Identifying Flavors In Wine

Photo of author

By: Tom Valenti


Flavors in wine refer to the various tastes and aromas detected when tasting the wine. Defining the taste of a wine is important because it helps wine professionals and consumers recognize the characteristics of a wine based on its grape variety and region. It also allows them to assess the quality of the wine by comparing it to the expected flavor profile of a particular grape variety and region.

But do you know where flavors in wine come from and the exact steps to identify the wine? To understand more about how to identify wine flavors, let’s follow some simple steps to do them, even for beginners.


Where Do Flavors In Wine Come From?

Where Do Flavors In Wine Come From

Before we define wine flavors, it’s important to understand where they come from.

The flavors in wine come from a combination of factors, including the grape variety, the soil and climate in which the grapes were grown, the winemaking process, and the aging process. 

It can vary greatly depending on the specific wine and vintage. Wine tasting is a way to appreciate and analyze these complex flavors and aromas.

Three Main Tips For Identifying Flavors in Wine

Three Main Tips For Identifying Flavors in Wine

After describing the many fruit flavor notes in wine, let’s discuss the three primary methods of flavor recognition: smell, look, and taste. Your ability to recognize and categorize flavors in a range of wines will improve the more familiar you are with the common characteristics found in wine.


  • Color: You should examine the color as your first step. Generally speaking, younger wines are more vibrant and purple or red in color, while older wines are more brownish or brick-colored. White wines can range from light straw color to deep gold.
  • Opacity: Moreover, pay attention to the wine’s transparency or opacity. This will be the determining element between light-bodied and full-bodied wines.
  • Viscosity: Viscosity refers to the thickness or “legs” of the wine as it clings to the side of the glass. A wine with high viscosity suggests that it is high in alcohol and/or sugar, while a wine.


Identifying the smell of wine is an important part of wine tasting, as it can provide clues about the wine’s flavor profile, quality, and age. Here are some key elements to look for when identifying the smell of wine:

  • Fruit aromas: The most common aromas in wine are fruity aromas, which can vary depending on the grape variety. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes can produce wines with aromas of blackcurrant and blackberry, while Chardonnay grapes can produce wines with aromas of apple and pear.
  • Floral aromas: Some wines, particularly white wines, can have floral aromas, such as jasmine, rose, and honeysuckle.
  • Herbal and spice aromas: Many red wines can have aromas of herbs and spices, such as thyme, mint, and cinnamon.
  • Oak aromas: Wines that have been aged in oak barrels can have aromas of vanilla, caramel, and toast.
  • Earthy aromas: Some wines can have earthy aromas, such as mushrooms, truffles, and forest floor.
  • Faults: Certain smells in wine, such as vinegar or musty aromas, can indicate faults in the wine, such as oxidation or cork taint. 


When identifying the taste of wine, it’s important to take a small sip and let the wine sit on your tongue for a few seconds to pick up on the different tastes and sensations. Here are some key elements to look for when identifying the taste of wine:

  • Sweetness: The sweetness level of wine can vary widely, from bone-dry to dessert-sweet like grapes. Sweetness in wine comes from residual sugar, which is the sugar left over after fermentation.
  • Acidity: Acidity in wine gives it a tart or sour taste, which can be refreshing and help balance the sweetness, including citrusy fruits such as lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. Acidity is a key element of many wines, particularly white wines.
  • Tannins: Tannins are compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems, as well as in oak barrels used for aging wine. Tannins give wine a bitter or astringent taste, which can help balance the sweetness and provide structure to red wines.
  • Flavor profile: The flavor profile of wine can vary depending on the grape variety, winemaking process, and aging. Common flavors in wine include fruit flavors, such as berries or citrus, as well as floral, herbal, and spice notes.
  • Bitterness: The last component that our tongue can recognize is bitterness. Tannins often cause this, which will dry out your mouth and teeth.

Typical Flavor in Wine

Red Wines

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: black currant, black cherry, blackberry, tobacco, leather, and sometimes green pepper or eucalyptus.
  • Pinot Noir: strawberry, raspberry, cherry, mushroom, earthy tones.
  • Merlot: plum, black cherry, chocolate, vanilla, cedar, and sometimes herbaceous notes.
  • Syrah/Shiraz: blackberry, blueberry, black pepper, licorice, smoked meat, and sometimes chocolate.

White Wines

  • Chardonnay: green apple, lemon, pear, pineapple, vanilla, and sometimes butter or toast from oak aging.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: lime, grapefruit, green apple, bell pepper, grass, and sometimes mineral or herbaceous notes.
  • Riesling: green apple, lemon, apricot, honey, petrol, and sometimes mineral or floral notes.
  • Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris: lemon, lime, pear, melon, and sometimes almond or mineral notes.

Rosé Wines

  • Dry rosé: strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, cherry, and sometimes citrus notes.
  • Sweet rosé: strawberry, raspberry, cherry, peach, and sometimes floral or honey notes.
  • Champagne: green apple, citrus, toast, brioche, and sometimes yeast or nutty notes.
  • Prosecco: green apple, pear, lemon, honey, and sometimes floral notes.
  • Cava: green apple, lemon, almond, and sometimes floral or herbaceous notes.

FAQs About Flavors In Wine

Why Does Wine Have an Oak Flavor?

The oak flavor in wine comes from many different factors, including the quality of the oak, the aging process, and chemical interactions. This flavor is considered part of the taste and gives the wine its uniqueness and richness.

Does Temperature Change The Way Wine is Identified?

Certainly, the perception of wine can be influenced by temperature. It is essential to serve and consume wine at the proper temperature because the flavors and aromas of wine will frequently vary when served at appropriate degrees.

How do I Know the Flavor of My Wine?

The best way to identify the flavor of your wine is to take a small sip, let it sit on your tongue for a few seconds and then recognize the different tastes and sensations. You can also observe the sweetness level, acidity, tannins, and flavor profile to understand your wine’s flavor better.

What Are the 7 S’s Of Wine Tasting?

The seven S’s of wine tasting are: sight, swirl, sniff, sip, savor, swallow and spit. The steps involve carefully observing the appearance of the wine before taking it in through all your senses to experience its flavor profile fully. Spitting is optional and allows for a more comprehensive exploration of many different wines.

What Does It Mean When Wine Has a “Long Finish”?

When a wine is said to have a “long finish”, it means that its flavors linger on the palate for an extended time after swallowing. A long finish indicates good balance and complexity in the wine, as well as high levels of flavor intensity. 


In conclusion, wine tasting is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. By understanding the different components of taste, as well as the typical flavors associated with different types of wines, one can gain a better appreciation for this delightful beverage. Knowing how to recognize and appreciate the aroma, flavor profile, bitterness, and finish of any wine will help you make informed decisions when selecting a wine to purchase or serve.

The various flavors in wine can range from fruity and sweet to earthy, oaky, and spicy, with many nuances. Knowing how to identify these distinct characteristics of a wine will allow you to appreciate its flavor profile better and detect any potential defects that may be present. Whether you are a novice or an experienced wine connoisseur, understanding the nuances of different types of wines will help to enhance your overall experience.

Photo of author

Tom Valenti

Chef/Owner of both Ouest and ‘Cesca, and the Executive Chef of Le Cirque, Alison on Dominick, and Butterfield 81.

Leave a Comment