A Quick Sniff

Olfactory examination and a quick sniff tells you more if you know what to look for:

Aromas (see 601.1) can be divided into three categories.

  • Primary (intrinsic to the grape variety)
  • Secondary (due to fermentation such as aldehydes, acetates etc.)
  • Tertiary (the harmony of the Primary and Secondary with the first stages of bottle maturation)

Bouquet (see 301.1) is the result of the way the wine was made and/or aged

  • Oxidative bouquet
    The compounds in wine that arise as a result of exposure to air (deliberately in the winemaking process, over time in the bottle or otherwise) – smell of dried nuts, butter, madeira,or ‘rancio’ characteristics such as that found in sherry
  • Reductive bouquet
    The wines that are protected from contact with air during the winemaking process are often aromatic and fresh but begin to form reductive odours once they contact air. This is a tertiary aroma akin to old red and fine dry or sweet wines

Flavour is the Odour or the Scent of the wine

In judging wines, some place more importance in the ‘smell’ of wine than its taste. Certainly, in terms of ‘tasting’ flavours, much of it is detected via the olfactory means.

If the colour of a wine implies an aged wine, the smell of it should be consistent.

As you become accustomed to wine styles and types, you will find that you are able to make educated guesses as to the style and condition of the wine just by the aromas detected. This table suggests some examples.

Aroma Inferences
Citrus Grapes picked when unripe; possibly cool climate wines such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay
Strawberries & Cough Drops Wines that have been through Carbonic Maceration
Green Apples Youthful white wine, usually Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc
Grapefruit Riesling
Roses Muscat Blanc
Honey Chardonnay, Semillon
Apricots Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Dessert Wine or mature white wine
Truffles Complex red wine, after a few years ageing
Currants, cherries Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet
Pepper Shiraz, Mourvedre
Mushrooms Red wine entering its peak
Chocolate Red wine at it peak
Prunes Red wines at peak, beginning its decline
Vanilla White wines aged in oak ; usually Chardonnay
Caramel White and red wines aged in heavy toasted barrels
Tobacco Red wines capable of maturation
Tea leaves White wines capable of maturation

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