What’s in a Grape? Sauvignon Blanc

One of the most popular white grapes in the world, Sauvignon Blanc has many different expressions: from bone-dry and herbaceous to exuberant and tropical. Did you know these things about the grape variety? 

Sauvignon Blanc Profile

  • What are famous examples? Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, white Bordeaux, Fumé Blanc, New Zealand styles
  • What countries produce the most of it? France, New Zealand, Chile, United States, South Africa
  • Characteristic aromas: grass, hay, grapefruit, green pepper. Cool climate: asparagus, melon. Warm climate: flint, coconut, pineapple, gooseberry. Oak-aged: toast, smoke
  • Acidity: Medium to high
  • Alcohol: Medium

Where Does Sauvignon Blanc Come From?

Contrary to popular belief, Sauvignon Blanc originated not in Bordeaux, but in the Loire Valley. Here, you’ll still find the most sought-after renditions, such as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These wines are quite perfumed, with floral and citrus notes. The grape is also an important blending partner in Bordeaux, where it is made into white wine that often sees some oak-aging. Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley are usually unoaked and fruit-forward in style, while white Bordeaux is more complex and has a bit of a nuttiness to it. 

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

From France, the grape was taken overseas, and it now prospers in many different regions. Sauvignon Blanc has a particular affinity for New Zealand, where it produces a distinct green pepper and grapefruit character. From the early 1980s, this zesty style was embraced by the market and helped establish the reputation of New Zealand wines. Nowadays, other regions are going after this style of the famous grape variety.

California Sauvignon Blanc

Oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc from California is another style to know. While white Bordeaux is often aged in older (used) oak barrels, iconic California winemaker Robert Mondavi created a more pronounced style in the 1960s. He named it Fumé Blanc, for it smoky, toasty character. In the United States, Fumé Blanc is an approved term for Sauvignon Blanc that has been aged in oak.

Sauvignon Blanc Is the Parent of Cabernet Sauvignon 

Sauvignon Blanc always showed a surprising similarity to the red grape Cabernet Sauvignon, due to the aromatics in these wines. It was in the 1990s that geneticists discovered that Cabernet Sauvignon was, in fact, the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. This was most likely the result of a spontaneous field crossing. Sauvignon Blanc, in turn, is the offspring of Savagnin Blanc (Just like Chenin Blanc, which makes Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc half siblings!). 

Sauvignon Blanc Is Now Considered an “International Grape”

A grape is considered an “international grape variety” when it has gained widespread popularity among consumers. You’ll find it in all or many of the major wine producing regions throughout the world. They are usually a touchstone for upcoming and growing wine regions. (If you’re keen on learning more about these, check out our post on “international” versus “native” grapes.)

Sauvignon Blanc gained international recognition when it became widely planted across New Zealand throughout the 1980s. Around this time, French and American producers started to compete with New Zealand and add their own stylistic touches. 

Sauvignon Blanc Can Be Made into Sparkling, Still and Sweet Wines 

Sparkling Styles

Sauvignon Blanc knows a few sparkling renditions, either oaked or unoaked, with the best examples coming out of the Loire Valley and New Zealand. Because of its aromatic character, Sauvignon Blanc can produce beautiful fruit-forward styles of sparkling wine, similar to the style of Prosecco. Blended with Chardonnay, sometimes even lightly oaked, it results in a style more similar to Champagne.

Still Styles

Still versions of the grape variety come in many different styles, depending on their growing climate. A cool climate Sauvignon Blanc will show more citrus and minerality, whereas one from a warmer climate will develop floral and tropical fruit notes.

Most Sauvignon Blanc is bottled on its own, but in France, it is often blended with Sémillon (two grape varieties that happen to be genetically close). Sémillon is more clean and balanced, and lends some structure to the aromatic, acid-driven Sauvignon Blanc.

Sweet Styles

Sweet wines made from Sauvignon Blanc are typically touched by noble rot, or Botrytis cinerea. This is a fungus that shrivels the berries and helps concentrate the sugars in the grapes. There are only a few places in the world where climatic conditions are perfect for Botrytis. Sauternes in the Bordeaux region is the most famous example. For sweet, botrytized wines, Sauvignon Blanc is most often blended with Sémillon. 

Sauvignon Blanc Has an Appropriate Name

“Sauvignon” is derived from the French word “sauvage”, meaning “wild”. Most likely, this is because the shape of the leaves is similar to those of the wild grapevine. Sauvignon Blanc vines are indeed quite vigorous and can grow out of control if not held in check. Left to its own devices, the vine could survive despite abandon. 

“Untamed” and “wild” can also be used to describe Sauvignon Blanc’s flavours. They can range from a flinty minerality to crisp citrus notes, florals and even herbaceous vegetal notes. Poorly made Sauvignon Blancs will taste vegetal, a bit like canned asparagus. Vegetal qualities are typical if the wine is made from under-ripe grapes, or if the vines were allowed to grow out of control. These tasting notes can also occur if the grapes didn’t receive proper sunlight for photosynthesis. 

Taste Amazing Sauvignon Blancs with WineCollective

Fortunately, WineCollective members will never receive these vegetal Sauvignon Blancs in their packages. All wine that goes into our monthly deliveries is carefully curated by our team of wine experts. Each month, they taste hundreds of different bottles, so you don’t have to. Only the best renditions of famous and less famous grapes varieties make it through their strict selection process. Have a look at the Sauvignon Blancs in our store! Become a member today to receive these amazing wines on your doorstep each month, with an informative guide to boot. Plus, you’ll be get great discounts in our member store – so you can keep exploring the world of wine.

9 Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Your Wine Lover Dad

Father’s Day is quickly approaching, and it’s time to start shopping for Dad. We get that shopping for a wine lover dad can be hard sometimes, but we’ve found some gadgets and ideas just for you! We’re sure Dad will love them all.

A Gift for the Wine Lover Dad Who’s Always Wine Ready! 

If your Dad is always ready when it comes to sipping on wine, or if he loves entertaining then this all-in-one wine gadget set is calling his name. Equipped with an electronic bottle opener, a vacuum wine preserver, an aerator, and more, this is the perfect gift for a wine-loving dad. The gadgets also come with their own stand to keep everything compact and neat – great for the dad who’s organised, too!

An all in one wine gift set by Ivation. This set comes with an electric cork opener, a vacuum sealer, a foil cutter and an aerator.
The All-in-One Wine Gift Set by Ivation

A Gift for the Wine Lover Dad That Loves Fun Socks

If Dad’s always raving about socks, and how fun they can be, grab a pair of these wine glass crew socks and watch Dad rock them around the house (with a wine glass of course!) These fun socks have little wine glasses printed all over them – a fitting gift for your wine-loving Dad.

Mens crew socks that are salmon in colour. They have wine glasses printed on them.
Men’s Wine Glass Crew Socks by HotSox

A Gift For the Wine Lover Dad That Collects Tasting Cards 

Is Dad always losing his wine tasting cards? He was sure he put them in that left kitchen drawer… look no further. This wine journal is specially crafted for wine lovers in mind. Each page has a tasting section so that Dad can jot down all his notes for his favourite wine bottles, and always have them in one place! 

A tasting journal from WineFolly.
The Wine Tasting Journal by WineFolly

A Gift For the Wine Lover Dad That Loves Glassware.

If Dad is always looking for new and fancy glasses to sip his wine in, then give him this premium set of Riedel tasting glasses. With the wine lover in mind, each glass is crafted by hand. The glasses are made for different styles and varieties of wine. The tasting experience is out of this world, and Dad will never look back! 

