The Aromas of Wine

The aromas of wine, which are also referred to as the nose or bouquet, range from simple to very complex, depending on the wine.  The best way to release the aromas is to swirl the liquid around the bowl of the glass.  This will expose the liquid to the air, thus releasing all of the smells.

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When you go to smell the wine don’t be bashful; stick your nose as far as you can into the glass and close your eyes. You will notice a lot more scents this way.  Then breathe in deep. As you do, think about what aromas you’re picking up.

If it’s a white wine, you may be reminded of bananas, lemon rind or pineapple. If it’s a red wine, you may smell prunes, cherries, strawberries, peppers, plums or tobacco. Sometimes you may just smell grapes. Your brain will only pick up scents that you are familiar with and have smelled before. Thus, you and I could smell the same wine at the same time and relate a totally different experience.  The aroma is in the brain of the beholder.

When identifying the aromas, the experts will consider them at three levels referred to as primary, secondary and tertiary.  Primary aromas come from the grapes or are created during the fermentation process. A simple wine may show a very limited number of primary aromas whereas a more complex wine may display many more primary aromas.

White wines will display fruity aromas such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, apricot, peach or plum.  Red wines tend to present smells of strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrant or cherry.  There may also be floral, herbaceous scents in both white and red wines.

The secondary aromas in wine are created by the post-fermentation process. The most obvious of these are extracted from the oak that the wine barrels are made of.  Oak is often used when making wines such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.  The oak can create hints of vanilla, cloves, coconut, cedar, chocolate, coffee or smoke.  Non-oak aromas may include cream, butter, cheese, toasted bread or biscuits.

Tertiary aromas occur as the wine ages in the bottle.  Only older mature wines will display these characteristics.  White wines may have aromas of orange marmalade, ginger, nutmeg, honey and stone fruits, such as peaches or plums.  Red wines may show hints of dried fruit, leather, mushroom, meat, tobacco or caramel.

There you have it; the aromas in wine are created at three different levels but how you interpret them will be as unique as you.

Sláinte mhaith

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