Poll Shows Wine Descriptions are Unhelpful and Pompous . . . How Would You Describe Wine?

Some news on how people feel about wine descriptions has hit the press this week which has made interesting reading. According to Harpers a poll commissioned by Laithwaites revealed that wine descriptions are ‘more pompous than helpful.’

The poll covered 1000 wine drinking adults and 55% said that wine descriptions failed to help them understand the flavour of wine, while nearly two thirds said they never get the same smells from wine as are suggested from the label. Only 9% said they looked to wine critics before choosing a bottle.

Those polled were given 43 words and phrases used to describe different wines used by critics, supermarkets and on wine labels in the last year. From these they were asked to identify five that they found most and least helpful.

The least helpful were:

firm skeleton
old bones
wet stone
tongue spanking
spring hedgerows

Other terms found puzzling included: vegetal, leathery, chunky, canny and minerality.

The most helpful terms were:


When they were asked why the descriptions were not helpful, ‘responses included finding them meaningless, bearing no relationship to a wine’s taste, pretentious and a load of poppycock’.

‘Six out of ten people said picking out a clear fruit taste in the wine was the best way to help understand a wine’s taste and also found it helpful when food pairings were suggested.

Nearly half of the group surveyed said wine descriptions could be improved by using modern day language and comparisons.’

I must admit to using minerality amongst my wine descriptions – for me it represents the delicate smell or taste of wet stones (slate, flint or pebbles). It’s a hard one to pin down so I can understand why it is classed as being unhelpful – even wine tasters don’t always agree about its definition and of course, all our palates are different so we all taste things differently.

I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the matter or whether you can come up with some better wine descriptions?

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