Aroma & Bouquet

Recently I have been listening to some rather heavy wine-talk. As I am still more of a hobbyist than a professional, I sometimes fall of the wagon during discussions. One specific area of confusion has been around primary and secondary aromas as well as aroma versus bouquet. When do you use these and how do you distinguish between them? So I decided to take a few hours to research the subject. The next time someone starts describing a wine with big words, I will be ready for it.

The first thing I noticed was that there is a pretty clear system behind it. So all those “snobby” descriptions of a wine were perhaps not so complicated after all. It was just a language that I did not (do not yet) master. So if you have been cursing that “pretentious” friend or colleague supposedly showing off with their wine knowledge, read on. Perhaps they were just doing their best to share their experience. If you are a true professional, have some patience with me. I am still young and learning.

Llagrima d'Or: primary aroma fresh lemon, secondary aromas peach and apricot; a hint of brioche in the bouquet (or something like that)
Llagrima d’Or: primary aroma fresh lemon, secondary aromas peach and apricot; a hint of brioche in the bouquet (or something like that)

Aromas can be divided into three groups: primary (varietal) aromas, secondary (vinous) aromas and tertiary aromas. The first group, primary aromas, refers to aromas native to the grape. These are often fruity aromas most apparent in young wines. Secondary aromas are those arising from fermentation (aromas produced by yeast) and from aging in oak barrels. This is where most of the aromas in wine are said to come from, this supports my confidence in a good process. Tertiary aromas refer to aromas developed during aging in bottles. I have noticed that different wine guides and experts categorize aging in oak barrels into either secondary or tertiary aromas. To me, oak aging, when used to mature the wine rather than add a touch of flavor, fits better in as a tertiary aroma. However it is, it is not for me to make a definition here, this distinction really takes form in the next paragraph.

And now to the topic of the day, what is the difference between an aroma and a bouquet? Generally wine guides define bouquet as the tertiary aromas in wine, derived from the process of chemical reactions in the wine during aging. Aromas on the other hand are those arising from varietal characteristics; Some created in the raw grape (and surviving the winemaking process) and others enticed out during the fermerntation process.

So how to tell the difference when tasting wine? Practice! It depends on the grape variety and type of fermentation on whether, for example blackcurrant, is classified as a primary or secondary aroma. However one can make some general assumptions (at least an amateur like me can) like red berries and citrus fruit (lemon, grapefruit etc) often being primary aromas; honey, yellow fruits (melon, apricot, pear and yellow apple) as well as wine lees being secondary aromas. Tertiary aromas (bouquet) are heavier and can have musky or smoky characteristics, like baked fruits (prune), roasted nuts, caramel, coffee, leather ad chocolate. Not exactly easy peasy, but there is a logic that I can relate to.

That was it for my aroma studies for now. The only way to really improve my nose is to practice. An aroma set, like Le Nez du Vin is a good way to get into speed. I will continue to find it completely fine to just describe a wine as good or bad, no need for more specifics. However, after making this effort, I will most likely find those detailed discussions on wine at least slightly more interesting than before. Have a great week you all!

xx Soile

Tasting Notes

I am looking outside of the window and it is gray and rainy. As sure as the month changed to September, fall arrived to Sweden. So time turn our thoughts to positive things, like our upcoming September tasting. In the past few days we have put a lot of thought behind how to organize and structure the event. Our ‘Open House’ tastings are events where anyone can come by during the day (set times) and have a swing at our wines before making a purchase decision. People come and go at different times resulting, of course, in a rush at certain times and an empty bar at others. We do not regulate how many wines one can taste or in which order. However it is good to advise the guests with some structure.

Information is power
Information is power

New ideas have popped up, last time’s “mistakes” have been mulled over and our plan is that ‘this time’ all will be nice and “zen”. Well, at least a bit more organized than last time. There was nothing wrong with the event per se. We didn’t run out of wine and everyone had fun, but we were slightly under staffed and people could not in general remember which wines they liked best. They had tasted perhaps too many (hmm we had 17 wines to choose from) or we had offered them a poor set pf notes. We came to the conclusion that it was the latter. So, this time around we have planned a better set of instructions, information and note taking possibilities to offer our tasters a smoother experience. Here are a few of our suggestions for our guests and I think these work as a good guide for tastings in general:

  1. Normally I would not recommend trying more than 4 to 6 different wines during one event. If you are not used to the acidity of wine (especially when talking abut sparkling), the tongue gets easily a bit numb after a while. Trying to asses the wine after that is hard, at least for an amateur like me (my God, how did I ever think I could taste 60 champagnes in one day at Terres & Vins last April?). So the solution is that we will suggest some tasting flights for our guests focusing either on cava or our red wines. Everyone can of course choose for themselves and a cava flight can naturally be followed by a red wine flight, but I think many will appreciate a ready “agenda”.
  2. We will be numbering the wines. People will not have too much time (or patience) to actually write down the whole name or description of the bottle, so it is perhaps easier if we hang a number on the neck of each of our beauties. We can then hand out some small sheets of paper for writing down notes or our guests can just scribble the number of the wine they like the best on their hand. Whatever works best for remembering the favorites.
  3.  When it comes to writing down tasting notes, everyone should do what feels comfortable for them. We do not like to suggest what aromas one should find in the wines, rather it is good if everyone makes their own assessment. Tastes are so different. However as a bit of an amateur, I know it’s not so easy to recognize the different notes in the wine if you don’t have experience. So what I like to do is to think about what kind of event, environment or memory does the wine bring to mind? Where do I travel in my thoughts when I am tasting the wine; a beach in the Mediterranean, a murky bar in Paris or perhaps my old home in rainy London (we had so many nice wines there)? Perhaps I will not be talking like a pro, but people will be interested in my story around the wine. We will also offer some general options in our tasting sheets, so people have a list of aromas to choose from (here is a good guide from Jancis Robinsson to use in your home tastings). I hope that will not silence the imagination.

With these thoughts, we will start the preparation of our tasting materials. If you are interested in joining our tasting on the 12th of September, drop a note to info@thewinecurious.com, and we will send you the address.