Wine Tasting Skills: Oz Clarke’s How to Taste Wine, Part Five

Wine tasting skills with Oz Clarke

28Discover wine tasting skills from the Three Wine Men experts and make drinking wine an even more rewarding experience, one step at a time. Practise these skills at home or with friends and be raring to go at our wonderful wine tasting events! Find out more about our events at

Over to Oz, for part FIve…

“50 ways to describe wine.”  [Well, here are the first 25 – pace yourselves!]

There’s more to describing wine than saying it’s good or bad. Tasting terms are a way of sharing our perceptions of a wine’s qualities; they should never be a secret code for experts. Fruit flavours are direct comparisons, so if I know the fruit, I will recognize the flavour you are talking about. The same goes for honey or nuts. These less obvious terms are useful too.

Aggressive A wine with acid that makes your gums sting or that dries up the back of your throat due to an excess of tannin.

Aromatic All wines have an aroma, but an aromatic wine is particularly pungent, floral or spicy, and is usually from an aromatic grape variety like Gewürztraminer.

Astringent A wine in which the mouthdrying effect of tannin is very marked.

Big A full-bodied wine with lots of everything: fruit flavour, acidity, tannin and alcohol.

Bold A wine with distinct, easily understood flavours.

Buttery Oak barrels and malolactic fermentation can both give a buttery taste.

Chewy Wine with a lot of tannin and strong flavour, but which is not = aggressive.

Clean Wine free of bacterial and chemical faults. Also describes simple, refreshing wines.

Complex A wine that has layer upon layer of flavours.

Crisp A refreshing white wine with good acidity.

Deep Subtle, rich; allied to complex.

Dry Not at all sweet.

Dull A wine with no well-defined, pleasing flavours. Often a sign of too much exposure to oxygen.

Dusty A dry, slightly earthy taste sometimes found in reds. Can be very attractive if combined with good fruit.

Earthy A smell and taste of damp earth – appealing in some French reds from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux.

Fat Full-bodied, unctuous.

Firm Well-balanced, well-defined wine; the opposite of flabby.

Flabby Lacking in acidity, feeble.

Floral Several whites have an aroma like flowers or blossom.

Focused A wine in which all the flavours are well defined.

Fresh Young wine, with lively fruit flavours and good acidity.

Full A weighty feel in the mouth.

Grassy Commonly used though not strictly accurate term for the green leaf, lime zest or capsicum flavours typical of Sauvignon Blanc.

Green Can mean unripe, in which case it’s pejorative. But green leaf flavours are common in cool-climate reds, and greenness in association with flavours such as gooseberries or apples implies the fresh, tangy flavours found in many white wines.

Hard A red with a lot of tannin or a white with too much acid. Uncompromising rather than aggressive, but rarely enjoyable.

Extracted from Oz Clarke’s Let Me Tell You About Wine, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Pavilion Books, RRP £14.99, available to order from all good bookshops and online retailers including Amazon here

We hope you enjoy practising your wine tasting skills!  The next post will give you another 25 ways to describe wine…

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