Have you ever wondered how wine connoisseurs are able to tell what kind of wine is presented to them without even seeing the label on the wine’s bottle? This is largely due to their knowledge and mastery of the flavor chart of wine.
The wine flavor chart will help you identify the various tastes and aromas in a wine thanks to its decoding of flavors through color. In order for you to have a clue about what the flavor of a certain wine is, you need to have visual information about the wine. The flavor chart only works if you know what color the wine is.
How will you identify the different flavors in wine?
There are three basic steps that you can follow to help you figure out the wine’s flavor.
Step 1: Close your eyes and smell the wine. Closing your eyes is important because you will switch off your eyesight senses, and your sense of smell will be more focused, and you may smell some distinct milder scents.
Step 2: Using the flavor chart, try to identify around three aromas that you think might be present in the wine.
Step 3: On the flavor chart, try and trace where the aromas may have originated from. Could it be yeast? Maybe it is grape. Or perhaps it came from aging? Whichever it is, the flavor chart will help you identify it with more ease.
What exactly is the flavor chart?
The flavor chart of wine is like a hierarchical tree diagram that breaks down the colors, aromas, and sources of wine into a simple chart. The primary purpose of the wine chart is to help you learn how to visually decode flavors and associate them with color and aromas. By creating a mental picture, the wine chart will help you to then identify what components of different wines are present by simply visualizing, smelling, and sometimes tasting the wine.
Why smelling wine is important
If you are a new student of wine, you may have been awed by the sight of wine experts smelling wine and being able to distinguish the components of the wine. You may have wondered why they are able to glean so much information simply by the smell. The thing is, the aromas of wine can sometimes be complex, and you can detect up to a hundred different aroma compounds in just one glass of wine.
Do you know that the single compounds of aromas can combine with other aroma compounds to form new complex aromas? Smelling helps to distinguish the different flavors in a wine, and thereby help to decode the main aromas in a wine, and this makes our sense of smell very important when it comes to wine. With enough practice, you too will be able to tell the flavors and aromas apart using your sense of smell.
How to use the flavor chart and your sense of smell
Take a glass of wine, close your eyes, and sniff into the glass. Closing your eyes will block any stimuli resulting from your vision, and your brain will be more focused in associating the smell with specific mental images.
What do you smell? Speak out whatever comes to your mind. It could be lemon zest, freshly cut grass, or heated cherry syrup. There are no limitations to what you should smell.
Once you are done, take the flavor chart, and see if any of the things you mentioned are there. If even one of the flavors is on the chart, you can trace it and find out how the aroma came to be: yeast, aging, or grape.
The main types of flavors on the wine chart
There are three main types of flavors on the wine chart. They are:
Primary flavors are derived from grapes. Wines that contain grapes will have herbal aromas, aromas of flowers, as well as fruit aromas.
Secondary flavors result from the fermentation process that the wine underwent in its preparation. Some fermentation aromas can smell like butter, cream, mushrooms, and even bread.
Tertiary flavors are caused by the oxidation and aging of wines. The aromas that stem from the aging and oxidation processes may smell like coffee, vanilla, tobacco, and other nutty aromas.
How will you determine the flavor profiles of red wine?
Here is how to tell if wine is red or white with your eyes closed. You can identify some unique components in red wine because majority of red wines have the following contents:
- Floral aromas- check for any hints of flowery scents in the wine.
- Red fruit- do you smell any traces of red fruit in the wine?
- Herbal aromas- does the wine have some distinct slight herbal aroma?
- Earthiness- red wines will have some whiff of moist earth in them.
- Vanilla and baking spice- is the wine smelling a bit spicy? Can you smell some vanilla or baking?
- Astringency- taste the wine. Do you taste some kind of bitterness?
- Leathery flavor- are you identifying the wine has some distant leather smell? You may be right.
What are the flavor profiles of white wine?
Just like red wine, white wine also has some unique flavors and aromas that can help you distinguish it from red wine, even with your eyes closed.
Here are some of the unique components you can trace for in white wine, using your senses of taste and smell:
- Citrus fruit – can you smell some slight hint of orange, lemon, grapes, lime, or citrus zest in the wine?
- Tropical fruit – white wine can have hints of mango, passion, kiwi, pineapple, or leechie aromas in it.
- Stone fruit – are you able to distinguish some aromas of apples, peaches, pears, nectarine, or apricot in the wine?
- Honey – does the wine smell of sweet honey?
- Creaminess – can you distinguish some kind of creamy aroma in the wine? Does the wine have some oiliness to its texture when you taste it?
- Minerality – upon tasting the wine, does it have a gritty texture?
- Bitterness – does the wine have a distinct bitter taste?
- Floral aroma – can you smell some intense rosy scent?
- Herbal aroma – some white wines will have some grassy whiffs in them.
Try using any of these different wine profiles and see if you will be able to distinguish between red wine and white wine, as well as identify different components of the wines using the flavor chart.