A Brief Summary on Wine Bouquet and Aroma

  • There’s nothing quite like the sensory experience of tasting wine.
  • Wine tasting triggers all your senses, even memory.
  • Of all your senses, wine triggers your sense of smell the most. 
  • There are a lot of terms people use to describe a wine’s smell during a tasting. Two common and easily confused terms are bouquet and aroma. 
  • Although they are similar, a wine’s aroma and bouquet can be quite unique from each other.  

Below is a detailed guide on the differences between these two wine-tasting terms. We’ll also go into detail about what each term identifies and why so you can have even more wine knowledge to take to your next tasting event. 

Wine Aromas VS Wine Bouquets

When we say aroma, we’re talking about the main aromas you get from the wine. Things like red and dark fruit, herbs, and flowers are all examples of aromas. 

Wine bouquets are the more detailed and strange things you pick up from a wine. Things like spices, yeast, and complex earthy smells like forest floor and even smells like leather bootstrap are all examples of bouquets. 

red wine pouring into wine glass

Aromas give us a first impression. These are the scents that tell us what kind of grape the wine was made from. 

A wine’s bouquet tells us more complex information. This includes the wine’s age, style of fermentation, and things that happen during the fermentation process. 

What Are Wine Aromas?

When grapes are pressed and fermented into wine, each type of grape creates distinct aromas. These easy to identify traits are called primary aromas. 

These aromas are naturally part of the grapes themselves. To us, they seem fruity, herbal, and floral, and remind us of common ingredients. 

tasting wine prepared according to a traditional recipe on an old wooden table, clusters of grapes nearby, time to travel along popular routes

For example, cabernet franc often gives us aromas of cherry, raspberry, and bell pepper, while pinot noir gives off strawberry and cherry. Cabernet Sauvignon can hint of cassis, violets, and even licorice. 

These scents come from compounds present in the grape and its skin. Even at a molecular level, they actually resemble compounds found in fruit and other plants. 

By detecting a wine’s primary aroma, you’re one step closer to identifying which grape it comes from. This is one of the most handy tricks wine experts and sommeliers use to identify wines. 

What Are Wine Bouquets?

A bouquet is a wine’s secondary or tertiary aromas. These are more subtle and are not dependent on the type of grape but on the winemaking process. 

When winemakers make wine, they let it ferment. When grapes go through fermentation, yeast converts their sugars into alcohol. 

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These yeasts have similar flavors to the yeasts that bakers use to bake bread. When the yeasts break down the grape sugars into alcohol and other compounds, they release secondary aromas which can resemble anything from yogurt to dried mushrooms. 

Tertiary aromas are even more complex and exciting to pick out. These aromas usually come from aging and get even more pronounced as the wine ages. 

Winemakers sometimes age their wines in oak, stainless steel, or in the bottles before selling it. Each of these aging processes gives the wine a different bouquet. 

The process of aging wine introduces things that either enhance or change the wine’s aromas. A critical aspect of aging involves exposing the wine to oxygen, which in controlled amounts, contributes to your wine’s bouquet. 

If you’ve ever picked up on aromas like forest floor, cigar box, leather, or hazelnut, then you’ve definitely smelled tertiary aromas. Also, wine that’s been aged in oak will have even more tertiary aromas present, like nuts and tobacco leaves. 

The longer you age a wine, the more it will lose its primary aromas and develop its more complex and ‘funky’ secondary and tertiary aromas. For age-worthy wines such as a Bordeaux blend or a Burgundy, these extra aromas can create flavor profiles unlike anything else. 

Top Wine Tasting Tips

To pick up on a wine’s aroma and bouquet, there are a few steps every wine taster should follow. Below are a few pointers so you can detect these incredibly subtle yet delicious attributes in wine. 

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Look at the Wine

The first step involves looking at your wine’s color intensity and hue by holding your glass against a white background or even your hand. The hue offers clues about the wine’s age and grape variety. 

White wines darken with age, becoming browner and deeper in color. Red wines become lighter and more translucent as their tannins break down. 

Finally, the clarity of your wine depends on how it’s made or if it has flaws. Naturally, aged red wines may get cloudy because of sediment. Also, some winemakers choose not to filter their wines, which can be a good thing depending on the wine. 

Take a Quick Sniff

Before moving on to the next step, take a quick sniff of your wine without moving it. Wine changes as you expose it to air, a process known as aeration. 

Give your wine a quick smell to get any initial aromas. These can be both good or unpleasant and that’s ok. 

Move Your Wine Around

Swirling your wine in your wine glass aerates it, releasing its primary aroma compounds associated with its grape variety or varieties. 

You can also see the ‘legs’ of the wine form on glass after you swirl it around. This shows you the amount of alcohol your wine contains. 

Take a Deep Sniff

Place the glass’s rim to your upper lip and take a deep inhale through your nose. Pay attention to all the aromas you pick up.  

You may get hints of primary scents of fruit, flowers, or herbs. Then, you will probably pick up secondary aromas such as yeast, cream, or freshly baked bread. 

If you have an aged wine, tertiary aromas like forest floor, mushrooms, or tobacco leaf will shine. 

Take Your First Sip

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Take your first sip and let the wine coat your palate. Note if it’s dry or sweet or has any tart acidity. If your wine has tannins, your mouth may feel dry or chalky.  

Think About Your Wine and How it Tastes

After swallowing, swish your wine in your mouth for a few seconds. Take a breath of air through your nose and pay attention to all the aromas and bouquets that fill your mouth and nose. 

Take a moment to think about the wine’s finish. How long do the flavors linger? A longer finish often means that your wine is of high quality.

Try to take note if your wine’s aroma and bouquet changes the more you taste it and the longer you leave it in your glass. See if you’re able to detect more secondary or tertiary aromas as you swirl the wine around your palate. 

Wine Glass Varieties

Different wine glass varieties enhance the wine bouquet and aroma. The shape of the glass can affect how the wine is aerated and how the aroma is delivered to the nose. For example, a narrow rim can concentrate the aroma of a wine, while a wider bowl can allow for more aeration.

Why Paying Attention to Bouquet and Aroma Matters

Knowing the difference between your wine’s bouquet and aroma will help you enjoy it to the fullest. When you pay attention to these differences, you’re able to improve your appreciation for wine and its unique qualities. 

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No matter if you want to show off to your friends at a tasting or just learn for yourself, knowing the difference between a bouquet and aroma will push your wine-tasting journey to new heights.