There are numerous groups of aromas to discover in a glass of wine. This is why the olfactory part of a wine tasting is closely linked to the sensorial memory of each person.

After evaluating the intensity of a wine, we try to evaluate its complexity and above all recognize its bouquet, which can guide us towards a particular grape variety (Sauvignon Blanc that smells of wood, Merlot that has an aroma of plum), towards a certain terroir and that can give us important elements to understand the techniques used in winemaking. The image of a sommelier who swirls a wine glass and talks about particular aromas resembles that of a magician or a priest directly questioning the god Dionysus.

It is important to remember that it is not necessary to prove you are an expert when testing wine. Coherence and intrinsic reasoning, which is secondary to perception, helps to better understand what is in the glass.

The complexity and quality of a wine

A wine is said to be complex when it is possible to identify numerous families of aromas represented by different descriptors and which remain etched in the olfactory memory. A young wine for example is considered simple, while a more mature and aged wine is more complex.

 If the aromas are perceived as clear, clean and elegant, the olfactory quality of the wine will certainly be remarkable: very good and excellent wines have a bouquet with these characteristics.

To appreciate them, it is customary to gently swirl the glass in order to allow the various aromas to manifest themselves: this should be repeated a few times, pausing to avoid “tiring” the nose.

The families of wine aromas

As already seen in the first part of olfactory analysis, aromas can be primary, secondary or tertiary. Here are the main aromas a wine can have, which are categorised below.

Among the primary aromas, the following families can be identified:

  • Floral: acacia, jasmine, rose, peony, iris, broom, mimosa.
  • Citrus fruits: lemon, lemon or orange peel, orange, grapefruit, cedar.
  • Tropical fruit: pineapple, banana, passion fruit, mango, lychee.
  • Red fruits: currant, cranberry, strawberry, black cherry, cherry, raspberry, plum.
  • Black fruits: blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, black plum.
  • Fruit: peach, apricot, medlar, apple, pear, gooseberry.
  • Cooked or dehydrated fruit: fig, plum, sultanas, fruit jam.
  • Spices: black and white pepper, liquorice.
  • Herbaceous: tomato leaf, asparagus, fennel, sage, rosemary.
  • Balsamic: mint, eucalyptus, immortelle, myrtle.
  • Others: flint, wet stone.

Among the secondary aromas are:

  • Derivatives from malolactic fermentation, with hints of butter, cream and cheese.
  • Derivatives from the autolysis of yeasts, with hints of bread, brioche, toast and pastries.
  • Derivatives from wooden containers, with hints of vanilla, nutmeg, coconut, cedar, chocolate, smoke, coffee, cloves.

Finally, tertiary aromas can be divided into:

  • Derivatives from an oxidative style, the wine has a bouquet of marzipan, hazelnut, walnut, coffee, toffee, caramel and almond.
  • Derivatives from bottle aging, with aromas of petroleum, kerosene, ginger, mushroom, honey, beeswax, humus, tobacco, leather and truffles.

What are the main defects that can be recognized in wine?

The aromas of a glass of wine can represent qualities or characteristic elements of some types of wineries, but these must be balanced. If in excess, they can be considered defects that compromise the tasting. Here are some examples of defects that can be found during olfactory analysis :

  • Cork odour: a strong smell of wet cardboard and mould, identified as TCA (trichloroanisole). Related to a mushroom, Armillaria Mellea and affecting about 1-3% of corks. To avoid this, many companies use Stelvin corks (screw), which are packed with materials of plant origin (Nomacorc) or glass.
  • “Brett”: this gives wines an earthy, rustic smell reminiscent of a wet patch or horse saddle and Brettanomyces, wild yeasts, are responsible for this. Very thorough cleaning in wineries avoids this problem.

Volatile acidity: represented by acetic acid and ethyl acetate in small doses, this can add complexity to a wine. When it exceeds one gram per lire, it produces a pungent odour and can generate a reaction in hypersensitive individuals.

8 February 2022 hOn