Wine Tasting 101 ~ The Wine Aroma Wheel

Okay, so we’ve learned a little about how to taste wine. Now, we want to actually be able to describe what the wine tastes like. The Wine Aroma Wheel is a great tool to help categorize what you’ve just tasted and define it as more than just ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘grape-y’. It’ll help if you keep it near where you drink wine, so you can refer to it as often as you quaff. The more familiar you become with the Wine Aroma Wheel, the better you’ll be at identifying the flavors that draw you to a wine, or keep you from pouring another glass.

Developed in 1977 by Ann C. Noble, the Wine Aroma Wheel breaks the various tastes of wine into 12 categories:

A Wine Aroma Wheel (DREW LAMBERT)

A Wine Aroma Wheel (DREW LAMBERT)


Depending on the wine you choose to sip, you’ll notice certain flavors at the beginning ~ when the wine first hits your tongue, middle ~ when you’ve sloshed it around a bit, and the end ~ after you’ve swallowed. The remaining flavor is the ‘finish’. For example: a Cabernet Franc I had the other night, I would describe as having a light, raisin-y start, an almost soy-sauce component as I sloshed and it ended with a buttery finish. Does that correspond to how the experts might describe it? Probably not, but that’s what I tasted, and it was good.

You may not get all the nuances right away, that’s alright ~ you’re just learning. You may find that the taste at the beginning of the glass isn’t the same as what you taste at the end; it can change as you go along. To further complicate things; what you taste might be very different from what your friend does. And that’s okay. Everyone picks out something different. The good news is: nobody’s wrong. And the more discussion you have, the more you can learn about the wine you’re drinking.

Next study hall: the Mouth-feel Wheel. Yep, there’s a wheel for almost everything.


[ Drew Lambert]




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