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Wine Aroma & Flavour

One of the greatest joys of a good glass of wine is the aroma. And likewise, it can also be one of the worst parts about a bad glass of wine! Our olfactory senses are incredibly evocative, with the power of smell stimulating up to 75% of our emotions and having the ability to transport us in an instant to just about anywhere in time and space. And of course we know from Charles Spences’ Gastrophysics studies that how food or drink smells immediately informs the brain as to what the experience of consumption is going to be like before anything has passed our lips.

Our new grape varietal specific stemware partners, Riedel, know what an integral role wine aroma plays in enjoying your favourite kinds and as such, each of their beautifully designed glasses has taken this into consideration. The subtle curvature of the rim and the inner surface area of the glass on each piece within every Riedel series has been created with purpose – to improve the organoleptic experience of wine in every way possible.

When searching for quality in stemware, the Riedel family cannot be surpassed. Passing down their extensive knowledge of the delectation of fine wine from generation to generation (with the first Riedel in the trade of luxury glassware being Johann Cristoph, born in 1673 and exploring his love for Bohemian crystal glass in his home of Pavlovice), detailed research into the effects of glassware on drinking satisfaction has spanned hundreds of years. The result is attention to detail like none-other and an appreciation for all the little things that truly bring a bottle to life.

Aromas and flavours are one of the first aspects of wine first pondered by wine lovers and connoisseurs all over the world. We are all familiar with wine descriptions detailing notes ranging from light, fruity lychee to deep earthy mushroom and even leather, but perhaps lesser known is why and how these characteristics come about. In todays ‘getting geeky with Riedel’ blog, we’ll be delving into the science behind the smell and invite you to get to know your glass in a whole new way.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND WINE AROMA & FLAVOUR

Wine aromas and flavours can vary enormously, but of course we know that wine makers are not blending their grapes with any of the ingredients picked up, so where do these come from? As with much of the dining experience, it all comes down to science. In this case, aroma compounds.

There are three main categories of wine aromas which many scents fall under…

AROMAS

EARTHY

Geosmin – an organic compound from a type of bacteria which deliver a rich earthy scent akin to soil, mushrooms or beetroot.

Volatile Acidity – another type of bacteria commonly present during the process of winemaking. A complex, almost pickled or vinegar flavour when in small amounts, but unappealing and very acidic when there is too much.

Sulphur – UV damage can cause a sulphurous scent to take on a woolly note, which is very undesirable in wines. But certain sulphur compounds provide wonderful minerality.

Brettanomyces – A type of phenol (a compound found naturally occurring in peppers, among other plant sources) which comes about as a result of adding a wild yeast to the mix. Expect a pleasant, yet almost medicinal tone from this similar to clove.

SPICY

Lactones – By its name, you might imagine ‘spicy’ aromas to stop at peppery notes but lactones fall into this category and surface as creamy aromas. Honey, vanilla and coconut are all examples of this delightful flavour.

Rotundone – A classic pepper often found in reds. This particular terpene is also found in essential oils of oregano and black pepper, so you can imagine the kick!

High Dose Thiols – In stark contrast to the thiols found in fruity notes, high doses of this in a wine will present to the palette and nose as distinctly smoky and bitter.

Botrytis – Although this is a fungus which loves ripe fruits, the inclusion of this in wine is not considered a bad thing! This can add a rich honey or in lower concentration, a chamomile note.

FRUITY/HERBACEOUS/FLORAL

Low Dose Thiols – Not all fruit notes in wine are sweet, some are on the bitter end of gooseberry and grapefruit and these are the result of organosulphur compound, thiol.

Pyrazines – Grassy, green aromas like that of elderflower or even grass itself come from this organic aromatic compound.

Esters – Despite coming from acids, esters give that very sweet fruity flavour often described as juicy berries in red or apple in a sweet white.

Terpenes – The most classically floral of the bunch, but with a unique versatility which can come across as resinous.

WHERE DO THE AROMAS COME FROM?

Not all aromas are made equal! The experts at Riedel fill us in on how these aromas come about…

 

AROMAS IMPARTED BY THE GRAPES
These aromas derive directly from the grapes; immediately after bottling, they typically dominate the flavour of the young wine. Eventually, these fruit aromas give way to or are complemented by mature aromas.

AROMAS IMPARTED BY BOTTLE AGE
New aroma structures develop over time as the wine matures in the bottle, thereby enriching the mature wine’s flavour. Mature aromas start to dominate after the wine has peaked and can eventually cause the wine to seem tired. Some wines do not age well and should be drunk when young.

AROMAS IMPARTED BY VINIFICATION
The winemaker can heavily influence the wine’s flavour by the use of steel tanks, wooden casks or barriques (small wood barrels). This is dependent on the intensity of the use, the age of the wine, and the level of the toasting (roasting of wood barrels over fire). Various aromas from vanilla to caramel may be imparted to the wine. Furthermore, stirring of the yeast cells may impart yeasty or buttery aromas. These vinification aromas can become either complementary or dominant in the finished wine.


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