Dry? Fresh? Rough? What does it all mean? You’ve come to the right place! The following terms are generally used by all sorts of magazines and review blogs. This glossary is made up of easy to understand and descriptive words that anyone can use.



  • Astringent – causing a rough, harsh feel (usually due to tannin or high acidity) that makes the mouth pucker



  • Backbone – full bodied, well structured and balanced by a desirable level of acidity
  • Bright – fresh, ripe, lively young wine with vivid, focused flavors



  • Clean – fresh on the palate and free of any off-taste (but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good quality)
  • Coarse – having too much tannin or oak in the texture
  • Complex – well balanced, with an interesting combination of flavors
  • Corky – wine whose flavors have been contaminated in the bottle by a rotting cork
  • Crisp – bright, lively, nicely acidic



  • Dry – having very little sweetness, because the greater part of sugar has been fermented



  • Earthy – having overtones of herbs and tar, not necessarily due to the soil in which the grapes were raised, but sometimes coming from the wood in the aging barrels; used as a positive attribute, it means there is an added complexity to the aroma and flavors; used as a negative attribute, it means it borders on or crosses into dirtiness



  • Fat – full bodied, high in alcohol, low in acidity; wine which gives a “fat” impression on the palate
  • Flabby – soft, feeble, lacking acidity
  • Flat – low in acidity (the next stage after flabby)
  • Fruity – having an aroma and the taste of fruits; depending on the grapes, a suggestion of fruits such as apple, raspberry and melon can be present; it doesn’t mean sweet
  • Full Bodied – giving an impression of weight or fullness on the palate, usually due to a high alcohol content (the body of a wine is affected mostly by alcohol and the amount of fruit extract and can be thought of as the relative “thickness” or “viscosity”; wines can be described as full bodied, medium bodied or light bodied)



  • Generous – high quality, full bodied
  • Green – insufficiently aged or made from the unripe grapes; tasting of unripe fruit



  • Hard – firm, high in acidity or tannin (mostly applied to young red wines)
  • Harsh – tannic or high in alcohol
  • Heady – high in alcohol
  • Hot – high in alcohol or an unbalanced wine which gives the impression of pure alcohol



  • Lively – fresh, fruity, bright



  • Mature – ready to drink



  • Oaky – having a hint of oak from the oak barrels in which the wine is aged (a positive attribute if referring to toasty, vanilla, dill, cedary and smoky qualities; negative if referring to a charred, burnt, green cedar quality)
  • Off Dry – slightly sweet
  • Old – wine of older vintage, usually at least ten years old



  • Raw – young and undeveloped, often tannic and high in alcohol or acidity (mostly applied to barrel samples of red wines)
  • Rich – having generous, full, pleasant flavors, usually sweet and round
  • Ripe – tasting of grapes ripened to perfection, with a good combination of sweetness and fruit flavors
  • Rough – too astringent
  • Round – well balanced, with a smooth texture, not coarse or tannic



  • Simple – not complex (but this is not necessarily negative: it can refer to straightforward or uncluttered flavors)
  • Soft – low in acidity
  • Sour – high in acidity
  • Spicy – having spice flavors, such as cinnamon, mint, basil (mostly applied to complex wines)
  • Sweet – having a high proportion of residual sugar from the grapes (sweetness doesn’t depend on the flavors and smells of the fruit itself)



  • Tannic – high in tannin and astringent, making the mouth pucker, but this is not necessarily a negative characteristic, unless unbalanced; (tannin comes from grape skins, seeds and stems, but also from oak barrels; it is mostly found in red wines, and breaks down with age: older vintages are usually less astringent)
  • Toasty – having the flavor of toasted wood which comes from the oak barrels in which the wine is aged (mostly applied to white wines); refers to the process during production of toasting wine barrels over an open flame



  • Velvety – having rich flavor and a silky texture
  • Vivid – wine whose flavors can be easily distinguished and appreciated



  • Well Balanced – having harmonious elements (mostly in terms of alcohol, acid, residual sugar and tannin): no single element stands out significantly from the rest; opposite to unbalanced



  • Young – wine of younger vintage, not necessarily green


The following terms were collected from the Moleskine Wine Journal.
For more on Moleskine, please visit their website by clicking here.