Crazy Wine Descriptors

You have probably been around someone who uses crazy words to describe their wine. If you drink enough wine, you may be one of those people. So why do we use these terms? Wine descriptors help us put words to our wine. Imagine if someone were to ask you to describe what an apple tastes like. What would you say? It taste like an apple! The only way to describe the apple would be to come up with similarities or comparisons. When someone says a glass of wine tastes like black cherry, plum, dark chocolate and spice you can hear the words and know what they mean when you drink the wine.

So let’s break down some of those crazy descriptors:

Chewy/Furry – the wine has a ton of tannin and dries out your mouth so much that you almost feel like chewing; your mouth is dry to the point of being completely void of moisture and feels furry

Cigar/Cigar Box – usually found in refined red wines and is the presence of the smell/flavor of tobacco or tobacco leaves like a cigar; when it is slightly sweeter and has cedar wood and smoke, this is cigar box

Creamy – white wine or sparkling wine fermented or aged in oak that takes on a creamy feel in your mouth – the term buttery is also used (can be due to Malolactic Fermentation)

Grassy – it is actually legitimate when a person puts their nose in a glass of sauvignon blanc smells freshly mowed grass – that aroma in the wine shares the same chemical compound found in the smell of mowed grass

Green Pepper – some grapes carry the same savory aroma compound (pyrazines) as a bell pepper, especially Bordeaux origin grapes like sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc; the smell and taste will be similar to a cut bell pepper

Jammy – thick, cooked berry taste, smell and sometimes feel in the mouth often used to describe grenache, shiraz, and zinfandel

Leather – found in quality red wine because of tannin present in grape skins, seeds and oak barrels; tannins are also used to tan leather; smell and/or lick your belt or purse, you’ll get the idea

Toast – aroma due to wine being aged in toasted oak barrels; not bread toast, more like barely burnt caramel

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