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Elden Selections

Elden Selections
May 9, 2024 | 'How To' guides | Elden Selections

Follow Your Nose: Understanding Aromas and Aromatics in Burgundy Wine 

Understanding How To Evaluate Aromas in Burgundy Wine 

When you are wine tasting, the first step is to evaluate your wine’s aroma by smelling it. This helps us to identify the various aromatic compounds and their intensity. The olfactory bulb located in the front of our brain deals with smells and links them to our memory and past experiences. By exploring the aromas, we can truly discern the nuances in wine, which prepares us for the taste in our mouth. This process is also known as "mise en bouche" in French, which means getting our mouth ready to taste. To appreciate a wine, we need to notice its color, aroma, and finally its taste, and appreciate how these elements work together. This becomes particularly important in Burgundy, where the wines have unique subtleties due to the varying geology (terroir) of the region and the winemaker's input. (You’ll find wines from all terroirs in Burgundy on Elden Selection’s Burgundy Wine Shop – why not check them out?) 

Three Types of Aromas in Burgundy Wine and Where They Come From 

When we talk about aromas in Burgundy wine, there are typically three types of aromas that are important to keep in mind. These are:  

  • Primary aromas: These are derived from the grapes themselves. They may remind you of things such as fruits, flowers, cassis or menthol. 
  • Secondary aromas: These come from the fermentation or the barrel in which the wine was aged. They can be slightly burnt or buttery, or oaky, depending on how the wine was produced and aged.  
  • Tertiary aromas: These develop as a wine ages over time. They are often referred to as the wine's bouquet. Tertiary aromas can include a wide range of flavors, some of which may sound strange or unappetizing, but which make sense when viewed together with the wine's other characteristics. These aromas might include earthy scents like mushroom or truffle, nuts, vanilla, spices, coffee, or even smoke or leather. 

To fully experience the aromas in Burgundy wine, it's important to use the right type of wine glass that allows the wine to reveal itself to you. You can find more information on how to select the perfect Burgundy wine glass here, but to put it simply, there are three stages to enjoying the scent of wine: the first nose is what you get when you initially smell the wine in the glass. Then you get the second nose once you start swirling the wine around in your glass. Finally, you reach the retronasal stage of tasting when you sip the wine and suck air through your mouth, which brings the aromas to life and allows you to ‘taste’ them. 

There’s a fair amount of science behind wine tasting, but don’t let it put you off—there can be as much or as little as you want to involve, as long as you give the wine a chance to introduce itself to you on the nose and on the palate. Aromas are of course also found in food—another way of finding complementary foods to eat with wine, for the full gastronomic experience of Burgundy. In other words, have the confidence to follow your nose. 

Now we’ve learnt about aromas in Burgundy wine, what about aromatics? Are they the same thing? If not, how does do aromas differ from aromatics in wine? 

Understanding Aromatics in Burgundy Wine 

The term “aromatics” is often used in relation to wines made from grapes grown in Germany, Hungary, Spain and Italy such as Gewürztraminer, Cserszegi Füszeres, Albariño, and Moscato. You may be wondering if Burgundy wines are not considered aromatic since they are not in the list? But that's not the case. Some of the most loved wines on by Elden Selections are also known as aromatic wines. Let's discuss what aromatics in Burgundy wine means.

The term 'aroma' is commonly defined as a strong, pleasant smell, often originating from food or drink. In the context of wines, it is generally associated with fruity or floral notes, ranging from rose, jasmine, and geranium to grapefruit, apple or peach. However, the word's etymology suggests a wider range of meanings. It is derived from the Latin word 'arōmat', which means 'fragrant substance or spice'. Thus, while it can refer to sweet, fruity, and floral scents, it can also encompass a broader range of savory smells, such as oak or pine wood, truffle, oils, tar, resin or balms.  

The Science Behind Aromatic Wines 

The science behind the aromas found in wine is complex but important. Aromatic white wines get their unique quality from aroma compounds known as terpenes, which are similar to the compounds found in flowers. Monoterpenes are a sub-group of terpenes found in white wines, which give them their exotic aromas. In old Chardonnay wine, a compound called Sotolon may be present, which is also found in green herbs such as lovage and fenugreek. This compound gives the wine a sweet, nutty aroma. Red wines may contain Pyrazines, which can give off a dark chocolate or raw cocoa aroma. These compounds can sometimes be off-putting, but in aged wines, they develop into sweeter, more cherry-like aromas. If you detect a peppery aroma in a red wine, it may contain Rotundone, which is a compound you’ll find in peppercorns.  

When it comes to pairing food with aromatic wines, Asian cuisine is a great option, due to its often exotic flavors and spices that complement the fragrance of the wine. The success of any pairing will depend on the grape variety and winemaking style, but creamy, soft cheeses are another good choice for aromatic wines, as they allow its character to come through.  

The Best Aromatic Wines from Elden Selection’s Cellar 

If you want to find the best aromatic Burgundy wines, you really need to taste them and figure out which flavors you prefer. Burgundy wines offer a wide range of fascinating, complex aromatics that you can explore. Elden Selections work with various winemakers that provide high-quality wines with unique flavors. Here are just a few examples: 

  • Domaine Alain Vignot Bourgogne Cote Saint-Jacques Vin Gris – this is a great example of a ‘food’ wine which has a complex aromatic character but can go really well with food. This wine is from a small producer not yet well-known but worthy of the prestige associated with any of the bigger names. His pinot gris is from flinty terroir with a really unique grey/pink color.  
  • Jean-Claude Rateau Beaune 1er Cru ‘Les Reversées – This biodynamic wine offers deep blackberry aromas, violets, spices, plums and a real earthy quality – a very aromatic wine, in other words! Drink it now, or put away for up to seven years and see what magic awaits you.  
  • Hospices de Nuits, Nuits St Georges 1er Cru ‘Rues de Chaux’ – here you’ll find rich aromatics from black and red fruits, resin, delicate spices and even undergrowth. Such a complex palate means it’s also got great potential for ageing. And it’s all thanks to the terroir, as always. This one comes from deep limestone soils, on brown silt and limestone gravel.  

We hope this has been a useful round-up of everything you need to know about aromas in Burgundy wine, as well as aromatics, and that you have many happy hours drinking burgundy wines and noticing these fascinating characteristics.

If you're interested in getting the most out of your Burgundy wine tasting, we recommend checking out our blog. You can also read our articles on activities and places to see in Burgundy on our Domaine de Cromey blog (and maybe even book your very own stay too!) Or how about becoming a member of our Burgundy Wine Club by joining here? Regardless of your level of understanding of Burgundy wines, we are here to help you discover the wines you love and enjoy them with a deeper appreciation of their origins and makers. 


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