There are two parts to smelling a wine, the first nose and the second nose.
The “first nose” refers to the first time you sniff the wine, without swirling the glass. This will give you a relatively good impression of the wine’s condition and aromatic intensity. At this point, if you are already able to determine certain aromas, the wine is said to be “open”. If not, it is considered “closed”. Usually, the first nose allows you to identify any potential defects in the wine, such as cork taint or oxidation.
For the “second nose”, you need to delicately swirl the glass to aerate the wine. This will make it open up and release all its aromatic compounds.
At this stage, we can distinguish three major aromatic families:
- primary aromas, which mainly come from the variety and can be influenced by the climate and terroir where the vineyard is located;
- secondary aromas, which come from the wine’s fermentation (one of the steps in wine-making);
- tertiary aromas, also known as the “bouquet”, which are more complex. They can be smelt after the wine has been aerated for half an hour or in an empty glass. They are connected to the kind of aging used for the wine, with aromas coming from oxidation or reduction.
To sum up, the key aromatic groups are the following: fruity, floral, vegetal, woody, spicy, animal, milky, mineral and empyreumatic (burnt).