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81 Cards in this Set

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Acid, acidity
The tart (or in excess, sour) quality that wine's natural acidity imparts and that gives the wine a sense of body and structure. Required for proper balance; too much or too little constitutes a flaw.
A light bitter, nutlike quality sometimes noted in Italian white wines.
Faint licorice, a pleasant element in some Spanish reds; may indicate, however, that the wine has been artificially acidified, a practice that may improve short-term enjoyment but tends to make wines that cellar poorly.
Pleasant apple-fruit aroma, particularly characteristic of Chardonnays made without excessive oak.
Tart apple and red-fruit flavor, often noted in red wines of Languedoc and Provence.
The sense of structure present in a wine with sufficient acidity. See also "structure" below and note that alcohol and tannins may also be elements of structure or backbone.
All desirable elements present in proper proportion: Acidity, fruit and, where appropriate, tannins.
Black fruit
A catchall term for mixed black-cherry, blackberry, plum and similar fruit aromas, commonplace in many good red wines.
Black pepper
Fragrant, floral, and distinctively peppery. A trademark of Syrah, also found in Grenache, Carignan, Petite Sirah.
A common descriptor for young Zinfandels.
"Cassis" in French, a fruity and herbaceous quality that's the hallmark of red Bordeaux.
Another specific fruit description. Not common, but I often find it in Cabernet Franc.
The overall texture or weight of wine in the mouth, most influenced by alcohol, glycerin and, in the case of dessert wines, sugar. See "light-bodied," "medium-bodied" and "full-bodied."
Bouquet, bottle bouquet
As a technical term, the smells that develop with age in the wine bottle, as opposed to "aroma," the smells associated with the fruit. I have little use for distinctions this narrow and try to avoid using them in my wine notes.
Aromatic shrub reminiscent of cat urine (really!) and thus a euphemism for the more pungent "cat spray" or "cat pee" descriptor (see below) found in some Sauvignon Blancs.
Color description for many white wines: Greenish-gold.
As a color, transparent; as a flavor, high but not excessive in acidity.
A visual term: Exceptionally clear and transparent.
As the name indicates. This and other melon flavors are typical of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio and Chenin Blanc.
Cat spray
An earthily descriptive name (see "boxwood," above) for a pungently musky quality that appears in some Sauvignon Blancs. Although it may sound repellent, many tasters adore it in a white wine -- and I'm one of 'em.
Chewy, chunky
A textural description for a wine so full-bodied that it almost seems as if you could chew it.
Chocolate, dark-chocolate
Not sweet but rich, pleasantly "burnt" flavor, usually in robust red wines. In some cases may be associated with aging in oak barrels.
Generic citrus fruit, a pleasurable element in many whites.
Overall description for a wine with no unpleasant or "off" aromas or tastes.
Showing little aroma or flavor. May be a temporary condition (akin to "dumb," below) in an ageworthy wine that is past its youth but not yet mature.
Containing many elements with none necessarily dominant. May or may not be "delicate" or "subtle," see below.
Corked, corky
Always a flaw: Wine afflicted by an undetectable cork fungus (2,4,6-TCA) that imparts an unpleasant musty, damp-cardboard flavor that obliterates all other aromas and flavors in the wine. (Nuance: I've been reminded, correctly, that mild corkiness may diminish the aromas and flavors of a wine without fully overwhelming them; in any case, however, I consider it a fatal flaw.)
A textural description that I use most often in discussing Champagnes and sparkling wines.
Acidic tartness noticeable without overwhelming; a favorable term, typical of good whites.
Complex, with many flavors working together, but not overbearing. If it were a painting, it would be in pastels, not poster paint.
Generic term for a range of aromas and flavors associated with organic qualities like "barnyard," "forest floor," "merde" and "tree bark." May be associated with brettanomyces (see above) but can also result from oak aging or the nature of specific grapes. Mourvedre, for instance, imparts a characteristic earthy aroma. Again, not necessarily a fault, but "earthy" wines tend to be controversial, and a little bit is usually enough.
A wine-taster's synonym for "aftertaste", the flavors remaining in your mouth after the wine is swallowed.
Floral, Flowery
General term for a wine with aromas more reminiscent of flowers than fruit. May be very pleasant, especially in white wines.
Fruit bomb
A rather jocular term for a wine in which forward fruit dominates the flavor profile. Although such a wine is almost always pleasant to drink, the term implies a lack of balance, with fruit excessive for the wine's acidic structure.
Fruit, fruity
Overall description for wines in which fruitiness is the predominant quality without any specific fruitiness coming forward.
Full, full-bodied
A textural description for a wine that feels full and weighty on the palate, typically associated with wines of relatively high alcoholic content.
Walk through your lawn after cutting the grass, and you'll never mistake this aroma, often found in Sauvignon Blanc.
Light and refreshing and, well, easy to drink. Not usually applied to the fancier line of wines.
Specific flavor and aroma description, characteristic of botrytis but may also appear as a flavor nuance in dry white wines.
Think of Hulk Hogan or the Incredible Hulk. My half-humorous term for a wine of massive structure and/or tannins.
So fruity that it's reminiscent of jam or jelly. Often applied to big Zinfandels.
Another take on "earthy," often found in older reds; may add a specific adjective, as appropriate, such as "bookbinder's leather" or "saddle leather." Maybe even "Corinthian leather ... " In concert with other earthy elements, may also suggest "brett".
Lemon, lemony, lemon-squirt, lemon-lime
Specific citric flavors, commonplace in dry white wines, demonstrating why these wines go so well with seafood and fish, just as fresh lemons do.
