The Difference Between Aroma, Taste, and Flavor

Wine has one of the more complex flavor and taste profiles of any food or drink product, be it natural or manmade. There is immense diversity in tastes and aromas, as wines depend on everything from soil and climate (or the wine vernacular ‘terroir’) to grape varietals and even the winemaker! Learning how to decode your senses will make drinking wine a more pleasurable experience. 

The first step is to understand exactly how taste, aroma, and flavors differ from each other in wine tasting. Then, a simple guide on how to differentiate between some of the most beloved Dough wines will help you understand tastes, aromas, and flavors in practice. Understanding these complexities will bring the wines you drink to life.


What Is “Aroma?”

Aromas are sensed through the nose and not on our tongues. So, we can smell the aromas of wine without having to drink it, and many experienced tasters can identify the grape variety of a wine just by smelling it! 

Aromas are grouped into different categories. Most wines have fruity aromas, such as lemon, apple, peach, and pineapple for white wines, and strawberry, cherry, blackberry, and dark plum for red wines. 

However, there are more aroma categories to smell in a wine, like flowers such as chamomile and lavender, dried herbs like thyme and laurel, and herbs including bell pepper and tomato leaf. Wine aromas can change depending on the winemaking style as well as the age of the wine. 


Dough Tip

Don’t get intimidated by long tasting notes and complex wine descriptors. Wines can be described sufficiently using just three of four of the most evident aromas.


Why Do Wines Have Aromas?

Grapes produce a lot of different molecules that give each wine its aroma. In some varieties, like Muscat, you can smell these aromas on the grape itself. However, for most varieties, these aromas only come through after the fermentation process.


Dough Tip

Some wine varieties are highly aromatic, like Sauvignon Blanc, making them perfect for enjoying a full-tasting experience by the glass. Other wines with fewer aromas, like Chardonnay, are great food wines. 


How Does Oak Affect the Aromas of a Wine?

Oak can add to the aromatic complexity of the wine. Wines aged in new oak barrels will typically have aromas of vanilla, smoke, and cloves, in addition to their inherent fruity aromas. 

How Does Oxygen Affect the Aromas of a Wine?

A little bit of oxygen during the winemaking process can be good for the end product because it allows the wine to develop its unique aromas. However, expose it to too much oxygen after you open the bottle and the wine will oxidize, making it lose all of its fruitiness. To prevent this problem from occurring, at Dough Wines, we seal all our bottles with a screw cap to protect the wines from overoxidation and ensure high quality. 

How Does Age Affect the Aromas of a Wine?

Wine aromas change a lot with age. Typically, the fresh fruity aromas of a young wine will gradually be replaced by more dried fruit aromas, as well as those that resemble leather and forest floor. Depending on the wine, it can take between a few years and a few decades for it to develop such complex and intriguing aromas. 


What Is “Flavor?”

“Flavor” is closely linked with aroma. When we get a sip of wine, the warmth of our mouth causes the wine aromas, or volatile compounds, to evaporate and enter our nose. This is called retronasal smell. 

“Flavor” is most often confused with taste, although flavor refers only to the aromas of the wine, while taste deals with its structural elements. 

Is There a Difference Between Aromas and Flavors?

Aromas and flavors are both sensed by the aroma receptors in our nose, but flavor is often stronger than aromas. With flavor, we can detect aromas that we can’t smell directly from the glass, or before the wine is at a volatile temperature. As such, you can expect a slight difference between what you smell and the aromas you experience when you taste the wine. 

Each different variety and style of wine will have different flavor characteristics, as described below for you by the Dough team!

What Are the Main Aromas and Flavors of Russian River Valley Chardonnay?

Russian River Valley Chardonnay has delicate aromas and flavors of lemon, ripe apple, mango, vanilla, and smoke. 

What Are the Main Aromas and Flavors of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc?

Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc has rich aromas and flavors of lemongrass, honeydew melon, lime, and pear.

What Are the Main Aromas and Flavors of Oregon Pinot Noir?

Oregon Pinot Noir has bright aromas and flavors of cherry, strawberry, violet, cocoa, and vanilla. 

What Are the Main Aromas and Flavors of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon?

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has intense aromas and flavors of blackberry, blackcurrant, raspberry, and vanilla.

What Are the Main Aromas and Flavors of Willamette Valley Sparkling Wines?

Willamette Valley Sparkling wines have elegant aromas and flavors of lemon, grapefruit, pear, brioche, and toast. 


What Is “Taste?”

Taste is how we describe the signals our tongue receives and sends as it responds to the wine in our mouth. 

These signals can be part of our touch senses and include the temperature of the wine, the warmth of the alcohol, or its concentration. Fizziness in sparkling wines and the grippiness (also known as the drying sensation) of tannins in red wines are also parts of the sense of taste. 

What’s more, our tongue can sense five other taste signals (as far as we know) that complete our sense of taste. These are sweetness, saltiness, acidity, bitterness, and umami. Bitterness, saltiness, and umami are rarely tasted in wines, but it’s important to be aware of them in the larger culture of wine pairing 

What Gives Taste to the Wine? 

All tastes in a wine are natural and originate from the grapes. Acidity comes from the naturally high acid content of grapes, while tannins and bitterness come from the skins and seeds. 

The high sugar content of grapes turns into alcohol during the fermentation process. The sweetest wines retain residual sugar after fermentation, which is what we can sense when we drink sweet wine. 

What Does Russian River Valley Chardonnay Taste Like?

Russian River Valley Chardonnay tastes smooth and creamy. It is always dry and has a pleasant freshness that comes from the acidity. 

What Does Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc Taste Like?

Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc tastes lean and crisp, thanks to its delightful acidity. Like the Chardonnay, it is dry.

What Does Oregon Pinot Noir Taste Like?

Oregon Pinot Noir tastes smooth with very little grippiness from its low tannins. It is dry and has a refreshing acidity. 

What Does Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Taste Like?

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has an intense power on the tongue, due to the highly extracted grapes. It is dry, with tannins that are higher than in a Pinot Noir and feel more grainy. 

What Do Willamette Valley Sparkling Wines Taste Like?

Willamette Valley Sparkling Wine tastes pleasantly prickly due to its naturally occurring bubbles. These bubbles come from a natural process of fermenting the wine in sealed bottles that capture the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation. Our Willamette Valley Sparkling Wine tastes dry and has a bright, joyful acidity. 



Confusion about the concepts of taste, aroma, and flavor is natural. Just keep in mind that taste is the physical structure of the wine that you feel on your tongue and includes such characteristics as sugar, acidity, bitterness, and the alcohol’s warmth. Aroma, on the other hand, is the beautiful smell you detect with your nose, while the flavor is all about the aromas you can sense when the wine is in your mouth. 

Now that you understand the difference, the many unique combinations of taste, aroma, and flavor are all awaiting your discovery.

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