Ever found yourself sipping on a glass of wine, only to come up short on how to describe it? You’re not alone! With so many words out there, it’s easy to feel lost in translation, especially when the pros make it sound so effortless. If you’re wondering how to level up your wine lingo for your next wine tasting adventure, we’ve got your back with this beginner’s guide to wine tasting descriptions. 


Because let’s face it, wine enjoyment should be stress-free, no matter where you are in your wine journey. So, grab a glass and we’ll guide you through the world of wine descriptions, one sip at a time! 🍷

wine tasting

How to Taste Wine: The 5 S’s

Before going into describing wine, let’s look at how to taste wine like a pro. The secret? Remember the 5 S’s of wine tasting—see, swirl, sniff, sip and savor. Keep this tip in your back pocket to help you unlock the full potential of each sip. 


Why are they important? Because they engage all of your senses, making sure that you get the absolute most out of your wine. Each wine you try on your wine tour is crafted to give you a unique experience, so enter each one with an open mind, and enjoy.


1. Sight:

First things first, take a good look at your wine. Check out its color, clarity, and how it moves in the glass. These visual cues can tell you a lot about the wine’s age, grape variety, and how it was made.

2. Swirl:

Give your wine a gentle swirl in the glass. This simple move releases its aromas, giving you a sneak peek into what’s to come. Plus, it helps oxygenate the wine, adding more flavor.

3. Smell:

Bring the glass to your nose and take a whiff! Enjoy the aromas, and take notice—is it fruity, floral, spicy, or oaky? Trust your nose—it’s your wine’s best friend.

4. Sip:

Time to taste! Take a small sip and let it linger, no need to chug your wine down. Instead, try to notice the wine’s texture and how it feels and tastes on your palate.

5. Savor:

Last but not least, savor the moment. Notice the flavor lingering after you swallow. This is where we think you get the most out of your experience: you get to reflect on the wine’s finish and what it truly tastes like. Enjoy!


By considering the 5 S’s of wine tasting, you can really get the most out of every sip and enjoy all the little details that make each wine special. But, how do you put what you’re tasting into words? Here are some key terms to help you describe wine like a pro!


10 Common Wine Tasting Terms You Should Know

Next time you’re tasting wine on your tour, keep in mind these 10 common terms that you can play around with to properly describe any wine you come across: 


1. Acidity

Too much acidity makes wine bitter; not enough makes it dull. To taste acidity, think of the sensation you get when biting into a Granny Smith apple. In general, more acidic wines feel lighter, while less acidic wines are sweeter and feel heavier, and white wines usually have more acidity than red wines.

2. Aroma

Sometimes called the “bouquet,” this is the smell of the wine, influenced by the grape, the age of the wine, and fermentation scents. Common aromas used for wine descriptions include fruit, herbs, flowers, earth, grass, tobacco, and chocolate.

3. Balanced

When all the components of your wine (acidity, tannins, fruitiness, etc.) are in harmony, this makes your wine taste balanced. A balanced wine doesn’t have any element overpowering the others—it should be not too acidic, not too fruity, and not too sweet. Just perfect. 


4. Body

A full, medium, or light-bodied wine describes how “light” or “heavy” the wine feels on your palate. For example, compare it to the familiar taste of milk: skim milk would be “light-bodied,” whole milk is more “medium-bodied,” and cream would be “full-bodied.” Pinot Grigio is typically light-bodied and refreshing, while Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied with a rich, bold profile. 


5. Crisp

The crispness of your wine is associated with how refreshing and acidic your wine tastes. Crisp wines are lively and bright and should remind you of biting into a fresh apple or citrus. Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio are often described as crisp due to their acidity and fruitiness. 


6. Dry

A dry wine lacks sweetness and has a clean, crisp taste. In dry wines, most of the grape sugars have been converted into alcohol, leaving little residual sugar. Dry wines will have a clean taste without any sweetness.

7. Finish

The finish is the final touch: the lingering taste and aroma that remain in your mouth after swallowing your wine. It’s the final impression your wine leaves on your palate. Common terms to describe the finish include crispy, sweet, full-bodied or acidic. 


8. Oaky

This term describes the flavors and earthy aromas added to the wine from the oak barrels. Often, you can taste notes of vanilla, spice, toast, or coconut based on the oak barrels, which add a lot of complexity and structure to the wine and its flavor.

9. Sweet

In wine, sweetness refers to the level of residual grape sugar remaining after fermentation. The more sugar you taste, the sweeter the wine. Riesling, Moscato, and Port are known for their sweetness due to their grape varieties and sugary taste.

10. Tannin

Tannins are natural substances found in some foods and drinks, including wine! In wine, they come from grape seeds, stems, and wooden barrels. Higher tannins give the wine a dry, puckery feeling, like strong tea. Tannins are mostly noticeable in red wines and can make them taste bitter when they’re young. But, as red wines get older, the tannins tend to soften, making wine smoother and more enjoyable. 


Let’s Go Wine Tasting!

Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re all set to taste and describe any glass of wine like a pro. On your next wine tour, remember the 5 S’s: see, swirl, smell, sip, and savor each glass. Use these common terms to describe your wine and share your thoughts with your family, friends and fellow tasters. Wine tasting is a shared experience, and being able to describe what you taste makes it even more enjoyable. So, pour yourself a glass, and let’s savor every moment. Cheers to happy wine drinking! 🍷