Wine's aromas develop over timeby Barry Smith / May 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Why are the aromas of well-aged wines so appealing? Normally, we favour fresh smells: newly baked bread, fresh linen. Yet when it comes to fine wine we like the mature smell of graceful degradation. What are the older wine aromas that we pick up on and why are they so prized?
As wines age their aromas develop greater complexity, readily discernible on the nose. These merit a separate term in professional wine circles: bouquet. Many people use the terms aroma and bouquet interchangeably, but Emile Peynaud, the father of modern oenology, reserved the term bouquet for the distinctive harmony of odours that is only achieved with time.
The primary aromas are those due to the characteristics of the grape variety, like the bell pepper of Cabernet Sauvignon. Secondary aromas are fermentation products, like the notes of popcorn or butterscotch in Chardonnays that have undergone a long malolactic fermentation. The emergence of tertiary aromas, like honey in whites or truffle and undergrowth in reds marks the end of a wine’s youth.
A mature wine offers pleasure and sophistication on the nose. Textures and tastes soften but a wine’s aromatic profile develops with age, producing, in the case of claret, that beguiling smell of old libraries and furniture polish. Young wines can never have these characteristics. That’s because the maturing of a wine transforms it, producing volatile compounds that wine chemists are just beginning to understand.