Wine Words Demystified: Aromas

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word/phrase is Aromas

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

A term broadly used to describe a wine’s smell.  Technically however, the smell of any wine is divided into the aroma, the smell that derives from the grapes, and the BOUQUET a more complex smell that a wine acquires after AGING.

The above definition differentiates between aromas, and bouquet (with bouquet being the smells that result from both fermentation process and aging).  This is one of those areas where wine lovers can be perceived to be snobby if they get persnickety when it comes to the difference between the two.  My advice?  Unless you’re a professional taster, fuhgeddaboudit!  Just refer to what you smell as aromas.

On the other hand, if you do happen to be a professional taster, then you might want to further break down aromas into one of three categories – 1.) Primary (from the grapes), 2.) Secondary (from the fermentation process and oak aging), and 3.) Tertiary (from bottle aging).

A demonstration of smelling the aromas and bou...
A demonstration of smelling the aromas and bouquet of wine in the glass as part of wine tasting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s what I find fascinating about aromas – it’s through the aromas we actually taste wine (and everything else) Here’s why.  The human tongue is limited to distinguishing between one of the five primary tastes (vs. flavors):

  1. Acidity
  2. Sweetness
  3. Bitterness
  4. Saltiness
  5. Unami

Flavor though, according to Wikipedia:

The wide array of fruit, earthy, floral, herbal, mineral and woodsy flavor perceived in wine are derived from aroma notes interpreted by the olfactory bulb

In other words, what we perceive to be as flavors are the senses of taste and smell combined!  So after we sniff a wine to smell its aromas, the process of perceiving tastes and flavors continues when we taste a wine because we also absorb its aromas through the retro-nasal passage that connects our mouth to our nose.

T.M.I.? Probably, but that’s why aromas are an important component of tasting and enjoying wine.  There’s such a strong link between a wine’s aromas and its flavors and taste!