Produmo di vino

Notes of Wine

profumo di vino

The fragrance of a wine can be likened to its breath, the delicate and magical way it reveals its deepest and most intimate soul, its own, as well as ours. The territory of aromas and the molecules they originate from is indeed mysterious, the chaotic and indivisible blending of poetry and science, bewildering aphorisms and academic treatises, exciting verses and indecipherable chemical formulas, primal instinct and analytical rationality. Our sense of smell is the most astounding of all the senses, and the one that intrigues us the most. Knowing how to describe the scent  of a wine is, more than a natural gift, an exercise in linguistic acrobatics, a leap between aerial lightness and grounded instinct, a pleasure somewhere between the ephemeral and the sublime, and thus, like any pastime, should be taken very seriously. Studying the scents of a wine and the aromas that form its bouquet will take you on a true adventure across the landscapes of the world, to discover the places and the grape varieties these fragrances come from. A voyage of inspiring self-exploration, a journey of the soul through the mysterious lands dominated by emotions and
instincts, and at the same time, through the equally charming language that is ideal for giving a semantic structure to such intangible feelings.

 

The heart of the matter lies in the peculiar architecture of our perceptual system, as pointed out by the substantial difference between the “recognition” of a scent and its “identification.” Any of us can recognize a previously encountered fragrance, in the sense of being aware of having smelt it before, whereas it is far more challenging to be able to identify it, or give it its proper semantic label. This is because the smell is imprinted at the time of perception, indelibly and permanently in the limbic system, the area responsible for emotions and instincts, while the name –
provided a minimum amount of knowledge on the subject – is deposited in a specific area of the cerebral cortex, thus
remaining not only separate but inevitably susceptible to being lost forever, unless frequently recalled. The way smells are stored in the instinctive part of the brain and suddenly resurface is a phenomenon with many examples in art, from the famous Madeleine anecdote in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, to the astonished face of the critic Ego when tasting Ratatouille in the animated film, a past sensation that suddenly and vitally explodes but is often difficult to match with an image, let alone a name.

The same goes for wine; how many times do we enjoy a scent, recognize it (“I’m sure I know this from somewhere!”), but then feel disappointed when we are unable to identify it (“I can’t quite remember – the name escapes me!”). Linking an olfactory sensation to its correct semantic label is something that requires attention, experience, and above all imagination. This can be understood as the ability to let your thoughts wander and summon the memories that the scents inevitably evoke, delicately recovering the semantic reference, be it a place, a face, a situation, a comparison with another wine already tasted or a direct reference to an object, fruit or flower. This last exercise is especially appreciated by sommeliers and aspiring wine tasters, and even we do not want to miss out on this entertaining and refined game (game in the highest sense of the word). Therefore, below we propose an image of the typical fragrances belonging to four white grape varieties that represent the main “fragrance families,” namely:

 

  • (Distinctly) aromatic grape varieties – those with an intense floral/spiced flavor already perceptible when tasting the fruit, caused by specific volatile molecules present in high concentration that are unbound in the grape. This group includes various types of Moscato, Gewürztraminer, Torrontes and aromatic Malvasia.

  • Semi-aromatic grape varieties – certain varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Müller Thurgau and Vermentino have a high concentration of flavor precursors (potentially odorous molecules). These compounds are present in the grape in bound form and only become perceptible when freed by primary yeast fermentation or bottle aging phenomena. The aromas of these
    varieties range from hints of wildflower to herbs, spices, tropical fruits and hydrocarbons (Riesling).

  • Non-aromatic grape varieties – these represent the majority of varieties whose aromas in wine mainly originate from yeast action and esterification reactions during alcoholic fermentation. They
    are characterized by classic fruity aromas, ranging from citrus fruits to white fruit (pear, apple), yellow fruit (peach, apricot) and very mature fruit (banana, pineapple).

  • Oak-aged wine varieties – this is not so much an ampelographic classification as it is a production philosophy, used for the above three (but mostly frequently for non-aromatic grapes). This category refers to white wines fermented and aged in barrels, mainly oak. The aromas are thus influenced by the process, conferring them floral and ripe fruity notes, especially vanilla, caramel, roasted coffee, with the addition of butter and hazelnut following (likely) malolactic fermentation.

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These are just four examples that in terms of quantity probably add little to our knowledge, but are worth more in terms of quality, if viewed as an incentive for realizing how much delight the mind can add to the senses alone by giving semantic shape to the already fascinating aesthetic pleasure. What could be more enjoyable for wine enthusiasts than tracing a group of aromas back to the likely grape variety or region of origin, in a virtuous
circle that links personal emotions to nature and culture.

So let us venture into fragrant wine country, equipped with these few useful facts, then it will be up to unexpected assaults by ancestral scents or sudden ambushes by unknown aromas to gradually develop our knowledge over time, provided we are driven by curiosity, passion and irony – the magical qualities of those who, wanting to discover more about a wine, end up learning more about themselves.

 

 

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than words,
appearances, emotions or will. They enter into us like breath into
our lungs, they fill us up, imbue us totally… He who ruled scent
ruled the hearts of men.”

 

            Patrick Süskind—Perfume

Photography Bea de Giacomo        
Set Design Dimitra Marlanti
Words Alberto Ugolini

 

PINOT GRIGIO

PINOT GRIGIO

This non-aromatic pink-skinned cultivar is almost exclusively produced in its white version, obtained through fermentation without skin contact. It offers a fresh and fragrant aromatic range with flavor almost exclusively derived from both fermentation esters, ethyl and isoamyl, with classic notes of pear and golden apple, which may be accompanied by terpene-floral nuances of lemon zest and jasmine if grown in areas with a high temperature range
MÜLLER THURGAU

MÜLLER THURGAU

 This variety, born at the end of the 1800s when botanist Dr Müller from the Swiss canton of Thurgau mixed Riesling with Madeleine Royale, should be grown in areas with a high temperature range to guarantee the wine a wide variety of fragrant volatile molecules, belonging to the class of terpenes (floral notes), volatile thiols (medicinal herbs, tropical fruits), volatile phenols (spices) and hexanol (freshly cut grass, sage). These varietal aromas complement and overlap with those that result from the fermentation esters, with notes of fresh and ripe fruit.
GEWÜRZTRAMINER

GEWÜRZTRAMINER

The translation of the name immediately gives away the aromatic nature (Gewürzt means ‘spiced’ in German) of the wine. Together with Moscato, it is considered to be the most fragrant grape due to its high concentration of terpenes; the volatile molecules responsible for the intense perception of floral notes. In addition to linalool (orange blossom) and geraniol (geranium), citronellol (lemongrass), terpineol (lily of the valley) and nerol (rose) flavors are extremely active, obviously alongside the fermentation bouquet that confers notes of tropical fruit. This wine has great evolutionary potential given the high number of “bound” terpenes that may be freed during bottle aging.
CHARDONNAY

CHARDONNAY

Chardonnay is certainly the variety that best expresses the sophistication added by fermentation and aging in barrels, with notes of vanilla, roasted coffee, resin, hazelnut and butter complementing the yellow flower and ripe fruit aromas arising from alcoholic fermentation. The greater elegance and richness of wines not only oak-aged but also fermented should be noted, attributable to the protective effect of carbon dioxide, the weakening of  certain aromatic molecules and the exaltation of fruity, as well as spicy and mineral notes.

 

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