How to describe wine flavors accurately

The language of wine is as diverse as its flavors themselves.

From fruity explosions to mineral notes, wines offer a wide range of aromas to explore. A rich vocabulary is used to appropriately describe these flavors. There is talk of fruity nuances such as berries or citrus fruits, spicy elements such as cloves or pepper, woody tones such as vanilla or tobacco and mineral notes such as granit or chalk. The art lies in skillfully combining these terms to convey the character of a wine precisely and vividly. With the right language, the wine tasting experience becomes a captivating journey through the world of the senses.


Which tastes do we perceive?

The professional judges a wine primarily on the palate. Our perception of the taste of wine is a fascinating journey through the taste zones of our tongue. These papillae are responsible for our ability to distinguish up to five different flavors.

The previous assumption was that the tongue is sensitive to sweetness at the tip, acidity and saltiness at the edges and bitterness at the back of the throat. The new findings from current research, however, are based on the taste continuum: The receptors for the different flavors are relatively evenly distributed on the tongue. We perceive the different flavors with the same cells on the taste buds. The only differences are the signals that are transmitted to the brain. For example, one messenger substance transmits “sweet”, another “bitter”, a third “sour” and a fourth “salty”. It is therefore advisable not to judge the sensations on the palate, but only after spitting them out, as they can overlap and are therefore difficult to distinguish. Umami, the fifth taste, which stands for “meaty” and “savory”, is still relatively new in research and occurs when something tastes particularly delicious.

tasting notes

Recently, the sense of taste for fat or oil has also been considered a sixth sense of taste. We can perceive this above all in food, regardless of its sweet, salty or bitter taste. This would not be expected with wine, as wine does not contain fat. However, certain wines such as a mature Chardonnay or a red Shiraz can feel oily, leaving a thick or viscous texture on the tongue, triggered by a glycoprotein.

The finale

The finish when tasting wine has a decisive influence on the taste of the wine, as it lingers and reveals aromas such as fruity notes, acidity and bitterness even after swallowing. For wine lovers, the finish is an important quality criterion, as its harmony and duration reflect the quality of the wine. A long and positive finish often indicates a high-quality wine.

wood notes

What is the best way to describe wine?

Here are some important terms from the wine vocabulary for you:

astringent: A bitter, fur-like taste impression that makes the wine appear astringent, caused by tannins. The tannins contained in the wine, which provide a dry and structured mouthfeel.

floral: Aroma and taste of flowers.

earthy: Aroma and taste of moist earth.

fresh: A young wine with an acidic taste.

fruity: A wine with a pronounced aroma of fresh fruit such as strawberries, apples or citrus fruits.

grassy/greenish: The smell and taste of freshly mown grass (especially in white wines).

harmonious/round: A harmonious wine with a balanced sweetness/acidity ratio that leaves an absolutely positive impression.

woody: With nuances of oak, vanilla or tobacco.

edgy: An inharmonious wine.

complex: A wine with many different aromas.

herbal: With aromas of herbs such as thyme, rosemary or mint.

light: A wine with low alcohol and restrained aromas that is unobtrusive.

mineral: With notes of shale, chalk or salty sea air.


neutral: A wine with little aroma.

velvety/soft: A pleasant wine with low acidity.

sweet: A wine with a high sugar content or the aroma of ripe fruit. With sweet notes such as honey, caramel or dried fruit.

dry: A wine that causes a dry feeling in the mouth, caused by tannins. With a rather bitter and not sweet taste impression.

rich: A full-bodied texture, a mouth-filling wine.

full: A very aromatic wine.

warm: A sweet, alcohol-rich wine.

spicy: A wine with pronounced spicy aromas such as cloves, pepper or cinnamon.

A wine can also taste corked or oxidized. Corking refers to a cork defect caused by a contaminated cork that makes the wine taste musty or like wet cardboard. When a wine is oxidized, it means that it has been exposed to too much oxygen and has lost its fresh character, which can lead to an unpleasant taste.

Wine tasting: Matter of character

You can shine at your next wine tasting with these technical terms. Why not attend our wine tasting on May 4 to deepen your knowledge and put your skills to the test. We look forward to seeing you there!