Tasting and smelling a variety of different wine styles and grape varieties, one can be reminded of different ingredients, fruits or vegetables, grilled or roasted meats, cakes and jams, dishes like curry, and more. This is also part of the reason why wine pairs so well with food.
Let’s have a look at how the aroma of wine is formed. In short, there are 3 types of aromas in wine, with 3 distinct origins:
1. Primary Aromas
This is the term used to describe the smells and flavors that come from the fruit itself, from the grapes (as opposed to the winemaking).
Different grape varieties have intrinsically different aromas. If you were to taste the grape berries in a vineyard, you would find scents that would remind of other plants. Red grapes tend to exhibit aromas of red fruit such as berries, white grapes often display herbaceous tones, citrus, tropical or stonefruit characters.
Depending on the climate and the soil, whether it’s a cool climate or a warmer one, the primary aroma profile can vary greatly too.
Many producers try to preserve the integrity of primary aromas of their wine through careful winemaking techniques such as avoiding oxidation or using gravity. Yet fermentation brings additional layers of secondary flavors, as follows.
2. Secondary aromas
Those describe the smells acquired by the wine thanks to the winemaking process.
The natural flavors present in the grapes (primary aromas) combine and interact with the yeasts and bacteria that run the fermentation to create further aromatic complexity.
The alcoholic fermentation run by yeasts and transforming sugar into alcohol creates fruity aromatic compounds called esters bringing notes of pear, apricot, or peach.
The malolactic fermentation that follows, famously brings in notes of dairy products, cream, butter, and/or yogurt.
Furthermore, when a wine is fermented and/or aged in oak barrels, it acquires aromas of smoke, toast, vanilla, and sweet spices.
3. Tertiary aromas
They are developed in the bottle with age, as the wine’s molecules interact with each other and with oxygen, changing their aromatic profile.
Tertiary aromas are also called bouquet, or evolution bouquet because they are acquired slowly over time as the wine matures in bottle. So, if you’ve been wondering “what is the difference between the aroma and the bouquet of a wine?”, this is your answer: the aroma of a wine is the entirety of its aromatic profile (everything it smells like), while the bouquet is the specific part of a wine’s smell that it developed after it was bottled.
Typical tertiary aromas (or bouquet scents) are those of leather, truffle, some spices such as clove, nutmeg, or fennel, forest floor, wood ashes or grilled meats.
Image credits: Nadya Filatova