As I mentioned in last week’s TTT&T, fruit aromas and flavors in red wines tend to fall into two main categories—red or black fruits—and one often (although not always) appears at the exclusion of the other. White wine aromas/flavors, on the other hand, actually fall into 4 main categories—citrus, green, stone, and tropical fruits—and often do not appear at the exclusion of the other categories. However, like with red wines, the fruit characteristics can help identify both the type of grape used to make the wine, as well as the climate where the grapes were grown.
Several interesting points about white wine to keep in mind—
First, even though wine is made from grape juice, it is more uncommon than you might guess to have grape aromas/flavors in wine. If you are looking for a wine that does taste like grapes, I recommend drinking something from the Muscat family, particularly a Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.
Second, while it does happen, it’s also surprisingly less common to find lemon aromas/flavors in wine than it is to find lime or grapefruit characteristics.
Third, if you’re a white wine lover and never tried a gooseberry, you should make sure you do that…and soon! It may mean a trip to your local farmer’s market, since, in DC at least, it’s very difficult to find gooseberries in the produce aisle of the grocery store. If all else fails, check the jelly aisle in your grocery store for gooseberry preserves. Both my Harris Teeter and Whole Foods had the preserves, which are obviously sweeter than eating the actual fruit, but similar enough to help pick out gooseberry flavors in wine. The reason why I so strongly recommend trying gooseberries is because you’ll be amazed by how many white wines have gooseberry characteristics that you were missing because you simply weren’t familiar with the aroma/flavor.
Finally, a quick trick for picking out fruit types is that cool climates tend to produce citrus and green fruit wines, moderate climates tend to produce green and stone fruit wines, and hot climates tend to produce stone and tropical fruit wines. With that in mind, a Riesling from the cool climate of Australia’s Clare Valley will likely have some strong lime-like characteristics. For a wine with more tropical fruits, a Napa Valley Chardonnay, which is a hotter climate, will likely have pineapple and banana characteristics.
Most importantly, get out there and really swirl and smell your wine. Not only is it fun, but also identifying aromas is all about experience, so the more you practice the easier it will become.
Common Citrus Aromas/Flavors in Wine
Common Green Fruit Aromas/Flavors in Wine
Common Stone Fruit Aromas/Flavors in Wine
Common Tropical Fruit Aromas/Flavors in Wine