The WineWings tasting set by Riedel. 
A set of four glasses
The Wine Wings Tasting Set by Riedel

A Gift for the Wine Lover Dad That’s On the Go

We get that dads can be busy, they’ve got a lot to do! Work, boats, golf, wine, more golf – you get it. Since they have a lot to do, a perfect gift for the Dad who’s always on the go is a Yeti Wine Tumbler! It’s an insulated cup that will keep your wine – and other Dad-approved drinks – cool for hours. Gift Dad a tumbler for all his favourite drinks.

The Rambler 295 mL Tumbler by Yeti

A Gift for the Wine Lover Dad That’s Always Camping

For the Dad that enjoys camping and sipping, this outdoor table is a versatile piece of furniture that he will always want around. Serving as a bottle holder and mini table, it’s portable and perfect for the RV or glamping lifestyle.

Outdoor Folding Wine Table by KLFG

A Gift for the Wine Lover Dad That Needs to Keep His Wine Cool! 

Is Dad always complaining that his wine bottle warms up too quickly? Is the ice bucket making a mess and leaving water rings on the furniture? Fear not because this wine sleeve cooler is the perfect gift for Dad! This insulated sheet slides over the wine bottle, keeping it chilled for as long as Dad is sipping. The added bonus is that the sleeve soaks up the condensation. No more water rings!

Le Creuset WA126 LC MATT Black Cooler SLE

A Gift for the Wine Lover Dad That Loves to Sip on the Porch!

A wine glass holder that’s perfect for Dad if he enjoys sitting on the porch and soaking in the sunshine and breeze. Or for the dad who loves backyard barbequing! The hook clips onto a regular chair or table to hold a wine glass. Now, Dad doesn’t have to juggle between holding his wine glass and giving you a hug or flipping his steak! 

The Wine Hook- Clip on Glass Holder by U-nique.

A Wine Gift for your Wine Lover Dad

If you have a dad that loves exploring the world of wine, one sip at a time, a wine gift by WineCollective is perfect for him! Treat him to an all-red box, or a mixed box and delight him with a choice of wines from around the world. He’ll also receive a guide with great in-depth information about his wines and tons of member perks such as education, and a discounted member store where he can reorder his favourites and save up to 50%!

WineCollective’s Father’s Day 2022 Wine Gift

What Is Acidity in Wine?

Even if you find the words ‘tart’ or ‘sour’ not particularly appealing when it comes to wine, you will want your wine to have a certain degree of acidity. Without it, your wine would taste flabby, flat and dull. Think of it as a refreshing quality – the reason you want another sip. And another one. So what is acidity in wine, exactly? Let’s have a closer look.

Acidity in the Grape

What Types of Acid Occur in Wine?

Acid is one of the most important components in what makes a wine unique. A variety of different acids give the wine its balance, structure and thirst-quenching qualities. Several different acids are involved in winemaking, four of those acids are found in the grapes themselves and the other three are a result of the winemaking process. 

Acids that are naturally found in grapes:

  • Tartaric Acid
  • Malic Acid
  • Citric Acid
  • Succinic Acid

Acids that occur during fermentation:

  • Lactic Acid
  • Acetic Acid
  • Succinic Acid

What Makes Wine More or Less Acidic?

A number of factors affect the acidity in a wine. Cooler regions will produce higher acid wines, with lower alcohol and lighter body than warmer climates because the grapes struggle to ripen in cooler weather. Warmer climates sometimes produce wines without enough acidity and winemakers will need to make adjustments with a process called acidification to produce a balanced wine. 

Grapes have the highest acidity during véraison (the stage of growth just before the grapes change colour). This is why the timing of picking the grapes is so essential in winemaking. Winemakers will try to plan the best time to pick the grapes – when the fruit have achieved the optimal balance of sugar, tannin and acid. 

hand-picking white grapes

What is Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)?

There are notably a few processes where winemakers can use acid to benefit the final product. One notable process is called Malolactic fermentation or MLF where the winemaker will use a particular strain of lactic bacteria after fermentation has finished to give a buttery aroma and richness to the wine. This practice is most commonly seen in Chardonnay.

How Can You Tell if Wine is Acidic?

You notice acidity in wine by its mouthwatering effect and tingly sensation in your mouth. While a highly acidic wine can make you pucker, in a wine that is low in acidity you may find the acidity barely detectable. Evaluating acidity in a wine may be described using the following terms:

Low Acidity

These are usually warmer climate wines and can be tricky to identify due to the high alcohol content – sometimes alcohol can be mistaken for acid. Typically in these wines, the acid will be more reminiscent of Greek yogurt. Examples of low-acid wines are Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Sémillon, Tempranillo and Grenache.

Medium Acidity

Tasting a medium-acid wine is similar to taking a bite into a ripe red apple. You can taste the acid but it’s not overpowering. Examples of medium-acid wines are Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Oaked Chardonnay, Extra Dry Sparkling, Gamay Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.

High Acidity

These are wines that are lively but not quite tart, such as you might experience eating green table grapes or a Granny Smith apple – YUM! Examples of high-acid wines are Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis (unoaked Chardonnay), Dry Riesling, Torrontés, Albariño, Vinho Verde, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Barbera and Barolo.

oysters with white wine

Why do Acidic Wines Pair Well with Food?

Sommeliers love wines that are high in acidity because they pair so well with a variety of dishes. But why do they pair so well with so many foods? When pairing food and wine, balance is what a sommelier (or budding wine connoisseur such as yourself) is looking for. The acidity in wine balances out sweet, salty and fatty components in food. 

Acidity increases salivation, which causes a lifting effect that enhances the flavours in your favourite foods. Although it may seem counterintuitive, acidity in food decreases the perception of acidity in wine. Foods high in acid will not pair well with anything but high-acid wines, otherwise the wine will taste flat. 

Foods to Pair with Acidic Wine

Many of the most food-loving wines that sommeliers choose are high in acid. Pairings that take excellent advantage of this interaction include goat cheese with Sauvignon Blanc or Champagne with oysters, where the wine will seem softer and the fruit flavours more prominent. A tomato-based sauce served with a high-acid red wine such as Barbera would make for a rich and enjoyable pairing. In the case of very acidic foods such as shellfish and salads dressed with vinaigrette, it is best to choose a high- acid wine such as dry Riesling, Prosecco or Sauvignon Blanc. 

Getting Fresh in Cool Climates

Next time you take a sip of a fresh, crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, you’ll be able to identify the acidity in your glass. If you want to continue learning about what makes high acidity wines – especially from cooler climate zones –so special, you’re in the right place! Read all about cool climate wines, or check out our recent interview with Calgary’s River Café wine director Bruce Soley.

If love content like this, and want to get more knowledgeable about wine, become a WineCollective member today!

How to Use Our Wine Tasting Mat (+ Free Downloadable Tasting Mat)

Using a wine tasting mat helps you describe wines, remember them more easily and start figuring out your preferences in wine. The steps in this sheet are the same as those used in professional wine tastings, so you can start thinking about wine like an expert! Using a wine tasting mat in a wine tasting lets you compare different wines from the same vintage, region or grape variety.

Download WineCollective’s Free Wine Tasting Mat

To get started, download your tasting mat.

Pour yourself a small amount of wine, grab your tasting mat and a pen, and you’re ready to get started. 

How to Use a Tasting Mat – Step 1: Look

See how your wine looks in the glass. Note the colour and colour intensity. Be specific! if it’s a red wine, is it more purple, ruby, or brown? Is the colour vibrant and opaque or light and clear? (It helps to hold your glass up to a white surface.) Mark the gradient where the colour is the closest match with your wine. Assess viscosity by tilting your glass – more viscous wines will leave a film or ‘tears’ on the sides of the glass.

