Aroma & Flavor Guide

Primary Fruit Aromas & Flavors

“Primary” notes are the aromas and flavors immediately present after the grapes are fermented. The fresh fruit, herbs and flower notes will be more prominent in a “younger” wine, and fade as a wine ages.

White wines in cooler climates will display more green and citrus fruits, like a Sauvignon Blanc from Northern France that tastes like pears and lemons. The cool temperatures make these grapes higher in acidity and lower in ripeness. On the contrary, white wines from warmer climates, like Chardonnays grown in California’s hot Central Valley, will display more stone and tropical fruits due to the heat and ripeness the berries developed in the heat.

Red wines in cooler climates will accentuate more red fruits, like a Pinot Noir from northern Oregon. However, a Shiraz from a hot Australian region will display jammier black fruits and even dried/cooked fruit flavors due to the riper grapes.

Some wines also display floral, herbaceous, herbal and spicy notes as they promote the unique qualities of the grape.

Secondary Aromas & Flavors

“Secondary” notes are the aromas and flavors that are present following specific wine-making processes, i.e. Malolactic Conversion/Fermentation (MLF) which converts the grape’s harsh malic acids into soft lactic acids. A “buttery” Chardonnay will display notes of bread, cream an cheese after MLF.

Wines that spend time in oak may display additional flavors of spice, chocolate, cedar, etc. due to the influence of the wood. New oak barrels will have a stronger oak impact than reused or old barrels. An oaked Pinot Noir may taste heavier, spicier, or complex than one that spends no time in oak.

Tertiary Aromas & Flavors

A small percentage of wines have the ability to age and develop even more interesting characteristics over an extended period of time. As wine ages in the bottle, the primary and fresh fruit aromas and flavors are replaced by “tertiary” characteristics.

Wines that experienced deliberate oxidation (i.e. barrel-aged wines that are exposed to small amounts of oxygen over time), will develop sweet notes of chocolate, spices, coffee, butterscotch, etc.

Bottle-aged red and white wines will begin to display more “earthy” or dried notes. For example, white wines may display petroleum or kerosene notes, and red wines may taste of leather and game.

Match the Varieties With the Aromas & Flavors!

Grape Varieties A-B
Grape Varieties C-D
Grape Varieties E-J
Grape Varieties L-M
Grape Varieties N-R
Grape Varieties S-T
Grape Varieties U-Z

Unpolished Grape Guides

Wine Aromas & Flavors
Wine Color
Wine Acidity
Wine Sugar & Alcohol
Wine Tannins
Wine & Food