These days once you get a glass of wine it’s not enough just to sip it. It’s a social subject, conversation starter and sometimes source of embarrassment. Especially once one is asked to describe the wine but suddenly his/hers mind goes blank and only words that pop up are simply: “It’s quite nice”.
It does not have to be that painful. To begin with it’s easy to refer to wine aromas first.
One can divide aromatics into the following general categories: Fruit, Earth, Wood & Others.
Fruit is usually rooted in a grape variety and its aromatic fingerprint. Useful to keep in mind that a variety is described by similar groups of aromas, such as: citrus fruits, stone fruits, red fruits, tropical fruits and black fruits.
For example, there is a pronounced citrus character in Sauvignon Blanc & in Semillon, therefore it’s already four fruits which could be used to describe it, such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, clementine to go further one can use complex characteristics like kaffir lime leaf, bergamot orange. The only thing needed is to tune your mind to sense and look for those aromas.
Those are aromas a wine gets from oak aging, it can be kept in barrels made of French oak, American oak or less mainstream materials like Chestnut wood. Characteristics, which develop due to wood, include vanilla, toast, caramel, smoke, chocolate, and coffee.
Aromas which give a wine complexity, they often called “secondary aromas” because develop in a bottle after certain aging period. Use earthy for barnyard aromas found in many wines, fresh-cut grass, moss, pine forest, mushrooms, black pepper, or olives.
The rocky or saline quality inherent in some wines, minerality encompasses non-fruit, non-spice elements of a wine. To get the concept one should recall the smell of a hot driveway in summer, or a wet sidewalk.
Others – wine faults, which can be detected from aromas
Oxidation - Contamination caused by too much oxygen exposure. When one leaves a sliced apple out on the counter and it turns brown, the very same process is happening in wine once it gets oxidized.
When wine is corked – also known as TCA or a cork taint
In this case the fruity nose will be ruined and instead one will feel wet newspaper, moldy basement or smelly dog aromas.
Sulfur, which developed sideways
Most of the wines have added SO2 for stabilization, natural wines without added sulfur anyways have the one which occurs during fermentation. Sometimes such sulfur can develop off ways and produce aromas as rotten egg or burnt rubber, that's when it's a fault. Other than that if it feels like smokey, struck match aroma it’s alright.