Primary, secondary, tertiary: the wine’s aromas go to school !
The wine’s aromas are complex and abundant. And for good reason, according to certain specialists, we could distinguish more than 700 of them ! That’s why we classify them, like at school…
Those goes to the primary:
Originally, the grape. It looks logical, but useful to remind it. Indeed, this one, depending of its terroir (cepage, ground, climate) naturally owns aromas. For some, you just need to crunch them to realize it. Eat a Muscat grape, especially “small grapes”, and you will understand ! Some others, however, hide. They are the last ones, the lazy, those are close to the radiator and you need to shake ! This jolt, it’s the fermentation. They are called precursories of aromas, it means that they are presents in the grape but develop only after the fermentation. Them give to the gewurztraminer these aromas of rose and lychee. Or to the cabernet sauvignon the green bell pepper. That’s why, the primaries aromas are called varieties aromas too, because they are presents directly in the variety of the grape…QED. Now, let’s go to the higher level…
For those who failed their primary, we can help them to move up to the secondary. This admission takes place during the fermentation. But careful, they are not the precursories of aromas (presents in the cepage yet), but those created by the wine-maker’s work. How ??? The kind of yeasts, ferments, the conditions of the fermentation or the chosen temperatures are variables, contributing to a development of an incredible and surprising range of aromas. Why surprising ? If I told you that certain wines have the taste of brioche, would you trust me ? While a private wine tasting for beginners, many people didn’t trust me. Though, it’s one of the most famous aromas, which can be find in Champagne with Chardonnay or in the white wine of Côte de Beaune, in Burgundy (Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet, …). To make it simple, the dead yeasts (dregs) are left with the wine, and give this taste, and of bread too. We can add the aromas of butter and milk, from an other fermentation, the malolactic. There is the famous aroma of banana too, dear to the Beaujolais’ fresh wines. Popularised in the 1980’s, it’s due to another type of maceration, known as carbonic (the whole grapes are fermented) and of yeast. But neither here nor there, I will talk about it later…let’s go now to see the graduates, those of tertiary.
After succeeding all of these levels, our wine needs to age. Then, come the tertiaries (or evolution) aromas. Two are fundamental: the contact between wine and oxygen and the type of container. For example, the maturation in a oak barrel can give aromas of vanilla. And the prolonged contact with the oxygen, an aroma of walnut, like in the famous Jura’s vin jaune. And after the bottling, the wine can develop aromas of leather, animal, humus, … So, old veterans, who have known everything, from the primary to the doctorate.
See, the school of aromas is not so simple and manage 700 pupils, it’s a hard job !!!