Glossary

  • acetic Wines, no matter how well made, contain quantities of acetic acidity that have a vinegary smell. If there is an excessive amount of acetic acidity, the wine will have a vinegary smell and be a flawed, acetic wine.
  • acidic Wines need natural acidity to taste fresh and lively, but an excess of acidity results in an acidic wine that is tart and sour.
  • acidity The acidity level in a wine is critical to its enjoyment and livelihood. The natural acids that appear in wine are citric, tartaric, malic and lactic. Wines from hot years tend to be lower in acidity, whereas wines from cool, rainy years tend to be high in acidity. Acidity in a wine can preserve the wine's freshness and keep the wine lively, but too much acidity, which masks the wines flavors and compresses its texture, is a flaw.
  • aftertaste As the term suggests, the taste left in the mouth when one swallows is the aftertaste. This word is a synonym for length or finish. The longer the aftertaste lingers in the mouth (assuming it is a pleasant taste), the finer the quality of the wine.
  • aroma Aroma is the smell of a young wine before it has had sufficient time to develop nuances of smell that are then called its bouquet. The word aroma is commonly used to mean the smell of a relatively young, unevolved wine.
  • astringent Wines that are astringent are not necessarily bad or good wines. Astringent wines are harsh and coarse to taste, either because they are too young and tannic, needing time to develop, or because they are not well made. The level of tannins (if it is harsh) in a wine contributes to its degree of astringence.
  • backward An adjective used to describe (1) a young, largely unevolved, closed, and undrinkable wine, (2) a wine that is not ready to drink, or (3) a wine that simply refuses to release its charms and personality.
  • balance One of the most desired traits in a wine is good balance, where the concentration of fruit, level of tannins, and acidity are in total harmony. Balanced wines are symmetrical and tend to age gracefully.
  • barnyard An unclean, farmyard, fecal aroma that is imparted to a wine because of unclean barrels or unsanitary winemaking facilities.
  • berrylike As this descriptive term implies, most red wines have an intense berry fruit character that can suggest blackberries, raspberries, black cherries, mulberries, or even strawberries and cranberries.
  • big A big wine is a large-framed, full-bodied wine with an intense and concentrated feel on the palate. Most red Rhône wines are big wines.
  • blackcurrant A pronounced smell of blackcurrant fruit is commonly associated with certain Rhône wines. It can vary in intensity from faint to very deep and rich.
  • body Body is the weight and fullness of a wine that can be sensed as it crosses the palate. Full-bodied wines tend to have a lot of alcohol concentration, and glycerin.
  • bouquet As a wine's aroma becomes more developed from bottle aging, the aroma is transformed into a bouquet that is hopefully more than just the smell of the grape.
  • brawny A hefty, muscular, full-bodied wine with plenty of weight and flavor, although not always the most elegant or refined sort of wine.
  • carbonic maceration This vinification method is used to make soft, fruity, very accessible wines. Whole clusters of grapes are put into a vat that is then filled with carbonic gas. This system is used when fruit is to be emphasized in the final wine in contrast to structure and tannin.
  • cedar Rhône reds can have a bouquet that suggests either faintly or overtly the smell of cedarwood. It is a complex aspect of the bouquet.
  • chewy If a wine has a rather dense, viscous texture from a high glycerin content, it is often referred to as being chewy. High-extract wines from great vintages can often be chewy, largely because they have higher alcohol hence high levels of glycerin, which imparts a fleshy mouthfeel.
  • closed The term closed is used to denote that the wine is not showing its potential, which remains locked in because it is too young. Young wines often close up about 12-18 months after bottling, and depending on the vintage and storage conditions, remain in such a state for several years to more than a decade.
  • complex One of the most subjective descriptive terms used, a complex wine is a wine that the taster never gets bored with and finds interesting to drink. Complex wines tend to have a variety of subtle scents and flavors that hold one's interest in the wine.
  • concentrated Fine wines, whether they are light-, medium-, or full-bodied, should have concentrated flavors. Concentrated denotes that the wine has a depth and richness of fruit that gives it appeal and interest. Deep is a synonym for concentrated.
  • corked A corked wine is a flawed wine that has taken on the smell of cork as a result of an unclean or faulty cork. It is perceptible in a bouquet that shows no fruit, only the smell of musty cork, which reminds one of wet cardboard.
  • delicate As this word implies, delicate wines are light, subtle, understated wines that are prized for their shyness rather than for an extroverted, robust character. White wines are usually more delicate than red wines. Few Rhône red wines can correctly be called delicate.
  • dumb A dumb wine is also a closed wine, but the term dumb is used more pejoratively. Closed wines may need only time to reveal their richness and intensity. Dumb wines may never get any better.
  • earthy May be used in both a negative and a positive sense; however, many prefer to use earthy to denote a positive aroma of fresh, rich, clean soil. Earthy is a more intense smell than woody or truffle scents.
  • elegant Although more white wines than red are described as being elegant, lighter-styled, graceful and balanced red wines can be elegant.
  • flabby A wine that is too fat or obese is a flabby wine. Flabby wines lack structure and are heavy to taste.
  • fleshy Fleshy is a synonym for chewy, meaty, or beefy. It denotes that the wine has a lot of body, alcohol, and extract, and usually a high glycerin content. Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage are particularly fleshy wines.
  • floral Wines made from the Muscat or Viognier grape have a flowery component, and occasionally a red wine will have a floral scent.
  • focused Both a fine wine's bouquet and flavor should be focused. Focused simply means that the scents, aromas, and flavors are precise and clearly delineated. If they are not, the wine is like an out-of-focus picture: diffused, hazy, and possibly problematic.
  • forward An adjective used to describe wines that are (1) delicious, evolved, and close to maturity, (2) wines that border on being flamboyant or ostentatious, or (3) unusually evolved and/or quickly maturing wines.
  • fresh Freshness in both young and old wines is a welcome and pleasing component. A wine is said to be fresh when it is lively and cleanly made. The opposite of fresh is stale.
  • fruity A very good wine should have enough concentration of fruit so that it can be said to be fruity. Fortunately, the best wines will have more than just a fruity personality.
  • full-bodied Wines rich in extract, alcohol, and glycerin are full-bodied wines. Most Rhône wines are full-bodied.
  • green Green wines are wines made from underripe grapes; they lack richness and generosity as well as having a vegetal character. Green wines are infrequently made in the Rhone.
  • herbaceous Many wines have a distinctive herbal smell that is generally said to be herbaceous. Specific herbal smells can be of thyme, lavender, rosemary, oregano, fennel, or basil and are common in Rhône wines.
