Wine Tasting

Bordeaux Wines.

Bordeaux Wines.

You happen to participate to a wine tasting party and you’d like to sound relevant and use the appropriate expressions. First off, you absolutely need to know this word trinquer which means to drink to, to toast to a special occasion. During fun and casual gatherings, you often hear:

On trinque à quoi ? What can we toast to? À ton anniversaire ! To your birthday! À ma promotion ! To my promotion! À la nouvelle année ! To the new year! Translate this dialogue

French people always find great occasions to celebrate and to give a toast… 😄

There are even multiple ways to cheer:

À la vôtre / À la tienne ! Cheers Santé ! Cheers Tchin ! Cheers Translate this dialogue

Now that you’re familiar with the custom of trinquer, let’s go through some top wine tasting terms in case you want to demonstrate your skills in wine tasting. La dégustation de vin, or wine tasting, can be summed up into three steps.

La robe - Appearance

Before you take even one sip, look at the wine and consider its color, clarity, and consistency. Here are some French terms to help you describe what you see.

La couleur - Color

In addition to obvious colors like rouge (red) and blanc (white), you might see

French English
ambré amber
brun brown
carmin crimson
cuivré coppery
doré golden
jaunâtre yellowish
orangé orangey
paille straw
pourpre scarlet
rose saumon salmon pink
rubis ruby
verdâtre greenish
violacé purplish

And you might want to modify the colors with

French English
clair light
foncé dark
pâle pale
profond deep

La clarté - Clarity

French English
brillant brilliant
brumeux misty
clair clear
cristallin crystal-clear
opaque opaque
un reflet glint
terne dull
trouble muddy

La consistance - Consistency

You’ll consider this again in the tasting phase, but while looking, you might notice things like

French English
des bulles bubbles
des dépôts sediment
des jambes, larmes “legs” or “tears”; how the wine flows down the sides of the glass
de la mousse foam, bubbles

Le nez - Smell

After describing the appearance of the wine, it’s time to sniff and smell, then discuss les arômes. This is where wine tasters get really creative.

If the wine is fruité (fruity) or végétal (vegetal), you might sense fruits and vegetables like agrumes (citrus), fruits rouges (red berries), pamplemousse (grapefruit), artichaut (artichoke), or champignons (mushrooms).

If it’s floral (flowery), it might be scented with lavande (lavender), jasmin (jasmine), or violette (violet), whereas if it’s nutty (for which there is no generic term in French), it might have un goût de châtaigne, noisette, or noix (a taste of chestnuts, hazelnuts, or walnuts).

A wine can be épicé (spicy), with hints of poivre (pepper), cannelle (cinnamon), or muscade (nutmeg), or it might be herbacé (herbaceous) and taste like réglisse (licorice), thym (thyme), or menthe (mint).

Other possible aromas:

French English
boisé woody
brûlé burnt taste
cacao cocoa
café coffee
cèdre cedar
charnu meaty
chocolat chocolate
foin hay
fumé smoky
médicinal medicinal
minéral mineral
musqué musky
parfumé fragrant
pin pine
résiné resinous
tabac tobacco
terreux earthy
thé tea
vanille vanilla

At this point, you might also discover that there is un défaut (a flaw). The wine is bad if it smells

French English
bouchonné corked
mildiousé mildewed
moisi moldy, musty
oxydé oxidized

La bouche - Taste

Finally, it’s time to taste the wine. Much of the above vocabulary is also useful during this phase, along with

French English
acerbe tart
acide acidic
aigre sour
aigu sharp
amer bitter
un arrière-goût aftertaste
bien équilibré well balanced
doux sweet
frais fresh
fruité fruity
un goût taste
la longueur / persistance en bouche time the flavor remains in your mouth after swallowing
moelleux sugary
une note hint
plat flat
rond mild
rude harsh
salé salty
une saveur flavor
sec dry
sucré sweet

French wine tasting verbs:

French English
apercevoir to perceive
avaler to swallow
boire to drink
cracher to spit out
faire tourner le vin dans le verre to swirl the wine in the glass
incliner to tilt (the glass)
remarquer to notice
siroter to sip
voir to see