How does wine get its aroma?


When you read a wine label, you encounter poetic descriptions about the aroma of wine. It may be made of grapes, but the smell includes a whole host of other elements. They conjure images of fruits, flowers, herbs, spices, wood and even the most intangible, esoteric ideas. The words ‘aroma’ and ‘bouquet’ might be familiar to a wine connoisseur but if you’re just starting your wine journey they can be quite confusing (with time and perseverance, you can train your senses to pick these smells apart).

There are various factors, both natural and a result of the winemaking process, that cause your wine to have the aroma it does.

1. The grape varieties

As you are aware, different wines are made from different grape varieties. The grapes themselves have an inherent aroma which gets manifested when they are made into wines. The fruity, floral and herbaceous aromas can be attributed directly to the grape. Take for instance, the Big Banyan Chenin Blanc. Pour yourself a little wine in a glass, swirl it around, and hold it up your nose. Try picking out strains of yellow apple, white lemon and peaches. Or you can try our dessert wine, Bellissima. You can catch a whiff of flowers intermingled with apricots and pears.

2. The fermentation process

Fermentation is a common process where the fruit sugars are turned into alcohol using yeast. The flavour profile of each wine is brought to the forefront through this process. It contributes to the creation of a range of sensory cues influencing aromas and flavours. Different strains of yeast produce varying concentrations of aromas, depending on the grape varietal used during the wine making process. For example, Big Banyan Sauvignon Blanc has very spicy notes – of capsicum, grapefruit and peppers. These get developed during the fermentation process (as one would not normally find them in grape juice). A different strain of yeast could change the aroma profile.

3. The ageing process

During the ageing process the wines are exposed to oxygen. One of the most tantalising aromas thus created is that of hazelnuts. The other aspect of ageing involves storing wines in barrels for maturation. The character of the wood used to make the barrels seeps into the wine, giving it a lovely fragrance of vanilla, caramel, and sometimes even a slightly smoked smell. When you take a whiff of Big Banyan Cabernet Sauvignon, besides the fruits herby aromas, you can also distinguish the fragrance of oak.

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