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How to understand wine tasting notes

If you’ve ever been put off by complicated or unlikely wine tasting notes, this guide is for you. Learn how to understand wine tasting notes and use them to choose a bottle for any occasion.


Fruity wine tasting notes

The most common tasting note in wine is fruit, an indicator of freshness and specific to the type of grape it is made from. If you’re pouring a white wine, you’ll be looking for citrus, white stone fruit such as peaches and nectarines or tropical fruit like pineapple, lychee and passion fruit. Ripe tropical fruit tends to indicate wines made in the southern hemisphere where the climate is warmer. Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and Terrazas de los Andes Torrontés 2018 are good examples. With red wine it’s all about red and black fruit such as plums, cherries and berries. If you want to serve a juicy red wine that won’t feel heavy, look for bramble, cherry, strawberry and raspberry flavours and try Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2019 or Terrazas de los Andes Grand Cabernet Sauvignon 2017.

Oaky wine tasting notes

Vanilla, wood and spice tasting notes are all indicators that a wine has spent some time ageing in oak barrels before being bottled. More commonly (but not exclusively) associated with red wines, these woody notes are usually down to the age of the barrel, as younger casks will impart more intense flavours of wood and spice. In the Toro region of Spain, Bodega Numanthia wines are aged in mainly second-use French oak for 14 months and longer, and aromas of winter spice, cocoa and warm sandalwood are common. When a white wine is aged in oak, as with Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2016, it lends texture and richness to the wine, making it perfect to pair with creamy dishes or roast pork.

Savoury wine tasting notes

It might sound odd, but aromas and flavours of bell pepper, herbs, earth, leather and even meat can be perfect for pairing with food. Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2017 has mineral, meaty notes of charcuterie, black pepper, liquorice and spice that pair beautifully with smoked aubergine, pepper and courgette lasagne or grilled veal or venison served with truffle mashed potato, while the savoury complexity of Cape Mentelle Shiraz Cabernet 2018 goes well with Provençal herbs. Try roasted spring lamb dressed with rosemary and served with baked pumpkin.