How to identify aromas in wine | Wine Wiki

Oktober 08, 2021

wine ageing in barrels

What are people talking about when they mention primary, secondary and tertiary aromas when tasting wine?

It's important to know that not all wines will display all three types of aromas. Each aroma is produced at a different stage of the wine-making process.

Primary aromas are formed by the grapes and the fermentation process. This is where the fruity notes in a wine are found, the more complex a wine is, the more fruit notes you will be able to identify. Almost all wines will display primary aromas of fruit, some will also have floral and herbaceous notes, these are also classified as primary aromas.

Secondary aromas are produced using winemaking methods after fermentation. The most common secondary aromas are vanilla, coconut and smoke coming from a period of oak ageing. Contact with the lees will also add secondary characteristics such as cream, butter and bread dough.

Tertiary aromas are produced during the ageing process. During this time primary notes are changed, becoming dried and less fresh. These changes can come from deliberate oxidation, where flavours will become nutty and caramelised. In bottle-aged wines, you can find dried fruits, petrol, leather and earthy notes.

As the ageing process changes primary to tertiary aromas, there is a point in time when a wine will become past its best. At this stage, the fruity characteristics in the wine will be completely broken down and the taste will become unpleasant. This is why one of the characteristics of wines suitable for ageing is complexity, as there are plenty of flavours to develop.

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