An Explanation of 20 Wine Words Most Wine Drinkers Don’t Know



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For most of us, knowing to simply say that we like a wine when we taste it is about as far as we go in using words to describe wine. But for a ton of wine professionals out there, there is a whole vocabulary of terms available of which they’re intimately familiar. And here is where the disconnect between average wine drinkers and wine professionals occurs. Wine drinkers ask said professional about a wine, and the words used to describe it are so foreign, it is as if they’re in a language the customer doesn’t speak. With that in mind, here is a list of the 20 words the majority of wine drinkers have no experience with, and what they mean.

Austere

Austere
This is when a wine just doesn’t taste very good. It is harsh and acidic and has no fruit flavors whatsoever. Sometimes this can be because the wine is young, but often it can just be because it is poorly made and not “balanced.” Instead of saying Austere one could just as easily say the wine is harsh and tannic with no fruit flavors.

Chewy

When a wine is chewy, it means the tannins are so strong they severely dry out your mouth, causing you to chew in order to create saliva and moisten up your mouth. Simply saying the wine is drying out your mouth, causing you to need to make more salivia, is saying the same thing.

Balance

Balance
When everything works together in harmony, the fruit flavors, acidity, level of oak, etc., the wine is said to be balanced. Usually this is based on individual taste. This is a very desirable quality. If someone tells you the wine is balanced, it is probably delicious.

Closed

When a wine is closed it means it is not showing its full potential. Maybe it didn’t decant long enough, or for some wines, maybe it was still too young to be drunk. An alternative would be to say you think the wine is not ready to be drunk yet.

Barnyard

Barnyard
This means the wine smells like poop. It is usually not a favorable descriptor. Since the wine smells like poop, might as well just say so.

Fat

When a wine is fat it is big and ripe and just sort of sits in your mouth without any acidity to help balance it. Fat wine is not a wine you want to drink.

Earthy

Earthy
The wine smells like dirt, leaves, and wood. It is also used to describe wines that have a finish that tastes similar to green vegetables.

Decadent

when the wine is just over the top awesome. Rich, delicious, the bomb.

Creamy

creamy
Used for white wines that were aged in oak. A wine that tastes buttery is creamy, so you can simply say you like buttery whites.

Malo

See creamy. When a wine has malo it has a buttery flavor. Many Chardonnays, especially from California, are said to have heavy malo.

Grip

Grip
Another word for saying the wine has a lot of strong tannins. It is a wine that dries your mouth out the second you take a sip — definitely a wine that would need to be drunk with food.

Hedonistic

Robert Parker‘s favorite word. Wines that just blow you away. Parker likes hedonistic, but you can just say the wine is damn amazing.

Hot

hot
The wine is too high in alcohol — you can literally smell the alcohol vapors.

Lean

If a wine feels thin in your mouth, almost watery, they are said to be lean.

Minerality

Minerality
Think the smell and taste of wet rocks. It is actually pretty difficult to pick out, and it is unclear if people actually taste it, or they just think they do. More often you’ll hear people say a wine has a nice minerality when that wine happens to come from a region known for imparting this characteristic in the wine, such as the Graves region of Bordeaux.

Jammy

Wines that have intense fruit flavors are said to be jammy. Many US wine drinkers love jammy wines because we associate the word with a berry sweetness, like cherry pie filling.

Ponderous

Ponderous
Another Parker word. When he calls a wine ponderous, he means it makes you think too much. It is too trying to enjoy. You could also just say, I don’t like this wine, there’s too much going on.

Woody

Wines that spend too much time in oak. Smelling them is like smelling a 2×4 or the sawdust on a woodshop floor. Woody wines overpower the smell of the fruit and are not desirable.

Velvety

Velvet
A desirable characteristic in wine. Wines that are smooth, easy to drink, luscious and delicious. You could just as easily say you want to bathe in it. Think of George Costanza wanting to be draped in velvet.

Varietally Correct

When a wine tastes the way the majority of wine tasters think the grapes used to make that wine should taste. It is the fancy way of saying this Merlot tastes like really well made Merlot.

Images via Shutterstock.com

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