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Tasting Terminology -- Sound like a Pro Part 2!


In Tasting Terminology – Sound like a Pro Part 1, we introduced a variety of terms used to describe a wine either in a positive or negative light.  In Part 2 we continue the theme with terminology from I – Q.  Remember, the best way to get comfortable with the terminology is to drink some wine, record your taste perceptions, and match them to these common descriptors.  In no time you'll be sounding like a pro!

Inky – A color descriptor used to characterize a wine of very dark purple colors.  Inky wines generally (but not always) have more concentrated fruit flavors.  Wines that are frequently inky include Carmenere, Negroamaro, and Syrah.

Lean – The term lean is generally an unfavorable descriptor, used to characterize a wine that lacks fruit flavors and may also be overly acidic. 

Legs - A term used to describe the rivulets that are visible on the sides of a wine glass after swirling (also called tears). The presence and quantity of legs is a function of the alcohol content of the wine – the more legs, the higher the alcohol content.  The term is neither favorable nor unfavorable, merely an indicator of alcoholic content.

Light – Unlike lite beer, light when used to describe a wine generally means low in alcohol content, flavors, and watery - an unfavorable descriptor.

Mid Palate – The phrase “mid palate” refers to the middle one of the three phases of wine tasting.  The first is called the attack, the second mid palate, and the third, the finish.  Attack is the very first reaction when sipping a wine.  Alcohol, tannins, acidity and residual sugar (sweetness) are typically identified quickly during the attack phase.  Once the wine fills the mouth and is aerated (by swishing or chewing) aromas are released and the flavor of the wine establishes itself.  The finish is the presence of taste, aromas or mouth feel that lingers after swallowing – the longer the better.  “Notes of blackberry and raspberry are pronounced on the mid palate”.

Nose – A very common term that refers to the aromas of a wine.  “This wine has a very nice nose”, or simply “Nice nose” are commonly used expressions to refer to a wine that after swirling and sniffing yields a pleasant collections of aromas.

Oaky – Oak is used extensively in the production of wine.  Wine barrels not only store wine but impart color, taste, and tannins to the wine.  The most prevalent flavor associated with oak is vanilla, however smoky or toasted flavors can be introduced as a result of the barrel making process.  Oaky is generally a favorable descriptor provided the flavors are associated with the grape variety and style of the wine.

Overripe – As you might expect, overripe is generally not a positive descriptor.  It is used to describe a wine that has the taste of overripe fruit – raisins, prunes, you get the idea.  Be careful though, with certain styles, some California Zinfandels for example, the winemaker strives to develop these flavors and they are delightful!

Powerful – Similar to big, powerful is used to describe a young wine that has rich fruit flavors, lots of tannin, and usually high alcohol content.

The best way to explore these terms and put them into practice is to taste several wines.  Read the description on the label, and see if you can match any of the characteristics.  Keep in mind, no winemaker is going to describe their wine as “light” or “lean” or “overripe”.  You'll be surprised at how quickly you can recognize these terms.

Here's an example describing a Viognier – see if you can dissect the meaning.

It's a light wine, bordering on lean, simple nose, with peach flavors on the mid palate, and a short lived finish.

See, it's not really that hard! 

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·  Tasting Terminology -- Sound like a Pro!
·  Wine temperature - Five simple rules
·  Wine Glasses - Does it really matter?
·  Wine Tasting 101


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