Primary aromas in wine are qualities our nose detects that are specific to the grape variety (or varieties) used to make the wine. Primary aromas are generally split into fruits, herbs, flowers, and even sometimes vegetable-style scents. This page is part of our Wine for Beginners series, find out more at our Ultimate Guide to Wine for Beginners.
Primary Aromas in Wine: Fruit
Generally speaking, the darker the wine the darker the fruit you should be able to detect.
- In white wines, it is common to taste citrus fruit such as a lime, lemon, orange and grapefruit.
- Also common in whites is to detect aromas of tree fruit such as apples, pears, quince and peach.
- Furthermore, depending on the climate the grapes were grown in, white wines can often taste of tropical fruit too. These may include pineapple, guava, mango or lychee.
- In red wines it is more likely for tasters to detect red fruit, such as strawberries, red plum or red cherries.
- The deeper and more intense the red wine, the more likely you are to taste black fruit. These may include black cherry, blackberries, plums and blueberries.
- In dessert wines, you may even detect the concentrated intensity of dried fruit, such as dried figs, prunes or dates.
Primary Aromas in Wine: Herbs and Vegetables
A wine that tastes predominantly ‘vegetal’ or ‘green’ often has flaws. These may point to problems in the winemaking process, such as the vinification of underripe grapes. However, some grape varieties such as Sauvingon Blanc or Cabernet Franc, naturally taste herbaceous.
- Both red and white wines can develop vegetal notes.
- Vegetables aromas can include among others, asparagus, artichoke, beans, green or black olive and, of course, the very commonly detected bell pepper.
- Herbaceous notes can include cut grass, tomato leaf, mint, eucalyptus, pine, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, basil and parsley.
- If the herbal notes are in balance with the fruit and other wine aromas, then this savoury green note can be desirable and pleasant.
Primary Aromas in Wine: Flowers
Wine enthusiasts use the term ‘floral’ to describe the soft and fresh smell of blossoms we often detect in aromatic varieties of both red and white wine. However, some wine varieties often exude specific flower aromas.
- Honeysuckle and Jasmine are commonly detected in Torrontes.
- Orange blossom is often detected in young, dry Muscat.
- Rose petal is common in delicate reds such as Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo but also in the highly aromatic white Gewürztraminer.
- Lavender and linden flowers are aromas found in many Rieslings.
- Smooth, soft reds such as Malbec, Cabernet Franc and mature Pinot Noir often smell of violet.
Primary aromas in wine are qualities our noses detect that are characteristic of the to the grape variety used to make the wine. These aromas can be fruity, herbal and vegetal, and floral. Armed with this quick overview of take-away points about the primary aromas in wine, you should now be able to engage your sense of smell more consciously during your next wine tasting. You might also find that our overviews of secondary aromas in wines and tertiary aromas in wines further help enhance your appreciation of wine.