Winemaking Terms Defined: Attending a Wine Tasting

Know what you’re talking about at a formal wine tasting. Here we define a few terms that may be used to describe aspects of a wine tasting or judging event (terms are not in alphabetical order):

Describing how a formal wine tasting is organized:

flight  an array of wines that will be served at the same tasting. More than one flight may be included in a tasting event. Wines are usually tasted in this order: dry whites, sweeter whites, dry reds, sweeter reds, dessert wines, sparkling wines.

blind tasting  a wine tasting in which bottle labels are not shown, so that tasters are not influenced by them when forming opinions about the wines.

horizontal tasting  a comparative tasting of wines all from the same vintage year.

vertical tasting  a comparative tasting of one type of wine made by one winery from various vintage years.

vintage  the year the grapes used in a wine were harvested.

Describing items and activities at a formal wine tasting:

breathing  not you, the wine. Wine “breathes” when it is allowed to have a short period of oxygen exposure before drinking. Needed for some red wines.

decant  to pour a wine into a decanter first before pouring it into individual glasses for drinking, to allow the wine to breathe or to remove sediment from the wine.

decanter  a glass carafe for serving wine.

foil cutter  a tool used to cut the top off the foil or plastic that may cover the cork and neck of a bottle.

palate  a person’s sense of taste.

fore palate  the initial set of flavors perceived when a wine is sipped.

mid palate  the flavors that evolve, if any, as a wine is allowed to linger in the mouth.

after palate  the flavors that remain in the mouth after the wine has been swallowed. Also known as aftertaste or finish.

cleanse the palate  to eat neutral-tasting food such as a cracker or to drink water between wines, so that the next wine’s taste is not influenced by the previous wine.

Describing a wine’s appearance:

clarity  lack of haziness in the appearance of a wine, even when held up to a light.

legs  slow, uneven movement of the wine as it drips down the inside of a glass after being swirled. Also known as tears (as in crying.)

Describing a wine’s smell and/or taste:

note  a particular facet of a wine’s nose or taste. One wine may have several notes.

aroma  odor of the original fruit a wine was made from.

bouquet  odors acquired by a wine during fermentation and aging.

nose  all facets of a wine’s odor, including aroma and bouquet.

body  a heavy or thick feel in the mouth, as opposed to being watery. Also known as mouthfeel.

terroir  the influence the soil and geographic and environmental conditions where the grapes were grown have on the taste of the wine. The same variety of grape may taste somewhat different when grown in two different vineyards even if the vineyards are near each other, due to differences in altitude, sun exposure, water drainage, type of soil, amount of rocks, etc.

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