Connoisseur Wine Masterclasses – Evaluating the Bouquet

Written by Aksel Ritenis


After assessing the appearance of the wine it is necessary to evaluate the aroma or bouquet of the wine. By swirling the wine in the glass and breathing the aroma in deeply through your nose (which contains an olfactory bulb) you can get some initial impressions. Some wines have a very explicit, rich and complex bouquet whilst others are more subtle and difficult to detect and describe.

To release the bouquet it is necessary to swirl the wine in the glass, thus making the wine come into the contact with the air. The less obvious the aroma spectrum and intensity of the wine, the stronger the wine should be swirled, thus combining the singularity of the bouquet with the air and maximising ones sensory perceptions.


When evaluating the aroma of the wine, you may be assured that the wine does not smell only of the grapes. The exception could be the wines made of Muscat grapes. (Incidentally, the initial check for experts, is to detect any flaws such as a cork tainted wine or other flaws).

The bouquet of quality wine is invariably complex (assuming we are using appropriate glassware such as RIEDEL) and may be reminiscent of many different smells!

Obviously the bouquet or smells we encounter on the nose will be evident also on the palate when we taste the wine. For example if we encounter a herbaceous or grassy bouquet,say,… from a Sancerre white wine or NZ Sauvignon Blanc,… we can expect a similar flavor sensation on the Palate.

The bouquet of the wine can reminds one of many different smells – most obviously that of fruit. For example, with White wines we might detect apricots, floral scents, figs, pineapple, tropical fruit, nuts, spices, vanilla, green pepper etc. and other smells less easy to categorize or define. With Red wines you could expect plums, blackcurrants, Forest fruits,strawberry or raspberry, chocolate, tobacco, etc.


When tasting the wine, it is not essential to distinguish and recognize all the nuances of the bouquet of the wine. It is more important to detect the main smells and feel and evaluate the overall appeal and harmony of the bouquet. The bouquet of mature complex wines may give us some surprises. These wines often show secondary flavour characteristics (other then the fruit) perhaps even unappealing or (for some) unpleasant smells. Certainly not everyone enjoys the mature Brie cheesey, leathery or even farmyard smells associated with great mature Burgundies.

The basic aroma bouquet of a young wine is the primary fruitiness derived from the grapes themselves but this becomes transformed during the process of fermentation and if a a wine is further matured in an oak barrel, this makes for a more complex wine and the flavor and the Bouquet develops new smells and flavours!

The bouquet of prestige wines is invariably more complex and may be reminiscent of many different smells; – in the case of exclusive red wines such as “Top New World ” or Bordeaux Classified Growth wines one can reasonably expect the presence of black fruits (forest fruits), a hint of black-currants, perhaps plums or black cherries, figs, nuts etc., and certainly spices such a cinnamon and nutmeg, and vanillan oak characteristics (from French or American oak) by definition, together with black pepper, and other more subtle nuances such as Tobacco, a hint of mineral or graphite(pencil shaving) aromas….not to mention Cigarbox or even a hint of mocca or dark chocolate!

Generally speaking,.. the finer the wine’s pedigree and the more expensive a wine, the greater the complexity!

It it is not essential to distinguish and recognize all the nuances of the bouquet of the is more important to feel and appreciate the appeal and harmony and uniqueness of the bouquet, and to take the trouble of recognizing the characteristics and using cognative recognition to find the appropriate labels or descriptors, either individually or in a pleasant social atmosphere during the course of a social evening or dinner party. Enjoy!


 Extract from “Axel’s World of Wine” to be published Easter 2012.

A programme of Wine Courses and Master Classes will also be offered and organized through Connoisseur Magazine during 2012. We will publish a Programme and advise of Course Instructors and Guest lecturers in the near future.

Article Written by Axel Ritenis
Editor / Director of Connoisseur Magazine

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Aksel Ritenis

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