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.
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?
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.
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!