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How to Describe a Wine?

How to Describe a Wine?

By Kevin Chan

June 1, 2021

To most of us (if not all), wine is intimidating at first when we first started learning more about it. The regions, the grapes, flavour descriptors… the list of things we are supposed to know is never ending. This alone deters many wine lovers, let alone the extra geeky stuff along the way. Today, we will focus on flavour descriptors as it is an obstacle for virtually everyone of us. Let’s be honest - we’ve all been there wishing we could describe the flavours of our favourite bottle to friends and family, or at wine shops and restaurants without feeling stupid. This piece of writing will give you the confidence you need to say it out loud next time but with absolute certainty.


Everyone has a different sensory profile, and what smells like sweaty horses to you can be something pleasant for others. While flavours and aromas comes from compounds present in wine, the same compound can imply flavours miles apart for each individual. For instance, asparagus and cat piss are common descriptors for New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but these two descriptors actually stems from the exact same compound! Such difference is due to different sensory detection thresholds and the building of the body hence what a certain compound taste like. Therefore person A can taste cat piss and Person B can taste asparagus from a same wine, but neither is wrong. Person C might not detect anything at all as he might have a higher detection threshold, and he is not wrong either.


Furthermore, we all have different cultural backgrounds and upbringing hence the flavours we are familiar & can associate with will be different for each of us. It is perfectly okay to describe a flavour in your own words and wine professionals/ seasoned tasters should be able to understand you without issues. 


When you head out for dinner or trying to describe a bottle next time, don’t be shy to descriptors of wines you enjoy. It will make life easier for others to recommend you a bottle that better fits your taste. No one will/ should judge you for that.