How would you describe aromatics?

Good weekend, everyone!

So I've been fighting with this term for quite sometime now and everyone that I speak with seems to have slightly different to vastly different answers on what they perceive to be aromatics in wine. I'd love to know everyone's thoughts on what aromatics really are and how they relate to wine. What do you get on the nose that would make you describe a wine as aromatic? Are there certain smells you look for? Does this translate over to the palate? Can red wines be aromatic? I'm kind of canvassing the entire board here, I realize, but that's half the problem I feel when it comes to aromatics because it seems to be so all-encompassing. Geoff, I'd be particularly interested in your take on this if you have the time.



  • I would say this:

    Everything has a smell, so at the end of the day there are describable aromas in all wine. It isn't necessarily you looking for the aroma, it's more about you describing how the aroma presents itself to you. By that I mean, don't be trying to push the idea of something smelling a certain way or of a certain thing just because you want it to be there, just describe what impression you are getting from what's in the glass.

    Sometimes it translates to the palate, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it kinda does but not 100%. If a wine smells like red fruits and tastes like red fruits, great. If it smells like red fruits and tastes like way darker black fruits, that's fine, not an outlier, just something to pay attention to in order to gain an understanding of that wine or producer and their style. 

    Red wines can certainly be aromatic. I think the most important thing here when calling a red wine aromatic is what you are really saying is that the aromatics are essentially more powerful than the flavors on the palate. This can be noticed in things like mature red Bugundy or Barolo where the aroma is really intense and distinct but the flavors on the palate are more delicate and subdued. 

    If you smell it, describe it, and that's the aroma for you. Everything counts. 

  • I really only use the term aromatics unless I'm discussing or focused on intensity or, complexity as a general term. Every wine "has aromatics" so its sort of a false flag to categorize it. When we talk about "aromatic whites" for instance, the reference is to those white varietals known for having aggressive, powerful/intense, or distinct bouquets that present themselves very prominently. Muscat, Gewurtz, Torrontes, New World Sauv Blanc, Viognier... Then there are "semi-aromatic" whites like Rieslings, Chenins and Pinot Gris (not at all a full accounting) that may or may not be as present in the glass due to provenance, winemaking, climate, vintage (2015 Sancerre anyone?)...but compare all those to a basic Chablis, Muscadet, Italian P.Grigio and the like, and suddenly you've potentially eliminated entire groups of grapes on your first sniff of the glass just by asking yourself quickly "on a scale of one to Chuck Norris, how hard did that wine just kick me in the nose?"

    With reds, I don't really think my process incorporates the potential varietal based on intensity so much as style, region and age. While there are of course certain reds that jump out more than others, Beaujolais, I don't tend to think of that as a product of grape so much as the winemaking process. Hope that helped a little. 

  • I would define aromatics generally as anything that gives a wine smell. Personally, I would distinguish that from an "aromatic wine" which would be a wine that has a particular intensity to its aromatics typically driven by strong impact aromas such as terpenes. There's no object to dividing line here and lactones, esters, thiols, etc, can all create significant levels of aroma.