Wine Wheel / Descriptors for Fermented Grapes

10/27/2012

Wine is a tricky thing. The output between two years is never quite alike because no two growing and harvesting cycles are quite the same. Some days see rain, others not. Some days are stifling and others are perfect. It’s just always different, day to day, year to year. That’s part of what makes it fun – the unknown… and the hunt for a product cultivated under “optimal” conditions (whatever that is). But the wine hobby can also be a frustrating one. That part comes from finding a go-to favorite and realizing how elusive it becomes once new stock is released and the stores stop carrying your favorite year.

My interest in wine tasting really stems from a singular event. It was Thanksgiving in 2007 or so, and the holidays are always a time when my family keeps the wine flowing. One bottle in the mix was a 2005 Turning Leaf Pinot Noir, and it stood out like a sore thumb… but a good sore thumb… a really good sore thumb! That bottle of Pinot Noir was a cheap, $6-7 bottle (in Ohio), and it really made me say, for the first time, “Woah, this is really good!” Years after first trying it, it’s taste is still pretty distinct in my mind – it had strong strawberry notes and a buttery kind of feel/flavor. And now I can’t find it anywhere. By the way, Christmas is coming up in a couple months, in case your sleuth skills are better than mine. Just sayin’.

Back to the real focus of this post… It’s really interesting considering how broad the wine “bouquet” can be. Not only do growing conditions affect the flavor, so do the storage methods. Stainless steel often gives wines a more crisp taste, which can be complementary for light, fruity wines. On the other hand, red wines stored in oak sometimes enhance wines with lovely vanilla notes.

The list below is of notes I have either used or heard others use to describe wine characteristics:

anise
apple
asparagus (as a joke, from the movie “Sideways”)
banana
berry
blackberry
blueberry
butter
butterscotch
cat piss (seriously, I’ve heard this one!)
cedar
cherry
chocolate
coffee
cola
copper
floral
fruit punch
grapefruit
grass (freshly cut, of course)
hay
honey suckle
iron
jam
lemon zest
licorice
melon
metal
minerals
nails
oak
orange blossom
orange zest
peach
pear
pepper
pineapple
plum
raisin
raspberry
rose
smoke
steel
straw
strawberry
tannin
toast
tobacco
vanilla
watermelon
zoo (the first Gewürztraminer I ever had tasted like the smell of a zoo… yuck!)

As for an actual wine wheel, feel free to print/check this one out:

Wine wheel courtesy of:
Public Domain Pictures

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One Response to “Wine Wheel / Descriptors for Fermented Grapes”

  1. Abbey Brooks said

    My brother sent me here and I’m happy! I will definitely save it and come back!

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