Rough Cheat Sheet for Blind Tastings


It’s called rough because it covers the basic wine styles and varieties in Australia. Many of our wines deviate from this style guide – Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the worst at present, followed by Sauvignon Blanc. Also bear in mind that the characteristics of most wines change depending on where they’re made; this rough guide focuses on these varieties made in Australia. Please check our slightly less rough guide to Winestyles and Varieties as well.



  • limes, talc, hints of minerals
  • intense lime fruit on the palate
  • long line of fine acid, bone dry finish
In Australia, off-dry styles are identified as such
  • Nose shows hints of oak
  • Full, round, mouth-filling
  • White peaches, cashews, almond meal, oak
The ‘Twiggy’ style is more about grapefruit
  • Nose: straw, grass, citrus, green vegetables
  • sharp notes of unripe lemon and green apples
  • austere, bone-dry, searing acid when young
Some makers retain sugar to mask the acid
Sauvignon Blanc
  • Nose: gooseberries, lantana, freshly cut grass and cats’ pee
  • tangy, fresh, zesty herbaceous flavours
  • straight line of long acid
cheaper versions tend toward passionfruit
Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
  • most of the same characters but more subdued
  • more depth of flavour and body
  • better structure, more complexity
Pinot Gris
  • nose of ripe pears & apples, hints of ginger
  • full ripe fruit on the palate
  • some residual sugar, not sweet but not bone-dry
There’s no consistency of style in PG
Pinot Grigio
  • Very light colour and shy nose
  • Early picked, restrained, lively acid, dry
  • Fruit subdued, hints of peaches, apples
  • Very shy nose. Faint honeysuckle
  • blunt wines of neutral flavour when young
  • honey and mead when mature
  • pungent aroma of flowers, peaches and herbs
  • big bodied, peaches or pears, roasted nuts, pepper
  • can be a blunt, dry style too, so it’s a tricky variety
  • Nose suggests apricot kernels and flowers
  • Taste is much the same, add peaches in riper wines
  • Quite strong flavours bordering on broad


Cabernet Sauvignon 
  • Nose: blackberries, black currants and cassis hints of vanilla and pencil shavings
  • Cool dark/ blue fruits, cedar, cool taste; bigger Cabernets can show chocolate and coffee
  • Long with fine acid and fine-grained tannins
The trend to riper wines has made Cabernets harder to identify
Cabernet Franc
  • More floral aromas on the nose
  • blackberry, cassis, dried herbs. Cool, fine palate, lighter & less complex than Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cool, long finish with very fine tannins
Usually blended with CS, rarely seen on its own in Australia
  • Nose: ripe, plush fruit in the plum spectrum
  • Ripe cherries and plums, some green herbs
  • Soft, velvet smoothness, low acid and tannin
Pinot Noir
  • Nose: Raspberries and cherries and a savoury edge of forest floor, rotting twigs and dank leaves.
  • Same on the palate. Lean and acid backbone.
  • Should have a silky quality, light but beguiling.
  • Nose of ripe, warm fruit and spice, black pepper
  • Can range from red and black cherries to Christmas Pudding, dark chocolate, smoked meat and alcohol heat.
  • Tar and leather nuances develop with age.
The style varies dramatically depending on origin and maker
Grenache Noir
  • semi-translucent colour, not unlike Pinot Noir
  • Nose: sweet fruit, raspberries and cherries
  • More of the same plus dried herbs and tobacco, full flavoured, sweet and silky and seductive
Mourvèdre (Mataro)
  • Dense, dark colour, full-bodied
  • Violets, dry herbs, black pepper
  • Dense, dark fruit, meaty, gamey & earthy notes, tannin
  • Dense, dark colour
  • Nose: Ripe plums and red berries
  • Ripe fruit flavours and smoky finish, soft, easy-drinking
GSM Tough to describe since it depends on the blend. As a rule, Shiraz and Grenache dominate, so it tends to be the warm spicy, peppery characters combined with the sweet fruit of the Grenache
  • Deep, dark red colour
  • Very shy nose
  • prunes, chocolate and tobacco, modest acid & tannins
  • medium red colour
  • cherries and tomatoes, and earthy notes, savoury
  • dark stone fruit and cherries, tomato leaf, dried herbs, roasted Pepper, tobacco, high tannin
  • from roses and violets to cold tea
  • berries, mint, tobacco, tar, chocolate, medium weight
  • high acid and tannin levels


    • Eddy B

      You’re on a desert island with a pallet of best Australian reds of this century and you have to pick one other red wine drinker to join you. I would pick whoever wrote this guide. As over 50% of the wines will be Shiraz and this person obviously has a set against it, possibly because they cannot taste the mint and eucalypt in Cab Sav. Plus the guide should say something about the effect of oak.

      • Best Wines Under $20

        I do prefer Caberents as a rule but we had a superb Shiraz on the weekend – Hardys HRB/D641 Shiraz 2007. Thanks for reminding me about oak.