The guide to wine aromas, swirling, and aerating your wine!
Wine descriptions are often filled with a huge spectrum of aromas and flavors.
Wine is filled with aromatic compounds that are specific to a certain grape varietal, winemaking technique, or age of a wine.
For example, when you smell strawberries in a wine, you recognize the aromatic compound abundant in strawberries! Truth be told, there are not any strawberries in your glass (unless you put them there for sangria), but you are inhaling the same aromatic compound that your brain recognizes as the smell of strawberry.
How Swirling Affects the Aroma of Wine
The best way to get these aromas to come to life is by swirling the glass. To put it simply, the alcohol binds to different aromatic compounds. When you swirl the wine in your glass, the oxygen agitates the alcohol. The alcohol then evaporates, lifting the aromas into the air and leaving them more accessible for you to smell.
Why Should I Aerate My Wine?
Aerating or decanting a wine can also be beneficial, not only for the aromas but the overall structure and mouthfeel. Generally, when you aerate or decant your drink, the more undesirable compounds will evaporate first and leave you with a more desirable fragrance. Alcohol is a very volatile compound (think of the smell of nail polish or straight spirit) so it is not desirable to taste or smell. When you aerate a wine, that alcohol will "burn off" or evaporate in small amounts to leave you with pleasant smells.
Your wine begins aerating as soon as you open the bottle. The more it is exposed to oxygen, the quicker it aerates. Pouring it into your glass and swirling it will help expose your drink to air. For more extreme wines that are more dense, concentrated, or tannic, decanting is a good option to help soften the wine and expose the desirable aromas.
Older wines have unique and delicate flavors and aromas that can potentially disappear too quickly—be cautious when decanting them. Generally, they are decanted to remove sediment.
Stop and Inhale Before You Taste
Now you can apply the saying ‘stop and smell the roses’ to wine. Take a second before you sip to breathe deep and see if you can recognize any particular aroma! It can be really fun and even challenging at first. But the more you practice, the better you become. Happy tasting!