Okay, I decided I’m going to do a little educating with this post. I read something the other day that said there are over 10,000 wine making grapes in existence today. Please don’t ask where I read it, I may be spreading a rumor, but the moral of the story is there are a ton of grapes used to make wine. I want to focus this post on some of the major red grapes you’ll find on the grocery store shelf or restaurant menu, and talk through some of the aromas, tastes, and even feel of some of them. Part II will focus on the white grapes.

If you are looking at the shelf you’ll see labels with names like Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Cab, Zin, etc…these are varieties of grapes. If you are hanging out in a classy wine establishment you might hear the term “varietal”…this is fancy talk for a wine made of a single grape variety. There are rules to calling a wine a varietal though; in the US, the primary labelled grape must make up at least 75% of the content. An example: if a bottle is labelled a Zinfandel, the zinfandel grape must make up 75% of the content, the other 25% can be made up of any combination of other grape varieties. Okay…enough of that…let’s talk grapes. For each variety of grape I’ll list some typical aromas and tastes. The fun thing about wine is that it can be any combination of the listed attributes, and it may not be same year to year.


Pinot Noir

Aromas – Cherry, berry (strawberry), cinnamon, clove, anise, floral (violet or rose), and earthy

Tastes – Fruity (don’t confuse fruity with sweet), raspberries and strawberries, oak, vanilla, and toast from the barrel, can be earthy

Feel – Medium to full body, low tannins and acidity, you can even get a velvet or satin feel



Aromas – Black cherry, plum, chocolate, herbs, earthy (mushroom)

Tastes – Fruity, cherry and plum, clove, light oak and vanilla, herbal

Feel – Light, mild qualities, but tannins can be bold



Aromas – Black cherry, plum, earthy

Tastes – Ripe fruit, plum and blackberry, jammy – young wines will have “green” taste, tangy/tartness

Feel – Medium to full body with tight tannins


Shiraz/Syrah – Yep, same grape (grown in different places)

Aromas – Blackberry, currant, pepper, and oak

Taste – FRUIT (bold fruit), blackberry and jammy, black pepper and licorice

Feel – Medium body, medium tannins, low acidity



Aromas – Cherry, licorice, cinnamon, black pepper,

Tastes – Raspberry, blackberry, black pepper, cranberry, oak, smoke, licorice

Feel – Full bodied, hot (alcohol), spicy, medium to high tannins, medium acidity


 Cabernet Sauvignon

Aromas – Currant, blackberry, black cherry, spice, earth

Tastes – Currant, black cherry, blackberry, tobacco, cedar, spice, oak, earthy, coffee

Feel – Full body, heavy tannins (higher in young wine), high acidity and alcohol

Remember, I’m not an expert…this list isn’t meant to be all inclusive. Just like the 10,000 grapes, there are many flavor and aroma descriptors.  I just hope that I armed you with a little extra knowledge that will help you next time you are staring at the shelf trying to plan your weekend.

Stay tuned For “The Grapest Post Ever Part 2: The Whites”


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