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A Few More Wine Terms

Here’s a new installment to our wine lexicon.  If you missed the first one, “The Top Ten Wine Tasting Terms“, check it out now.

Acetic: When the alcohol in wine oxidizes, it turns into acetic acid.  The common name for acetic acid?  Vinegar.  All wine has some amount of acetic acid, but too much means that the wine has gone bad: most likely, the cork has failed, letting in too much oxygen and causing too much of the alcohol to turn into acetic acid.  If your wine has a prevalent vinegary taste, you could say it’s “acetic.”  And if the taste is any stronger than a “barely detectable” level, you might want dump out the bottle (or better yet, use it for Sangria!) and try again.

Berrylike: As the term implies, this refers to a wine with strong berry flavors (always a fruity red wine).  Common berries that you might perceive are the “dark” berries, like black cherry and blackberry, and other berry flavors that can range from raspberry to strawberry to cranberry and everything in between.

Chewy: If there was ever a strange-seeming wine term, this would be it.  Wine that has a high glycerin (sugar) content gains a texture that can be described as dense, viscous, or fleshy (think thick like milk, not thin like water).  When you drink a very viscous wine, you almost feel as though you should chew it like solid food.  So maybe it isn’t such a strange term after all.

Diffuse: Wines that lack a sense of structure are said to be diffuse.  A diffuse wine’s flavors are muddied, or unfocused and unclear.  Serving red wine at too warm a temperature causes it to taste diffuse.  This is because when wine is too warm, the alcohols overwhelm the bouquet, masking the more subtle, delicious flavors.  If you didn’t know that you should chill your red wine before service, check out our post on the subject here.

Forward: Wine that has bold, easily distinguishable flavors is said to be forward.  Forward wines have been matured to the ideal age, and their full flavor potential has been realized.  The term “forward” is often used in the phrase “fruit-forward,” which refers to a wine that has especially strong fruit flavors.

Green: Wines made with grapes that haven’t been given adequate time to ripen are “green.”  They have a distinct vegetal taste and can have flavors reminiscent of grass, peas, or any other green vegetable.  “Green” can be a negative term that refers to an immature wine, or it can simply be a descriptor of a wine’s vegetal or herbaceous qualities.  This term isn’t to be confused with the other kind of “green,” which means “environmentally friendly” and has become something of a recent fad.  But we’ll save that for another post.

Hot: No, this term doesn’t refer to a wine that’s served at too warm a temperature, and neither does it refer to a wine that has spicy qualities.  Instead, “hot” wine is wine that has too high an alcohol content and because of it, causes an unpleasant burning sensation in the back of the throat.  Wine that’s more than 14.5% alcohol is often “hot.”  However, a high alcohol content can be balanced by the sweetness of fruity flavors.  So there’s nothing wrong with a really bold wine high in alcohol, as long as it has the bold fruitiness to back it up.

Nose: This one’s pretty simple.  It refers to the aromas in wine that you can detect by smell.  When tasting wine properly, you should start by smelling it, first from a distance, and then deeply, with your nose inside the glass.  The aromas you detect are called the wine’s “nose.”  (And if you didn’t know you should be sticking your nose inside your wine glass to get the full tasting experience, click here to learn more about wine tasting.)

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