Aromas of Wine: Describing Aromas & Using Them in Tastings

Wine contains thousands of scents and only a handful of tastes so aromas play a big part in wine tasting. The Aromas of Wine workshop at the fourth annual Wine Bloggers Conference taught us the facts behind how we get aroma from a wine and how we to describe aromas and use them in tastings.

Many people have difficulty describing aromas. There are the general terms of fruity, woody, earthy, herbal. As Dr. Ann Nobel, who created the Wine Aroma Wheel in 1984, says it’s difficult to describe aromas as there aren’t “primary aromas” like there are “primary colors” (red, blue, yellow) and with wines, we don’t have visual cues to help us describe the aromas we are getting. But we can learn more about the types of aromas we find in wines which will help us more easily pick them out and describe them.

Types of Aromas

First, there are three types of aromas in wine.

  • Primary: the actual grape aromas or youthful aromas; usually specific to grape varieties (i.e. Chardonnay grape has specific aromas)
  • Secondary: vinification / fermentation / oak aging aromas (i.e. oak or buttery aromas)
  • Tertiary: aromas from bottle age (i.e. leather or smokey aromas)

Classic Descriptors

Second, there are classic descriptors for each type of grape, for winemaking processes and for maturation. These charts, used by Sheri Sauter Morano in the workshop, put it all together for me! Once you know these classic descriptors, it can help you discover more wines you like and help you if you ever do a Blind Tasting, like we did at the workshop.

Kits & Tools

Third, use different kits and tools to expand your wine aroma vocabulary.

  • The Wine Aroma Wheel: Using actual the actual item (a lemon, raspberry, piece of dark chocolate, etc…), you get the real smell and taste to go with the wine. Sheri Sauter Morano in our workshop used this process to lead us through a Blind Tasting (it paired with the facts above can make you a pro)!
  • L’Atelier du Vin Wine Tasting Kit: The Wine Discovery Kit is an illustrated tasting method with 40 wine aromas and 50 tasting. While focused on French wines its still a great resource for scents if you don’t want to get the real items every time.

In the end, all palates perceive wine differently. Our memory, experiences and expectations affect how we perceive wine as do our culture, age, gender and preference.  There is no right or wrong answer in wine tasting, but with a little more facts and practice in wine aromas, you can get more out of your tastings and look like a pro when tasting with your friends!

Cheers to the Aromas of Wine!

 

* special thanks to Sheri Sauter Morano for sharing her presentation so I could share more with you!