  • hot Rather than meaning that the temperature of the wine is too warm to drink, hot denotes that the wine is too high in alcohol and therefore leaves a burning sensation in the back of the throat when swallowed. Wines with alcohol levels in excess of 14.5% often taste hot if the requisite depth of fruit is not present.
  • intensity Intensity is one of the most desirable traits of a high-quality wine. Wines of great intensity must also have balance. They should never be heavy or cloying. Intensely concentrated great wines are alive, vibrant, aromatic, layered, and texturally compelling. Their intensity adds to their character, rather than detracting from it.
  • jammy When wines have a great intensity of fruit from excellent ripeness they can be jammy, which is a very concentrated, flavorful wine with superb extract; often found in great vintages.
  • lean Lean wines are slim, rather streamlined wines that lack generosity and fatness but can still be enjoyable and pleasant.
  • lively A synonym for fresh or exuberant, a lively wine is usually young wine with good acidity and a thirst-quenching personality.
  • long A very desirable trait in any fine wine is that it be long in the mouth. Long (or length) relates to a wine's finish, meaning that after you swallow the wine, you sense its presence for a long time. (Thirty seconds to several minutes is great length.) In a young wine, the difference between something good and something great is the length of the wine.
  • lush Lush wines are velvety, soft, richly fruity wines that are both concentrated and fat. A lush wine can never be an astringent or hard wine.
  • massive In great vintages where there is a high degree of ripeness and superb concentration, some wines can turn out to be so big, full-bodied, and rich that they are called massive.
  • meaty A chewy, fleshy wine is also said to be meaty.
  • mouth-filling Big, rich, concentrated wines that are filled with fruit extract and are high in alcohol and glycerin are wines that tend to texturally fill the mouth. A mouth-filling wine is also a chewy, fleshy, fat wine.
  • musty Wines aged in dirty barrels or unkept cellars or exposed to a bad cork take on a damp, musty character that is a flaw.
  • nose The general smell and aroma of a wine as sensed through one's nose and olfactory senses is often called the wine's nose.
  • oaky Many red Rhône wines are aged from 6 months to 30 months in various sizes of oak barrels. At some properties, a percentage of the oak barrels may be new, and these barrels impart a toasty, vanillin flavor and smell to the wine. If the wine is not rich and concentrated, the barrels can overwhelm the wine, making it taste overly oaky. Where the wine is rich and concentrated and the winemaker has made a judicious use of barrels, however, the results are a wonderful marriage of fruit and oak.
  • off If a wine is not showing its true character, or is flawed or spoiled in some way, it is said to be "off."
  • overripe An undesirable characteristic; grapes left too long on the vine become too ripe, lose their acidity, and produce wines that are heavy and unbalanced. This can happen frequently in the hot viticultural areas of the Rhône Valley if the growers harvest too late.
  • oxidized If a wine has been excessively exposed to air during either its making or aging, the wine loses freshness and takes on a stale, old smell and taste. Such a wine is said to be oxidized.
  • peppery A peppery quality to a wine is usually noticeable in many Rhône wines that have an aroma of black or white pepper and a pungent flavor.
  • perfumed This term usually is more applicable to fragrant, aromatic white wines than to red wines. However, some of the dry white wines (particularly Condrieu) and sweet white wines can have a strong perfumed smell.
  • pruney Wines produced from grapes that are overripe take on the character of prunes. Pruney wines are flawed wines.
  • raisiny Late-harvest wines that are meant to be drunk at the end of a meal can often be slightly raisiny, which in some ports and sherries is desirable. However, a raisiny quality is a major flaw in a dinner wine.
  • rich Wines that are high in extract, flavor, and intensity of fruit.
  • ripe A wine is ripe when its grapes have reached the optimum level of maturity. Less than fully mature grapes produce wines that are under ripe, and overly mature grapes produce wines that are overripe.
  • round A very desirable character of wines, roundness occurs in fully mature wines that have lost their youthful, astringent tannins, and also in young wines that have soft tannins and low acidity.
  • sharp An undesirable trait, sharp wines are bitter and unpleasant with hard, pointed edges.
  • silky A synonym for velvety or lush, silky wines are soft, sometimes fat, but never hard or angular.
  • smoky Some wines, either because of the soil or because of the barrels used to age the wine, have a distinctive smoky character. Côte Rôtie and Hermitage often have a roasted or smoky quality.
  • soft A soft wine is one that is round and fruity, low in acidity, and has an absence of aggressive, hard tannins.
  • spicy Wines often smell quite spicy with aromas of pepper, cinnamon, and other well-known spices. These pungent aromas are usually lumped together and called spicy.
  • supple A supple wine is one that is soft, lush, velvety, and very attractively round and tasty. It is a highly desirable characteristic because it suggests that the wine is harmonious.
  • tannic The tannins of a wine, which are extracted from the grape skins and stems, are, along with a wine's acidity and alcohol, its lifeline. Tannins give a wine firmness and some roughness when young, but gradually fall away and dissipate. A tannic wine is one that is young and unready to drink.
  • tart Sharp, acidic, lean, unripe wines are called tart. In general, a wine that is tart is not pleasurable.
  • thick Rich, ripe, concentrated wines that are low in acidity are often said to be thick.
  • thin A synonym for shallow; it is an undesirable characteristic for a wine to be thin, meaning that it is watery, lacking in body, and just diluted.
  • tightly knit Young wines that have good acidity levels, good tannin levels, and are well made are called tightly knit, meaning they have yet to open up and develop.
  • toasty A smell of grilled toast can often be found in wines because the barrels the wines are aged in are charred or toasted on the inside.
  • tobacco Some red wines have the scent of fresh tobacco. It is a distinctive and wonderful smell in wine.
  • vegetal An undesirable characteristic, wines that smell and taste vegetal are usually made from unripe grapes. In some wines, a subtle vegetable garden smell is pleasant and adds complexity, but if it is the predominant character, it is a major flaw.
  • velvety A textural description and synonym for lush or silky, a velvety wine is a rich, soft, smooth wine to taste. It is a very desirable characteristic.
  • viscous Viscous wines tend to be relatively concentrated, fat, almost thick wines with a great density of fruit extract, plenty of glycerin, and high alcohol content. If they have balancing acidity, they can be tremendously flavorful and exciting wines. If they lack acidity, they are often flabby and heavy.
  • volatile A volatile wine is one that smells of vinegar as a result of an excessive amount of acetic bacteria present. It is a seriously flawed wine.
  • woody When a wine is overly oaky it is often said to be woody. Oakiness in a wine's bouquet and taste is good up to a point. Once past that point, the wine is woody and its fruity qualities are masked by excessive oak aging.
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Ratings / Accolades

