Aroma vs. Bouquet

26 Oct

            While I am just beginning my official education in wine, I have loved and studied wine, through drinking and discussing it with others for many years.  While I’m far more interested in enjoying wine than in talking about it, I do find that over time, the conversations increase my understanding and my enjoyment.  These conversations so often refer to the terms aroma and bouquet.  And, over time, I have found that even amongst professionals, the terms seem to have varied meanings.

            I recall a wine maker that was kind enough to give us an in-depth tour of his operation when we first became seriously interested in vinification in the 1980’s.  He referred to “aroma” as the fragrance of a white wine and “bouquet” as the fragrance of a red.  Similarly, I have, on occasion, heard “aroma” used to describe smell sensations experienced through the retronasal passage (though the mouth) and “bouquet” used to describe those experienced through the nose.  Yet a third definition seems to be that an “aroma” is a scent derived from the grapes themselves, while a “bouquet” is a scent derived from the process of making wine (i.e., fermentation in oak)

            At my first sommelier class earlier this week, my instructor used the term “aroma” to describe wines that are young and the term “bouquet” to describe the fragrance that develops as a part of the aging process.  This week, as I’ve contemplated these differences, I’ve decided that I prefer my teacher’s definition.  One, my teacher will grade my progress and I want to do well.  But personal ambition aside, research seems to show that this is the way these terms are used by the elite of the winemaking world.  I discovered that “winemaker of the century”, Emile Peynaud, discussed this exact ambiguity and concluded that “to me it seems best to use aroma to designate the sum of odor elements in young wines, and to use bouquet for the smells acquired through aging, which develop gradually over the course of time.”  If it’s good enough for the winemaker of the century…..I dare say, it’s good enough for me.

* Penaud, Emile, The Taste of Wine (1987 The Wine Appreciation Guild ) p. 54.

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