Rough Cheat sheet for blind tastings

It’s ‘rough’ because it covers just basic wine styles and varieties in Australia.

Many of Aussie wines deviate from this guide – Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris in particular – followed by Sauvignon Blanc. Also wine characteristics change depending on where they’re made and this guide is just to wines made in Australia. Check check our slightly less rough guide to winestyles and varieties too.

       White Wines

  • 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
        Red Varieties
Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Nose: blackberries, black currants, 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 (Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre)
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