A to Z - terms to learn for describing fine wine

Sipping different types of wine is enjoyable in itself. Beyond the drink, though, is the knowledge you can learn. Today, there are many words one can use to convey the taste and body of different types of wine, ranging from 'acidic' to 'zesty'.

While the everyday wine consumer might employ more well-known terms, wine specialists and sommeliers rely on this extensive vocabulary to describe the subtle nuanced qualities of the wines they taste. Be like a pro and read on to learn and discover these terms to describe fine wine!


Acidity is an important component in wines, especially whites. It adds a zing to the wine and often determines its potential to be refreshing, crisp, and mouth-watering.


Unlike the term “soft,” angular is often used to describe acidic wines that give edgy impressions to the taste buds.


This is a word used to describe aged wines, and it involves the smells of fruit, herbs, flowers, dirt, grass, tobacco, mocha, and chocolate found in different types of wine.


The 'backbone' of the wine refers to its structure, substance, and overall balance.


A wine is often balanced when its three components—fruit, alcohol, and acid—find harmony and provide an exquisite taste.


The body of the wine refers to the heft and viscosity on one’s palate. A full-bodied wine has substance and intensity, medium-bodied wine is a decent middle ground, and a light-bodied wine is refreshing and tingling.


A 'complex' wine is one that changes flavour notes as it is sipped and swallowed.


This term allows wine sommeliers to distinguish the pleasant, clean, and aromatic taste of wine. Although, at the same time, this term could also refer to a repulsive 'barnyard' wine taste.


In comparison to big, bold, and juicy wines, elegant wines are more acidic and have a more controlled flavour character. They are initially 'tight,' but have a significant aging potential.


A wine's 'finish' can have a considerable impact on the overall tasting experience. It could be smooth, smoky, or spicy, for example. Additionally, a wine with a 'long finish' has a lingering aftertaste.

Flavour Intensity 

Knowing how to describe the intensity or delicacy of a wine's taste is essential for pairing wine with meals and further developing personal wine preferences.


Wine legs are the streaks that run down the inside of the glass when it is swirled. Their intensity develops in direct proportion to the wine's alcohol concentration.


This term is used for vibrant wines that are crisp, fruity, bright, and full of life.


Non-fruit, herb, and spice wines all have a minerally flavour character. Consider the aromas of forged iron, oysters, and damp cement, all of which have a distinct tang.

Oak driven

This term comes from the wood barrels in which wine is matured. It provides white wine characteristics of butter and vanilla, and red wine flavours of smoky, roasted notes. Unoaked wines are more acidic and zesty since they lack these characteristics.


Rich wines have substantial, appealing flavours that are sweet and 'rounded.' Dry wines are made richer by the addition of alcohol or an oaky vanilla flavour. Rich wines are sweet with juicy, delectable tastes.


Tannins are essential in the production of red wine and can provide a range of outcomes. Wine can be classified as astringent (high tannins and a harsh mouthfeel), firm (mid tannins and a dry mouth), or soft (low tannins and a soft mouthfeel). Meanwhile, fewer tannins in wine may result in a smooth, velvety feel.


Much like citrus fruits, ‘zesty’ is a term used for wines that deliver crispness and liveliness. 


You know what they say: Fake it ‘til you make it. The notion applies similarly to describing the finest of wines. As you go along your wine journey, use these terms accordingly and improve your wine vocabulary! Soon, you’ll be engaging with professionals and enjoying wine tasting sessions with the best of the best.

If you’re thinking of hosting a wine tasting in the UK, Plonk Wines is dedicated to producing high-quality small-batch wines that will surpass your expectations. With us, you can find a selection of great new-age wines from small, independent producers, including Jura masters, age-worthy Barolos and Brunellos, and New World discoveries. Join the club and shop our selection today!

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