Definition - What does Spicy mean?
In the context of wine tasting descriptors, spicy refers to the flavor or aromas of spice in a wine. Spicy flavors in wine activate the taste receptors in the mouth that sense warmth or heat and activate the salivary glands.
Spicy aromas and flavors commonly found in wine are black pepper and cinnamon, and these can originate from the grape variety or from barrel aging in oak.
WineFrog explains Spicy
Wines that are described as spicy have flavors and notes of many different types of spice including; black pepper, clove, cinnamon, cardamom or ginger. Smell triggers what we expect to taste, so when we inhale the aroma of wine and detect wine, the taste receptors in the mouth are already activated to experience the flavors. Spice activates receptors that sense warmth, not the actual flavor of spice, as the taste buds recognize sour, sweet, salty, bitter and umami.
Although some spice flavors such as cinnamon and clove have a sweet, spicy flavor that is more pronounced on the tongue. The flavor of spice in wine can come from the grape variety like the notoriously peppery Syrah or from aging in oak, as the oak interacts with the wine and develops spice, which you would taste as clove in a barrel aged Zinfandel.