Last week, at a charity wine tasting, I overheard a conversation of two enthusiasts. Though rather interesting in scope it lead me to believe that the two characteristics “aroma” and “bouquet” are often used interchangeably when further investigation shows a distinct difference between the two. The following is a reprint of the 9/89 newsletter with PK Sr.’s response to the exact question.
Paul: You keep using “bouquet” and “aroma” at different times in your wine descriptions, and sometimes you use both terms for the same wine. I must assume there is a difference. What is the difference?”. H.S. San Jose. CA
You assumed right! There is a difference.
Both terms pertain to the smell or the “nose” of a wine. (No… the wine does not have a physical nose, it refers to the smell you perceive of that wine in your nose!)
Aroma is the smell of the wine that originates from the fresh mature grape. It is usually expressed as “fruitiness “, and often strongly characteristic of the grape variety or varieties.
Bouquet is the smell that develops in a wine in the vinification process and in the maturation process when it is in contact with wood during barrel ageing, and during bottle ageing, as a function of time.
Aroma is more pronounced and distinct during the wine’s youth. As the wine matures, the aroma diminishes in dominance and becomes a single contributing element to the developing bouquet of a wine along with the other factors of wood, tannin, bottle age, and natural oxidation. With premium wines, it may disappear, leaving only the complex odor of a mature bouquet.
Aroma is a result of vaporization of certain elements found in grape skin. The process of fermentation enhances the development of the aroma of the particular grape variety.
Bouquet, on the other hand, is a result of slow oxidation of the wine’s fruit acids, esters, and alcohols producing other aromatic components that are a result of wood and/or bottle ageing. Other factors contribute to the intensity and makeup of bouquet. Soil, weather, grape variety, storage containers and conditions.
Bouquet is a more evasive and complex than aroma. Wood ageing has a lot to do with the “complexity” often mentioned about a mature wine. Bottle ageing adds to this.
As one learns and remembers the aroma of various young varietal wines, and then patiently waits for them to mature and tastes them again, one becomes familiar with the difference. That is what it takes to really identify the elements that contribute to each of these two sensations of smell.
The difference is pronounced, and they should never be confused with each other.
In the beginning, until you acquire the skill of detecting the difference, refrain from commenting about young wines (1-2 years old) as having a bouquet, unless you are sure. Likewise from commenting about aged wines (5 years +) as having an aroma, unless you are sure!
“Aroma -Baroma” who cares? Just enjoy!