Wine ABCs

Aroma Wheel

An aroma wheel is an amazing invention that helps novice and even expert wine drinkers close in on a specific aroma and inevitably figure out which grape variety you are drinking.

Below is a link to an interactive aroma wheel that will help you pinpoint that pesky scent that you can’t quite put your finger on (opens in a new window):

Start Aroma Wheel
For additional info, here is a list of popular red and white wines with descriptions of their typical characteristics:

Popular Red Varietals:

Cabernet Sauvignon

Blackcurrant (Cassis), chocolate, mint, bell pepper, earth; dark colour, heavy tannins and medium to high acidity

Pinot Noir

Raspberry, strawberry, floral, barnyard, truffle (mushroom); light to full bodied, medium high acidity


Blackberry, currant, raspberry, violets, hawthorne, spice, meaty, black pepper, eucalyptus; firm tannins, dark colour, jammy fruit in new world wines


Cedar, plum, licorice, black cherry, fruit cake; lower acidity and tannin with plump juicy fruit and high alcohol

Cabernet Franc

Lead pencil, cabbage, green tobacco, red berries, capiscum spice; very similar to Cab Sauv with less structure and intensity


Tobacco, incense-like spice, strawberry, red cherry, and often vanilla and spice; medium to high acidity, medium bodied with elegance and subtlety


White pepper, raspberry, spice, high alcohol, juicy and “sweet” fruit with soft tannins and low to med acidity


Plum, cherry, chocolate, herb, tobacco, gamey and leather notes; medium high acidity, light to full bodied, medium to high tannin


Aromatic with bramble, spice, sweet ripe raspberry, port-like, berry tea notes; pink off-dry versions and ripe, full bodied, low acidity and high alcohol


Red berries, banana & pear candy (from carbonic maceration) green leaf, high acidity, light – medium body, some tannin


Tar, roses, truffles, violets, prune and dark chocolate; high tannins, and deep colour in youth – colour fades rather quickly, high acidity

Popular White Varietals:

Sauvignon Blanc

Gooseberry, grass, currant leaf and flint smoke; high acidity, light to medium body – sometimes oaked


Apple, peach, toast, butter, nut, mineral; medium to full bodied, natural crisp acidity


Apple, lime, honey, petrol/rubber with age; high acidity with range of sweetness

Pinot Gris

Nutty, smoky, spicy sometimes honeyed; pale straw through light pink; light to full bodied with range of sweetness, medium to high alcohol


Lychee, talc, rose, perfume and ginger; often a deeper yellow and low acidity and various levels of residual sugar

Chenin Blanc

Wide range of styles from dry sparkling, light dry to sweet and fuller bodied

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