7 More Annoying Wine Words

That I am Guilty of Using and Abusing!


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As in “this wine has height in the mouth,” which it does, mostly because we live in a three-dimensional world, which I have to admit I am thankful for. I hear there are additional universes with additional dimensions but, as we’re finding out, it’s difficult enough writing about wine in three dimensions, four if you include the 48.76 seconds the finish on this wine lasts.

Height in the mouth sort of describes how the flavors distinguish themselves in the mouth, which for the most part seems to be by getting their asses kicked by the forward fruit. Look out, here comes the supporting tannins! Boom!

Mentioned in this article


  • I've heard an innocuous term, "flabby," used in wine speak. What? did the wine get soft around the torso with the onset of middle age? Did it forgo salads and eat Big Macs instead? Funny, my mouth and palate don't feel bloated drinking even the heartiest of reds. Flabby? Really? I say we dump this overused descriptor like a tainted Cab.

    Oct 26, 2010 at 2:39 PM

  • Snooth User: TomBruns
    147432 11

    In this boistrous red I taste the Haitian cigar box nuances combined with No.3 pencil lead. There is a hint of recently ridden saddle leather but it is masked by the ever so slightly burnt bacon fat........................If only there were some smashed grapes in there somewhere.

    Oct 26, 2010 at 2:44 PM

  • Snooth User: tedN
    325502 20

    I stand by my intense dislike of the word "approachable". Does it mean that we can walk up to the bottle and it will not attack us? If it means meant for early consumption without decanting then just say so

    Oct 26, 2010 at 3:43 PM

  • Pretty soon, any word that isnt strictly agricultural will be banished. At that point, it's just "shut up and drink" and that just doesn't seem like much fun.

    Oct 26, 2010 at 3:51 PM

  • I wish this article had been more serious. The sarcasm got a bit old for me, and I missed the explanation of the majority of the terms. Of course some I knew, but others I would have like to have heard their explanations. :(

    Oct 26, 2010 at 4:06 PM

  • I'm not here to stomp on anyone's grapes (sorry, that's a bad wine pun intended for a future article, or not). Like others, I believe wine drinking should be rewarding and educational, but fun most of all. I'm not knocking anyone's choices of adjectives when describing the experience, but you have to admit some of the language to describe a wine's body and character can seem a bit, ahem...odd. To each his (or her) own, I guess. Cheers.

    Oct 26, 2010 at 4:11 PM

  • Snooth User: Jildaz
    476658 163

    Another one that I heard a lot when touring the Willamette Valley was "Fruit Bomb", then I heard it again two months later at a restaurant in Victoria BC. Hasn't made its way to the Okanagan... Yet!

    Oct 26, 2010 at 4:36 PM

  • Snooth User: acornist
    458881 3

    This might be one of the most unsatisfying articles I've read yet on what is rapidly becoming a very thin and vapid site. I mean, it has precious little structure, it's vacant of varietal character, and has a finish that, thankfully, evaporates quickly. At its best, an article like this is an amiable quaff--not particularly serious, but at least not pretentious. Unfortunately, what we have here seems a bit factory-made with no joy or personality. 55 points.

    Oct 26, 2010 at 5:17 PM

  • Elvis Costello said "writing about music is like dancing about architecture." I watch people struggle every day in our tasting room to find vocabulary to describe the sensations in their mouth. I say, let it fly. Have fun. and, dont' let some creamy bastard forward you with his fruit. (btw, no one under 40 give two thumbs up. they have no idea who The Fonz was).

    Oct 26, 2010 at 8:41 PM

  • oh! and any of these words is preferable to cat pee... which was here last week.

    Oct 26, 2010 at 8:43 PM

  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,860

    OMG... in CA.. I have been to so many tasting rooms.. some very snobby, some not. I have heard cat pee, amongst other nasty terms... WTF? That is just wrong.. find another descriptor. And Pencil lead... hmmm... ok. What about the glue we all ate in school back in the day, did some of us partake in pencil lead as well? did that elusive flavor haunt us until, lo and behold, we took our first sip of a certain wine??? .. LOL!

    funny, but in ANY other industry (food, perfume, household products), one will not hear a term like "cat pee", unless it pertains to the REMOVAL of such odor. Whoever coined that term should A. Be shot, B. be given a congressional medal for recognizing a horrendous wine before it went out to the public, or C. be shot.

    I guess I am tired of the snakeoil salespeople in tasting rooms. I don't wanna be told what all the freaky nuances of a wine are (especially before I taste it)... just pour me a taste and let ME decide. It is really a sales thing, some of these terms... not all, but many.

    Now to contradict myself... I do agree with some terms that may seem off-putting. Barnyard is one. I loved tasting years ago at a winery in Napa.. it was a pinot noir, and I smelled it. It smelled... well, kinda like cow dung. I wrinkled my nose, and the tasting person laughed, and called it "barnyard". That term did describe the nose, and I liked that the descriptors weren't thrown at me off the bat, before I even tasted! She waited for my impression, and explained a common nose to that area/grape.

