What wine words mean: 14 terms to express the taste of your tipple

Wine experts, sommeliers and retailers love to tell us about the wines we should be drinking and enjoying, but what about their wine-tasting notes?

You know, those flowery descriptions such as, ‘Framed with honeysuckle and heather,’ ‘Fruit flavours that hint at herb and stem,’ or, ‘So minerally you can almost taste the chalk.’

Ideally, they should inspire us to drink more wine, but if words such as terroir, herbaceous or brut nature leave you lost in translation, here’s how to get to grips with the wine words we often find confusing, so you can spend more time appreciating the wine lingering on your tongue.

Or should we say: “Picking up energy on the long finish.”

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1. Acidity

Good acidity brings crispness to the wine and the right level of acidity stops it from being too sweet or watery.

2. Aftertaste

The flavour that lingers in the mouth after swallowing your wine wine.

3. Aperitif

If a wine is described as a good aperitif, it’s best enjoyed as a pre-dinner drink rather than with the meal. Delicately flavoured, or light white wines, usually fall into this category.


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4. Balance

When a wine is beautifully balanced, the flavour, acidity, tannins and body enhance each other and create the perfect package.

5. Brut

The driest style of sparkling wine with a tiny amount of sugar, while Brut Nature (sometimes referred to as skinny champagne) is a very dry style of fizz without any sugar added at the dosage stage. Speaking of which…

6. Dosage

The amount of sugar added to a bottle of fermented sparkling wine after the sediments and dead yeast cells are removed, and before corking, hence a bottle of bubbly might be ‘low dosage.’

7. Earthy

Some reds are described as earthy (usually positive) which refers to the dryness in the mouth, and is associated with the soil where the grapes were grown.

8. Flabby

A trendy word for a wine when it’s watery with little or no acidity, and one that should be left on the shelf.

9. Fleshy

This is a good word and one we like. It means the wine has ample fruit, texture and body.

10. Herbaceous

If you love a vibrant New Zealand sauvignon blanc, a good style will be deliciously herbaceous, with well balanced flavours and hints of herbs.

Collage of several wine bottles (Thinkstock/PA)


11. Oxidised

This is exactly what you don’t want in a wine. It means the wine has had too much exposure with the air and is tarnished. Watch out for that half empty bottle that’s been sitting on the side for more than two days.

12. Tannin

Tannin is mostly found in red wines and refers to the class of compounds that create a puckery sensation in the mouth. It also gives a wine structure and enables some wines to age well.

13. Terroir

A French term that refers to the climate, soil and vine growing conditions in the vineyard that have influenced the wine.

14. Minerality

Minerality means many things to many people – and many wines. But it usually refers to the taste of a blanc de blancs champagne (chardonnay) and the characteristics of the chalky soil; a white wine that’s high in acidity such as a steely Chablis (also made from the chardonnay grape); or something that’s come from the ground such as the minerally streak you might find in a wine (red or white) from a volcanic soil.


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