What to taste when wine tasting

What to taste when wine tasting

You might have thought it strange your whole life that people taste things like chocolate, berries, vanilla, clove, or even citrus fruits in wine when, in fact, it’s made out of grapes. And why is it that wine grapes taste so different to the actual wine?

Well, according to Wine Folly, it is because all the aroma compounds are released during fermentation. When you smell wine, the alcohol evaporates into the air and carries these aroma compounds into your nose.

It is said that each wine can contain hundreds of various aroma compounds and each compound can affect the flavour of a wine. For example, the lychee fruit flavour in Gewürztraminer can also smell like roses.

Different cultivars

South Africa is heaven when it comes to wine! We may not have all our political ducks in a row, but, hey, at least we have great wine and, actually, a noteworthy large range of cultivars.

We’ll only focus a couple of the most common varieties in South Africa and help you to identify these cultivars – even if you’re doing a blind tasting.

RED WINES

Red wines typically have black fruit flavours or red fruit flavours but often times one can taste a bit of both in a wine, for example in a Pinotage. Being able to differentiate between the two types will help you identify your favourite types of wine and make you better at a blind tasting.

Black fruit flavours

Black fruit flavours can include any of the following flavours:

  • Blackberry
  • Blackcurrant
  • Black Plum
  • Blueberry
  • Black Cherry
  • Black Raspberry
  • Jam
  • Prune
  • Fig
  • Black Raisins

Wine cultivars known for these flavours are Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah/Shiraz, Pinotage.

How to tell them apart?

Apart from the fruit flavours each wine has, they can all contain a couple of other unique tastes and flavours.

Try to distinguish between a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Malbec, a Syrah/Shiraz, and a Pinotage by looking for these flavours:

1. Cabernet Sauvignon: Flavours of bell pepper, green olive, herb, cassis, black cherry
2. Malbec: Flavours of sour cherry, spice
3. Syrah/Shiraz: Olive, pepper, clove, vanilla, mint, liquorice, chocolate, allspice, rosemary, cured meat, bacon fat, tobacco, herbs, and smoke
4. Pinotage: It can smell like acetone but can also have flavours of rooibos, dried leaves, bacon, sweet and sour sauce, hoisin, smoke, earthy, sweet pipe tobacco

Red fruit flavours

Red fruit flavours can include any of the following flavours:

  • Cranberry
  • Pomegranate
  • Red currant
  • Strawberry
  • Cherry
  • Raspberry
  • Red Plum
  • Goji berry
  • Dragon fruit
  • Candied cherries
  • Candied berries

Wine cultivars that are known for these flavours are Pinot Noir, Merlot and Pinotage.

How to tell them apart?

Try to distinguish between a Pinot Noir, Merlot, and a Pinotage by looking for these flavours:

1. Pinot Noir: Tomato leaf, beetroot, pale cherry, blackberry, cola, plum
2. Merlot: Watermelon, strawberry, cherry, plum
3. Pinotage: It can smell like acetone but can also have flavours of rooibos, dried leaves, bacon, sweet and sour sauce, hoisin, smoke, earthy, sweet pipe tobacco

WHITE WINES

White wines, on the other hand, usually contain tree fruit flavours or citrus fruit flavours.

Tree fruit flavours

Tree fruit flavours can include any of the following flavours:

  • Apricot
  • Peach
  • White peach
  • Nectarine
  • Apple (green, yellow, red, or baked)
  • Pear

White wines known for these flavours include Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.

How to tell them apart?

Try to distinguish between a Viognier, a Chenin Blanc, and a Sauvignon Blanc by looking for these flavours:

Viognier: tangerine, peach, mango, honeysuckle, rose or other flowers, citrus rind, apricot, peach

Chenin Blanc: ripe apple, lemon drop, pear, honeydew

Sauvignon Blanc: lime, green apple, passion fruit and white peach

Citrus fruit flavours

Citrus fruit flavours can include any of the following flavours:

  • Red grapefruit
  • Orange
  • Pink Grapefruit
  • Passionfruit
  • Lemon (Lemon zest, lemon meringue)
  • Lime (Lime zest)
  • Pineapple

The common white wines that fall into this flavour category is Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.

How to tell them apart?

Try to distinguish between a Chardonnay and a Pinot Grigio by looking for these flavours:

1. Chardonnay: Green/yellow apple, citrus, pineapple, papaya
2. Pinot Grigio: Citrus, fresh pear, melon

Well, there you have your wine road map…happy tasting, folks!

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Resources:

http://wine-tasting-reviews.com/wine-types-varieties-grapes/red-wine-types/148-pinotage-wine-flavor-aroma-characteristics.html
http://winefolly.com/review/give-pinotage-wine-taste/
http://www.decanter.com/wine-reviews-tastings/pinotage-change-mind-305854/
https://www.winemag.com/2015/10/27/red-wine-basics/
http://winefolly.com/review/the-secrets-to-syrah-wine/
https://www.winemag.com/2011/03/16/white-wine-basics/
http://winefolly.com/review/differences-between-chardonnay-and-viognier/

 

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