How to Use a Tasting Mat – Step 2: Smell

Start with one sniff for a first impression. Before smelling it again, swirl the glass to release the aromatics. Bring the glass right up to your nose – don’t worry about getting too close! Take a deep inhale and consider the notes you’re smelling. If you’re stuck, start with broad categories like ‘fruity’ first, then narrow it down from there. 

Would you like to learn more about tasting notes in wine, where they come from and why we use them? Would you like to learn more about tasting notes in wine, where they come from and why we use them? Sometimes they can seem a bit highbrow and be intimidating, but they don’t need to be. Everyone has their own unique palate and can learn how to identify flavours in wine – so don’t worry, we’re here to guide you on your journey. We have even put together a handy aroma dictionary to help you get started!

How to Use a Tasting Mat – Step 3: Taste

It’s time to taste your wine. Take a sip, and try to get the wine everywhere on your palate for a fuller sense of the flavours (yes, this is why experts swish wine around in their mouths). 

Tasting Wine for: Sweetness

Does the wine have some residual sugar, or is it completely dry? (A hint of) sweetness can be felt at the tip of your tongue.

Tasting Wine for: Acidity

Did the wine have a high, medium or low acidity level? How much did the wine make your mouth water? Did you feel a little or a lot of tingling on the sides of your tongue?

Tasting Wine for: Tannins

Tannins in red wines have a drying, puckery effect on the palate. Tannin-heavy wines are bitter or astringent and feel like they remain on your tongue even after you swallow.

Tasting Wine for: Alcohol

Wines with a high alcohol content tend to be full-bodied and more viscous. 

Tasting Wine for: Body

Here, you can write down if the wine was light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied. With ‘body’ we mean how heavy or light a wine feels on the palate.

Tasting Wine for: Finish

How long does the taste of wine linger in your mouth? 

Why Bother Writing Down Tasting Notes?

If you follow this structured tasting process with each new wine you add to your collection, you’ll gradually start noticing more subtle flavours. You’ll also build a working knowledge of the characteristics of different types of wine. Giving the wine a starred rating helps you understand what characteristics in wine you’re drawn to (or not!). Don’t forget to write down the name of the wine you’re tasting to refer back to later!

How to Use a Tasting Mat for a Vertical Tasting

If you have wine-loving friends or family members, it’s fun to sit down together and do a wine tasting together. There are multiple approaches to such a tasting. In a vertical tasting, you’d compare the same wine from different vintages. This lets you appreciate the subtle differences in the wine year over year, as well as discover how the wine ages over time. This is particularly interesting if you compare vintages that are many years, even decades apart. Sometimes, the vertical approach is extended to include wines from the same region, but still compared over different vintages. 

How to Use a Tasting Mat for a Horizontal Tasting

With “horizontal tasting” we don’t mean sipping wine while lying down. It’s a way to describe a tasting in which you taste wines from different wineries in one region, but from the same vintage. Alternatively, you could organize a tasting around one grape variety from different regions (still from the same year). This lets you appreciate the different styles that winemakers can have, or how influential terroir can be on the expression of a single grape variety. 

Our WineCollective store gives you plenty of options for a horizontal tasting. How about a Pinot Noir tasting? Or one revolving Chardonnay?

How to Use a Tasting Mat for a Blind Tasting

You can use the tasting mat for a blind tasting as well. Before the tasting, cover the bottles with a bottle bag, brown bag or aluminum foil and number them. Start tasting the mystery wines one by one, writing down your observations. You’re welcome to discuss the characteristics of the different wines or keep your observations to yourself and try making educated guesses based on your notes. The big reveal is always the most fun part! 

Our Blinders Refill Packs contain three bottles that are wrapped up, so nobody in your group knows what you are tasting. We have an all-red, mixed or all-white pack

A Wine Aroma Dictionary

There’s something so exciting about the possibilities of a new bottle of wine, an entire world of wine aromas and flavours just waiting to be discovered. Even tasting the same grape variety from two different vineyards can lead to two completely unique sensory experiences! 

There are so many possibilities, in fact, that it can be a little hard to keep track, which is why we’ve compiled this handy cheat sheet. This wine aroma dictionary is your guide to the most common wine aromas—what they are, the chemical compounds and winemaking processes that cause them, and the wines and regions they’re commonly associated with. If you’ve ever wondered what it is you’re smelling when you get notes of citrus in a dry Riesling or enjoy a particularly peppery Syrah, this guide is for you.

Wine Aroma Dictionary: Table of Contents

Fruit Notes

Berries – Blackberry, Blackcurrant, Blueberry, Cherry, Strawberry, Raspberry
Citrus – Grapefruit, Lemon/Lime
Tree Fruit – Pear, Apple
Stone Fruit – Peach, Plum
Tropical – Banana, Pineapple, Melon, Papaya
Dried – Jam, Fig

Nutty & Toasted Notes

Almond, Bread, Coconut

Floral Notes

Floral, Rose 

Spicy Notes

Cinnamon, Pepper

Herbaceous/Vegetal Notes

Grass, Herbs, Bell Pepper, Asparagus, Leaf, Mint, Olive, Tomato

Inorganic Notes

Graphite, Stone

Oak-Aged Notes

Smoke, Tobacco, Cedar/Oak, Coffee, Vanilla, Chocolate

Fruit Wine Aroma Notes

icon of blackberry tasting noteBlackberry

A little sweet, a little tart, this common berry tasting note falls under the “black fruit” category of wine aromas and is frequently found in red wines grown in geographic areas with Mediterranean climates (temperate winters and hot summers). Blackberry is a surprisingly complex tasting note to isolate chemically—there are actually over 30 aroma compounds associated with blackberry notes in red wines! One 2012 study found that the presence of ethyl 2-hydroxy-4-methylpentanoate (ethyl leucate) was directly associated with blackberry aromas in Bordeaux wines, with ethyl butanoate acting as an important secondary compound that made the ethyl leucate more perceptible. 
Associated Varieties: Syrah/Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Associated Wine Regions: Bordeaux & Rhône Valley (Southern France), Barossa Valley (South Australia, Rioja (Central Spain), California

icon of a black currant tasting noteBlackcurrant

Sometimes also referred to as “cassis”. Another black fruit tasting note, this sweet, tart berry is ubiquitous in Europe (especially the UK) but little-known in North America due to a US ban on planting blackcurrant that lasted from 1911 to 2003. The ban was instituted out of concern for a pine-killing fungus called blister rust that used blackcurrant bushes to spread, but overturned in most states in 2003 due to the development of fungus-immune varieties of the plant. While they can be eaten raw, blackcurrants are more commonly used for juice, jam, and preserves. Blackcurrant aromas and tasting notes are common in red wines, and are the result of 4-mercapto-4-methylpentan-2-one.
Associated Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon; less frequently Nero d’Avola, Aglianico and Primitivo
Associated Wine Regions: Bordeaux (Southern France), but also anywhere Cabernet Sauvignon is grown

icon of a blueberry tasting noteBlueberry

While a common flavour in many red wines, the compounds responsible for blueberry notes in wines have not been narrowed down. In fact, blueberry aroma compounds are a surprisingly under-researched subject in food chemistry as a whole. However, analysis of the flavour compounds of three different blueberry species in the US (highbush blueberries, lowbush blueberries, and rabbiteye blueberries) found similar flavour compounds across species, with the list dominated by terpenoids, C6 alcohols, and esters. 
Associated Varieties: Petite Sirah, French Syrah, Mourvèdre, Malbec
Associated Wine Regions: California, Rhône & Provence (France)


