Tasting Terms

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

tasting terms, the myriad and oft-mocked words used by tasters in an often vain attempt to describe sensory impressions received during tasting.

The difference between a taster and a social drinker is this need to describe, to attempt the difficult task of applying words to individual, invisible sensations, particularly the aromas sensed by the olfactory bulb.

The sense of smell is an exceptionally private one, for which there is no common public domain which can be codified. The best we can do is describe aromas by other aromas of which they remind us. Hence ‘blackcurrant’ or cassis, frequently for Cabernet Sauvignon; ‘strawberry’ or ‘raspberry’ perhaps for Pinot Noir; ‘vanilla’ for oak, and so on. Science is starting to correlate the flavour compounds found in different grape varieties (if not yet different terroirs) with those found in the objects used as taste descriptors.