The Basics of Wine Vocabulary 

Wine appreciation is an art that goes beyond simply sipping a glass. Connoisseurs have mastered the skill of picking out distinct notes and flavors in a wine, turning each tasting into a sensory experience. In this blog post, we will delve into the factors that contribute to the flavors of wine and guide you on how to develop the palate of a seasoned wine enthusiast. But not only that, we will give you all the tools to discuss wine like a pro! So grab a glass, and let’s learn The Basics of Wine Vocabulary!

Ann Noble and the Wine Aroma Wheel:

First you should know about Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel, and how it has been a game-changer in the wine industry. The Wine Aroma Wheel provides a systematic approach to identifying aromas. Before Noble’s wheel, there was no shared language for discussing wine within the industry. This lack of a shared vocabulary for aromas and flavors, made it hard people to have productive conversations about wine.

The wheel categorizes aromas, and those aromas can be split up into primary, secondary, and tertiary layers. These layers aid enthusiasts in describing the complexity of wine.

  • Primary Layer: This layer includes the most apparent flavors, such as cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate, or blueberry. These are the initial scents that capture your attention. They are derived from the grape that was used.
  • Secondary Layer: More complex aromas emerge, providing depth to the overall olfactory experience. These were influenced by the production process, like the barrel it aged in or the fermentation process it went through.
  • Tertiary Layer: Subtlest smells and flavors develop over time, showcasing the wine’s maturity and complexity. These are just natural aromas that only come as the wine ages.

What Causes Certain Notes:

Specific notes in wine are influenced by various factors, including grape varietal’s, fermentation techniques, and aging processes. For example, the choice of oak barrels can infuse the wine with notes of vanilla or spice, while certain grape varietals naturally carry distinct flavors. Smelling a wine can reveal crucial information about its characteristics. The primary scent gives insight into the dominant flavors, while noting the alcohol content and secondary aromas provides a more comprehensive understanding. Additionally, the general acidity level can be gauged through the aromatic experience.

Wine Descriptions:

Masterclass offers a comprehensive guide to the most commonly used words for describing wine. Key terms include:

  • Acidity: Influences the expressiveness of the wine in both the nose and mouth, providing a juicy sensation. Too much acidity can mask underlying flavors.
  • Alcohol: Noted for the warming sensation it imparts to the back of the throat.
  • Energy: Describes the overall appeal of the wine when you enjoy it but struggle to articulate why.
  • Tannins: Relevant mainly for red wines, tannins contribute to mouthfeel by drying out the mouth. Striking a balance between acidity and tannins is key for an enjoyable wine experience.
The Basics of Wine Vocabulary

Taking Your First Sip

When taking your first sip, pay attention to the initial burst of flavors. Note the balance between sweetness, acidity, and bitterness. Look for any lingering aftertastes or complexities that reveal themselves as you savor the wine.

4 Steps:

Appearance: Assess the color and clarity of the wine in natural light.


  • Aeration: Swirl the wine in your glass to introduce oxygen and unlock additional aromas.
  • Decanting: Allow the wine to breathe in a decanter for aeration, especially for older wines.
  • Smell the Air: Inhale the aromas rising from the bowl of your glass before taking a sip.


  • Sip, Don’t Gulp: Taking small sips allows the flavors to coat your palate, providing a more nuanced tasting experience.

Finish: Evaluate the lingering aftertaste and overall impression

  • If you breath with your mouth open after your sip, you may discover a few more notes. If you taste nothing, that typically means the wine is of lesser quality.

Wrapping Up:

Becoming adept at noting flavors and aromas in wine is a journey that combines knowledge, practice, and a heightened sense of awareness. By exploring the factors that influence wine characteristics and employing thoughtful tasting techniques, you can elevate your wine-tasting experience and discover a world of sensory delights. But, just as important as it is to denoting the aromas and flavors, so is being able to discuss them. Cheers to the journey of unraveling the secrets of wine and sharing those secrets through conversation!