The meaning of “cherry” as a tasting note can be quite broad, as cherries can come in both black fruit and red fruit varieties, and be both sweet and tart in flavour. It’s important to make the distinction when doing your own tasting notes. In Beaujolais wines, cherry notes are often the result of a process called carbonic maceration. Unlike regular fermentation, which uses yeast to break down the sugars in grapes, in carbonic maceration bunches of grapes are sealed in a vessel filled with CO2 and begin to ferment from the inside out, a process called intracellular fermentation. This winemaking technique is known for producing extremely fruity wines with low tannins and acidity. 
Associated Varieties: Gamay, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir
Associated Wine Regions: Beaujolais, Northern Italy, New Zealand

icon of a strawberry tasting noteStrawberry

A common red fruit tasting note, strawberry notes in wine are often experienced as an aroma rather than a flavour, and can range from fresher berry aromas to “jamminess”. Strawberry notes appear in both brighter and more complex red wines, and even in some rosés. There are two common chemical compounds responsible for strawberry notes in wine: furaneol and ethyl methylphenylglycidate. Furaneol, also referred to as strawberry furanone, is used in the perfume and food industries to bestow strawberry notes, though in higher concentrations it takes on caramel rather than strawberry aromas. Ethyl methylphenylglycidate is also referred to as strawberry aldehyde and is frequently used to produce artificial fruit flavouring—in particular that of strawberries. 
Associated Varieties: Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo
Associated Wine Regions: California, New Zealand 


Of the red fruit notes, raspberry is among the most tart, with an acidity that, combined with its fruitiness, makes for a very fresh berry wine aroma. You’ll commonly find raspberry notes in red wines of medium to high acidity. One of the main chemical compounds responsible for raspberry aromas is 4-(4-hydroxyphenyl)butan-2-one—aptly known as “raspberry ketone”.
Associated Varieties: Pinot Noir, Gamay, Barbera, Nebbiolo
Associated Wine Regions: Piedmont (Northwest Italy)

icon of a grapefruit tasting noteGrapefruit

Tart, acidic citrus notes with a delicious hint of sweetness, grapefruit tasting notes are most common in white wines. Like with other citrus aromas, getting a hint of grapefruit in your glass generally suggests a grape grown in a cooler climate. Studies have found that moderate amounts of 3-mercaptohexanol and/or 3-mercaptohexyl acetate contribute strongly to grapefruit tasting notes in wine. However, when the quantity of these compounds passes a certain threshold, the notes tip over more in the direction of “tropical fruit”. 
Associated Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Vermentino, Assyrtiko, Colombard 
Associated Wine Regions: California, Washington, Loire Valley (France), Marlborough (New Zealand)


Like with grapefruit, the presence of lemon or lime tasting notes suggests a cooler climate grape that had a longer ripening time than those grown in warmer regions. Lime tasting notes have a greener quality and are found in grassier wines, but both lime and lemon notes are most likely to be found in white wines. Chemically, nerol and citronellol are two compounds responsible for more floral citrus aromas in wine, while limonene and citral bring in more of a zesty citrus peel aroma. 
Associated Varieties: Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Verdejo, Albariño, Roussanne
Associated Wine Regions: Chile, Germany, Alsace (France) 

icon of a pear tasting notePear

While pear might seem like a fairly straightforward flavour/aroma, when it comes to wine tasting notes there is an important distinction to be made. While fresh pear aromas can and do appear as notes in wine, there is another common descriptor that may not be familiar to North American wine enthusiasts—pear drop. A pear drop is a type of hard candy popular in the UK, which gets its flavour from an ester called isoamyl acetate. Interestingly enough, isoamyl acetate is commonly referred to as ‘banana oil’ and is perceived as having the aroma of both banana and ripe pear. In Beaujolais Nouveau wines, this compound is released as a result of carbonic maceration.
Associated Varieties: Pinot Gris, Beaujolais Nouveau, Pinot Blanc
Associated Wine Regions: Oregon, Austria 

icon of an apple tasting noteApple

Apple aromas are most often found in white wines grown in cooler climates. Like cherries, apple tasting notes can be split into fruitier, more sweet varieties (red apple) and tart, more acidic ones (green apple). In some wines, a high concentration of an ester called butyl acetate will create the aroma of Red Delicious apples. In other wines, malic acid might be the cause of a tart, green apple flavour and aroma. 
Associated Varieties: Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Chablis
Associated Wine Regions: Germany, Austria, Chablis (France)

icon of a peach tasting notePeach

There’s a reason peaches and cream go together so well. While peaches are one of the most common “stone fruit” tasting notes, the aroma of peaches has more to do with cream than it does most other fruity scents. Peach aromas come from a group of esters called lactones, which give not only peaches but milk, cream, and butter their signature scents! In the perfume industry, γ-decalactone and γ-undecalactone are two lactones heavily associated with peaches. Perfumists even call γ-undecalactone “peach aldehyde”, frustrating chemists the world over since, as you and I know, it is a lactone and not an aldehyde. 
Associated Varieties: Marsanne, Grüner Veltliner, Viognier
Associated Wine Regions: Northern Rhône, Australia, Washington, California

icon of a plum tasting notePlum

Plum is another stone fruit favourite, often seen in red wines, and can express itself in wine as a red fruit or black fruit note depending on not only the variety but on the ripeness of the grape. “Plum jam” is also sometimes used as a tasting note, denoting a greater sweetness with less acidity (see also: Jam). While there’s no one compound that we look to to indicate the presence of plum notes in a wine, chances are good the aroma comes across from a mix of esters—studies into the volatile components of fresh plums have found a whopping 58 different esters that contribute to their scent. 
Associated Varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Touriga Nacional
Associated Wine Regions: Douro Valley, Piedmont

icon of a banana tasting noteBanana

Considered a tropical fruit flavour, banana aromas may also be referred to as “pear drop” notes, referring to the candy flavoured with isoamyl acetate (aka banana oil). You will commonly experience banana notes in white wines, sometimes with more fruity and floral wines, other times amongst other tropical tasting notes. (see also: Pear
Associated Varieties: Gamay, Pinotage, Albariño, Assyrtiko, Colonnara
Associated Wine Regions: Beaujolais, South Africa, Rías Biaxas (Spain)


While one of many tropical fruit notes you may find in white wines, pineapple aromas in your white wine might mean something quite special; that the wine was touched by noble rot. It doesn’t sound appetizing, but for many winemakers noble rot (or Botrytis cinerea) is a very desired fungus. When it comes in contact with grapes, it perforates the skin, allowing the water to evaporate and leave delicious concentrated sugars that make for sweeter, more complexly-flavoured wines. Surprisingly, the aromatic compound that creates pineapple aroma in these wines is furaneol, aka strawberry furanone. While this compound is responsible for strawberry aromas in some wines, furaneol also naturally occurs in very ripe pineapples, and depending on the wine will come across as pineapple rather than strawberry notes.
Associated Varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Associated Wine Regions: Australia, Chile, Bordeaux (France), California 

tasting icon of a melonMelon

One of the tropical fruit tasting notes, “melon” is used as a shorthand for specifically honeydew aromas. Fruity, refreshing, and sweet, you can find melon notes in rosé wines and even rosé champagnes, as well as white wines that are full-bodied and from warm climate areas. The melon wine aroma has not been linked to any specific aroma compound. Even in fresh melon, while 240 volatile compounds have been identified across different species, the degree to which each individual compound contributes to the aroma has not been pinned down. What we do know is that the most prominent group of volatiles in honeydew aromas are acetate-derivative esters.
Associated Varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco
Associated Wine Regions: Provence (Southeast France), California

