April on Wine



Wine Does Not Taste Like Grapes
© by April Eichmeier
One thing that can confuse a novice is the tasting terminology used by experts. What the heck does it mean when they say "essence of coffee on the nose, with deep cassis notes and pepper on the palate," or "a racy wine with herbal notes and a creamy finish."

Coffee? Cassis? Pepper? Herbs? What about "grapes?"

Wine does not taste like grapes. It's certainly logical to expect this ... but wine isn't made from the Thompson seedless in the produce aisle. Those kinds of grapes, in general, make for poor wine.

So ... if you're not going to taste a grape flavor, how do you smell or taste the other flavors? Relax; it's an easy two-step process. All you need to do is 1) know what to expect, and 2) practice.

Number 1: know what to expect.

You heard it here first: the aromas and flavors will not jump out at you. Block from your mind the taste of cherry-flavored Jell-O and caffe lattes. Most importantly, try not to think about grape juice.

Some might call this cheating, but it is helpful to read what others sense in a particular wine. Knowing that "so and so" tasted "black cherry and vanilla" in a certain Merlot helped me to concentrate on those aromas and flavors when I tasted the wine. This bit of knowledge really helps you to focus on what your senses are saying.

However, don't hold yourself to others' evaluations. You may smell and taste everything they find, maybe more, maybe less, or maybe nothing at all. The good news is that no matter what you do or don't detect, you're not wrong. Each palate is distinct (and your palate is wonderfully distinct indeed!).

Number 2: practice.

You do your research-you get a review before you buy. Tasting wheel in hand, you uncork a new Sauvignon Blanc and anxiously wait for the essence of fresh-cut lawn to fill your senses. You inhale slowly, swish the wine around, draw air into your mouth ... but you don't sense that lawn. Forget it - there must be something amiss with the wine.


What did your mean old piano teacher tell you? Practice, practice, practice. Go easy on yourself; you can't expect to distinguish each smell and taste right away. Slowly sniff and taste wine again and again. You know that others detect coffee in the Cabernet, and soon you might, too.

No matter what you may sense in your wine, however, it's most unlikely that you'll find grapes!

Feb. 15, 2001

To contact April Eichmeier, write her at aeichmeier@hotmail.com.

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