UNDERSTANDING FLAVOUR: Why does wine taste the way it does?

Published by Tamara Harrison - 3rd Jan 2020

Winemakers  Cathy and Neil Howard from Boots & All are here to explain the flavour of wine and why it tastes a certain way.

As an Angel, you would have read Naked Winemakers wine tasting descriptions like this one, which is one I wrote for our Boots & All SBS:

“Our 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon has aromas of lemongrass, pear, and gooseberries, with hints of white peach and nectarines. The pear and lemon flavours continue on the palate, combined with a light toasty nutty flavour which is hinting at the use of French oak”.

You might then be wondering… do winemakers actually blend peaches into their wine? I do get asked this at our Cellar Door and the answer is this question is NO.

The answer is a little complicated, however, as it involves many different flavour sources from the grapes, the soils and climate that the vines are growing in, and how the wine is made.

So starting with the grape itself, did you know that the specific flavours related to each grape variety are actually present in the grape skins, and not in the pulp in the centre of the berry? When I taste ripening grape berries in the vineyard, I bite down on and chew the grape skins as that is where I will taste the flavours in the berry. Basically, each grape variety has quite distinctive and specific flavours that are a characteristic of that variety. A sauvignon blanc berry will actually taste like lemons, gooseberries, nectarines or pears; Cabernet Sauvignon berries taste like blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, and plums; shiraz berries taste like raspberries, mulberries, and cherries.

As the grape berry gets riper, the flavours will change and a winemaker can use this to harvest the grapes at a point when the flavours present in the berries will make the style of wine that they are wanting to make. For example, if I pick our sauvignon blanc early in the season, it will have more lemon/lime/gooseberry flavours, but if I harvest it a little later, it will have more white peach/nectarine/melon/ripe pear flavours.

Cheers Cathy & Neil Howard


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