Flower aromas in wine

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Wine description often include terms such as “floral notes”. Some varietals are known for specific floral smells (like Champagne, which often smells like apple blossom) and sometimes, the smell of flowers can actually be a defect in a wine (like the scent of carnation, which is actually the result of an improper enzyme reaction. Who knew?)

When thinking of flowers, we often use the word “bouquet.” Wine lovers might notice that the word “bouquet” is used for more than just the scent of flowers in wine. But when should we use each? According to wine professional John Isaacs, “In professional wine tasting we usually make a distinction between the terms aroma and bouquet. Aroma refers to special or unique smells typical of the variety, while bouquet refers to the wider spectrum of smells that can also come from fermentation, oak aging and other aspects of wine making. In casual wine tastings, it’s fine to use the terms interchangeably” (Isaacs, CN Wine News, Shanghai Daily. Aug 3, 2012)

Here are some common floral aromas found in wine:

ACACIA

Acacia is often found in a bottle of sparkling wine that has just been opened. 

APPLE BLOSSOM

Common in young Riesling and Champagne.

CARNATION

Actually known as a defect caused by an improper enzyme reaction. 

ELDERFLOWER

A milder version of another unpleasant aroma, ‘cat’s pee’, this represents an extreme form of herbaceousness. It can be found in a number of grapes when harvested underripe, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, but can also be found in Sémillon and Cabernets.

FLORAL

The generic term for a smell of flowers (let’s be honest, most of us do not know what an elderflower smells like!). Typically the smell is faint, soft, and fresh. 

HONEYSUCKLE

Common in Torrontes.

JASMINE

Common in Torrontes.

LAVENDER

Common in Australian Rieslings.

LILAC

Some wines that exude pepper (like Rhône wines with Viognier) often have this floral profile alongside.

LILY OF THE VALLEY

Common in Gewürztraminer.

LIME TREE (LINDEN)

Found in young Riesling.

MAGNOLIA

A Muscadine grape variety (actually called Magnolia!) exudes this smell.

ORANGE BLOSSOM

Common in young, dry Muscat.

ROSE PETAL

Common in Gewürztraminer, Nebbiolo, and young Pinot Noir.

WHITE FLOWER

A generic term often used to describe notes in Riesling, Muscat, and Viognier.

VIOLET

Found in some softer red wines like Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, and mature Pinot Noir. 

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