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Terms to describe the appearance of wine

Wine tasting is all about communication and to be a good taster you need to be a good communicator. So, when is it necessary for you to describe a wine to someone, endeavour to describe it in such a way that the description will conjure up a mental picture of the wine.

Terms to describe the appearance of wine:

Sight is the first of the senses to be used in the sensory evaluation of wine. The eyes can discriminate up to about 1000 shades of colour and hue, and detect very fine differences in wine clarity and the degree of effervescence in sparkling wines. Visual impressions are the ‘face’ of the wine in which age, character and often quality can be read.

When assessing a wine’s appearance there are four main aspects to consider:

Clarity (transparency of the wine)

Wines free from suspended solids will be transparent and clear. All commercial wines (except for natural or minimal intervention) should have good clarity. However, dry red and vintage ports may suffer clarity problems when ‘throwing a crust’ or sediment. Terms to describe good clarity include: brilliant, clear and transparent; and poor clarity: cloudy, dull, hazy and opaque.

Brightness of colour

This goes beyond clarity as it describes how lively the wine’s colour appears.

Intensity or depth of colour

Terms include: vivid bright, dull and flat.

The shade of colour or hue

This is the most complex aspect of wine colour as it changes from wine to wine and also for individual wines with time. Terms used to describe hue are given below, with lower descriptors within a column equating to older wine colours.

White

Rose

Red

Colourless

Pink

Ruby

Brick red

Straw

Violet rose

Violet

Brown red

Green-yellow

Cherry rose

Mauve

Tawny

Yellow

Orange rose

Violet red

Brown

Gold

Orange

Crimson red

Olive green

Amber

Red

Red

Khaki green

Brown

Apricot

Cherry red

Amber

Maderised

Onion-skin

Blood red

 

Olive green

Salmon

 

 

Khaki green

Brown-red

 

 

 


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