You are on page 1of 10

Wine Flavor Profiles

Wine flavor search results example

WineWeb's wine flavor profiles are a way to quantify the flavors (aromas & tastes) in a wine, to allow consumers to find wines by flavor and to find wines matching the flavors of another wine. We've identified over 240 flavors through considerable research from numerous wine tasting authorities and references. We've grouped these flavors into 16 wine flavor groups to make it easy to search and select them. We've created computer programs to allow wineries to create flavor profiles for their wines and to allow consumers to search, view and match the wine flavor profiles. We're focused on making this an intuitive way to find wines that suit your palate. You can view the wine flavor profiles of your favorite wines and find new wines to try that match or are similar to a wine's flavor profile. You can save flavor profiles to your myWineWeb account or add the wines to your wish list.. We did all of this so consumers can find wines they like. We focused on flavors, as at the end of the day, that's what really matters in determining if you like a wine. WineWeb has been in business over 16 years and has built a directory of over 39,000 wineries from around the world. We've had the ability to search our winery directory and wine database since 1995, when the Internet and databases were very new. We continue to expand these capabilities with new features like the wine flavor profiles. You can search by wine flavor alone or combine it with all our other wine search functions. So if you are relatively new to wine, you can find wines with blackberry and spice flavors to match a wonderful wine you had at a restaurant. If you've been around wine longer, you can find a Syrah from the Sierra Foothills area of California matching flavors of blackberry, black cherry and toasted oak.

Red Wine Information & Basics

With hundreds of varieties of red wine grapes, there is as much red wine information to learn about as there are red grapes planted in all

corners of the globe. That being said, you'll likely encounter only a handful of these grapes most often. In our red wine basics section, we cover the flavor profiles and regions of the most common red wine grapes. You can certainly choose to discover more beyond this short list, but for a quick and easy red wine 101, the following will fit the bill:

Cabernet Franc
Flavors: Violets, blueberry, earth, black olive, coffee Along with cabernet sauvignon and merlot, cabernet franc is part of the essential blending triad that makes up the majority of the Bordeaux blend (and Meritage) red wines produced in the United States. On its own, caberenet franc is a more tannic, earthy cousin to cabernet sauvignon. In warmer sites outside of Europe, its most distinctive attributes are its pure notes of violets and blueberry, and its ripe tannins often carry the scent of fresh roasted coffee. It is made (though rarely labeled) as a varietal in Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny, where it is hard and tannic and can evoke an austere minerality. In Pomerol and St-Emilion it is featured in blends with merlot, adding a spicy, pungent, sometimes minty note.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Flavors: Bell pepper, green olive, herb, cassis, black cherry The primary component of great Bordeaux and the defining grape of the Napa valley,cabernet sauvignon is grown all over the world, but rarely achieves greatness. It ripens late and can quite weedy and even vegetal in cooler climate regions such as Chile. In Bordeaux and Tuscany it is almost always blended to soften its intensely astringent tannins. The Napa style is dense, purple-black, jammy and tasting of currants and black cherries. Thick and ripe, layered with expensive new oak scents and flavors, it has almost single-handedly created the phenomenon of the cult wineries. In Washington, the best cabernet straddles the border between the ripeness of California versions and the nuanced herb, leaf, and olive flavors of great Bordeaux.

Flavors: Strawberry, raspberry, cherry The grape of Beaujolais, gamay is often made to be drunk quite young, and shows bright, tangy, fruit-driven flavors of strawberry, raspberry, and sweet cherries. When made by the method known as carbonic maceration, young gamay has a slight effervescence and a distinct smell of bananas. Beaujolais Nouveau, released each year shortly after harvest, is the most famous example.

Flavors: Spice, cherry Old vine grenache makes some of the greatest red wines of both Spain and Australia, and is an important component of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and Cotes-duRhone in France. An early-ripening grape, it tends toward high alcohol and low acidity. At its best it creates very fruity, spicy, bold-flavored wines somewhat reminiscent of a softer, less-intense version of syrah.

Flavors: Sour cherry, spice One of the lesser blending grapes of Bordeaux, malbec has risen to prominence in Argentina, where it makes spicy, tart red wines that take well to aging in new oak barrels. Elsewhere it remains a minor player, though a few varietally-labeled malbecs are made in California and Washington.

Flavors: Watermelon, strawberry, cherry, plum Merlot is the chardonnay of reds, easy to pronounce, easy to like, agreeable, and versatile, but mostly lacking any substantive character of its own. The great exception is Chateau Ptrus, where it comprises 95 percent of the blend. Varietal merlot rose to popularity in the 1990s but too many insipid, watery, over-priced merlots have taken the

bloom off the rose. Outside of Bordeaux, it is at its very best in Washington state, where it ripens beautifully and creates plump, powerful wines that can age for a decade or more.

Flavors: Spice, cherry This Mediterranean red grape is especially popular in France and Spain, making medium-bodied, lightly spicy wines with pretty, cherry-flavored fruit. The best sites also add a distinctive, gravelly minerality to the fruit. Some old vine plantings ofmourvedre remain in California and also in Australia, where it is generally featured in a blend with shiraz and grenache.

Flavors: Plum, pie cherry, tar The principal grape of Barolo, Barbaresco, and Gattinara (all made in the Piedmont region of Italy), nebbiolo unquestionably belongs with the great red wines of the world, but has proven almost impossible to grow anywhere else. California versions, despite decades of effort, remain light, thin and generic.

Pinot Noir
Flavors: Tomato leaf, beet root, pale cherry, blackberry, cola, plum Pinot noir is the grape that winemakers love to hate; it is the prettiest, sexiest, most demanding, and least predictable of all. The template for great pinot noir is Burgundy, but even there the grape is flighty, fragile, and prone to obstinately weedy flavors. It is a principal component of many Champagnes and other sparkling wines, but can also be ripened to produce wines of surprising density and even jammyness in California, New Zealand, and warm sites in Oregon. Pinot noir is best expressed as a pure varietal, and is often featured as a single-vineyard wine in Oregon and California, emulating the hundreds of tiny appellations of Burgundy. When at its best, pinot has an ethereal

delicacy yet can age for decades; it is most memorably described as the iron fist in the velvet glove.

Flavors: Pie cherry, anise, tobacco leaf The principal grape of Tuscany, where it is the primary component of Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. Sangiovese is relatively light in color and quite firmly acidic. In Italy it shows distinctive flavors of pie cherry, anise, and tobacco; elsewhere it can be rather plain and undistinguished, though some promising bottles have come from Washingtons Walla Walla valley. Many of Italys Super Tuscan (see Glossary) red blends marry sangiovese to cabernet sauvignon, a combination that both strengthens the sangiovese and smoothes out the cabernet.

Flavors: Blackberry, boysenberry, plum, pepper, clove Plantings of syrah have exploded in California and Washington, where sappy, spicy, peppery, luscious versions are being made. Known as shiraz in Australia, it is unarguably that countrys claim to enological fame. Australian shiraz is made in every conceivable style, from light and fruity to dense and tarry; it is made as a deep red, tannic sparkling wine, and also as a fortified Port. In the northern Rhone, the most extraordinary expressions of the grape are produced, especially in Hermitage and Cote Rtie, where its peppery, dense, spicy fruit is layered into unbelievably complex wines streaked with mineral, smoked meat, tar, wild herb, and leather.

Flavors: Raspberry, blackberry, black cherry, raisin, prune For decades zinfandel was Californias grape, though now it is grown all over the west coast of the United States, in Australia, Italy, and elsewhere, and its ancestry has been traced to Croatia. But California zinfandel remains the model for all others, and it grows well and vinifies distinctively all over the state. Mendocino makes somewhat

rustic versions with hints of Asian spices; Dry Creek zinfandels are racy and laden with raspberry. In Amador and Gold Rush country it is hot, thick, and jammy, while in Napa it is plush with ripe, sweet black cherry flavors. California zinfandels now commonly reach 15 or 16 percent alcohol levels; sometimes even higher for late harvest versions. Zinfandel Ports are also made.

Wine has been described as the perfect beverage because the grapes contain all the ingredients necessary to create their transformation. Put grapes in a vat, and over time the yeasts coating the skins set alchemy in motion, converting the sugar in the juice into alcohol.
Enlarge This Image

RAW 2013

The producers who take part in RAW are required to list any additives and processing techniques they have used in their wines.

It was just this sort of unbidden fermentation that inspired humans so long ago to spend the next few millenniums improving their methods of winemaking. A few wines are still made in this way, or at least in approximation, with no other ingredients except the possible addition of sulfur dioxide, which has been used for eons as a

stabilizer and preservative. Yet its no secret that many wines (most, in fact) include a lot more than grapes, yeast and sulfur. The list in some cases can be staggering. Forget about the often poisonous chemicals used in the vineyards, which can leave residue on the grapes. In the winery alone, before fermentation even begins, enzymes may be added to speed up the removal of solid particles from the juice, to amplify desirable aromas while eliminating disagreeable ones, to intensify the color of red wines and to clarify the color of whites. It doesnt stop there. Other additives can be used to enhance a wines texture, to add or subtract tannins or simply to adjust quality. Winemakers can select specific yeasts and special nutrients to keep those yeasts working. They can add oak extracts for flavor and further tannin adjustment, and compounds derived from grape juice to fix color, texture and body. They can add sugar to lengthen the fermentation, increasing the alcohol content; add acid if its lacking; add water if the alcohol level is too high. Or they can send the wine through a reverse-osmosis machine or other heavy equipment to diminish the alcohol and eliminate other undesirable traits, like volatile acidity. For all of its natural, pastoral connotations, wine can very much be a manufactured product, processed to achieve a preconceived notion of how it should feel, smell and taste, and then rolled off the assembly line, year after year, as consistent and denatured as a potato chip or fast-food burger. Yet we pay little attention to wines added ingredients, even as we have become hyperconscious about what we eat. Twenty years ago, many Americans may have enjoyed food indiscriminately, but now they weigh the nutritional, environmental, humanitarian, aesthetic and even political consequences of what they cook and consume. Isnt it time to devote the same careful attention to the wine we drink? Its no simple task. Unlike processed foods, wine is not required to have its ingredients listed on the label. This contributes to the belief that any wine is elemental, like fruits, vegetables and meats, and cant be broken down into constituent parts. Thats far from the truth. It is very surprising how many discerning foodies will drink mass-produced, highly processed wines without batting an eyelid, Isabelle Legeron, an educator and consultant who holds the rare title master of wine, wrote in an e-mail. They just havent engaged with wine in the same way, yet.

For the last two years, Ms. Legeron has held RAW, a fair in London that brings together producers of artisanal and natural wines with others in the trade and the public. All producers who take part are required to list any additives and processing techniques they have used. With RAW, we are really trying to raise awareness about transparency, she said. We want to prompt people to ask questions. The first question might be: Why are wineries so reluctant to document what goes into their wines? Ingredient labeling is voluntary, and very few wineries have stepped up. Bonny Doon Vineyard, Shinn Estate Vineyards and Ridge Vineyards deserve applause as notable exceptions. Many wineries try to explain away their reluctance by arguing that consumers will be confused by long lists of ingredients, or even a short list of traditional but unexpected substances that have been used in winemaking for centuries. For example, artisanal producers who disdain adding enzymes may still try to clarify their wines with egg whites or isinglass, which is derived from fish bladders. Certainly vegans might want to know that information. The fact is, some consumers make conscious decisions not to buy products when they see what goes into making them. I dont want added sweeteners pervading the groceries I buy, for example. I love peanut butter, but wont buy it if it contains anything more than peanuts and salt. Dont all consumers deserve the same opportunity to make informed, considered judgments about wine? At the same time, other consumers the vast majority continue to buy processed foods regardless of mysterious ingredients. They are motivated by cost, convenience and sensory gratification, or maybe they just dont care. No doubt the same will be true with wine. Its not apparent whether additives in wine pose public-health risks. Nonetheless, if we want foods that are minimally processed, authentic expressions of what they purport to be (like cheese rather than processed cheese), then we want to be able to distinguish between wines that are relatively unmanipulated and those that are industrial products. Most wineries have no interest in full disclosure. Just as with food manufacturers, they will have to be dragged into some form of honest representation of their product. Sadly, the responsibility is left largely to consumers to monitor what they buy and drink.

As a first step, it helps to think of wine as food. Concerns about where food comes from and how its grown, processed or raised ought to be extended to wine. If we ourselves dont set standards for quality and authenticity, who will?
A version of this article appeared in print on June 5, 2013, on page D6 of the N