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Red Wine

Wine Descriptions

There are many terms to describe wine. Here, we offer a glossary of adjectives to help guide your process with Relentless Pursuit. Our winemaker is happy to speak "wine" with you at any level, whether you are a sophisticated oenophile, or casual drinker, or complete newcomer to the world of wine. 

Wine Aroma Wheel

Developed by Ann C. Noble, sensory chemist and retired professor from the University of California.
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12 Categories of Wine Descriptions

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. (Source: WineFolly)

Wine Terms For 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

Wine Terms for 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

Wine Terms For 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

Wine Terms For 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​

Wine Terms For 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

Wine Terms For 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
  • Cassis: (aka ‘black currant’) a very earthy fruit
  • Berry: possible berry flavors found mostly in red wine
    • Strawberry
    • Raspberry
    • Cherry
    • Blueberry
    • Blackberry
  • 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


Wine Terms for 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

Wine Terms for 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

Wine Terms for 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


Wine Terms for 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


Wine Terms for 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.


Wine Terms for 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
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