Being able to recognise and accurately explain the odours and flavours you encounter when tasting wine is a skill well worth having. It can take time to prime your palate, especially when you aren’t sure how to identify exactly what you are smelling or tasting.
To accurately portray the wine you are tasting, it is best to be as specific as possible. You want to evoke a clear sensory image of what you are experiencing, so it is always necessary to go into detail to put a meaningful label on the wine you are tasting.
So where do you start when identifying aromas? First things first, start with a broad category that you can narrow down into more specific notes and flavours. If you find a wine is fruity, think of specific fruit-related categories – is it citrus you are smelling, or maybe something that leans more towards a red fruit flavour? From here, you can break down the following categories even further until you hit that right note.
One of the broadest categories, you will come across white and red wines that emit a fruity element. Citrus, tropical and tree fruit aromas are often related to white wines – think notes of lemon, grapefruit, pear, peach, apricot, guava and lychee. Aromas typically designated as red or black fruit – think berries such as strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and blackcurrant – are more synonymous with red wines.
Floral aromas may be recognisable in an instance, but it can be hard to ascertain which flower that scent or taste is coming from. Guiding aromas include elderflower, jasmine, honeysuckle, lavender and rose.
This is where wine tasting gets a little more savoury. You might identify some of these aromas in robust red wines, where they emanate notes of black pepper, cinnamon, fennel and eucalyptus. Some aromas under this umbrella may also lean more towards acidic vegetables such as tomato, jalapeno and capsicum.
A distinct category that may be difficult to wrap your head around at first, earthy aromas add a unique element to your palate. Think soil, grave, slate and clay when identifying these earthier notes.
Oaky or aging
Wine that has been aged imparts a number of distinct aromas, with time creating some interesting scents and tastes that can be hard to pinpoint. When thinking of aging in general, you may come across aromas like coffee, tobacco, cocoa and leather. An oaky aroma will deviate towards scents similar to baking spices, coconut, vanilla and smoke.
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