tasting icon of papayaPapaya

On the surface, this tropical fruit bears a certain resemblance to mango, as they’re both tropical fruits with bright orange flesh and greenish skins that take on yellow-y orange notes as they ripen. But as a flavour or aroma, papaya has a more muted sweetness, with a creamy quality that is closer to melon than mango. While it mellows out once ripe, papayas that have not had time to ripen have an extremely pungent, musty aroma, so it is sometimes used as a note for complex, fruit-forward wines like those affected by noble rot. You can also look for papaya aromas in warm-weather or late harvest wines that have a lot of sweet, tropical fruit notes.
Associated Varieties: Viognier, Chardonnay 
Associated Wine Regions: California, Chile, Argentina, Italy, Australia

icon of jam tasting noteJam

Depending on who you are, describing a wine as being “jammy” can either be a compliment or the most devastating of insults. In either case, jamminess is used as a descriptor for very fruity wines that lack the acidity which can impart freshness to fruit flavours. Some refer to this as a “cooked fruit” or “cooked berry” flavour. Jamminess in a wine is a sign the grapes have been allowed to overripen, either having been left on the wine for longer or because of intense heat exposure. Ripening increases the sugar content of a grape, but when it reaches a tipping point begins to eat away at the fruit’s natural acidity, leaving a more concentrated sweetness with no balancing acid. 
Associated Varieties: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Grenache
Associated Wine Regions: Australia, California

icon of a fig tasting noteFig

When used as a wine tasting note, fig refers to the fruit’s dried, not fresh, state. You will often find fig used alongside “jamminess” to describe the flavour or aroma of a wine, and sometimes even come across the combination of the two with “fig jam”. You can find instances of fig notes in full-bodied, red wines, but they most frequently crop up in fortified wines such as port. According to author Jane Anson, dried fruit notes in younger reds made with climate-sensitive grapes may be a sign that the wine will not age as expected but instead will suffer from premature oxidation, meaning it should probably be enjoyed fast. 
Associated Varieties: Primitivo, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon
Associated Wine Regions: Portugal, Southern Italy

Nutty & Toasted Wine Aroma Notes

icon of an almond tasting noteAlmond

Sometimes referred to as “marzipan” or “bitter almond”, how almond notes are brought about in wines can differ. When the result of the fermentation process, almond notes can be a sign of wine made with carbonic maceration. In other wines, they come from yeast, making an appearance in sur lie wines (wines in which the lees, or deposits of residual yeast, are not filtered out before bottling) or wines that undergo bâtonage, a secondary fermentation process in which the yeast is frequently stirred for several weeks to impart flavour to the wine, after which it is filtered out and bottled as normal. Regardless of the process, the compound responsible for the almond notes in wine remains the same—an aromatic compound called benzaldehyde which is particularly common in sparkling wines. 
Associated Varieties: Verdejo, Falanghina, Vintage Champagne, Young Bordeaux
Associated Wine Regions: Spain, Italy, Champagne, Bordeaux, Rhône

icon of bread tasting noteBread

Getting a hint of toast in your wine? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that bread notes in wine come from the yeast used in the fermentation process. As fermentation occurs, the yeast metabolizes the sugars within the grapes and leaves alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. As their supply of sugars is used up, yeast cells die off and fall to the bottom of the fermentation vessel as “lees”. While the majority of wines filter out the lees immediately, the practice of letting some wines age sur lie (“on the lees”) for a secondary fermentation is responsible for imparting yeasty, bread-y notes to wines. This is also why sparkling wines are more likely to have stronger hints of bread—to carbonate a wine, a mixture of more yeast and sugar is added to a wine in a closed environment, and the CO2 that is released during fermentation carbonates the wine. Because the sparkling wine is in contact with yeast for much longer, the flavour notes the yeast imparts are much more perceptible. 
Associated Varieties: Champagne, Chardonnay, Sémillon
Associated Wine Regions: Champagne, Cava, United Kingdom

Floral Wine Aroma Notes

icon of a floral tasting noteFloral

While occasionally perceptible in the taste of the wine, “floral” is more commonly used as a descriptor of a category of wine aromas. Floral notes are considered “primary tasting notes”, meaning that they come from the grape variety and not as a result of the winemaking or aging process. The type of floral notes detected will thus generally vary depending on the wine, from the orange blossom notes you can find in Muscat to jasmine in Torrontès. The chemical compounds responsible for floral notes also differ by flower, but will usually fall under the categories of esters (acids) or terpenes (concentrated aroma compounds that give most plants their characteristic scents, prominent in essential oils). 
Associated Varieties: Gewürztraminer, Torrontès, Viognier
Associated Wine Regions: Germany, Moldova, US, Argentina, Alsace & Rhône Valley (France)


While β-damascenone and β-ionone both intensify the rose flavour profile, the main culprit of rose aromas in wine is the monoterpene, appropriately referred to as rose oxide. This moniker is probably for the best, as its full chemical name—Tetrahydro-4-methyl-2-(2-methylpropenyl)-2H-pyran—is a bit of a mouthful. Interestingly, while the aromatic qualities of the compound are unmistakable, the flavour it imparts is that of lychee, a fruit with a lot of naturally occurring rose oxide.
Associated Varieties: Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese
Associated Wine Regions: Alsace, Australia, New Zealand 

Spicy Wine Aroma Notes


Whether you associate it with savoury or sweet flavours, for many the warming spicy notes of cinnamon are unmistakable. In wine, cinnamon notes are the result of ethyl cinnamate, an ester that is also abundant in cinnamon’s essential oil. You can find cinnamon notes alongside other baking spice notes like ginger and nutmeg, most frequently in wines that have been allowed to bottle age. 
Associated Varieties: Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Nebiolo, Barbera, Amarone
Associated Wine Regions: Chianti (Tuscany), Oregon, Rioja, Valpolicella (Italy)


Considered a signature of Syrah, the aroma of pepper in wines comes from the terpene rotundone, which is present in abundance in the essential oils of black pepper as well as—you guessed it—Syrah grapes. The next time you get a hint of spice in a glass, go ahead and see if you can distinguish the scent. And don’t worry about sneezing—while rotundone is the cause of the aroma of freshly milled pepper, it is a different compound, piperine, that is responsible for irritating your nerve endings and causing you to sneeze. Sniff away!
Associated Varieties: Syrah/Shiraz, Grüner Veltliner
Associated Wine Regions: Barossa Valley (Australia), Rhône Valley (France), Austria

Herbaceous/Vegetal Wine Aroma Notes

icon of grass tasting noteGrass

If you’ve ever had the experience of looking out over a freshly mown lawn in the heat of summer, you’ll have no problem summoning a sense memory for “grassiness” in a wine. Depending on what’s in your glass, grassiness can suggest either a pleasant, fresh herbaceousness (in the case of dry whites) or an unfortunate under-ripeness (in cool-climate reds). In either case, where you find grassy notes you will most likely find an abundance of aldehydes—more specifically, hexanal and hexenal, which are also thought to be at least partially responsible for the aroma of “tomato leaf”. (See also: Tomato
Associated Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère
Associated Wine Regions: Rías Baixas (Spain), Marlborough (New Zealand), Loire Valley (France) 

icon of herbs tasting noteHerbs

Often used interchangeably with or alongside “leafy”, “grassy” and “vegetal”, as well as a stand-in for any number of more specific herb aromas—basil, rosemary, dill, thyme, the list goes on and on—herbaceousness can be a bit of a catch-all term used to describe a wine with an aromatic, “green” sort of freshness. Whether this is a positive or negative note will also vary between tastings, as what may come off as refreshing in some wines will be a sign of unfortunately under-ripe grapes in another. (See also: Grass, Leaf
Associated Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carménère, Malbec
Associated Wine Regions: Rhône Valley (France), Rioja (Spain)

