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Why you should smell a wine before you taste it

This is very common in wine tastings and when drinking at home. But, do you actually know why you should smell wines? Discover what lies behind this process and learn the importance of detecting different aromas in wine. 

Learn to get the most out of your senses.

Cómo oler un vino

Leaning in to sniff a glass of a wine is a gesture that we often see in those who have the most experience with wine or those who are truly passionate about it. This habit, which is commonplace in wine tasting sessions, is more than a simple ritual. If done right, it can tell us a lot about the wine we are drinking.

Wine aromas

The different smells or aromas of wine help us to detect so many notes in the drink. Because of this, we can determine the complexity of a wine (be it whiterosé or red) and get a better idea of its structure.  

This process isn't just about sniffing. We try to make it a complete sensory experience, and we can even perceive different aspects that, we wouldn’t be able to just with taste or sight. That’s why, it’s said that small is particularly important.

Find all the El Coto de Rioja wines on our online store

What is the smelling stage? Well, there are three stages in a wine tasting: smell, look and taste. Each of them can tell us different things about the wine that we're drinking.

In the smell stage, we can differentiate between three types of aromas. They are:  

  • Primary aromas: the ones that come directly from the vineyard and the grape. 

How to smell a wine

To correctly perceive the aroma of a wine, the level of wine in the glass is important. That’s why a glass should never be more than one third full. This measurement is enough to aerate the wine correctly and release the aromas into the glass.  

Then, in a circular motion, we move the glass around three time to aerate the contents a little more. If you smell it at this point, you’ll pick up on completely different notes to the ones just moments ago when the glass was poured. 

Learn which glass to use for each type of wine!
Cómo catar el vino
Por qué oler los vinos

If you don’t have much experience with wine, you might not be able to differentiate between all of these aromas. However, just like what happens in the mount, you can train your sense of smell and make it much sharper. Over time, you’ll be able to learn all of the clues that the smell of a wine gives us. It’s a matter of practice. 

Smelling a wine to check the quality

Although, at the heart of it, the smelling stage is mainly about enjoying pleasant aromas, it’s also a perfect way of picking up on problems with the drink. If the aroma it gives off is not what we were expecting, this might be because the wine is not in the right conditions for drinking.  

An unpleasant aroma, with sour tone (such as vinegar, cork or even glue) is one of the most clear signs that we have an off or oxidised wine. If this happens, the best thing is to get rid of the bottle.  


Do you want to learn how to spot an oxidised wine? Take a look at our Wine Dictionary

What do you think? We hope that over time you’ll start to learn about all of these notes, either in a Rioja, a Rueda, a Ribera del Duero, or any other wine!  

Don’t forget to take a look at our articles on the El Coto de Rioja blog to learn about all of the secrets behind wine. Here a little run-down of some interesting articles:  

Decanting wine, what does it involve and why do we do it?How to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew