One of the first things I felt challenged by when I began to take wine more seriously was the language to describe what I thought I was tasting. I knew there were things I was smelling and tasting but I really felt at a loss for how to describe them (truthfully, I still have difficulty a lot of the time). In my blog about the Wine Aroma Wheel I began to explain how 85% of what we think of as taste comes from our olfactory senses and is really aroma. The Wine Aroma Wheel gives us the ability to take the steps from the broadest description to a more narrow definition. Another great resource is the Wine Aroma Dictionary website. There you’ll find PDF’s you can download. They even have one for wine faults and what those aromas mean. These kinds of tools empower you on your own to become more knowledgeable about wine. You can become your own expert. Try out your own experiment in aroma and taste identification with some wines that have solid, consistent flavor profiles that they are readily known for, such as:
Chardonnay, associated with melon, pears, and peaches. Oaked Chards are described as buttery or fat.
Merlot, almost always get a type of cherry description
Sauvignon Blanc is often described as grassy or herbal
Syrah/Shiraz has dark berry fruits and an anise or liquorice component
I’d stay away from Cabernet Sauvignon or the Bordeaux blends for the purpose of this exercise because of the complexity and range of the flavor profile. Try it out at home until you feel less silly about the flowery language you come up with. It’s not always pretentious sounding. Soon it starts to feel more like accurate as you grow more confident. When you taste a cabernet sauvignon down the road with a leathery, chocolate, or cigar box aroma you’ll know it, and know why. If you smell wet paper, or something reminiscent of a damp basement you’ll know that that is a wine fault caused by cork taint.