Red Wine Flavor Profiles Explained

“Why bother trying different wines, since they all taste the same?” That’s an honest question for some—no shame in that. Honestly, what is the point of all of the different varieties? Or separating wines by origin/region? Don’t worry, everyone starts somewhere. Once you dabble with what wine has to offer you might just start to understand all the evident and subtle differences in the wines if you learn to pay attention to the important components. We, at Dough Wines, aim to make wine enjoyable for all—so we’ve put together this easy guide on how to approach tasting red wine.

Red Wine Aromas

A beautiful thing about wine is that it naturally contains hundreds of different aromas (or scents). These come from molecules that are found in grapes and release their aromatic character in the wine. Most of these aromas are found in well-known fruits, flowers, and other aromatic things in the natural world. 

 

Red wine smells differently than white wine. Its aromas resemble red and black fruits. However, during winemaking, the use of oak can add its own aromas. Even within the red wines, each variety has specific aromas associated with it. 

 

In order to understand a wine, we try to imagine what the aromas we smell in the glass remind us of. So, when we say a wine smells like strawberry, it means it reminds us of strawberries, not that strawberries or strawberry aromas were used during winemaking. 

 

What’s amazing about wine-tasting, is that it makes you want to discover the world around you, in order to better appreciate and understand the wines you drink. “Stop and smell the roses” definitely has a deeper meaning when you’re engaged with the world of wine.

 

Red fruit aromas

Almost all red wines smell of some kind of red fruit, usually strawberry, cherry, or raspberry. Some varieties, like Pinot Noir, smell more intensely of cherry, but others, like Merlot, tend to smell more like black cherries.

 

Black fruit aromas

Aromas of black fruit are not typical in every red wine. In the black fruit category, we consider the blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, black mulberry, and dark plum. Usually, wines with a darker color, like Cabernet Sauvignon, will have more clear red fruit aromas than other darker red wines, but the characteristic aroma of Cabernet Sauvignon is typically the blackcurrant. 

 

Floral aromas

Floral aromas are represented by delicate wines. When tasting red wines you can often smell violet, lilac, rose, and lavender. Pinot Noir is a variety that often expresses these floral aromas.

 

Fresh aromas

Sometimes, fruits and flowers are not the only things you smell. There is a fresh character, resembling the smell of cut grass and bell pepper. Not all varieties have this complexity. It’s mostly found in wines from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and is considered typical for both grapes.

 

Spicy aromas

Very often you will find aromas of cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and cedar in the wine. Think of them as a sweet essence. They are a result of the oak aging of the wine and add to its complexity and quality.

 

Aromas of aging

As the wine ages, the aromas it has will slowly evolve. Over time, you will start smelling deeper, “heavier” aromas, like leather and earth, as well as dried fruits, like dried figs or dried plums. You can smell these aromas already in two-year-old wines, but with age, they become more and more intense. 

 

Dough Tip: For a better wine tasting experience, make sure your red wine reaches the glass at 60 to 65 degrees.

 

The taste of red wines

To complete tasting the wine, you have to shift your attention to your mouth. There are four main elements of taste in wines. First of all, dryness. However, almost all red wines are considered dry, so don’t focus too much on that. The other three are astringency, acidity, and body.

 

Astringency

The feeling of astringency is the main difference between a white and red wine. Astringency is caused by the tannins the winemaker extracts in the wine. A wine with low astringency, like Pinot Noir, might feel smooth, like velvet in your mouth. Wines with higher astringency, like Cabernet Sauvignon, might feel coarser and chewier. 

 

Acidity

Acidity is the tangy sensation in the wine. All wines have acidity, but different wines have different acidity levels. A wine with high acidity will be sour like a lemon (although never as harsh), white wines with lower acidity will resemble characteristics similar to greek yogurt. Acidity depends both on the grape variety and the climate. Wines produced in hotter climates have lower acidity, while cool climate wines have higher. 

 

Body

The body of a wine is the concentration you experience when you drink it. Wines with low body feel almost like acidic water, while wines with a rich body feel thicker, like whole milk. Red wines usually have a richer body than white wines. The body depends on the style of the wine, so easy-drinking wines have a lower body, and age-worthy wines usually have a richer body.

 

The taste profile of some favorite Dough wines

Now that you know all about how to taste red wines, let’s have a look at how some of our more popular wines taste.

 

What All You Knead I tastes like

In this classic blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, expect to experience characteristics from both varieties, equally. On the nose, you’ll find aromas of both black fruit, like blackcurrant and black plum, and red fruits, like strawberry and cherry. Try finding the aromas typical for the two varieties, which might resemble cut grass. Alongside them, you’ll smell the spicy aromas of vanilla, coconut, and cloves from the aging of the wine in oak. When you take a sip, you might taste juicy tannins a medium acidity, and a rich body. 

 

What 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like

The epitome of Napa Valley wines shows characteristic black fruit aromas of Cabernet Sauvignon: like blackcurrant, black plum, and dark cherry. You’ll also smell fresh aromas like cut grass and bell pepper, together with floral aromas like violets. Hints of vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves spice it up. In the taste, the Dough Wines Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon taste profile has a rich body, with velvety astringency and a welcoming high acidity.

 

What 2018 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir tastes like

Pinot Noir aromas and flavors are very delicate. In the Dough Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, you’ll have aromas that resemble both red fruit, like cherry and strawberry, along with some black fruit aromas, like black plum. You’ll also be able to smell the aromas of baking spice and cocoa. This Pinot Noir taste profile has low astringency, with the tannins feeling like fine grains in your mouth. Its acidity is fresh and makes the body feel light but intense. 

 

What 2018 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir tastes like

The aromas of Dough Wines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir are powered with red fruits. It’s easy to smell strawberry, red cherry, and raspberry the moment you bring them close to your nose. You can also smell a hint of spice, from the french oak used in winemaking, resembling aromas of vanilla and cedar. On the palate acidity dominates in an inviting way, the body is medium, and the tannins are smooth and feel like velvet on the tongue. 

 

Conclusion

There is no better way to understand the red wine taste profile, other than actually tasting one. With the help of this guide, the first steps in wine tasting are made easy. First, try to understand if the red wine smells like red fruits, black fruits, and if it has floral, fresh, and spicy aromas. Then take a sip and feel how the acidity, astringency, and body of the wine are. That’s it. You officially know how to taste red wine.

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