Wine tasting is a very subjective thing – even though people use the same terms to describe different features of a wine’s taste and feel, it doesn’t mean they feel the same way about it. Some prefer oaky, others like acidity and punch.

It’s actually this lack of agreement and the many different tastes that make wine tasting such an enjoyable hobby or activity. There are some rules that everyone has to abide by, however, and so everyone uses pretty much the same terms to talk about the different aspects of a wine’s appearance, smell and taste. Being able to describe these features and aspects makes wine tasting more enjoyable and more of a social activity. Here are some of the most common wine tasting terms you’ll come across and use, as well as their meanings.

The aroma

Although there are thousands of different aromas in wines, as well as just as many adjectives, the aroma is the smell. It’s what you smell before you drink it and as it’s in your mouth.

The balance

There are four main flavors in a wine – acid, fruit, alcohol and tannins and they should work together with no one flavour overpowering the others.

The body

The texture, or mouthfeel of a wine, as well as its weight. It’s actually glycerine that gives a wine its body.

The character

The character is the collection of features that tell you you’re drinking a Shiraz rather than a Malbec. Good wines have character.

The finish

The finish is the lasting impression you have after swallowing. You’re after a long finish, ideally, so you can savor it. A short finish isn’t often a good thing.


A full-bodied wine fills your mouth with flavors, texture and alcohol. Sometimes people use “thick” instead.

The legs

The rivulets running down the side of a glass when you tip it are the legs. They show how much alcohol, sugar and glycerine are in it – the more, the longer the legs are.

The nose

Most people are aware of this term and it simply means the smell – you can have a fruity nose, an oaky nose…

The palate

This is how you perceive and analyse the flavors and feel of a particular wine. As you learn more, your palate becomes more complicated and discerning.


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