Beyond the traditional fruit, spice, and floral notes, red wines can often exhibit a wide range of unique and unconventional notes on the palate. Although some are self-descriptive, we wanted to break down some of the less common notes, along with their potential taste profiles, the wines in which they’re found, and similarities to more common notes.
A “sun-dried tomato” tasting note in a wine can evoke the taste of ripe tomatoes that have been dried in the sun, with concentrated flavors, sweetness, and acidity. It is often associated with red wines made from grape varieties that have a naturally high acidity and a pronounced fruit character – producing a taste similar to a ‘tomato’ note, but with a more intense and, surprise surprise, ‘sun-dried’ quality.
This note is often found in Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, and Nebbiolo.
Despite having a non-obvious taste profile, “cacao nibs”, is a note which is often identified in many red wines – especially those with more subtle tastes. The note is found in wines reminiscent of the taste of roasted cacao beans, with hints of bitterness, dark chocolate, and coffee – producing a taste similar to a “chocolate” or “coffee” note, but with a more raw, unprocessed flavor.
This note is often found in Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Malbec.
The “leather” note in red wine can evoke hints of earthiness, tannins, and a slightly savory quality. The note is often associated with red wines that have undergone some aging and development, as it can be a characteristic that develops over time in the bottle. It can be similar to an “earthy” or “savoury” note, but with a more specific, leathery character.
This note is often found in old world aged wines (specifically, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese), and most commonly in Rioja.
A “forest floor” note in red wine can be reminiscent of the taste of damp forest floor, with hints of mushrooms, moss, and earthiness. This note can also be described as damp leaves, wet soil, or decaying vegetation, and is considered a complex and intriguing aroma that can add depth and complexity to a wine.
This note is often found in Pinot Noir and Burgundy.
An “incense” note in red wine can evoke the taste of burning incense, with hints of exotic spices, resin, and smokiness. It is often associated with exotic, spicy, and resinous notes that can add complexity and intrigue to a wine.
Incense can be one of the hardest notes to identify in a wine, and the best way to identify it is through specific tastings of wines which exhibit the note.
This note is often found in Syrah, Rioja, and in Spanish Priorat.
“Game meat” is a note which can be reminiscent of the taste of cooked game meat, such as venison or wild boar, with hints of richness, umami, and savory flavors. It is often prominent in scent, rather than in taste, and is often associated with earthy, savory, and animalistic notes that can add complexity and depth to a wine.
This note is often found in Pinot Noir, Syrah, and various reds from the terroir of the Rhône Valley.
The “pomegranate seeds” note can evoke the taste of tartness, juiciness, and a slight sensory ‘crunch’. It can be similar to a “pomegranate” or “tart fruit” note, but with a more seed-like and almost herbaceous texture and flavor. It is often associated with fruity, tangy, and refreshing notes that can add brightness and vibrancy to a wine.
This note is often found in Pinot Noir and Grenache.
The “asphalt” note in can be reminiscent of the taste of tar, road tar, and mineral-like flavors. It can be similar to a “mineral” or “earthy” note, but with a more distinct, and deeper character. On the scent side, it is often associated with a distinct mineral or earthy character that can be reminiscent of the smell of hot asphalt or freshly laid pavement.
This note is often found in Syrah, Priorat, and Aglianico.
A “saddle leather” note in red wine can evoke the tastes of earthiness, tannins, and a slightly rustic quality. It can be similar to a “leather” or “savoury” note, but with a more rustic and almost ‘worn in’ aspect to the note.
The “saddle leather” note is often associated with red wines that have undergone extended aging, and particularly in oak barrels.
This note is often found in Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Pinot Noir.
Red bell pepper
“Red bell pepper” is a note which can be reminiscent of the taste of sweetness, greenness, and a slightly vegetal quality. It can be similar to a “vegetal” or “green pepper” note, but with the more fruity notes typically associated with red peppers. This tasting note is more commonly associated with certain varietals and regions that produce wines with distinct herbaceous characteristics.
This note is often found in Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, and Bordeaux blends.