Concha y Toro

Francisca Jara 01/09/2022

All about wine

Wine descriptors and their true meaning


What does it mean for a wine to be floral, herbaceous, green or mineral. These are just a few of the hundreds of terms that exist and are used to communicate how a wine tastes, smells or feels in the palate, or wine descriptors. It doesn’t matter if you are an expert or a beginner, knowing this language will surely help you to understand them better. Take note.


Crispy wines are those that have a very good and pleasant acidity. This characteristic turns them into refreshing, vibrant wines that make your mouth water a lot. It generally occurs with sparkling wines or white varieties such as sauvignon blanc. Have you tried Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc? It is salty, mineral and has crispy acidity.


When we say that a wine is spicy, it is to communicate that its aroma and flavour are reminiscent of spices such as pepper, cloves, cinnamon, anise or nutmeg. Although these aromas can be obtained through the oak barrels, there are certain varieties that naturally have a spicy character such as syrah, petit syrah, grenache, zinfandel, malbec and carmenère. To prove it, be sure to try the Carmenère Carmín de Peumo, from the best terroir for this variety in Chile.


Floral notes, meanwhile, are descriptors used specifically for aromas. There are white and red varieties that offer these aromas, generally associated with flowers such as violets, peonies, acacias, jasmine, roses and honeysuckle. While white and yellow flowers usually appear in white varieties such as moscatel, gewurztraminer or precisely Amelia Chardonnay, in red varieties it is more likely to find aromas of red flowers, as happens in Gravas Syrah or Terrunyo Malbec. These aromas tend to announce a certain complexity in the wine.

descriptores del vino
Ph: Elle Hughes -Unsplash


We will start by differentiating herbaceous from the word green, the first being a positive quality and the second sometimes a defect (we explain why below). We say that a wine is herbaceous when it delivers aromas and flavours similar to herbs such as mint, vegetables such as asparagus, freshly cut grass or tomato leaves. These aromas are generated by a component in white and red grapes, called pyrazine. It is easy to distinguish between white varieties such as Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc or red varieties such as Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon. The herbaceous character is pleasant in its fair measure, otherwise it can be classified as defective.


When the herbaceous aroma is very invasive, generally associated with the aroma of a green or red pepper, it can be considered an immature wine. In other words, its grapes were harvested before optimal ripening, with a very high level of pyrazine concentration, where the wine feels quite acidic and with little fruit on the palate. These wines are usually called green. However, there are varieties that have this more powerful herbaceous character, as is the case with the Carmenère. Ultimately, it comes down to taste.


When someone says that a wine is mineral, it does not mean that it has many minerals. Rather, it is an adjective to describe a set of characteristics that include taste, aroma and texture. The minerality of the wine can be identified when we find aromas of wet stone, graphite, phosphorus or chalk; or flavours of saltiness. They are subtle, but they usually make the difference in a wine. It is common to find this characteristic in wines with marked acidity from terroirs on volcanic or slate soils, such as Marqués de Casa Concha Chardonnay, Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc or Amelia Pinot Noir.


Sometimes the aroma of a wine reminds us of a forest, wet earth or mushrooms. That is precisely what we mean when we call a wine “earthy”. This positive characteristic can appear in red varieties such as Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, this adjective can be confused with that defective mouldy aroma that indicates that a wine is corked.


When we describe a wine as tropical, we mean that its aromas and flavours are reminiscent of tropical fruits such as pineapple, passion fruit, mango, guava or papaya. These tend to be the primary aromas of varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc when grown in warmer climates, as they deliver aromas of very juicy and ripe fruits.