30 Second Tasting Tip: How Do You Identify Red Wine Flavors?

how do you identify red wine flavors
What do you smell in your red wine?

How to Taste Different Fruit Flavors in Your Red Wine

Experienced wine enthusiasts often intimidate new-to-wine drinkers by rattling off an endless stream of aromas in the wine. Raspberry! Mocha! Lavender! Seriously?

But what if you can’t smell any of these fruits?

Fear not! You, too, can identify individual fruit aromas in your red wine. 

Hint: Instead of trying to tease out particular fruit aromas in your red wine, try to pick out categories of fruit. You’ll want to start out with the big picture.

Step 1: Do This With Your Wine

  • Pour yourself a glass of red wine
  • Swirl your red wine in the glass and lift it up to your nose.
  • Take a deep sniff of the wine.
  • Do you smell black fruit? Blackberry, black currant, black plum
  • Do you smell red fruit? Red cherry, cranberry, raspberry, watermelon, strawberry
  • Do you smell blue fruit? Blueberry

Why Does This Matter?

Putting pressure on yourself to name individual aromas can be overwhelming if you’re a wine newbie.

Not to mention that trying to force yourself to come up with aromas can suck the enjoyment out of the experience – especially if you start to compare yourself to more seasoned tipplers.

Start with a broad category, like red fruit. Easy. Done. 

Don’t feel like you need to pick out nuances in the wine. But if you want to go beyond the broad category of fruit…then you’ll want to do this next.

Step 2: Narrow Down Your Fruit

The next step will be to think of different red fruits: strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, cherry, or plum. 

Any red fruit you can brainstorm may be a contender, so go through your mental list of red fruits. 

Do any of these particular aromas stick out in the wine’s profile? Maybe. Maybe not. 

If you’re not ready for this step, then skip it. Focus on the broad categories. In time, you’ll start to think, “That’s strawberry!” or, “That’s definitely cranberry!”

You’ll soon have a fruit cocktail of flavors swirling in your glass along with your wine.

What Do the Fruit Categories Tell Me About The Wine?

Certain wine grape varieties express classic fruit profiles.

  • Syrah (aka Shiraz in Australia) is typically a black fruit variety – lots of black currants, black plum, and bramble.
  • Pinot Noir decks itself out in red fruits – bright red cherry and cranberry.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon brings black currant to wine.

What If I Taste More than One Category of Fruit?

Wines that have a blend of red, black, and blue fruits may, in fact, be blends of different wine grapes. 

Blending adds complexity to the wine and can increase the wine’s overall quality. 

Many classic wine styles are blends. Bordeaux blends may combine Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, or Petit Verdot among other varieties. Spanish Rioja is an eclectic mix of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano.

You may be drinking one of these or a similar classic wine blend.

Is there only one grape variety listed on the wine bottle label?

Not all labeling laws require that producers list each of the varieties of grapes in a bottle of wine. In the US, a wine labeled with a grape variety (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon) must be a minimum of 75% Cab Sav.

Technically, 25% of the wine could be from a different grape not on the label.

So, if you feel like you are tasting more than one category of fruit, you may, in fact, be tasting more than one category of fruit. 

Bravo on your tasting acumen!

Final Thoughts: How to Taste Fruit in Red Wine

Remember, start broad: red or black fruit, then narrow the flavor down. If you think you’re smelling more than one category of fruit, maybe your wine is a blend.

Thirsty for More?

Head over to this 30-second tasting tip to help figure out how to taste tannins in wine.

Here’s a great post that will help you experiment and learn the difference between acid and tannin in wine.

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