With over 40 years experience in the wine and liquor industry, The Wine ConneXtion team prides itself as a panel of wine experts. However, as all things dealing with taste, the evaluation of wine is subjective. In order to provide our customers with as much information as possible to make an educated decision about their purchase, we offer a variety of opinions from different experts. Over time, we expect our customers to become familiar with the rating systems most agreeable to their own palates. In the meantime, enjoy getting to know the experts and their favorite wines.

Wine Advocate WA

Robert Parker's rating system employs a 50-100 point quality scale:

96 - 100: An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.
90 - 95: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.
80 - 89: A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.
70 - 79: An average wine with little distinction except that it is a soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine.
60 - 69: A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor, or possibly dirty aromas or flavors.
50 - 59: A wine deemed to be unacceptable.
Scores in parentheses indicate that the wine was tasted from barrel.

Wine Spectator WS

Wines are scored based on a 100-point scale:

95 - 100: Classic: a great wine
90 - 94: Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
85 - 89: Very good: a wine with special qualities
80 - 84: Good: a solid, well-made wine
75 - 79: Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
50 - 74: Not recommended
A score given as a range (e.g., 90-94) indicates a preliminary score, usually based on a barrel tasting. As of March 2008, we have switched to rolling four-point spreads for unfinished wines.

Stephen Tanzer ST

Wines are scored based on a 100-point scale. All wines rated 90 or better are highly recommended additions to your cellar (or, where indicated, for drinking over the near term); wines rated at least 85 are recommended bottles that should provide pleasurable drinking. Precise scores are provided only for wines in bottle; ranges are offered for unfinished wines.

90+: All wines rated 90 or better are highly recommended additions to your cellar (or, where indicated, for drinking over the near term)
85 - 89: Wines rated at least 85 are recommended bottles that should provide pleasurable drinking