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What are the tertiary aromas in wine?

At some point, you must have heard someone talking about a wine’s bouquet. This term that wine‑lovers often throw around refers to the aromas that it gets during the ageing process. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the bouquet or, in other words, the tertiary aromas in wine.

Here at El Coto de Rioja, we want you to be part of our world by teaching you everything you need to know about wine in an educational and entertaining way. That’s why we created WineClass, a set of very simple lessons about wine tasting so that you can get the most out of your wines at home or at any celebration.

In the fifth episode, we’re talking about the tertiary aromas in wine, more commonly known as the bouquet. Hit play and take notes!

Types of tertiary aromas

The tertiary aromas in wine are the ones that the wine takes on during barrel and bottle ageing processes. As such, you’ll notice these aromas in:

  • Crianza Wines: (24 months of ageing, of which at least 6 months are in an oak barrel)
  • Reserva: (at least 3 years of ageing, including at least 18 months of barrel‑ageing and 2 months of bottle‑ageing)
  • Gran Reserva: (5 years of ageing, of which 17 months are in an oak barrel and the rest in the bottle).

 The process of barrel ageing a wine makes its aromatic components transform due to exposure to oxygen, the material the container is made of and the lees. As such, in the tertiary aromas, we can pick up notes of nuts, wood, or even coffee, cocoa, leather or tobacco.

Barrel ageing and its aromas

Storing wine in barrels gets the oxygen into the wine slowly, which is what brings about the nutty aromas, reminiscent of walnut, toasted almond or hazelnut.

Contact with the barrel also gives the wine its aromas, which can vary depending on the type of oak. In American oak barrels, we get intense notes of vanilla and coconut, among other things... In French oak barrels, we find spicier scents such as cinnamon, cloves, molasses or cocoa.

Bottle ageing and its aromas

After barrel ageing, in many cases, the wine is left to rest in the bottle for a time, but under similar conditions as in the barrel. In other words, in a dark, cool and normally underground place, with no exposure to light.

This is known as the final stage of wine ageing. Thus, wine keeps on developing and acquiring new aromas due to the mix and chemical reactions that happen in the alcohol, the oxygen, water and acids in the wine. In this way, we get notes of leather or truffles to name just a few.

Try our wines to discover more aromas!

Ageing on lees

The lees are the sediments of dead yeasts that end up on the bottom of the barrel once fermentation is over and the wine has aged.

Ageing on lees is the process of allowing the finished wine to rest on the lees to give it a new flavour profile. When cells in the lees decompose, they release aromatic compounds that interact with the chemical makeup of the wine. In this way, the wine takes on aromas of breadcrumbs, walnuts and yeast. This type of ageing is more common in white wines and rosés.

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Did you enjoy our class on tertiary aromas? Don't forget to watch all the WineClass episodes on the official El Coto de Rioja YouTube channel. Click on the bell icon to be the first to know when we bring out a new video.

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