A Question of Aroma


I was once told by a customer at a tasting that she was not able to taste one of the wines on offer as it was made from peaches and she was allergic to peaches. She had read the back label which stated that the wine had aromas of peach and had assumed, quite naturally, that she would have an allergic reaction to the wine. I explained that wine was made from grapes, the legal definition states that it must be made from freshly gathered grapes (fruit wines are not legally counted as ‘wine’ by the EU).

So why is it that the wine had aromas of peach if it was not made from peaches? In fact why do we get the different aromas that we do in wine? This is a question I get asked a lot. But why is that? Well to answer the peaches question it is a simple matter of DNA, the chemical compounds that make up that particular grape variety are similar to those of the fruit and so when we swirl the wine in the glass and inhale the aromas we get wafts of peaches.

Wine rarely smells or tastes ‘grapey’, the only wines that do are those made from the Muscat grape as that is the only wine grape that we actually eat. Next time you buy some grapes at the market ask what variety they are, most likely Muscat or Sultana but never Chardonnay or Syrah. So when we taste wine we get aromas of fruits, spice, floral, vegetal and/or oak. It helps to identify the wines, it is why they are all so different.

In this region we often get hints of the ‘garrigue’ in the wines especially the reds, the garrigue is the mix of thyme, rosemary, lavender and pine that grows prolifically all over the Languedoc-Roussillon. This is not because they have added anything during the wine making process it is simply due to the fact that the soil has absorbed these herbs and then passes these on to the vine as it searches for water and nutrients.

We have 10,000 senses of smell and only 5 senses of taste (sweet, salt, bitter, sour and the newly introduced umami) so we actually do most of our tasting with our noses, hence the reason that wine people make that terrible slurping sound when tasting, they are aerating the wines. Next time you have a glass of wine, pour a sample first and swirl it around in the glass and then inhale the aromas and take a deep sniff and think about what you can smell is it fruit, spice or floral?

One of the easiest wines to identify is Muscat due to its pungent aromatic qualities, and at this time of year it is a delightful end to a dinner with roasted peaches.

My wine recommendation for the roasted peaches would be a Muscat de Rivesaltes Domaine Cazes 12.50 €.

Made by the largest Biodynamic producer in Europe, this is a beautifully balanced wine combining sweetness with fresh grapiness and floral characters. Great as an aperitif or dessert wine.

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By Emma Kershaw

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