Which adjective is suitable for tastes of wine? And why?

I'd like to know which expression you usually use and if there is any difference.

More context: I had a chance to translate ”酸味”, which means both sour and acid, to English for a wine description. Then I wondered which word, sourness or acidity, sounds more natural for English speakers to explain the taste of wine.

  • 1
    Depends whether you like the taste or not, I suspect. I'm not an oenophile, but I suspect that "tartness" is often used.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 5 '20 at 1:43
  • 2
    I sold wine for years in the US, and although I frequently heard the term "acidity," I've never heard "sourness" as a wine description. My boss: "Wine...if you like it, it's 'good,' if you don't ...rotgut."
    – Stu W
    Jun 5 '20 at 2:11
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    Why is this a binary choice? Sourness and acidity have completely different flavours. What about all of the other flavours that could be used to describe wine? And just because one flavour is more common, that doesn't mean the other isn't also possible. I don't think I understand the purpose of the question. (And, yes, I have had wine in which I've tasted what I could describe as sourness but not acidity. However, I wouldn't normally use either term in a general description.) Jun 5 '20 at 3:02
  • @HotLicks thanks for your quick reply. so tartness is more general?
    – user387683
    Jun 5 '20 at 6:20
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    I'm surprised that no one has yet suggested "dry". This is the usual description of a wine which is the opposite of "sweet" but a dry wine should not be either "sour" or "acidic" since these are both faults, as I understand it. I believe you are looking for "dry" as the translation unless you are talking about faults in wine. Notice also that "dry" is used for the same purpose when describing other drinks, hence "dry martini".
    – BoldBen
    Jun 22 '20 at 22:44

"Sourness" has something of a negative connotation in terms of flavor of wine. However, in other contexts, such as "sweet and sour" chicken, sour candy, or a "whiskey sour" (drink), it's not a negative description. "Acidity" is a much more common description in writing about wine. "Tart" and "tartness" are also seen in many wine flavor descriptions.

The Wine Spectator has an article about acidity, tartness, and other aspects of wine flavor. Here is one interesting quote: "Hipster sommeliers and wine writers who consider themselves cutting edge favor tart, tangy wine styles."


Note that "acidity" has a scientific definition, involving pH (a measurement regime involving ions and electrons in chemistry), while tartness, sourness, and similar flavor terms do not (as far as I can determine).


Acidic is the correct translation when dealing with wine. Grapes contain malic acid, which gives them a “sour” or “tart” taste until they ripen.

The wikipedia has an article on malic acid that’s quite informative: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malic_acid

There’s a Japanese entry for malic acid: リンゴ酸

Malum is the Latin word for apple, so it looks like a pretty straightforward translation.

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