Common wine aromas

Here's a categorisation of some of the tasting terms I use most commonly for smells and flavours (you may have noticed that I have a somewhat limited wine vocabulary). I've put them into groups but their real use, I hope, is as a possible help in blind tasting (if a mature red wine smells strongly of strawberries, for example, chances are it's a traditional rioja) and a personal guide to developing a wine vocabulary of your own. None of us tastes in exactly the same way so your impressions and most obvious vocabulary are likely to be subtly different.

Not all of these terms are positive. I've marked negative attributes with an asterisk. In fact even the first attribute, butteriness, can be unattractive if present in excess - in wines subjected to clumsy malolactic fermentation, for example.

    Microbiological
          Lactic
          Buttery - rich Chardonnay, malolactic fermentation
          Yeasty
                Bread yeast - some champagne
                Flor yeast - Manzanilla, Fino
    Chemical
          Other
                Acetaldehyde - sherry, oxidation*
                Peardrops - Beaujolais Nouveau, carbonic maceration
          Papery
                Wet cardboard - dirty filter pads*
                Dry cardboard - glasses from a cardboard box*
          Sulphury
                Struck match - free sulphur* (especially for asthmatics)
                Rotten eggs - hydrogen sulphide/mercaptan* (aeration can help)
    Mineral
          Flint - Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre
          Wet stones - Chablis
          Petrol/kerosene - aged Riesling
    Earthy
          Undergrowth - mature, full reds
          Mould - TCA, 'corkiness' or other taint*
          Dirty dishcloth - dirty glasses*
    Woody
          Wet wood - dirty cooperage*
          Oaky - any oaked wine, most obvious on Chardonnay
          Cigar box - red bordeaux
          Pencil shavings - Cabernet Franc
          Pine - Retsina
    Burnt
          Smoky - Alsace whites
          Burning rubber - Syrah
          Coffee - madeira, Banyuls, old reds
          Burnt toast - old Hunter Valley Semillon
          Toasted bread - fine oaked Chardonnay
    Sweet
          Biscuit - old champagne
          Honey - Chenin Blanc, Riesling
          Barleysugar - Sauternes
          Caramel - ripe reds
          Molasses - Piedmont reds
          Chocolate - Shiraz
    Nutty
          Almondy
                Almond - Soave
                Marzipan - Marsanne
          Other
                Coconut - American oak
                Chestnut - Some Portuguese reds
                Hazelnuts- white burgundy
    Fruity
          Citrus
                Lemon - acidified whites
                Lime - Australian Riesling
                Grapefruit - English wine, Scheurebe
                Orange - marsala, sweet Italians
          Tropical
                Pineapple - cool fermented whites
                Melon - Mâcon Blanc
                Banana - Beaujolais
                Lychee - Gewürztraminer
          Tree
                Peach - eastern European whites
                Apricot - Viognier/Condrieu
                Apple - young Chardonnay
                Pear - Piedmont whites
                Black cherry - mature Pinot Noir
          Berry
                Mulberry - Shiraz
                Blackberry - North Rhône
                Raspberry - young Pinot Noir
                Strawberry - red Rioja
                Blackcurrant - Cabernet Sauvignon
                Gooseberry - Sauvignon Blanc
                Grape - Muscat
          Dried
                Raisin - Banyuls, Liqueur Muscat
                Prune - Recioto, concentrated reds
                Fig - port
    Vegetal
          Fresh
                Grassy - Sauvignon, underripe grapes
                Nettles - Sauvignon
                Green pepper - less than ripe Cabernet
                Eucalyptus - ripe Cabernet
                Mint - New World Cabernet
                Geranium leaves - sorbic acid*
                Currant leaves - Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc
          Processed
                Canned asparagus - New Zealand Sauvignon
                Boiled cabbage - botrytis (noble rot)
          Dried
                Tobacco - Châteauneuf-du-Pape
                Straw - Chenin Blanc
                Tea - young port
    Floral
          Vaguely floral - Riesling and crosses
          Violet - top quality mature reds
          Elderflower - young, cool climate whites
          Rose - Nebbiolo, Muscat
          Orange blossom - Muscat
    Spicy
          Spicy - Alsace whites, Southern Rhône reds
          Liquorice - dense red wines, especially Syrah
          Black pepper - Syrah
          Vanilla - American oak
    Animal
          Raw
                Cat's pee - Sauvignon Blanc
                Mousey - Brettanomyces*
                Meaty - Pomerol
                Game - mature red burgundy, Rhône
          Processed
                Bacon fat - ripe Alsace
                Leather - wood-aged reds, especially Australian

Tags:  tasting, WineVocab
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