How to Distinguish Wine Notes

Detecting Wine Notes Via a Wine's Nose

One of the best ways to identify the notes of a wine is through scent. A wine's nose is said to be the scents it gives off that are detectable by a human nose [source: Parker].

Many experts agree that a majority of the enjoyment and flavor derived from wine comes through smelling it [source: Prial]. But for those unfamiliar with what they're looking for or how to find the specific notes, this can be challenging.

Noble recommends beginners start with white wines, which are a little easier to work with. A great way to familiarize yourself with the common aromas it to set up a comparison between a standard wine and some of the more common elements associated with the different scents.

Gather what Noble refers to as the standards -- common foods, spices or elements -- that are often used to describe notes and scents. For a basic white wine, these would include brine of canned asparagus, bell peppers, vanilla extract, butter extract, a clove, a small amount of fresh mixed orange and grapefruit juice, peach or apricot juice, and pineapple. Put these samples inside their own individual wine glass or small dish and cover them. (For a red, the standards would include asparagus, bell pepper, vanilla, butter extract, a clove, soy sauce, berries, old strawberry jam, artificial fruit flavoring and a black pepper.)

Now pour yourself a glass of an inexpensive wine, filling the glass a third to half of the way full. One at a time, smell the wine and then smell the standard. See if you can recognize the scents in the wine. This will help you learn to identify the scents on your own [source: Noble].

For the best results, swirl the glass of wine before smelling it. This will better release notes to your nose [source: Learn Vino, Kelley Cellars]. It may also be beneficial to have several varieties of wines around so you can compare and differentiate.

Now that we've covered aroma, let's investigate taste.