Oenologie - Les arômes du vin - Les Grappes

The aromas of the wine

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

How to smell the different aromas in wine?

The eye, the nose, the mouth, the three stages of tasting each correspond to the use of one of our senses. But let's not be mistaken, during the tasting, it is by far our olfactory organ that is the most solicited!

Our olfactory bulb is of course used to perceive the odors of the wine when we study the 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 tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, acid and umami.

And it is thanks to the famous retro-olfaction that we "go up" the aromas of the mouth to the olfactory bulb. We strongly advise you to practice retro-olfaction, the change in perception is immediate and you will smell more aromas and more strongly.

Where do the wine aromas come from?

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

Primary aromas, the aromas of the grape

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

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

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

Secondary aromas, the aromas resulting from the fermentation

The fermentation processis quite complex and we will not go into details today. In a nutshell, fermentation is the process of turning "grape juice" into "wine" by transforming sugar into alcohol using yeast.

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

Tertiary aromas, the aromas of aging

As you can imagine, the development of the wine's aromas does not stop once the fermentation is over. Otherwise, what's the point of aging it...

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

Great wines can improve with age and develop a very complex palette of aromas. But beware, each wine has a shelf life and the vast majority of wines will be drunk within five years of harvest.

The 12 families of wine aromas

The world of wine aromas is very rich and complex. To recognize these aromas more easily, look first 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, bell pepper

Dry plant : hay, burnt grass, tobacco

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

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

The vegetal aromas called "green" are often associated with wines whose grapes have not reached maturity. Of course it is difficult to make a general rule. Where the green bell pepper aroma can be seen as a "defect" of maturity, the red bell pepper aroma is a guarantee of nobility in great red wines...

Floral aromas

Fresh flowers : rose, rosehip, hawthorn, honeysuckle, violet, peony, iris, narcissus, orange blossom, acacia, carnation

Dried flowers: wilted roses

Blind tasting tip: the Gewurztraminer grape variety is characterized by its pronounced rose aromas.

Fruity aromas

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

Fresh black fruits : blueberry, blackcurrant, wild berries

Exotic fruits : pineapple, lychee, mango

Stone fruits : plum, mirabelle, guigne, sloe, peach, apricot

Citrus fruits : lemon, mandarin, orange, grapefruit Citrus peels and candied fruits : orange peel

Cooked fruits : compote, fruit jam

Dried fruits : prune, almond, bitter almond, hazelnut, walnut, raisin, fig, dried apricot, dried banana, date

Aromas of jammy or stewed fruits come from very ripe grapes that have seen a lot of sun. We find these aromas of prunes, strawberry compote ... in the red wines of southern France (in the 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

Woody aromas are more or less noble (wood chips "wood" the wine without much nuance...). The "cedar" aromas are the mark of certain great Bordeaux wines.

Balsamic aromas

Balsam, resin, pine resin, fir, thuja, incense, turpentine, camphor, varnish, eucalyptus

Empyreumatic aromas

Burnt, smoked, grilled, soot, tar, coffee, grilled 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 paste, English candy

Fermentation aromas

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

As their name indicates, fermentative aromas are secondary aromas, directly linked to fermentation. The great white wines of Burgundy, which ferment for all or part in barrels, are typically marked by buttery, brioche-like aromas.

Mineral aromas

Hydrocarbon, naphtha, petroleum, flint, graphite, chalk

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

Chemical aromas

Acetone, alcohol, detergent, light taste, hydrogen sulfide

These unpleasant aromas are generally associated with defects in the wine.

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