NOTE: In the Basic Wine Lingo & Glossary of Terms section of this website, you will find hundreds of useful definitions for various terms, phrases, and words used in the wine industry. This glossary was compiled from a variety of sources and should prove useful as you navigate through this website or in your wine tasting travels. Throughout this website, anytime you encounter a word that is italicized in gold font, this will indicate a hyperlink that allows you to click on the word, term or phrase and you will be redirected to the Glossary where you can review its meaning or definition.
The topic of wine is a very soft “mushy” subject that is often hard for people to get their arms around. It’s not like building a house, where you have a design and a bunch of materials and you follow the construction plans, focusing on the plot of land and the foundation first, then the frame, then the rest of the house, in stages. Instead, when talking about wine, we are talking about things that are very subjective, very personal and sensory/perception-based descriptions of a liquid. Once you build the house, you have a tangible structure that is say, 2500 square feet, with a 3 car garage that’s located on a large lot overlooking a vineyard. With wine….it isn’t so simple. You can have 3 identical bottles of an expensive 1997 French wine from the same winemaker, same vineyard etc., and you can have 3 different people each drink a bottle and then come back and describe what they experienced, and you will likely get 3 different assessments. Why? Because wine affects people in different ways, and we all perceive things differently, in a very personal manner, as a function of our past experiences, our sensory capabilities and many other variables. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. It’s simply the way it is. It’s just like relationships right? 3 different people can date the same person and yet they may all have 3 different stories to tell about how they perceived that individual. Let’s first talk about wine lingo and wine jargon so you aren’t surprised as we dive deeper into discussing wine and what makes it so unique and what factors impact wine.
When people in the wine industry discuss wine, there’s definitely a wine lingo or wine jargon that is often used to communicate, that is not well understood by people unfamiliar with the terms. A lot of lingo that is used to convey wine tasting notes or wine reviews is based upon various descriptors and terms used to convey subjective feelings and sensory perceptions. In addition, this lingo has both direct and indirect terms and phrases that are used to communicate thoughts about wines. Indirect terms and phrases are aimed at communicating subjective information and use emotional words, metaphorical or evocative phrasing to paint a word-picture and elicit your feelings and personal thoughts regarding complex ideas and perspectives about wine. Direct terms and phrases are aimed at using specific words with solid definitions to pinpoint attributes and characteristics of a wine from a definitive and more objective standpoint. As an example, indirect and direct wine lingo might use these words to describe the same wine:
Indirect (Touchy-Feely) Terms:
“This very approachable Bordeaux blend exhibits a beautiful intense ruby color and offers flavors of ripe blackberry and boysenberry pie, subtle notes of cigar box and a velvety smooth and lingering finish.”
Direct (Concrete) Terms:
“This Bordeaux blend is full-bodied and nicely balanced, with moderate levels of acidity, a deep ruby color and pronounced flavors of dark berries and tobacco, with a lengthy finish.”
As we move forward through this section and elsewhere on this site, or while you’re visiting some tasting room, you’ll be able to recall this discussion and have a better idea of what the tasting room folks are trying to convey, how they are communicating and in what context.
In the section called My Wine Tasting Process, I talk about various wine attributes or wine characteristics that I feel are most relevant to how I evaluate a wine. In addition, a ton of great information is available from sources such as Wine Folly and Wine – A Tasting Course, so rather than re-create the wheel, I will only list the key attributes here that I believe are personally important for evaluating a wine. Remember, this list only represents my personal preferences and this is based upon my confidence levels in being able to sense, identify and discriminate these various attributes in a somewhat reliable and consistent fashion. For more specifics and technical detail you should refer to the References Section where there are some excellent online and hard text resources for additional wine information. For each attribute that is colored gold, you can click on the word and you will be taken to the Glossary of Terms where definitions can be found.