    There is a distinct aroma to some Pinot Noirs (especially from Napa or Sonoma), that have a mild "manure" scent. Sounds horrible, but they are often actually very tasty, and that nose disappears (or changes) upon tasting. Many wineries will describe this as "earthy" to get away from the negative connotation.
    But "barnyard" is a common term heard in Napa/sonoma tasting rooms, both big and small. I don't believe it is a term that is at all shocking or pretentious, but rather accurate.

    Oct 27, 2010 at 2:16 AM

  • Snooth User: luca chevalier
    Hand of Snooth
    533661 2,535

    ....really nice....i've learned some new words to say when i've got to taste wines in english...

    Oct 27, 2010 at 2:18 AM

  • Pinot Noir from California smell like ...cow dung? ...barnyard? Throughout many years of tasting Burgundy (you know, that red French stuff made from Pinot Noir), we the Flemish used to refer to an elusive "drain hole smell". Oh, some tried to tell us that smell "has gone away with better winemaking techniques" or even that we were all wrong about it, that it's a misnomer. Maybe drainholes don't smell any more, now that we have Mr. Clean? Nah...the smell does exist, even far away in California there are distant relatives, far away cousins, mistaking that whiff for the ghost of the bottle. And Madiran wine (made from Tannat) smells strongly like "ink", you know, the stuff we used to write with, with a scratchy pen, and of which I doubt my kids even know what I'm talking of, such a distinctive odor you never forget it... Smells are an education.

    Oct 27, 2010 at 3:23 AM

  • Snooth User: mlandry
    593138 24

    Great comeback in great humility and great fun!

    One word that I don't dislike at all is 'Terroir'. It is for many people misunderstood and probably misused by some, especially novice tasters, but to me it holds everything that is so wonderful and fascinating about wine.

    Terroir is well summarized by Gregory; it is a holistic concept. i.e. the same grape won't grow similarly under different conditions (soil, sun exposure, wind patterns, rain intensity etc.). After tasting much wines made from the same grape and coming from the same region, one can probably start to define a central (average) theme to the taste of that region compared to another region. They have different 'terroirs' even though they are using the same grape species and pretty much the same technique. It is something truly amazing to 'grasp'. That's why single vinyards wines can be so obsessing in my opinion...

    Oct 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM

  • The photos are the best part of this article. Many of the words that annoy you are actually quite useful in describing wines, and unless you have superior alternatives, I'd recommend focusing on writing about things that don't annoy you. Seems like a better use of your time.

    Oct 27, 2010 at 10:26 AM

  • Snooth User: corkandcracker
    Hand of Snooth
    197193 3

    I just want to add one more incredibly annoying wine term. A term which seems to be gaining traction in the wine review world. (And one that you, Mr. Gregory Dal Piaz, have used.) That work is "crunchy" a term seemingly applied to high acid whites. A wine is liquid, not solid; it cannot be "crunchy." Okay, that's my two cents. I feel better.

    Oct 27, 2010 at 11:02 AM

  • Snooth User: jamessulis
    Hand of Snooth
    426220 1,721

    The english language is so descriptive. It seems if a word to describe something is not available, we create one. Like stuptifying, expealadocious, yucky, icky, or adding afternames like Billmiester, Billanator, Billmonster. I am always trying to place words for wine tastes but often run short on vocabulary, however I don't plan on borrowing any of the 7 choices.
    I love the honest wine reviews Snooth shares with us because first and foremost it makes me think and search with my taste buds the flavors and the words needed for an accurate description.
    Thanks Greg for a fun look at annoying wine words.

    Lefty - The Great Pacific Northwest

    Oct 27, 2010 at 11:20 AM

  • Snooth User: tbrou13
    548450 27

    Sorry but this is a pet peeve of mine. I think I have read that this site has about 10k readers or members. With that type of crowd we should not speculate on factual knowledge. I'm assuming you meant Newtons Laws of Motion which are

    1. First law: Every body remains in a state of rest or uniform motion (constant velocity) unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force. This means that in the absence of a non-zero net force, the center of mass of a body either remains at rest, or moves at a constant speed in a straight line.
    2. Second law: A body of mass m subject to a force F undergoes an acceleration a that has the same direction as the force and a magnitude that is directly proportional to the force and inversely proportional to the mass, i.e., F = ma. Alternatively, the total force applied on a body is equal to the time derivative of linear momentum of the body.
    3. Third law: The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear. This means that whenever a first body exerts a force F on a second body, the second body exerts a force −F on the first body. F and −F are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. This law is sometimes referred to as the action-reaction law, with F called the "action" and −F the "reaction". The action and the reaction are simultaneous.


