Despite the name, coconuts are not nuts, but fruits. Their aroma, however, is unique and dissimilar to both fruit and nuts.
The coconut is the seed of a tropical plant native to the Indian Ocean and has been spread across the globe over the centuries by explorers. In fact, it seems that the coconut was named by 16th century Portuguese explorers who brought the fruit back from travels in the Indies and then on to the Americas. The word seems to derive from “coco”, meaning grinning monkey face, because of the coconut's shape and the three black spots on its surface.
Today, most people know the coconut around the world. Its aroma is particularly familiar also because it is used as a fragrance in various cosmetic products and shampoos. It is a pleasant aroma because it recalls sweet notes, and some laboratory studies seem to indicate that its scent reduces the effects of stress.
In wine, coconut is an aroma released by oak barrels during the refinement phase. This is why it is considered a tertiary aroma, which occurs after the primary grape aromas and after the secondary aromas of fermentation.
It is an aroma due to the presence of chemical compounds, called lactones, in barrels made with American oak wood. To find marked notes of coconut it is therefore necessary to look for wines aged for a long time, in new barrels made with American oak wood. The new barrels guarantee the transfer of a greater quantity of aroma from the barrel to the wine. In fact, after many years of use, the barrel wood no longer produces aromatic molecules.
It is easiest to find this aroma in Californian red wines and in Spanish Riojas that have aged in wood.
As is often the case, even the most familiar aromas can be difficult to blindly recognize. Even more so when you're tasting a wine that has a high complexity. This is why it is important to train blindly. Discover the aromas of TasterPlace to train the sense of smell. In addition to the coconut aroma, with TasterPlace aroma collections, you can find various tertiary aromas from the barrel aging process: cloves, vanilla, smoked, pharmaceutical, stable, and others.