For some people it is basic instinct to taste an array of flavors and aromas in any wine, but the majority of us struggle to pinpoint that specific smell or taste.
WineFolly gives us more information, to help us understand and identify different aromas in wine.
Where do flavors in wine come from?
If you ever have a chance to taste a fresh Chardonnay grape you’ll see how wildly different it is than Chardonnay wine. A Chardonnay grape tastes very different than the apple, lemon and butter flavors associated with Chardonnay wine.
Why are grapes different than wine? This is because all the aroma compounds —stereoisomers as scientists call them— are released by the fermentation as well as the alcohol in wine. Alcohol is volatile (i.e. it is a gas at room temperature) and it carries these lighter-than-air aroma compounds into your nose. Every wine has many different aroma compounds. Each compound can affect the flavor of another or the overall flavor of a wine. This is why some Chardonnays taste different than others. Also, our brains can think of multiple answers to one stereoisomer (crazy, right!?). For example, the lychee fruit flavor in Gewürztraminer can also smell like roses.
Red wines typically fall into two different categories: red fruit and black fruit flavors. The reason to differentiate the two types is to be able to identify a wine in a blind tasting or to pick a favorite. Within each style there is a fair amount of variance. For instance, Lambrusco is typically considered a light red wine in terms of color and body. However in tasting a Lambrusco, many of them exhibit tart blueberry flavors making Lambrusco an example of a ‘black fruit’ aromatic wine. Also, we always have to separate aromas (smells) from tastes (sweet, sour, bitter) in wine…
Most wines with ‘black fruit’ aromas are full-bodied red wines with all the associated extra tannins. Of course there are some full-bodied red-fruited wines and some lighter, fresher, black-fruited wines. As always, there are exceptions. Knowing this about a wine will make you more adept at food pairing.
White wines offer two major fruit types: Tree-fruity vs. Citrusy. The more you taste, the more you’ll realize that the same type of wine will vary wildly depending on where it’s grown. For instance, tasting a Chenin Blanc from South Africa will taste much riper and lusher, whereas Chenin Blanc from Anjou in the Loire Valley, France will have much more ripe-to-under-ripe fruit aromas, even though aromas for all typical Chenins will always center around bruised apple and lemon-y type aromas.
When you taste a white wine, think about the type of flavor and then focus on the ripeness of that flavor. Below is a great example of how ripeness affects the flavor of white wine:
VinePair also have an informative video on “How to become a super wine smeller”