectarine
  • Peach
Tropical Fruit
possible tropical fruit flavors found mostly in white/rosé wine

  • Banana
  • Pineapple
  • Leechie
  • Coconut
Melon
a juicy and sweet fruit flavor in white wines
Apple
a very common aroma found in white wine
light red wines have red fruit characteristics such as cranberry, cherry, strawberry, raspberry and jam

So What Wines have ‘Red Fruit’ Flavors?

Find out what grape varieties have red fruit vs. dark fruit flavors in

Red & Dark Fruit Flavors in Wine


HERB

Stemmy
a negative bitter note usually on the finish
Stalky
a woodsy herbaceous bitter note on the finish of red wine
Vegetal
usually considered a negative ‘earthy’ quality on the finish of red wine
Cat’s Pee
a negative tart acidic aroma associated with Sauvignon Blanc
Asparagus
a cooked aroma on white wines typically perceived as negative
Green
also known as herbal, herbaceous and leaf-like
Grassy
the smell of fresh-cut grass associated with white wines like Grüner Veltliner
Sage
a resinous and flowery herbal smell mostly in red wine
Eucalyptus
a mint-like resinous herbal smell associated with red wines from Australia
Jalapeno
a fresh spicy aroma found in a few white wines
Dill
a complex aroma found in red wine
Bell Pepper
an aroma in both red and white wine associated with a chemical compound group called pyrazines
Gooseberry
a sweeter herbal flavor found in Sauvignon Blanc
Quince
a green and tart fruit with astringent qualities

SPICE

Spicy
the sensation of spice either from alcohol, acidity or variety
Musky
an intense animalistic spicy flavor
Bright
a wine with moderate acidity perceived as spicy
Pepper
a variety characteristic of pepper
Anise
a variety characteristic of licorice
Clove
a sweet woodsy flavor often attributed to oak aging

FLOWER

White Flowers
lily, apple blossom and gardenia are found in aromatic white wines
Violet
a floral aroma associated with fine red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon
Perfumed
a highly aromatic wine, typically used to describe white wine
Lavender
a resinous floral aroma associated with wine originating in the South of France – common in red wines
Rose
a positive floral aroma found in both red and white wines
Citrus Blossom
citrus blossom is found in white wines from Riesling to Chardonnay
Geranium
considered a wine fault at high levels due to improper winemaking
flower-aromas-in-wine

Flowers in Wine?

No, Not exactly. There are many chemical aromas that smell like flowers. Learn about them in

6 Common Flower Smells in Wine


OAK

Smoky
a smoky oak flavor could be due to highly toasted oak barrels
Charcoal
a flavor commonly associated with red Bordeaux wine
Sweet Tobacco
a sweet resinous smell and flavor on the finish of an oaked wine
Toasty
a positive descriptor for highly oaked wines
Spicy
baking spices like clove, allspice, nutmeg are from oak aging
Clove
a complex oak aroma often found with European oak
Nutty
a flavor that develops with longterm aging in barrels
Coconut
often associated with oaked Chardonnay and American oak barrels
Caramel
a sweet aroma from aging wine in toasted oak barrels
Vanilla
flavor compound vanillan comes from oak
Buttery
an aroma compound diacetyl from oak which is easy to identify in white wines
Dill
an herbaceous oak aroma commonly associated with American oak
Creamy
similar to ‘buttery’ but also is a texture due to malolactic fermentation
Oak Barrel Alternatives

The MSG of the Wine World

Oak is an amazing wood product, especially when you dunk it into wine. Find out more about oak aging in

The Truth About Oaking Wine


YEAST

Sour
a taste sensation similar to sour cream due to yeast flavors
Cheesy
mostly a white wine aroma that adds a savory character
Biscuit
noted in aged sparkling wines as yeast breaks down over time
Creamy
a taste in red (and some white wine) due to Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)
Buttery
while most buttery sensations are due to oak aging, the textural oily feeling on a white wine is from M.L.F.

INORGANIC

Minerality
an undefinable rock-like character to wine with flavors other than fruit
Graphite
a pencil lead-like aroma and taste found in fine red wines
Wet Asphalt
a wet-rocky aroma found in white wines with moderate acidity
Unctuous
a textural description for wines with a soapy or oily feeling on the tongue
Oily
a textural description for a wine that slicks like oil in your mouth – often due to MLF (see ‘creamy’)
Petroleum
a positive characteristic in fine aged Riesling
Plastic
a chemical-like aroma associated with high-acidity white wines
Tar
a very strong burnt, resinous and woodsy smell in earthy full-bodied red wines
Rubber
a moderately strong resinous aroma found in both red and white wines
Diesel
a strong gasoline smell mostly associated with Australian Riesling
Smoky
a burnt charcoal-like aroma usually associated with red wine
What does chalk, slate and river stone actually taste like?

What is Minerality?

Watch sommelier, Madeline Puckette lick rocks to see if ‘chalk’ really is a flavor in wine. (you gotta see the ‘river stone’ part)

Testing 3 ‘Types’ of Minerality in Wine



SUBSCRIBE TO GET FRESH WEEKLY WINE STORIES


By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified wine geek with a passion for meeting people, travel, and delicious food. You often find me crawling around dank cellars or frolicking through vineyards.