The time that the "finish" or "aftertaste" (see above) persists in the mouth; generally, the greater the length, the better the wine. The French actually quantify it, using the term "Caudalie," with one unit of Caudalie equivalent to one second of length. Also, "lingering, long".
Light, light-bodied, lightweight
Another textural description, indicating a wine that crosses the palate without much of a sense of weight or body. May be associated with low alcoholic content.
As in "gamey," above, a specific kind of "earthy" quality, quite literally reminiscent of raw beef, sometimes found in red Rhones.
Medium, medium-bodied
As the name implies, a wine that's neither light-bodied nor heavy-bodied. Because of its middle-of-the-road status, this is rarely worth mentioning in a tasting note.
Difficult-to-describe term that may reflect the "stony" character of Chablis or the trademark flavor of Chateau Haut-Brion, or the odd, almost gasoline-like character of older Rieslings.
Similar to "full-bodied," a wine that impresses itself with weight, texture and flavor on the palate.
A mild earthy quality, pleasant in restraint, although a musty, mushroomy quality may also indicate a "corked" wine.
Usually an indication that the wine is "corked," although some older wines may show an initial mustiness that blows off with time in the glass. Corked wines never improve with breathing.
Wine taster's term for the overall smell of a wine, its aroma and bouquet. It sounds a little sniffy to me; I feel awkward using it.
Nutty, nutlike
Undifferentiated nuts, may be present as a subtle flavor element in any wine or as a predominant characteristic in a Sherry, Madeira or Tawny Port ... or, in a "maderized" wine that's over the hill.
Oak, oaky
Showing substantial influence of the oak barrels in which the wine was aged. This may manifest itself in many forms depending on the wine, the source of the oak, whether the barrels were "toasted" (charred) and whether they are large or small, new or old. Oaky white wines often show such flavors as pineapple and tropical fruit. Oaky reds may show strong vanilla aromas, herbal dill, or spices.
Chemical term for "maderized," the reaction that occurs when wine interacts with air in the bottle over years (or, more quickly, after the bottle is opened), and turns brown, Sherrylike and unattractive. A controlled edge of oxidation, however, may be normal and even desirable in an old, ageworthy White Burgundy.
Specific fruit description, typically associated with Chardonnay aged in toasted oak barrels.
Spicy with the fragrant pungence of black pepper. Typical of Rhone and Languedoc reds made from Syrah and Grenache. Also "black pepper."
Aroma description, usually reflects a heavy floral quality that may be out of balance.
Persists, persistent
Generally describes the length of a wine's finish or aftertaste, roughly synonymous with "long."
A specific aromatic description that I find most often married with fresh apples in tasty young German Rieslings.
Plum, plummy
Very common description for red wines, particularly budget-range reds made from grapes grown in particularly warm climates. Also "country-style" and "spaghetti red."
"Quality-Price Ratio," a term primarily used as a shortcut in online wine talk, a favorable reference to a wine of particularly good value. Sometimes seen as "PQR."
A particularly approving synonym for "acidic," this one suggesting a wine with a tart-crisp acidic flavor well balanced by fruit in a style that's particularly refreshing.
Red fruit
Broad catchall term for red wines with mixed flavors of apples, raspberries, strawberries, etc., and quite typical of Languedoc reds, among others. Compare to "black fruit.
Residual sugar
Technical term for the natural sugar that remains in naturally sweet wines after the conversion of fruit sugars into alcohol.
Akin to "big" as a description for a full-bodied, full-flavored wine, but perhaps even more so.
An odd and somewhat controversial description. The French "Pouilly-Fumé" and the imitative American "Fumé Blanc" are said to be based on a purported smoky quality in the wine, but I have never been able to detect it. However, lightly toasted (charred) oak barrels can impart a notably smoky quality to white wines, and some Fumé Blancs in particular take advantage of this.
General textural term, favorable; contrasts with "rough" or "astringent".
A low-acid wine, not tart nor sour. Taken to extremes, it yields a wine that's "fat" or "flabby," but within an arm's length of balance, the wine may be palatable, even gulpable; many mass-market wines are consciously made on the soft side.
General term for mixed spices, most often the cinnamon, clove and nutmeg mix that I find typical of some red wines aged in European oak.
Stalky, stemmy
Very specific vegetative descriptions, rather rare, most often found in unappealing Pinot Noir made from young vines or underripe grapes.
Stone fruit
Mixed fruits with pits (stones) like plums, peaches, apricots and prunes; very characteristic of Tawny Port, Australian "ports" and some sweet Sherries.
Common color in white wines, lighter and less yellow than gold.
Overall term describing a wine's sense of body, largely built, as described above, on acidity, with alcohol and tannins as additional elements.
Complex and balanced; implies more participating elements than "delicate," but balance is critical. A wine that's "outrageous" or "in-your-face" may be complex, but it isn't likely to be subtle.
Tannic, tannins
Containing perceptible tannic acid, a naturally occurring component in ageworthy red wines that imparts a mouth-puckering astringency when the wine is young but that "resolve" (through a chemical process called polymerization) into delicious and complex elements of "bottle bouquet" (above) when the wine is cellared under appropriate temperature conditions, preferably in the range of a constant 55 to 60 F.
Warm, warming
Usually refers to a wine of high alcoholic strength (see "hot"), but may also describe a simple wine made from warm-weather grapes (see "plummy").
Another variation on "green" or "herbaceous," typically used in conjunction with "dill" to denote a red wine with a marked American oak character, like Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Generalized term for light, delicate flowers in a wine's aroma, one that I almost always greet with pleasure.
Usually signifies that a wine is immature and needs cellar time, but may also refer to a wine intended to be drunk young, like Beaujolais.
Another synonym for "acidic," usually implying a significant but not overwhelming level.