We all dream of identifying all flavours in a wine in order to seem more pro in front of our friends. It is true that it isn’t an easy task. However, there are some tricks to help you to smell or at least guess what flavours there are in your glass of wine.


What are the different notes in wines?

First of all, it is good to know that there are several types of flavours in a same wine: primary, secondary and tertiary aromas. Thus, there are many decisive elements that intervene into the creation of a wine: the grape variety, the soil, the climate, the vintage, the maturing…etc. Many factors play a role into the wine’s aromatic palette.

Primary aromas

Primary aromas correspond to the first notes of the juice. Indeed, it can vary from vegetal and spicy notes such as green pepper or pepper that we find into wines made of Cabernet, to floral notes, like lime tree or acacia, present in wines from Vouvray and Sauternes. And finally, fruity notes, such as citrus fruits or red fruits, especially the renowned Pinot Noir’s strawberry of Burgundy.

Secondary aromas

Wine ageing in Château Baudan, Listrac-Médoc

Then, secondary aromas are formed during the alcohol and malolactic fermentation. These news flavours come from the transformation of the grapes’ components, in particular sugar and amino acid. Afterwards appear new molecules giving rise to another aromatic palette, such as ethyl acetate (bananas’ flavours) or ethyl butanoate (pineapples’ flavours). Thus, we find yellow-fleshed fruits aromas like apricot or peach, and also others spice and herb, such as cinnamon, cloves or saffron.

Tertiary aromas

These last aromas are formed during the barrel ageing, which means when the wine is getting older (evolving aromas). During this part, it is possible to play with the aromatic palette. Indeed, the notes can be different depending the barrels selected by winemakers, depending the type of wood, the origin (soil, forest…), the type of healing etc. Accordingly, during this stage several new notes can appear such as vanilla notes, caramel, chocolate, grilled almond, liquorice, leather, coffee etc.

As a result we find 5 aromatic families into wine: fruity notes, floral notes, vegetal and spicy notes, animal notes and grilled notes.

Which aromas in a white wine?

Château Malartic-Lagravière, Grand Cru Classé de Graves

Different aromas can be smelt in a wine depending if it is single-varietal wine or a blended wine. We often find citrus fruits notes in white wines, such as lemon or grapefruit. But also, white floral notes such as may tree or acacia that we find in particular in wines made of chardonnay. It is common to feel yellow-fleshed fruits like apricot, peach that we can find in Gewurztraminers wines, late-harvest wines. Not forgetting sweeter notes such as honey for dessert wines.

Which aromas in a red wine?

In red wines, it is frequent to find red fruits notes, such as strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, especially in wines made of the renowned Medoc’s grape variety: the Cabernet Sauvignon. This one brings an interesting aromatic complexity to each wine. Floral notes are also present here, such as violet flower that we can find in wines with Syrah or pinot noir. Without forgetting tertiary aromas depending of the ageing of the wine: smoked notes, liquorice, chocolate etc.

Which aromas in a rosé wine?

Wine pairing at Champagne AR Lenoble

Rosé wines have a complex aromatic palette too. We won’t forget that grape varietal in rosé wines are red grapes varieties and not white grape varieties. In a rosé we can find exotic and citrus fruits notes such as litchi; yellow and white-fleshed fruits like melon and peach; red fruits, floral notes and also spice and herb notes such as pepper or cinnamon.

What can you do to improve your olfactory abilities?

Several wine estates offer in their wine touristic activities, workshop in order to help their consumers to identify the different flavours in a wine and developpe their senses. Champagne AR Lenoble put in place a sensory workshop to recognize aromas in Champagne. If you are not a fan of sparkling wine and you prefer learn the differences between grape varieties, you have the workshop discovering grape variety of Château Malartic-Lagravière, where you will be driven into a Franco-Argentinian sensory journey…

In order to develop your senses, it is important in your daily life to use your sense of smell too. For instance, do not hesitate to smell all of your spices, to smell what you are eating, because in the end, we can know the taste of an apple, but do we know its smell?

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