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Everything you always wanted to know about wine but never dared to ask

Aromas are the essential part of the olfactory tasting, the "nose" of the wine. But aromas also play an essential role in the tasting, the "mouth" of the wine. In short: the glossary that you can use to describe your tasting sensations.

How to smell the different aromas in the wine?

The eye, the nose, the mouth, the three stages of tasting each correspond to the use of one of our senses. But make no mistake, during the tasting, it is by far our olfactory organ that is most in demand!

Our olfactory bulb is of course used to perceive the aromas of the wine when we study its nose, but it is also stimulated to perceive the aromas of the wine when we have it in our mouth. Indeed, the tongue can only distinguish 5 flavours: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami.

And it is thanks to the famous feedback that the aromas of the mouth are "raised" to the maximum towards the olfactory bulb. We strongly advise you to practice feedback, the change in perception is immediate and you will feel more aromas and this more strongly.

Where do the aromas of wine come from?

The aromas you smell come from three characteristics/stages of the wine's life: the grape variety, fermentation and ageing.

The primary aromas, the aromas of the grape berry

Just as there are several varieties of apples, each with very different taste characteristics (such as Granny, Golden, Pink Lady, etc.), there are many varieties of grapes, called "grape varieties". Each grape variety (Muscat, Chardonnay or Riesling) also has its own characteristics, particularly aromatic.

For example, Gewurtztraminer, a highly aromatic grape variety, will be renowned for its rose and lychee aromas. On the other hand, other grape varieties, such as Riesling or Chardonnay, are less aromatic and different terroirs will give distinct aromatic expressions.

The trick: often, the aromas of fresh fruit are directly the expression of the grape variety and are therefore considered as primary aromas.

Secondary aromas, aromas from fermentation

The fermentation process is quite complex and we will not go into details today. In short, fermentation is the process of changing from "grape juice" to "wine" by transforming sugar into alcohol using yeast.

Of course, fermentation is a much more complex reaction than it seems and aromatic molecules evolve at this stage. The choice of yeasts is fundamental to the development of certain specific flavours. Remember the Beaujolais nouveau banana, it was a specially selected yeast that was responsible for this particular taste!

Tertiary aromas, aromas of ageing

As you might expect, the development of the wine's aromas does not stop once the fermentation is complete. Otherwise, what's the point of aging him?

Both during ageing (in oak barrels for example) and then during ageing in bottles, new aromas will appear (beeswax for white wines for example, mushrooms in the case of red wines, etc.).

Very fine wines can improve with age and develop a very complex range of aromas. But be careful, each wine has a shelf life and the vast majority of wines will be drunk within five years of harvesting.

The 12 families of wine aromas

The world of wine aromas is very rich and complex. To recognize these aromas more easily, first look for the "family" to which they belong (is it a flower, a red fruit...).

Vegetal aromas

Green plant: grass, elder, boxwood, broom, ivy, fern, moss, blackcurrant bud, pepper

Dry plant: hay, burnt grass, tobacco

Aromatic plant: sage, thyme, savory, mint, fennel anise

Mushroom: fresh yeast, dead yeast, fresh mushroom, truffle, humus, undergrowth

The so-called "green" vegetal aromas are often associated with wines whose grapes have lacked maturity. Of course, it is difficult to make it a general rule. Because where the green pepper aroma can be seen as a "defect" of maturity, the red pepper aroma is a guarantee of nobility in great red wines...

Floral aromas

Fresh flowers: pink, rosehip, hawthorn, honeysuckle, violet, peony, iris, narcissus, orange flower, acacia, carnation

Dried flowers: wilted pink

Blind tasting tip: Gewurtztraminer is characterised by its pronounced rose aromas.

Fruity aromas

Fresh red fruits: grape, redcurrant, strawberry, raspberry, cherry

Fresh black fruits: blueberry, blackcurrant, wild berries

Exotic fruits: pineapple, lychee, mango

Stone fruits: plum, plum, plum, plum, jinx, sloe, peach, apricot

Citrus fruits: lemon, mandarin, orange, grapefruit Citrus zest and candied fruit: orange zest

Cooked fruit: compote, fruit jam

Dried fruits: prunes, almonds, bitter almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, raisins, figs, dried apricots, dried bananas, dates

Aromas of jammy or stewed fruit come from very ripe grapes that have seen a lot of sunshine. These aromas of prunes, strawberry compote... are found in the red wines of southern France (in Languedoc or Roussillon for example)

Spicy aromas

Pepper, green pepper, paprika, licorice, parsley, chervil, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg

Woody aromas

Dry wood, bark, oak, cedar, exotic wood

The woody aromas are more or less noble (wood chips "woody" the wine without much nuance...). The "cedar" aromas are the hallmark of some of Bordeaux's great wines.

Balsamic aromas

Balm, resin, pine resin, fir, cedar, incense, turpentine, camphor, varnish, eucalyptus

Empyreumatic aromas

Burned, smoked, toasted, soot, tar, coffee, toasted coffee, cocoa, toasted bread, tobacco, chocolate

Animal aromas

Fresh meat, roast juice, leather, fur, game, venison, smoked meat, musk

Confectionery aromas

Honey, caramel, vanilla, chocolate, praline, almond paw, English candy

Fermentation aromas

Butter, beer, brioche, sourdough, yeast, bread, cider, cheese, wheat

As the name suggests, fermentation aromas are secondary aromas, directly related to fermentation. The great white wines of Burgundy, which ferment in whole or in part in barrels, are typically marked by buttery, brioche aromas.

Mineral aromas

Hydrocarbon, naphtha, oil, gunpowder, flint, graphite, chalk

Even if a "petroleum" smell may seem like a strange idea in a wine, it is nevertheless the brand of the great Rieslings aged 10 years or more...

Chemical aromas

Acetone, alcohol, detergent, light taste, hydrogen sulfide

These unruly aromas are usually associated with wine defects.

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