Bell Pepper

While it may sound strange if you’ve never had a chance to experience it yourself, green bell pepper can be a common aroma with some grape varieties, specifically those in the Bordeaux family. This is due to a group of aroma compounds called methoxypyrazines, which are known to produce green, herbaceous notes in wine under certain growing conditions. While the presence of a bell pepper aroma is often considered to be a wine fault, as it is an indication that the grapes were picked before reaching full ripeness, these compounds have been found to age quite well, incorporating more fully into a wine’s aromatic profile over time. 
Associated Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Malbec
Associated Wine Regions: Bordeaux

icon of an asparagus tasting noteAsparagus

Just like the vegetable itself, asparagus notes in wine are often a love ‘em or hate ‘em situation. When used as a positive and paired with other fresh vegetal notes like grass or bell pepper, asparagus usually denotes a savoury, bitter flavour or aroma that is balanced out with a light freshness. In this case, the aroma is most likely to come from the pyrazine 3-isopropyl-2-methoxypyrazine. When asparagus is appended with the adjective “stewed”, you may be smelling the unfortunate result of mercaptans, sulfur compounds that can find their way into the wine before or during the bottling process. In this case, what you have on your hands is very likely a faulty wine. 
Associated Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño 
Associated Wine Regions: Marlborough & Awatere Valley (New Zealand), Rías Baixas (Spain)


Alongside “grassy”, and “vegetal”, and “herbal”, “leaf” is a tasting note used to indicate a green, fresh quality to a wine (see also: Grass, Herbs). You may also hear the descriptor “tomato leaf” to describe wines with this same quality (see also: Tomato). And like those other notes, it can be pleasant in some instances and an indication of unripe grapes in others. Two of the compounds responsible for this quality are cis-3-hexen-1-ol and cis-3-hexenal—otherwise known as “leaf aldehyde”. 
Associated Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blancs, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Associated Wine Regions: Marlborough (New Zealand), Bordeaux, Central Coast California

icon of a mint tasting noteMint

If you’re tasting mint in your glass, it may be a good idea to take a closer look at the bottle. Is it an Australian wine? Wines from vineyards that are close to eucalyptus trees can be contaminated by eucalyptus, which those that are not as familiar with may mistake for mint, as it has the same kind of fresh, herby, slightly biting aroma. When a wine does have specifically minty aromas, the compound responsible is not actually menthol, as you might expect, but piperitone. Piperitone is a monoterpene ketone that’s used in the production of synthetic menthol. It is one of the aromas present in immature peppermint plants, but the main source of it in industry is a species of eucalyptus. And just to trip you up even further, the misleading name for that eucalyptus species? Blue peppermint or broad-leaved peppermint. 
Associated Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Alicante Bouschet
Associated Wine Regions: Bordeaux, Chile, Coonawarra (South Australia) 

icon of an olive tasting noteOlive

Olive notes are split between green and black olives, with green olives having astringent, tannin-heavy notes while black olives have softer, earthy notes. Like asparagus, olive notes in wine can indicate the presence of a large amount of sulphur compounds (mercaptans), which may or may not be an indication of a wine fault! In a winemaking technique called reductive winemaking, wines are fermented in low-oxygen environments, with sulphurous compounds used to further prevent wine from coming in contact with oxygen. When wines that have undergone reduction are opened, they may have a funky, earthy, savoury aroma. If these notes are subtle and the wine is allowed to be exposed to oxygen, these notes could “blow off” and blend nicely into the wine’s aromas. If this doesn’t happen, and the smell resembles rotten eggs or rubber, the wine can be said to be reduced—a wine fault in which a wine has an overly high amount of sulphurous volatiles. 
Associated Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir 
Associated Wine Regions: Provence and Rhône Valley (France), California 


Another one of those misleading aroma shorthands, “tomato” as a tasting note refers not to the flavour of the ripe red fruit used in everything from salad to pasta sauce, but actually to the green, herbaceous characteristics of unripe tomato or “tomato leaf”. Like in the case of bell pepper, the aroma compounds responsible for tomato leaf in wine are methoxypyrazines, as well as hexanal and hexenel (see also: Bell Pepper, Grass). Methoxypyrazines are found on the skin of grapes and can impart a great deal of unwanted flavour when the grapes are harvested prematurely or are from cool climate regions (which may not allow for a full ripening). Allowing a wine to age might see the tomato leaf aroma develop into an oaky “cigar box” note, but this is highly dependent on just how early the harvest was. 
Associated Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère
Associated Wine Regions: Marlborough (New Zealand), Napa Valley (California)

Inorganic Wine Aroma Notes

icon of a graphite tasting noteGraphite

If you’ve ever heard a red wine described as having “graphite” notes and wondered what in the world that means, your confusion is understandable! As a flavour note applied to bold reds, graphite actually refers to a “lead-like” minerality, which some wine-makers attribute to slate deposits in the soil. As an aroma, this note is even more of a misnomer. Although the scent it refers to is that associated with fresh pencil shavings, graphite itself has no aromatic compounds! Instead, what you may think of as the graphite aroma in pencil shavings is actually the scent of the cedar wood traditionally used in graphite pencils. (see also: Cedar)
Associated Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc 
Associated Wine Regions: Bordeaux, Bierzo & Priorat (Spain)


You will sometimes hear people talk about the “stoniness” of a wine or refer to a wine’s “minerality”. You may even hear comparisons like “chalk”, “flint”, or “river rock”. Unlike fruit or floral notes, which can be attributed to specific organic compounds, the “stoniness” of a wine is harder to account for. In fact, what minerality means and whether it even exists is a subject of some debate in wine circles! Minerality is a subjective term used to describe a wine’s mouthfeel more than a specific taste, and can come from a combination of astringency, acidity, and bitterness. Basically, think of the sensation of drinking a fresh, “gritty” feeling wine that dries out your tongue and then imagine licking a piece of chalk, and you might get a sense of how minerality presents in a wine. 

While you may expect this to be the result of minerals pulled from the surrounding soil and incorporated into the taste of the grape, there’s no indication of this being the case! That being said, minerality in wine is generally considered to be tied to the wine’s terroir, i.e. the environmental factors and growing conditions of the grapes. 
Associated Varieties: Chablis, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling
Associated Wine Regions: Chablis, Sancerre, Germany

Oak-Aged Wine Aroma Notes


Smokiness in a wine is tricky, and usually indicates one of two completely opposite things—either the smokiness was a result of deliberate choices made by the winemaker or the absolute worst occurred and the wine was affected by smoke taint. Smoke taint is a wine fault which occurs when a forest fire occurs near a vineyard while the grapes are still ripening. The smoke can bind to the grapes and make its way into the wine, producing notes that are described as “ashy” or “burnt”. When smoky notes are produced deliberately, they are imparted through oak aging. French oak barrels, as well as barrels made of recently toasted oak, will impart smoky flavours to wine through the addition of the aroma compounds Guaiacol and 4-Methylguaiacol. When occurring in a wine that can balance it out, smokiness can be a very desirable note for winemakers and wine drinkers.
Associated Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay 
Associated Wine Regions: 
Oak-aged wines: Burgundy, Bordeaux
– Smoke taint: Okanagan Valley (Canada), California, Australi


