While tasting a few wines over the weekend I realised that I really am terrible at verbalising wine flavours outside the usual WSET terms. How do you increase your wine vocab? I don’t need to get to Jilly Goolden standards but it would be nice to be a bit more poetic about what I’m tasting
How about this:
may not be useful, but tons of fun
personally, I try to picture places, not things when thinking of a wine. It doesn’t always work, but can occasionally be inspiring
For cracking wine words, you can’t beat a bit of Olly Smith! Here are just some of his greatest hits when describing wines from The Society:
- … fulsome, fleshy and bright as a mirrorball.
- … more fruit than Carry on Up the Wine Aisle. Like sticking your face in a lavender bush.
- … as bracingly sharp as an ice bath after a sauna.
- … as hearty as a bear hug from Brian Blessed.
- … like finding both Papa and Nicole in a single glass.
- … like a top-notch Rioja with a deep thrust fuel-injection. Feel it roar!
- … it’s a lightening bolt of vinous power.
- … glittering freshness as bright as a diamond.
- Imagine a peach surfing a zesty wave of lime juice …
- … feels like sipping applause.
- Sultanas dancing in demerara sugar …
- As buzzing and sweet as raisins hooked up to the mains …
- As powerful as a sultana the size of the sun.
- Imagine a black cherry the size of a bowling ball rolling into your face …
- … as enticing as a stroll through a lemon grove
- Sticky as bathing in a pool of liquid demerara.
- Like hoovering an entire field of strawberries and raspberries direct to your face …
- … as crunchy and zesty as a pear smooching a lemon …
- It’s as bright as a flashlight filled with cranberries.
- Like a lemon disguised as an apricot.
- Sleek and bold as a weightlifter in Lycra.
- The power and finesse of a turbo-charged Bentley.
- As bright and buzzing as a lightsabre - alas you have to make your own sound effects.
- … Savile Row tailoring with a Primark price tag.
- A turbo-charge of zesty meets savoury in every single sip.
- … light as a cherry filled with helium …
- … a laser beam of peaches, elderflowers and lychee.
- A peachy comet with a glittering stardust trail.
- A sleeping Titan!
- As exuberant as Van Halen’s Eighties hit Jump.
- Joy juice …
- Snap, dazzle, pop!
- … ready to charge your love batteries.
- …a thrusting lemony missile boosted by lovely lychee fruit and a splendid spicy payload.
- As bright and dazzling as a pear plugged into a lightbulb socket!
- As exuberant as a geyser of purple cassis …
- … as plump and characterful as a peach in a sedan chair.
- … the racy persistence of Mo Farah.
- A lemon nestling in a bed of oregano!
- A melon held aloft to the sun …
- A lemon deftly surfing on a giant rose petal …
- Wildy poised between juicy and svelte with butch chewy fruit …
- A crunchy spicy tightly-packed youthful cannonade of blueberry spice …
- Underfloor heating for the price of a tea light.
- Lemony loveliness with breezy freshness …
- A constellation of pink grapefruits …
- … bursting with fruity black cherry welly.
- … think black chocolate meets black diamond. A fitting red to raise to the legends of Greece.
- Chiselled and zesty as a spear of frozen lime juice hurled into a nest of guavas. Top quality.
- A lemony dart heading for the world’s tastiest bullseye.
- If this was a workout, it’d be Zumba …
- … as lively as cranberries crammed iinto a tube of dynamite. Detonate it.
Amazing! I did nearly describe a young gruner as tasting like ‘pesto… in a nice way’ but thought the grower might throw me in his optical sorting machine so thought better of it…
the man is a god (in funky shirts)!
I think pesto is a good way of describing gruner! There’s definitely a green, fresh garden pea note to many of the more typical ones.
Thanks Matthew! I think it’s the savoury aspect I was trying to get across…
Is there such thing as wine vocabulary or is it “just” vocabulary. I think just say what you feel like saying.
I get what you’re saying - maybe it’s just building up the confidence to say what we’re thinking rather than having to learn what we ‘should’ say…
Excellent list! My favourite it Underfloor heating for the price of a tea light. And though I go under the nom de plume of jaykay on here, my first name is Joy. So I’ve got to try the Joy juice - any chance you know which wines these two descriptions belong to?
I think the WSET vocabulary is just there so that there is a standard set of flavours to compare with someone elses notes. Everyone has different experiences and smells they remember so it might be something like ‘smells like my grans kitchen after she made cake’ - won’t be the same small as someone else might remember whereas a lime tastes of a lime. Doesn’t really matter what you make a note of in terms of tasting notes - as long as you know what it means that is all that matters - also, less writing more tasting!
One of the most memorable descriptions I heard was someone describing a particularly ripe Alsace Gewurtztraminer. The taster said “This smells like my shin-pads after I’ve played football”.
Strangely, I somehow get what he means.
I think the replies on this topic are starting to prove that there’s no real ‘right’ wine vocabulary, which is great to see!
Those WSET tasting guidelines are handy but the best advice is to taste lots and lots of wine with friends and talk about the wine together to build confidence. No one, not even the great wine writers, uniformly agrees on what a wine tastes like so have faith in your own senses!
P.S When I was in my first year in the trade I went to a wine tasting and tried a white Burgundy, and said it smelled like Frazzles. A man next to me who fancied himself a lot more knowledgeable than me sneered at my description but then the guy running the tasting said "Does anyone else think this smells like smoky bacon crisps?"
The 2015 version of this:
The 2014 version of this:
Thanks Ewan. To the wish list!
I’ve tried really hard in the past to be able to describe wines meaningfully. Many a time I’ve sat down to taste a wine with printed reviews in front of me but I’d be damned if I could relate to any of them. I concluded that you cannot use such adjectives meaningfully if your sense of taste & smell is just not good enough to discern the differences. We humans are rather bad at that. My wine vocabulary extends to: crisp, fresh, oak, fruit, alcoholic, full-bodied and whooo-hooo. And I’m happy with that - it really does not spoil my enjoyment of the wine, though my reviews do not make for interesting reading!
I love this especially the woohooo bit!
Everyone tastes differently and wines can differ when drunk on their own, as part of a flight or with different food . There’s no right and wrong in describing what you’re tasting. Unless of course you are sitting a WSET exam
True. I remember being at the London Wine Fair one year where some friends were raving over a Beaujolais. I on the other hand had to spit it out violently because I thought it tasted of used tyres. Ooh, there’s another adjective for my wine list! I still think this goes to prove the point at how rubbish humans are at taste and smell.
Ah but you do know that research suggests women are better tasters than men ?
Surely it depends on your audience? If your notes are for your own use then they will be different from those for public consumption. I find most descriptions from merchants, magazines and other sources all pretty meaningless, there is no alternative to tasting it myself!