Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Most red wines just taste like red fruit flavors to me. It takes me a long time to recognize the other aromas and flavors that experts do. What am I doing wrong?
—Suzanne, Edinburgh, Scotland
I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong! One of my mentors used to talk about starting with colors when tasting wines. Do you taste red, green, black, orange or yellow? Then you can try to narrow it down from there.
Sometimes wines just remind me of generic “red fruits,” but it‘s a good practice to run through the red fruits in your head and see if you can find something more specific, like currant, strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, cherry or watermelon. Are the flavors fresh, dried or cooked? Does it taste like jam, or sorbet?
While I’m pretty good at picking out what the fruit flavors in the wine are, not every wine will be gushing with fruit notes. Sometimes there’s more spice, herb, earth or floral notes. To build your wine vocabulary, I find it helpful to read other tasting notes, and to be curious about the way foods taste and smell at every chance. As another one of my mentors used to say, “Make every sip count.”