Grape Tips Thursday – November 19, 2015: What Are The Basic Red Wine Aromas And Flavors?

This Week In Wine 101: What Does Red Wine Smell Like?

If you’re new to the red grape varietals, you might be surprised by the flavors and aromas; delighted by the variety of tastes; intrigued by the different complexities; and disarmed by preconceived notions – because red wine is filled with all of these characteristics. Of course, that’s not to say you won’t encounter several regrets during your journey to discover new red wines. But what’s a journey without a few bumps in the road to tell later?

But at we’d like to focus more on the red grape varietals with signature features in both their aromas and flavors. As you explore and discover a wide range of wines from all over the world, the differences you’ll experience from each wine region and that regions interpretation of that particular varietal may steer you in towards one direction – or turn you on to a new wine varietal. After reading this article, we hope you’ll be inspired to experience these varietals in their many forms and see what aromas and flavors excite your senses. We’ve listed some of the most popular red grape varietals and the aromas and flavors you’ll most likely notice with the most recognizable and popular red wines. Let’s get started!


Red Wine Grape Varietals

Cabernet Sauvignon

As one of the two most popular and widely planted red wines and grape varietals in the world, cabernets are delicious by themselves, while also being ideal for blending and can benefit from long-term aging. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Blackcurrant, plum, blackberry, cherry, smoke, spice, tobacco or leather aromas mixed with coffee or earthy undertones.

Flavors: Blackberry, plum, cherry, blackcurrant or raisen. Soft hints of (dark or regular) chocolate, herbs, spice, coffee, tobacco, smoke, or vanilla may be detected.

Wine Regions: Find terrific Cabernet Sauvignons from France, California, Australia, Argentina, Chile and Washington.


Cabernet Franc

One of the most widely planted red grape varietals in the world is Cabernet Franc. From the Bordeaux and Loire Valley wine regions of France, this grape varietal is often used in red blends. Cabernet Franc wines usually have low tannin and acidity levels, and are fresh and fruity. It’s a big the reason why Cab Franc grapes are often used to soften wines with strong tannins, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, etc.

Aromas: Cherry, raspberry, licorice and currant.

Flavors: Cherry, raspberry, blueberry, plum and possible undertones of tobacco and currant.

Wine Regions: Cabernet Franc is produced all over the world from France to South Africa; from Hungary to California, and on.



This red grape varietal produces some of the most full-bodied wines in the world, with just the right amount of tannins to give it a firm backbone with a tart side. This wine is packed with a punch so prepare yourself. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Dark fruits, including blackberry, raspberry and black cherry, smoke, licorice, rose, violets or hints of tar.

Flavors: Blackberry, cherry, raspberry, black cherry, tar, smoke, mint and tobacco.

Wine Regions: Italy, California and Washington all produce variations of this varietal. This wine is often best enjoyed when paired with food.


Syrah, Shiraz or Sirah

Whether you prefer to say Syrah or Shiraz (or Sirah), this luscious red wine has an enticing appeal that begs to be enjoyed. This red wine is easy to enjoy on its own but if you want to pair it with a meal or some cheeses, by all means go ahead. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Dark fruits, pepper, smoke, earth, tobacco, or herbs.

Flavors: Cherry, blackberry, blackcurrant, plum, chocolate, coffee, pepper, spice, smoke, oak, earth or herbal elements.

Wine Regions: Australia, France, California and Washington all produce excellent Syrah/Shiraz wines.



Although this dark, rich, red wine grape originated in Bordeaux, France, the Malbec from Argentina has really gained a following. Not only is this grape able to deliver by itself, it also makes one heck of a blend. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Dark fruits like cherry, plum, blackberry and blackcurrant, black pepper, smoke, tobacco and earthy tones.

Flavors: Plum, dark berries, cherry, earthy nuances and chocolate.

Wine Regions: Some of the finest Malbec grapes come from Argentina, France, Chile, Australia and South Africa.



Another of the two most popular red wine varietals is Merlot. Whether you prefer a fruit friendly merlot with soft tannins or one with more prominent dark fruit flavors, rich in complexity with oaky influences and firm tannins, here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Cherry, raspberry, blackcurrant, plum, strawberry, smoke, cedar, spice, coffee, tobacco, earthy tones and herbs.

Flavors: Strawberry, cherry, raspberry, currant, smoke, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, earth tones and herbs.

Wine Regions: Try Merlot wines from these countries or states: France, Argentina, California and Washington.



Zinfandel is another favorite of the red grape wines and hails from sunny California. It is one of the oldest varietals from California and produces white, pink and red wines. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Blackberry, cherry, blackcurrant, plum or chocolate.

Flavors: Blackberry, raspberry, cherry, blackcurrant, plum, with subtle hints of coffee, chocolate, vanilla, licorice, black pepper, spice, with earthy or herb.

Wine Regions: California’s Napa Valley, Russian River Valley, Sierra Foothills and Alexander Valley produce exuberant Zinfandels.



Not only is this diverse red grape varietal divine as a wine by itself, it’s incredible in wine blends too! Tempranillo is a wine that originally hails from Spain but it definitely embodies the regions where it is cultivated. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Strawberry, plum, tobacco, herbs and vanilla.

Flavors: Strawberry, plum, vanilla, tobacco and herbs.

Wine Regions: Spain, France, Argentina and California produce great Tempranillo wines and make excellent blends too.



Sangiovese is a red grape varietal planted throughout Tuscany, Italy, and is the main grape used to produce Chianti. It has a crisp, fun, fruity side, and complex flavors that pair beautifully with food. Especially Italian food – think cheeses, olives, pasta – Mama Mia! Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Cherry, plum, strawberry, raspberry, rose, cinnamon, coffee and leather.

Flavors: Cherry, plum, strawberry, raspberry, earth, tobacco or subtle coffee notes.

Wine Regions: Italy, California and Washington are known for their Sangiovese.


Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir has a seductive allure that no other wine possesses. Maybe it has something to do with its French roots or perhaps it’s the grape itself that inspires winemakers to produce such desirable wines. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Raspberry, strawberry, cherry, currant, vanilla, toast, earth, coffee, chocolate and tobacco.

Flavors: Raspberry, strawberry, cherry, currant, smoke, cedar, oak, tobacco, earth, herbs, vanilla or spice.

Wine Regions: France, California and Oregon are all renowned for producing Pinot Noir.


It won’t be long before you learn there are a number of different delicious aromas and flavors you’ll experience with each red wine varietal. As you discover and explore each type of red wine varietal you may be surprised by what your palate detects, senses or smells. Trust those instincts and share what aromas and flavors you’ve noticed, while enjoying one of the above varietals. Cheers!

No Comments

%d bloggers like this: