If you’re just starting to discover the joys of tasting wine, you might have found yourself confused by a lot of the terminology being tossed around by more experienced wine drinkers. These are some of the more common ones, used to describe the many different components of a wine:
Body — The body of a wine is how it feels when you hold it in your mouth. The lighter it feels across your palate, the less body it has. In contrast, a full-bodied wine feels heavy and seems to take up the entire interior of your mouth.
Bouquet — Also known as the aroma or nose of a wine, the bouquet is the scent or combination of scents that you observe when you put your own nose into the wineglass. Bouquet is generally the preferred term when describing a wine that is considered complex, or one having many different smells.
Finish — All wines have some sort of aftertaste that lingers after the liquid has gone down your throat. This aftertaste is called the finish. Wines with a good finish will have pleasing tastes that linger for just long enough to make you think about having another drink. A wine with a short aftertaste or with an aftertaste full of unappealing flavors, has a bad finish.
Structure — A wine’s structure is a general term to describe the taste and feel of various qualities of the wine. The wine could have a lot of acidity, for example, or be especially heavy on alcohol content. A properly structured wine will carefully balance these qualities against each other, creating a wine that has a distinct character but not a single overpowering quality.
But these aren’t the most exciting adjectives to be found at a wine tasting, not by a long shot. You will regularly hear sommeliers spout such terms as earthy, oaky, jammy, chewy, or musty to describe the wine’s taste. Although taste is subjective, and you can probably use whatever descriptive word seems best to you, it’s both useful and fun to learn the adjectives more experienced wine drinkers will use when discussing the wine’s taste.
You can download a common list of white wine character descriptions from here and a second list of red wine descriptions here. Learn how to use them properly, not just as a way of sounding smart! You’ll appreciate your newfound ability to communicate.