Guide to Wine

Wine Bouquet & Aroma

Testing the Aromas of a White Wine

The Oxford English Dictionary partially defines flavor as “the element in the taste of a substance which depends greatly on the cooperation of the sense of smell.” Approximately 80 percent of what we taste is attributable to our sense of smell. For instance, have you ever tried to enjoy food while battling a cold? The flavors of the food are blocked, suffocating the sense of taste. In wine tasting and evaluation, the sense of smell is a crucial aspect in determining the overall quality of a wine, as well as its taste.

To fully appreciate a wine's bouquet and aroma, fill a wine glass to about one-third capacity. Ideally, the top of the glass should be slightly curved inwards to funnel the scent of the wine into a concentrated area. Gently swirling the wine mixes air with the wine, encouraging the aromas to emerge.

When describing aromas, there are two key points to remember. The first aspect described should be the intensity of the aroma (was it highly aromatic, powerful and inviting or was it more subtle, even subdued?). The second aspect should be the description of what did the wine's aroma remind you of?

Varietal wine can often be recognized by its specific aromas. The better the wine quality, the more apparent are the scents to the taster. Aroma is the smell of the grapes used to make the wine. Winemaking modifies these aromas in different ways. Malolactic fermentation produces a butterscotch aroma, while aging in oak barrels contributes vanilla and clove notes to Chardonnay and most red wines. In contrast, Sauvignon Blanc is recognizable by its varietal herbaceousness (bell pepper or grass).

As you look down the following list, you may ask yourself, “How can a grape smell like a pineapple, or pears, or grass, or tar, or diesel, or any of those other things that wine snobs say it tastes or smells like?” Before you scoff at it, try tasting a glass of wine while looking at the list of possibilities. You will probably notice smells and flavors you hadn't considered before. It is by no means an exact science and opinions/perceptions are subject to argument, but there are lots of possibilities that add to the discussion and contribute to the fun.

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