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How to identify aromas in wine

Can you find a range of aromas in one wine? How can you tell them apart without mixing them up? In our second episode of WineClass, we’ll give you some simple tips for telling wine aromas apart and knowing what they mean.

Let’s take a look at all of them!

Here at El Coto de Rioja, we want to teach you about all the ins-and-outs and fun facts about the world of wine in a simple, fun and complete way. That’s why we’ve created WineClass, a series of quick mini-classes full of useful tips and tricks that can help you experience wine in ways that you'd never have imagined.

In episode two, we’re going to tell you all the different elements in the smelling stage. We’ll tell you what aromas there are and how to tell them apart. Hit Play!

Cómo oler un vino

What does wine smell like?

The art of drinking wine brings in almost all of our senses. That’s why we say it's a well-rounded pleasure. Today, we want to tell you the role that smell plays.

Since this is a complex drink, of course its aromas are equally complex. Every process in making a wine gives the drink specific aromas to make it a unique experience.

The aroma that a glass of wine gives off can tell us the story of the drink. What’s more, smell plays a fundamental role when it comes to working out if a wine is right for drinking. Do you want to know just how important it is to smell a wine before drinking it? Click the button below:

Why should you smell a wine?

Nowadays, there are thousands upon thousands of aromas, but in the world of wine, they are split into three main groups or types. These are knowns as primary aromas, secondary aromas and tertiary aromas. Let’s take a look at what this means!

Types of aromas

Primary aromas

Primary aromas are what tell us the most “primitive” information about the wine. In other words, they tell us about where it comes from, such as the type of grape or the vineyard. That’s why the primary aromas are the notes that remind us of fruits, fresh herbs, vegetables or minerals.

We can identify this type of aroma with the wine resting in the glass just after serving.

Secondary aromas

Secondary aromas are the aromas connected with the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation process of the wine. That’s why the notes we smell can remind us of things like the yeast.

We detect secondary aromas by swirling the glass around and smelling it again.

Tertiary aromas

When we talk about tertiary aromas, we mean the ones connected with the barrel ageing and even the bottle ageing. This is definitely the most difficult group because the aromas become much more complex. These are the aromas the make up the famous bouquet.

We can smell these aromas after swirling the glass and letting it settle again.

Fall in love with the aromas of El Coto de Rioja

Aroma families

At first, it might seem overly tricky to tell the aromas in a wine apart. But, slowly but surely, and with the right kind of guidance (such as WineClass), you can train your senses to get the most out of them.

To make it easier to identify each different aroma, use this little guide of the different types of aromas that you can find in a tasting: These are the main groups of smell that exist:

  1. Fruit: citric, tropical, etc.
  2. Vegetable: fresh herbs
  3. Floral
  4. Animals
  5. Balsamic: incense
  6. Chemical: acid
  7. Spices
  8. Empyreumatic: smoke, coffee, etc.
  9. Wood
Tipos de aromas en vino
Truco para oler los vinos

Tips for telling the different wine aromas apart

As always, here at WineClass, we want to show you simple but effective tips that you can put into practice anywhere.

To train your sense of smell, there’s really easy technique. You just need to “block out” all the other senses that could throw you off the scent. In this case, we cover our eyes so that we can focus on the nose.

Use a blindfold to cover your eyes and focus on the wine. Practice the three movements that we mentioned before: primary aromas with a still glass, secondary when swirling the glass and tertiary with a still glass again. Can you smell them? Over time, you’ll broaden your spectrum of aromas and be able to tell more of them apart.

Did you find it interesting? Don't forget to watch all of the WineClass episodes on the official El Coto de Rioja YouTube channel. Hit the bell icon to never miss another video. If you missed the first episode of WineClass, you can find it here:


The colour of wine: what they mean and how to tell them apart

If you want more useful and interesting articles about the world of wine, take a look at our blog posts, such as this one:

Tips for a home wine tasting