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Two Women on Wine: Wine aromas and bouquets

Posted: May 27, 2010 4:15 p.m.
Updated: May 28, 2010 6:00 a.m.
Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier
Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier

How many times have you sniffed a glass of wine and thought to yourself, "I know that smell...but what is it?" That statement is more common than you think. If it has happened to you, you are certainly not alone in feeling that vague sense of recognition that you should be able to identify what it is you smell in the wine but can't.

Smelling wine is the most important aspect of wine appreciation and enjoyment. When it comes to wine, our sense of smell is the most acute of all senses. For instance, we can easily identify what something feels like, sounds like, or looks like. But when it comes to identifying smell and taste, it is often more difficult. The reality is that it shouldn't be harder. Our nose is responsible for sending messages to the brain to distinguish and identify different scents. Research has shown that the average person can identify close to 2,000 different scents. Wine has over 200 scents of its own.

When we smell wine, we are smelling its aromas and bouquet. Aroma - sometimes referred to as the "nose" of the wine - is the scent of the grape. The bouquet refers to the by-products of the fermentation process: stainless steel, oak, or both, along with bottle aging, and winemaking techniques.

The scents of the aromas and the bouquet are different and differ for white and red wines. For example, in white wine you might detect aromas of peach, apricot, honeysuckle, flowers, grapefruit, herbs and bouquet of vanilla, toast, or butter. In red wines, chocolate, strawberries, black cherries, black pepper, white pepper, licorice and tobacco may come to mind with bouquets of smoke, burnt toast, vanilla, earth, cedar, or yeast. As you smell the wine, you may also detect more than one aroma or bouquet.
Common descriptors used when smelling wine are floral, vegetal, buttery, spicy, herbal, smokey, citrusy, fruity, woody, nutty, earthy.

Spend a few seconds swirling the glass of wine, which releases the wine's aromas and bouquet. Stick your nose in the glass (don't be shy) and inhale deeply. Put the glass down, close your eyes and try to identify what you smell. Is it fruity or floral? If so, what type of fruit or flower? Does it smell woody or smokey? Can you detect chocolate, coffee, or citrus?

Your sense of smell tires easily, so if at the first sniff you don't identify an aroma, wait a few moments, swirl the glass again and take another deep whiff.

Here are some aromas and bouquets you might expect in common varietals: Chardonnay (green apple, butter); Riesling (honey, flowers); Sauvignon Blanc (grapefruit, herbal); Cabernet Sauvignon (black currant, cocoa, oak), Pinot Noir (strawberry, raspberry, spice, earth); Zinfandel (blackberries, cinnamon, smoke).

Whatever you smell, it should be pleasant. An unpleasant smell could be a sign that the wine has spoiled. If you detect the smell of wet paper, wet dog, or mold, then the wine may be tainted, commonly referred to as "corked". This is as a result of bacteria invading the cork.

Everyone's sense of smell is different. That is why there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to describing a wine's aroma or bouquet.

Have a good time swirling and sniffing your wine and identifying the different wine scents. You'll be surprised at how good you will become at this. Add to that, it is fun! Cheers!

Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier are owners of Vino 100 in Valencia, a unique specialty wine store offering boutique, handcrafted wines from small, artisan vineyards, as well as a large selection of gifts and accessories. Daily tastings, weekly specials and monthly events. Visit Vino 100 located at 28112 Newhall Ranch Road in the HighRidge Crossing Center at the corner of Copper Hill Drive in Valencia. (661) 294-6886,


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