On Wine Flavors…

Have you ever wondered why wines smell and taste like so many things besides grapes? Blackberry, vanilla, caramel, spice, grass, barnyard, or even diesel fuel? Your tongue is covered with thousands of taste buds. They detect saltiness, bitterness, sweetness, sourness and umami (or savoriness). When identifying flavors in wine, it’s your nose, however, that does most of the work. A wine’s flavor comes from aroma compounds that are inherited during cultivation, fermentation and aging. Environmental factors from the soil in which the vines are grown, to the local bees spreading pollen from adjacent flowers and herbs, to yeasts present during fermentation, to a wine’s barreling and storage impacts the end result. Each wine can contain hundreds of different aroma compounds so it’s no wonder that we each may pick up different characteristics when tasting and smelling the same wine.

Common Flavor Descriptions…


Imparted during cultivation and fermentation:

Flowers: Elderflower, Hibiscus, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Lavender, Lilac, Potpouri, Rose, Violet

Citrus: Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Marmalade, Orange

Tree Fruit: Apple, Apricot, Nectarine, Peach, Pear, Persimmon, Quince

Tropical Fruit: Bubblegum, Guava, Kiwi, Lychee, Mango, Pineapple

Red Fruit: Cherry, Cranberry, Plum, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Strawberry

Black Fruit: Blackberry, Blueberry, Boysenberry, Currant, Olive, Plum

Dried Fruit: Date, Fig, Raisin

Spice: Anise, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Mint, Pepper, Thyme

Vegetable: Bell Pepper, Black Tea, Grass, Jalapeno, Sun Dried Tomato, Tomato

Earth: Beet, Clay, Diesel, Loamy Soil, Slate, Wet Gravel


Imparted during aging:

General Aging: Cocoa, Coffee, Dried Fruit, Leather, Nuts, Tobacco

Oak Aging: Cigar Box, Coconut, Dill, Smoke, Vanilla


Flawed wines from oxidation, improper storage, etc:

Boiled Eggs, Burnt Rubber, Cat-Pee, Garlic, Horse Manure, Musty Cardboard, Onion, Vinegar, Wet Dog

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