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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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