Flower aromas in wine

We are surrounded by flowers and their scents constantly in life, directly and indirectly. However, it is very difficult to distinguish one flower from another only on the basis of its scent, blindly. It's even more difficult to distinguish the scents of specific flowers within a wine's aromatic bouquet.  

"What floral note can you smell in this wine?" Here we can apply the first rule of thumb that is often the case in wine bouquets: generally speaking, we can find white and yellow flowers in white wines and red and purple flowers in red wines. But if we want to go further we need to be able to identify some basic flowers.

First of all, floral scents are due to the presence of chemical molecules well known in perfumery: alpha and beta ionone, phenylethyl alcohol, geraniol, irone, linalool, and many others. Each flower has a characteristic and complex scent generated by a "composition" of several odorous "notes". For example, a simple formula for creating the scent of wisteria is as follows: linalool 10%, phenylethyl alcohol 10%, acetophenone 5%, p-methyl acetophenone 30%, beta ionone 10%, benzyl acetate 10%, vanillin 10%, benzoin 15%. (source: instagram @robertopdario).

In red wines the most common floral descriptors are violet and rose. They are aromas due to fermentation, but become more evident with the wine's aging process in the bottle. The characteristic scent of violet is given by alpha and beta ionone: aromatic molecules found in many red wines with concentrations far above the threshold of human perception. It is therefore a fundamental component of the bouquets of many red wines, even if it is sometimes difficult to recognize among other aromas. The rose scent, on the other hand, is reproduced by molecules such as geraniol, phenylethyl alcohol, linalool.

If we want to "schematize" the aromas of red flowers, and therefore simplify their recognition, we can say that we can group them going from flowers with a higher beta ionone content (violet) to flowers with a higher linalool content (rose and lavender) according to the sequence: violet -> iris -> hyacinth -> lilac-> rose-> lavender. (see L. Moio, “The Breath of Wine”).

In white wines the panorama of the aromas of yellow and white flowers is more varied: jasmine, acacia, lime, orange blossom, rose and many others. Also in this case the molecules responsible for the characteristic perfumes are very diverse, but it is possible to simplify and schematize the scents by putting them in order, from those with more intense honeyed notes (e.g., broom) to those with notes reminiscent of rose (linalool) : broom -> chamomile -> acacia -> linden -> honeysuckle -> magnolia -> orange blossom -> rose. (see L. Moio, “The Breath of Wine”).

In wines, floral scents are secondary, therefore the result of fermentation, and in some grape varieties they occur with a frequency and intensity such as to be considered almost varietal aromas (those that are typical of the specific grape variety). This is the case with the violet aroma in Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and some Pinot Noir, the rose aroma in Gewurztraminer or the orange blossom aroma in White Moscato. There are many olfactory references that can be used: jasmine (Riesling and Fiano), honeysuckle (Moscato and Trebbiano), chamomile (Cheninblanc and Prosecco), lime (Prosecco), acacia (Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer), and the list goes on.

Spring is the best time to smell many varieties of fresh, blooming flowers and to enrich your collection of olfactory memories which will help you recognize and recall certain scents over and over. Practicing smelling flower aromas is necessary in order to then be able to recognize the hints of flowers in wine. Don't miss this opportunity of Springtime in the Northern hemisphere or in 6 months time in the Southern hemisphere!

Violet, rose, acacia, lime, chamomile, jasmine: for those who do not have the opportunity to explore these scents in person, TasterPlace Aromas collections enable you to train yourself to recognize some of the main floral descriptors. Discover our aromas! Click here

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