Deep, rich, smoky flavours in wine can come from certain grape varieties, but they also appear in oak-aged wines alongside notes like smoke, cedar, and coffee. You may also see this aroma being referenced alongside cedar to combine for the “cigar box” aroma. As for the compound responsible, if you’re perceiving tobacco notes in your glass, chances are the wine you’re drinking is pretty heavy in terpenes. (see also: Cedar)
Associated Varieties: Syrah, Nebbiolos, Barolos, Brunellos, Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons
Associated Wine Regions: Italy, Bordeaux


Both “Cedar” and “Oak” are used as indicators of oak-aged wine, and both of them can be used to indicate woodsy, toasted notes in wine. Occasionally, “oak” is used as a short-form for any oak-aging notes, which include smoke, coconut, vanilla, and cloves. When referring to cedar toasting notes. As for cedar, it is sometimes incorporated into the “cigar box” aroma alongside tobacco, and is also the scent behind the somewhat inscrutable “pencil shavings” and “graphite” tasting notes. If you’re smelling cedar, there’s a fairly good chance the wine you’re drinking was aged in specifically French oak, as American oak tends to impart sweeter notes like coconut and vanilla, rather than the more resinous, woodsy cedar aromas of French oaked wines.
Associated Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux reds, Pinot Noir 
Associated Wine Regions: Bordeaux, Napa Valley (California)

icon of a coconut tasting noteCoconut

While coconut is a tropical fruit, unlike other fruit notes which come from the grapes themselves, coconut notes in wine are more common as secondary aromas—aromas imparted during oak aging. As an aroma, coconut has a dull sweetness. as well as a creamy quality to it. The lactone responsible for coconut aromas is one of two isomers of cis-3-Methyl-4-octanolide and is often referred to as the “whisky lactone”, referring to the fact that whisky is also aged in oak barrels. If coconut notes are what you’re looking for, make sure to look for wines aged specifically in American oak, which imparts significantly more whisky lactone than its French counterpart. 
Associated Varieties: Cabernet, Rioja
Associated Wine Regions: Australia, California, Spain


When it comes to distinguishing coffee notes in wine, imagine more of a warming, creamy cappuccino rather than an iced latte loaded with flavour shots. Like smokiness and vanilla notes, coffee in your wine is a secondary aroma associated with oak aging. The compound that gives oak-aged wines that roasted coffee aroma is furfurylthiol, which is formed from the furfural that oak staves release during toasting. 
Associated Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne, Pinotage
Associated Wine Regions: Champagne, Bordeaux, South Africa

icon of a vanilla tasting noteVanilla

Another oak-derived tasting note, vanilla is found most frequently as a wine aroma, and can occur in both reds and whites. It is most common in wines aged in American oak rather than French oak, as American oak has more of the compound vanillin, the aldehyde responsible for the flavour of vanilla beans. 
Associated Varieties: Zinfandel, Sauternes, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir 
Associated Wine Regions: California, Australia, Rioja (Spain)

icon of a chocolate tasting noteChocolate

While some grape varieties naturally have hints of chocolate amongst their flavours and aromas, it is also often found amongst other secondary aromas like vanilla and coffee in oak-aged wines. How chocolate presents itself in wine can vary from more bitter dark chocolates to creamier milk chocolate, and it is often not only a flavour but also a sense of texture as well—specifically that drying sensation of tannins that is common to tea, wine, and of course chocolate. 
Associated Varieties: Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano
Associated Varieties: Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano

Put Your Wine Aroma Knowledge to Use!

Want to start taste-testing and developing your palate? A great way to get started and to experience a variety of aromas and flavours is to taste a selection of wines with the help of a tasting mat. We’ve put together a guide on ‘how to use a tasting mat‘, complete with a downloadable tasting mat to get you started!

Love Learning About Wine Aromas?

From Smooth to Lively: Music to Drink Wine To

From smooth wine to smooth jazz, the words we use to describe experiences can be oddly consistent, even when we’re talking about completely different senses! One great example of this is the surprising amount of overlap between the vocabulary we have for music and that for wine.

Skeptical? Consider—have you ever praised someone’s silky singing voice or complimented the silkiness of a well-aged Bordeaux? Noticed the sweetness of residual sugars in a glass of dessert wine while considering the sweetness of a beautiful melody? Lost yourself in lingering notes at a concert or enjoyed the lingering finish of a Cabernet Sauvignon? 

You might be tempted to chalk this up to a lack of verbal creativity, but nothing could be further from reality. In truth, the entire vocabulary of wine is steeped in metaphor—we discuss a wine’s “grippiness”, appreciate its “bouquet”, comment on the “velvety” mouthfeel. And where the vocabularies of music and wine overlap, the contributions from both worlds help us share our personal sensory experiences in ways that others will understand! 

To kick off the calendar year, Wine Collective did a deep-dive into the world of jammy wines that we lovingly dubbed “Jam-uary”. And since we’re not ones for being one-note, we’ve followed our salute to jammy wines with some jams of a different sort. 

We’ve curated a special Song & Sip pack, pairing together a playlist and a wine for each of our musical tasting notes—Smooth, Lively, Delicate, and Mellow. Below you’ll find an explanation of the tasting notes, along with a link to each playlist, so you can get lost in a world of music to drink wine to. So pour yourself a glass, turn up the volume, and let your ears and taste buds delight you in perfect harmony.

Smooth red wine in a glass

Decoding Tasting Notes: Smooth 

What makes wine “smooth”?  

When a wine is referred to as smooth, it generally describes a very drinkable (some might even say “quaffable”) wine with soft, rounded out tannins. In addition to giving wine a bitter, astringent quality, tannins bind to the proteins in saliva, leaving your tongue feeling dried out and coated. This is what it means for a wine to be “grippy”. Smooth wines are the opposite, with tannic flavours well incorporated into the overall flavour profile, and little to no lasting sensation in the mouth. When you think of smooth wines, think bold flavourful reds with a supple texture. 

What makes music “Smooth”?

When you think of music that’s smooth, do you think of smooth jazz? (It’s probably either that or Santana.) While smooth jazz gets a bad rap, it’s actually not a bad wine comparison, with “smooth jazz” being the “easy-listening” to wine’s “easy-drinking”. In jazz, smoothness denotes a lack of improvisation or dissonance in a track. Basically, a smooth jazz song is not meant to challenge the listener. Even when smooth isn’t used to describe jazz, smoothness in music tends to refer to songs with deep, rich, qualities that envelop the listener rather than challenging them. Think songs with little syncopation, no dissonance, and singers with a pleasant “silky” timbre (silky, by the way, being another common wine tasting term for smooth wines.)

Feeling Smooth? The Smooth Wine in our Song & Sip pack is the 2020 Genio Español Garnacha from Familia Bastida, an easy-drinking spanish wine packed full with red fruit flavours and aromas. And while you’re quenching your thirst, you can check out the Smooth Sippin’ Playlist!

Two people cheersing with sparkline wine

Decoding Tasting Notes: Lively

What makes wine “lively”?

While it definitely sounds like one of the more abstract wine tasting notes, liveliness actually has a very specific meaning in wine, and that meaning is acidity! How do you know if you’re drinking a lively wine? Wines with more acid will make your tongue tingle and your mouth water. They’re often less sweet, light-bodied, lower in alcohol content and very fresh to the taste. In addition to “lively” and “fresh”, you’ll also often hear them described as “zesty” or “bright”, all of which refer to a higher acid content in wine. 

What makes music “Lively”?

Unlike lively wine, lively music is something people instinctively understand. Lively music is fun and up-tempo, it makes you want to move, maybe even get up and dance! In sheet music notation, where much of the terminology is in Italian, the term used for an upbeat tempo is allegro, which is often translated as a “brisk, lively tempo.” Sometimes translations of allegro will refer to it as a “bright” and lively tempo, as it is meant to connote not only a speed but also a joyfulness to the manner of playing. You will sometimes even see the hilariously redundant note allegro allegro, meaning a song should be played at “an even livelier allegro.” 

