The use of wine tasting descriptors allows the taster to qualitatively relate the aromas and flavors that the taster experiences and can be used in assessing the overall quality of wine. Wine writers differentiate wine tasters from casual enthusiasts; tasters attempt to give an objective description of the wine's taste (often taking a systematic approach to tasting), casual enthusiasts appreciate wine but pause their examination sooner than tasters. The primary source of a person's ability to taste wine is derived from their olfactory senses. A taster's own personal experiences play a significant role in conceptualizing what they are tasting and attaching a description to that perception. The individual nature of tasting means that descriptors may be perceived differently among various tasters.
The following is an incomplete list of wine tasting descriptors and a common meaning of the terms. These terms and usage are from Karen MacNeil's 2001 edition of The Wine Bible unless otherwise noted.