    It would be reaching to have this describe round and I guess they are deep from a philosophical standpoint. Sorry to be the nerd but considering some of the statistics about what the average person knows, I don't think we should belie this great mans work.

    Not mad or angry just saying. And getting the knowledge out there for those that want a refresher.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 10:29 AM

  • Wine enthusiasts are a bunch of bull-shitters, me included, but I like it!

    Oct 28, 2010 at 1:42 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    I agree! It is part of the fun, as long as we don't take ourselves too damn seriously.

    I am all about getting lost in the words when I review wines, just look at anything I've written! That is all good fun, but it may, or may not, be a good way of conveying what is ultimately a very personal experience.

    let a thousand flowers bloom, and enjoy as many as possible, but don't get in the way of someone else's enjoyment. Have fun and roll with the diversity.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 1:51 PM

  • Just enjoy why we can!

    Feb 13, 2011 at 10:50 AM

  • I've always cringed a bit hearing the word "Yummy." Hope I don't offend anyone, but I just hear yummy so overused with anything delicious whether it be gum, french fries, chocolate cake...I've grown a little nauseated with the word. My best friend is a "yummy" user so I love giving her a hard time. :)

    Jun 01, 2012 at 6:46 PM

  • Snooth User: Julia Crowley
    Hand of Snooth
    1094165 107,236

    << Guilty!!!

    Feb 13, 2013 at 4:24 PM

  • Snooth User: steve666
    392767 156

    Haven't read the article yet, just the comments.. Yummy should be used only for food or to describe a sex partner. Luscious is the word for wine.

    Feb 13, 2013 at 7:14 PM

  • Snooth User: steve666
    392767 156

    Here is my take on various terms. Round is like soft. It can be either a good thing or bad thing, though usually not so good. Round wines don't age well as they are usually lacking in high enough tannins Flabby is something that is so round it has no structure. Reds from Paso Robles tend to be soft/round, but some of them are so soft they are flabby. In my experience they don't age well, whereas Brunellos and Montepulcianos age very well because they aren't round.

    Creamy could be used to describe very late harvest white dessert wines because they taste thick and sometimes highly viscous, but in those situations why not say thick.

    Fruit forward is good term, especially for those of us brought up on California wines. You taste the fruit more at first than the structure of the acids and tannins. It is pretty clear to me, at least as I use it. Wines from Italy are not fruit forward, even when very fruity.

    Height and depth - never heard them used, but have heard people (including me) describe wine as layered, or multi-faceted, meaning you can taste lots of things going on that are compatible but operate at different levels of your taste, I guess different areas of your mouth.

    Supporting tannins is a fine term. Terroir-- okay first thing we gotta clear up is what the hell do all those sexy young hotties in the picture have to do with terrior? Or rather more importantly for your readers, where do we find the terrior that gives me a scene like that? I use the term typical or typicity.

    Approachable is a term for a cheap wine that is very drinkable but without much in the way of distinguishing characteristics. Not being a big fan of most pinots, barnyard is a perfect description of so many of them.

    Feb 13, 2013 at 7:41 PM

  • I have only experienced one wine that truly smelled like cat pee... I couldn't bring myself to taste it. I have never regretted the decision.

    Feb 14, 2013 at 3:51 PM

  • Snooth User: hitripper
    164795 21

    I had one vintner defend "barnyard" to me in describing flavor when I called him on it. Nothing about the smell of chicken sh-t in "terroir" appeals to me.

    Feb 14, 2013 at 6:50 PM

  • Snooth User: gerrad
    79282 57

    hmm, i tend to agree with phillygirl66 here..lighten up people. steve666, i completely reject your definitions and use of both 'round' and 'flabby'. round wines are balanced wines that fill the mouth- sometimes better in their youth (who isnt) sometimes perfect for the cellar-as well.. and flabby, is a term applied to white wines most often, referring to too much water in the grape and not enough delineation between the acids/fruit etc- ie. no structure to hold up its bulk/ or no bulk to carry its lack of structure. creamy, refers to oak influence, especially chardonnay with french oak. fruit forward refers to new world wines- (maybe some new school beaujolais) end of discussion on that one! the usa has some fruit forward wines- meaning they actually taste of grapes, not saddles, ink, pencils or cows arse! height/depth/terrior..i agree with steve666..BUT 'approachable' means nothing of the sort! it refers to a wines journey, its arc of maturation and where it is (relative to being able to be drunk) on that arc. a wine can be approachable while young and still be ageworthy- in fact, (ready for this)..id say that fabulous wine is approachable at all stages of its life. if the wine is in balance..it ages gracefully, remaining so at each interaction. unnaproachable- to me, means it hasnt been made properly, come back in 20yrs when the tannins have softened the fruit is mostly gone and the alcohol is the main event. of course, being australian (and a winemaker and sommelier- in australia) may influence my attitude considerably. let the backlash begin.

    Feb 16, 2013 at 1:24 PM

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