Aromas and Flavors of Wine

When a wine drinker raises a glass of wine, he or she often stops to swirl the wine, and then breathe in deeply of its aroma. Often this tells far more about a wine than an actual taste of it. Why is that?

The tongue can only really taste four flavors - salty, sour, sweet, and bitter. There is also a fifth flavor that some can taste, "umami", which is related to MSG. However, all of the delicate shades of a wine - pepper, violet, mint, cantelope - can't be deduced with a tongue. Those all come from your nose, which is why wines don't taste as good when you have a cold or allergy. Your nose is the key to truly tasting a wine well.

When you swirl wine in a glass, you are stirring the wine molecules up in the air, so when you then inhale, you inhale as many as possible into your nose. Those wine molecules go streaming past the cilia that exist to block dirt and dust, and settle into matching molecules in the olfactory bulb, based on each particular smell. The two olfactory membranes, about stamp-sized, are just under the bridge of the nose.

This is how you smell cinnamon and licorice, chocolate and vanilla. It's not that someone dropped a chocolate chip into your wine - it's that a certain group of chemicals in the wine is identical to that in a chocolate chip!

Most humans can smell up to 10,000 smells, but as we age, our sense of smell deteriorates. Other things, such as smoking, can also harm the olfactory bulb sensors.

The seven main types of smells a nose keys on are:
  • Camphor
  • Musk
  • Floral
  • Peppermint
  • Etheral
  • Pungent
  • Putrid

So grab a glass of wine, give it a swirl, and give the old nose a workout! You might be surprised to see what it can detect in that regular glass of red wine!

All About the Flavors of Wine

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.