Oenologie - Les arômes du vin - Les Grappes

The aromas of the wine

Aromas are the essential part of olfactory tasting, the "nose" of the wine, but aromas also play an essential role during tasting, the "mouth" of the wine. In short: the lexicon 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 about it, 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 odours 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 the 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 the aromas in the mouth are "brought up" to the olfactory bulb as much as possible. We strongly advise you to practise retro-olfaction, the change in perception is immediate and you will feel more aromas and this more strongly.

Where do the aromas of the wine come from?

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

The primary aromas, the aromas of the grapes

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 "varietals". 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. Conversely, other grape varieties, such as Riesling or Chardonnay, are less aromatic and different terroirs will give distinct aromatic expressions.

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

The secondary aromas, the aromas resulting from fermentation

The fermentation process is quite complex and we're not going to go into details today. In a nutshell, fermentation is the process that allows us to go from "grape juice" to "wine" by the transformation of sugar into alcohol thanks to yeasts.

Of course, fermentation is a much more complex reaction than it seems and the aromatic molecules evolve at this stage. The choice of yeasts is fundamental in the development of certain 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 maturation

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

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

Very 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 being harvested.

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 ...).

Vegetable aromas

Green plant: grass, elderberry, boxwood, broom, ivy, fern, moss, blackcurrant bud, 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...

So-called "green" plant aromas are often associated with wines whose grapes have lacked maturity. Of course it is difficult to make 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: rose, rosehip, hawthorn, honeysuckle, violet, peony, iris, narcissus, orange blossom, acacia, carnation...

Dried flowers: faded pink

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

The fruity aromas

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

Fresh black fruits: blueberry, blackcurrant, wild berries.

Exotic fruits: pineapple, lychees, mangoes

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

Citrus fruits: lemon, tangerine, orange, grapefruit Candied fruit and citrus fruits: orange peel

Cooked fruits: compote, fruit jam

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

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

Spicy aromas

Pepper, green pepper, paprika, liquorice, parsley, chervil, coriander, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg

Woody aromas

Dry wood, bark, oak, cedar, exotic woods, etc.

The woody aromas are more or less noble (wood shavings "wood" the wine without much nuance). The "cedar" aromas are the mark of some of the great growths of Bordeaux.

Balsamic aromas

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

Empyreumatic aromas

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

Animal aromas

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

The aromas of confectionery

Honey, caramel, vanilla, chocolate, praline, almond paste, english candy

Fermentation aromas

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

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

Mineral aromas

Hydrocarbon, naphtha, petroleum, flint, flint, graphite, chalk

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

Chemical aromas

Acetone, alcohol, detergent, light taste, hydrogen sulphide

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

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