Wine just tastes like red fruits to me. How do experts taste so many other flavors?

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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

Dear Suzanne,

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.”

—Dr. Vinny

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