Feeling Lively? The 2020 Quando Sauvignon Blanc in our Song & Sip pack comes from a 6th generation South African family winery, and is a fresh, dry, old world-style white with green and tropical notes. And if those tropical notes should move you to dance, you can check out the Lively Sippin’ Playlist!

Two glasses of delicate white wine

Decoding Tasting Notes: Delicate

What makes wine “delicate”? 

A delicate wine is pleasant without being overpowering, with soft, well-balanced flavours and aromas and no obtrusive notes to speak of. You’ll usually hear “delicate” used to describe light or medium weight wines that have lovely yet subtle flavours. Delicate wines won’t kick your teeth in with flavour, but they reward quiet contemplation, ideally on a sunny summer’s day. 

What makes music “delicate?” 

Music that’s played delicately (or delicato if we’re still feeling Italian) is pleasantly gentle and subtle, perhaps even downright quiet. Think soft, contemplative melodies, maybe even the faint chime of bells in the background. Like delicate wine, delicate music isn’t going to jump out and grab your attention—you need to meet it in the middle and discover its beauty for yourself. 

Feeling Delicate? The 2020 Villa Locatelli Pinot Blanc in our Song & Sip pack is a fresh, medium-bodied Italian white wine with orchard fruit notes mixed in with a touch of citrus and tropical fruit. Contemplate its flavours to the accompanying sound of the Delicate Sippin’ Playlist!

A mellow red wine with some snacks

Decoding Tasting Notes: Mellow

What makes wine “mellow”? 

Wines that are described as mellow have pleasing, well-integrated flavours and fewer or softer tannins. They’re not grippy on the tongue or sharp, but tend to be juicy, fruit-forward, possibly even a little jammy! Mellow wines are awesome to share, and are a great option for a social occasion like a dinner party or backyard barbecue. 

What makes music “mellow”? 

Just like mellow wines, mellow music is less about being the star of the show and more about having an overall experience. Who amongst us doesn’t have a mellow playlist to put on in the background during a dinner party, or for a quiet night in unwinding with a good book? Mellow music doesn’t necessarily have to be slow, but it definitely isn’t quick. Instead, mellow songs are characterized by relaxing, pleasant melodies, warmer sound quality, and a lack of complex layered instrumentals. 

Feeling Mellow? The mellow wine included in our Song & Sip pack is the 2020 Vallena Valpolicella, an easy-drinking Italian blend packed with sweet red fruit flavour. Share a bottle with a friend and have a lovely conversation over the soothing background sound of our Mellow Sippin’ Playlist

Enjoy a Sensory Experience: Music to Drink Wine To

While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what qualities of wine and music lend themselves to being such striking similarities in language, what is clear is that both music and wine have the power to ignite our imaginations, provoke our emotions, and downright force us to find the words to talk about them. They’re also both prone to being described in Italian for some reason. (This is probably unrelated.) 

If you’re looking for creative ways to expand your wine vocabulary, or simply like the idea of having music to drink wine to (and vice versa), check out WineCollective’s Song & Sip pack and let our curated four-bottle collection of musical tasting note wines delight your taste buds while the accompanying playlists make your toes tap and your heart sing. 

Wine Tasting Notes Explained

If you’re new to WineCollective, you might be puzzled by the wine tasting notes we provide with each wine—how can something have ‘hints of apricot’ when the only ingredient is grapes? And why use tasting notes in the first place? It can start to feel like there’s an entire secret language of wine that everyone else knows but you. Be assured, wine tasting notes aren’t as intimidating as they seem. In this post, we’ll explain why we use wine tasting notes, and tell you a bit more about where aromas and flavours in wine come from. We hope it inspires you to start writing down your own observations!

Why Do We Use Wine Tasting Notes?

If we simply say; “This wine is awesome, you should try it with fish”, would you take our word for it? If we put words to what we’re tasting, you can get a better idea of the actual profile of the wine. It makes it easier for you to compare different wines, to recommend or get recommendations for wines based on specific preferences, and when you get a recommendation, it is a great way for you to judge whether the wine sounds like one you’d enjoy (or not!).

If you’d like to learn more about wine, it helps to start creating your own tasting notes as well. This way, you can remember wines you’ve tried more easily, and start figuring out your likes and dislikes. To that end, we’ve created a downloadable tasting mat to help you on your way.

Fruity wine tasting notes

Where Do Wine Tasting Notes Come From?

When we talk about the causes of tasting notes, it’s important to point out that “tasting notes” as a term refers not only to things like aromas and flavours, but also extends to the colour, the acidity, even the viscosity of a wine! What impacts all of these notes is interconnected, of course, but each different type of tasting note will offer information about a specific part or parts of the winemaking process. Whether a wine is white, red, orange, or a rosé for example, can tell you something about whether (and how long) the wine was fermented in contact with the grape skins, and the intensity of the colour is often a good indicator as to its age. Something like alcohol content is greatly affected by the growing season and general climate which the grapes are grown in, as riper, more sugary grapes will end up creating more alcoholic wines (since it is the sugars that get converted into alcohol during fermentation). 

And of course, while aromas and flavours may not be the be all and end all of tasting notes, they are certainly some of the notes that baffle beginners the most, especially when you start bringing fruit that aren’t grapes into the mix. Some sceptics even like to suggest that wine enthusiasts are just making things up. So, where do aromas and flavours we perceive in wine come from?

herbal wine tasting notes

Where Do Wine Aromas Come From?

To understand how you get fruit notes in wine aromas, and especially in wine flavours, you first have to know that our sense of smell has a huge role to play in how we perceive taste. It’s what takes us beyond sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and umami to a whole nuanced world of flavour. And this doesn’t only apply to food—it’s just as true for wine! The aromas in wine are the result of combinations of chemical compounds. Which compounds are present varies from wine to wine, depending on factors like the type and ripeness of the grapes used, the length of the fermentation, the growing climate, the type of barrel used for ageing, and more. And of course, these compounds don’t occur only in wine, but are responsible for the same aromas in fruits, vegetables, flowers, minerals, etc.

Spices wine tasting notes

Adding Aromas and Tastes to our Sensory Catalogue

The best way to get better at describing wine is to smell and taste lots of different ingredients. By consciously and repeatedly smelling foods, flowers, or herbs, you’ll add them to your personal sensory catalogue and get better at recognizing and naming them in wine as well. Before you know it, you’ll be able to say whether that’s clove or cinnamon, basil or sage in your glass!

For blind tasting, one must go a step further. Those learning to blind taste wine tackle the problem from both ends, learning to recognize tasting notes but also studying what those notes actually mean in terms of the origins and composition of the wine. If you’re curious or wanting to start blind tasting yourself, check out our aroma dictionary for a guide to some of the most common wine aromas—what they are, what causes them, and the wines and regions they’re commonly associated with.

Finally, while learning to recognize scents in the wild and knowing their origin in wine are both key components of getting better at taking wine tasting notes, you shouldn’t forget the value of practice! As you try new wines and take your own notes, you will not only get better at noting  the intricacies of tasting notes, but you’ll also start to recognize the wines themselves and begin to differentiate the subtle differences between different varieties and even within single varieties, Just like with individual aromas, smelling and tasting a wine variety with the conscious goal of trying to fix it in your brain can help you recognize it the next time you come across it. 

And yes, this is us encouraging you to find opportunities to taste new wines on the regular—after all, you’ve got your education to think of! 

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