The scent of wine: when our senses meet the nature

“How do you like your wine, madam: flavoured or dry?”

This question seems to consider the scent of wine as the most important part of the experience. Moreover, this question is a non-sense. My primary school teacher would say, is like comparing apples with oranges.
Anytime someone ask me this question, in a restaurant or a inn, I feel so uncomfortable.
When this happens, I need to dominate my impulse to leave the place. But, this is evident, the waiter is not knowledgeable enough to recommend us a glass of wine.
Better to ask for the wine list in those cases.

Why this question is a non-sense?

Firstly, a dry wines can be scented as well as flavoures wines can be sweet or demi-sec.
In other words, one thing does not exclude the other.
Moreover, the complex sensation of a wine is not given by the scent of wine only.
The experience is, to clarify, strictly connected with the taste experience.

What is the scent of a wine?

Is the prelude to a love meeting.
It is the dreamy anticipation of what we are about to savour.
Telling us about the soul of the vine and its connection with the earth.
It seduces like a charmer flute; it induces an ancestral gesture.
Allowing us to regain possession of our own space and time makes us forget the external chaos for a moment.
Nothing like the olfactory experience can reopen the drawers of memory, taking us back in time.
Not many people know that the scents of wine is closely linked to the soul of the grape from which it comes.
Intimately linked to the land on which it is born, to the benign light that illuminates the grapes in a certain phase of ripening.
Finally, to the project that those who produce the wine want to carry out.
Amazing things.

Our nose is magic.

Firstly, without smell there is no taste. The animals sniff their food to check if it is harmful or edible. A survival instinct that man has put aside over the centuries.
In fact, being able to control, produce and preserve food, the humankind has safe food available.
Our mind has assumed, to explain, the need not to control food.
Thus, we have progressively lost a large part of our olfactory sensitivity.
In addition, smog, environmental conditions, the use of perfumes, smoke, negatively affect our olfactory abilities.
Despite this, the human olfactory system remains a wonderful “machine”, able to distinguish a myriad of different smells. And together, to give us great emotions.

A new scent is born.

The numerous odorous molecules present in the wine rise to the surface along the glass reaching our nose.
The smells of wine depend, firstly, on varietal aromas, the odorous molecules present in grapes. Wine contains various molecules and chemical compounds that refer to both the components of the grape and the chemical transformation due to fermentation.
For example, the various families of Muscat, Malvasia, Traminer are aromatic varieties.
Clearly the development of these aromas will also be linked to the ripening of the grapes. It also depends, of course, on the vintage in terms of climatic conditions.
In addition to the aromas related to the grape variety, there are those developed by fermentation, called secondary aromas. Those related to refinement are called tertiary aromas.

How do scents turns?

It is a complex process, a chemical magic. Let us try to make a practical example. Just imagine having white wine produced in a not too hot year, from a neutral grape, with a medium development of aromas.
During fermentation, hints of fresh fruit such as banana, apple, pineapple, melon may develop. The chemical responsible for these scents are called esters.
With the aging, this fruit aromas will probably change. In fact, the esters, which basically are combinations of an acid and an alcohol combined in alcoholic fermentation, gradually return to separate.
This decreases the esters aromatic scent leaving the field to the alcohols.
This process is the hydrolysis, very sensitive to the storage temperature. Therefore, higher is the temperature, faster the hydrolysis occurs, and the fruity aromas get lost.
When we store wine, humidity level and temperature conditions are crucial, especially for prolonged aging.

What about an aromatic wine?

A white wine made with aromatic grapes will experience a different evolution.
At the beginning, banana, or apple scents, will dominate over all the others. After the hydrolysis, the wine will turn into a phase of almost total shutdown of the olfactory set.
Is like if the wine scent turns back to time, at the moment before alcoholic fermentation.
The next phase, however, will see the release of the varietal odorous molecules, which will take place very slowly.
The final smell will no longer be fresh fruit, but will turn towards floral and dried fruit notes. Or candied citrus fruits, apricot or dried figs, saffron, ginger or hydrocarbons.
Therefore, wines produced from grapes with aromatic content are the most suitable for aging.
Always keeping in mind that wine is a living and changing compound.
Wine in the bottle, therefore, it contains all these molecules that continue to evolve and change over time.

The flavour of floral and fruity

Once poured into the glass, the wine releases the odorous molecules that rise upwards reaching our nose. Perfumes invade our nose.
The floral scent of rose, violet, wisteria would therefore not be a fantasy of the sommelier.
Rather it is related to something physical, albeit intangible.
These molecules called terpenes constitute a class of primary importance in wine.
A presence of linalool will give us, to explain, a sensation of rose scent.
Esters, other molecules present in wine, instead return fruity scents.
Here it is the famous “fruity” of the drink coming from the fruit vitis-vinifera.

How amazing is our brain!

Neophytes love when finding aromas of exotic fruit in a wine from Northern Europe.
This is possible when the chemical structure of the odorous molecules turns like other molecules, which our brain has registered as “exotic”.
This is common after the chemical big bang of alcoholic fermentation.
Human brain is able, just opening the right “memory-file”, to recognize a scent smelled even once.
Therefore when a scented molecula comes similar to another, we match those.
In this, wine tasting offers us a great opportunity: connecting specific areas of the brain.
This exercise will allow us to train our memory and reconnect the senses with images.

In conclusion, it is a wonderful training for our brain, focusing on memory and emotions.
But does he also talk about wine? Yes, indeed.

Would you like to now more about the scent of wine? Book a virtual wine appreciation class