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    What Does Red Wine Taste Like?

    What Does Red Wine Taste Like

    It’s a common misconception that all red wines taste the same, but there are lots of similarities that red wines share.

    So what makes a red wine taste like a red wine?

    And how should you be describing your favourite bottle of red wine?

    What Does Red Wine Taste Like?

    Tasting Notes of Red WineRed wine taste varies from variety to variety but generally some of the more common tasting notes you'll find in red wine are:

    • Cherry
    • Mushroom
    • Smoke
    • Chocolate
    • Tar
    • Tobacco

    The taste of wine can vary from person to person, depending on how they perceive certain elements. It's what makes tasting wine such an interesting and personal activity. 

    There are, however, a lot of characteristics that most red wines tend to share. 

    They’re darker in colour and as a result a lot of their flavours tend to be deeper and darker too, with lots of cooked fruit and earthy characteristics.

    The tannins found in red wine also give them a lot of body and structure, making them rich and powerful wines.

    So how can you taste red wine?

    How to Taste Red Wine? (3 Step Method)

    Tasting Red WineThe key to tasting red wine well is learning how to break down the elements of sugar, acidity and tannins.

    Let’s take a look:

    Step 1. Finding Out The Sweetness?

    Most red wines are classed as dry wines, meaning they have no residual sugar in the glass.

    This sense of dryness is often exacerbated by the presence of tannins, which we’ll look at next.

    So any sweet characteristics you get from a wine will probably be down to the fruity aromas in the glass, not the sugar levels of the wine itself.

    To be sure, why not pinch your nose when taking a sip.

    If you can’t taste any sugar then, chances are you definitely have a dry red wine on your hands.

    Step 2. How Acidic Is The Wine?

    Next up it’s all about acidity levels.

    Acidity produces saliva so a great way to determine how acidic your red wine is is by paying attention to how much your mouth waters in response!

    If you’re literally salivating over your glass of red then you have an acidic red wine and if your mouth isn’t drooling at the flavours then it's likely you have a red wine with lower acidity levels.

    Step 3. Tasting Tannins?

    Red wines are all about the tannins! 

    Tannins are present in the skins of grapes, which work to give our red wines all of those beautiful ruby and purple colours in the glass. 

    Tannins have a drying sensation on your mouth that you’ll feel across your gums as well as your tongue.

    The dryer your mouth the higher the tannin levels, which is why some acidity to balance the tannins out is always welcome.

    So how do these factors of sweet, acid and tannin affect the taste of your red wine?

    What Affects The Taste of Red Wine?

    Red WineA red wine’s taste is determined by how much of each other above elements are present.

    • Red wines with noticeable levels of tannins may have more developed tertiary aromas of tobacco and leather, for example.
    • Very acidic red wines may taste of sour cherries and ripe blackcurrants.
    • Learning to notice each element is vital when it comes to describing a glass of red wine in good detail and can help you ask for recommendations based on the wines you like.

    But what characteristics are associated with red wine? 

    What Are Red Wine Characteristics

    Here are some of the characteristics associated with a typical glass of red wine:

    • Body - Most red wines tend to have a fuller body in comparison to other styles of wines such as white and sparkling wines
    • Tannins - All red wines will have noticeable tannins because all red wines are made using the skins of grapes, where tannins can be found
    • Sweetness - This will vary from red wine to red wine, but you can expect a lot of sweet, berry fruit flavours to appear in your glass of red wine, even though most red wines will be classed as dry.
    • Dryness - Most red wines are dry wines! This is because the majority lack any residual sugar and the presence of tannins in the glass will add to this drying feeling in your mouth whilst you drink.
    • ABV - Red wines vary in alcohol percentage, but the majority will sit somewhere between the 11-16% ABV mark, slightly higher than most typical white and sparkling wines.

    But do different types of red wine have different characteristics? Or does all red wine taste the same?

    5 Types of Red Wine Taste

    Varieties of Red WineHere are some of the most common red wine styles you may come across and the tastes and characteristics associated with them:

    1. Malbec

    This grape is commonly grown in France and Argentina and has lots of spicy aromas as well darker fruit flavours such as plums.

    2. Cabernet Sauvignon

    The King of red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon has lots of structured tannins and searing acidity which make it a brilliant wine to age long term.

    3. Zinfandel

    Californina’s sweetheart, Zinfandel is known for its higher alcohol percentage and sweet fruit flavours all contributing towards a full-bodied red wine.

    4. Merlot

    A perfect blend of cherry and chocolate Merlot has lots of black forest gateau flavours as well as hints of vanilla flecked cherry garcia. 

    Full Guide: What Does Merlot Taste Like?

    5. Pinot Noir

    A light and bright style of red wine with low tannins and high acid, making it a brilliant red wine to serve slightly chilled.

    (Yes, you can put red wine in the fridge!)

    Full Guide: What Does Pinot Noir Taste Like?

    And that's everything you need to get your head around why red wine tastes the way it does and how to describe it next time you’re after a very particular bottle for your next dinner out.

    Before You Go...

    Red Wine BarrelsWe hope this article answers all your questions on what wine tastes like.

    If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, or email us at

    You can browse more posts on Wine Tasting here

    Our related red wine guides:

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    philip thompson Author: Philip Thompson
    Philip is the General Manager at Expert Wine Storage, and is very knowledgable about all things relating to wine and wine storage, including wine fridges. He is regularly featured in media outlets sharing his knowledge on wine. Connect on Linkedin