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Useful Terms for Describing Wine

By Ed McCarthy, Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Part of Wine For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When describing wine, wine merchants, restaurant servers, and your oenophile friends will use specific language to tell you about its characteristics. Knowing these words will help you understand the wine they’re describing:

  • Aroma or bouquet: The smell of a wine — bouquet applies particularly to the aroma of older wines

  • Body: The apparent weight of a wine in your mouth (light, medium, or full)

  • Crisp: A wine with refreshing acidity

  • Dry: Not sweet

  • Finish: The impression a wine leaves as you swallow it

  • Flavor intensity: How strong or weak a wine’s flavors are

  • Fruity: A wine whose aromas and flavors suggest fruit; doesn’t imply sweetness

  • Oaky: A wine that has oak flavors (smoky, toasty)

  • Soft: A wine that has a smooth rather than crisp mouthfeel

  • Tannic: A red wine that is firm and leaves the mouth feeling dry