A wine’s aroma, or “nose,” is the smell of the wine in the glass. The aroma can be floral, citrus, fruity, vegetal, earthy or any number of familiar scents depending on the grape varietal used, the winemaking process implemented and the wine’s storage conditions.
You’ve heard it said that, “The nose knows” and this is certainly the case with tasting wine. The human nose is capable of differentiating between thousands of unique scents. It’s the nose that allows us to get a handle on the variety of flavors a wine presents, while the tongue is limited to sensing: salty, sweet, bitter and sour. To truly taste wine you will need to recruit the nose to pick up the flavor scents and the tongue to help discern the tastes.
Wine “Aroma” vs. “Bouquet”
To get the best whiff of the wine’s aroma, spend a good 10 seconds swirling the glass with some vigor. This allows the alcohol to volatize and will lift the wine’s innate scents towards your nose.
At times you’ll hear a distinction between a wine’s “aroma” and a wine’s “bouquet.” Technically, the term “aroma” refers to the scents presented by the grape’s varietal character and are often more obvious in a younger wine. Examples of these primary aroma smells include: the scent of peach with Riesling, apple aromas with Chardonnay, strawberry with Pinot Noir, etc. While the term “bouquet” is often used in reference to the complex scents that emerge from an older, more mature wine or it can also point out the secondary scents that are directly influenced by the winemaker.
Also Known As: A wine’s smell or overall aroma is also called the “nose.”
For example, if a vintner chooses to use oak in the making of a particular wine, the oak influences can contribute to the wine’s “bouquet” of spice, smoke or vanilla scents.
A winemaker might also decide to use malolactic the making of a Chardonnay, resulting in a wine with rich, butter-based smells. These buttery scents specifically come under the nose category of “bouquet” not “aroma” because they would not be present in a Chardonnay that has not undergone malolactic fermentation, an intervention used by the vintner and not innate in the grape’s varietal character.