ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I’m confused by what “note” means in a wine description. Does it mean aroma? Or smell?

—Sharon, Shenzhen, China

Dear Sharon,

“Notes” can refer to aromas, flavors or both aromas and flavors. “Note” to me indicates a more nuanced part of a wine’s profile—“a floral note” means that the floral component of the wine isn’t dominating the wine. Other words wine writers might use to indicate aromas and flavors include “hint,” “nuance,” “tone,” “undertone,” “touch” and “whiff.”

I like the term “note” because it reminds me of music, and how there can be many different notes that come together into a pleasing chorus or chord. Likewise with wine, there can be many small things you pick up when tasting and smelling a wine, and hopefully they all work together in harmony.

—Dr. Vinny


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