You know that awkward moment when you're at a wine tasting & suddenly you start to reminisce about that bouquet of roses you let die last Valentine's Day? No? Got it, just me. I'll never forget the day my nostrils were molly-wopped by what can only be described as a bouquet of flowers, but from the wine in my glass! One of my all-time favorite varietals (definitely top 5 material) is Torrontes, the flagship indigenous white varietal from Argentina. It's notorious for possessing a myriad of floral tones. We'll take a closer look at that specific grape later in the post, but for now let's talk science with terpenes.
Terpenes (TUR-PEENS) are natural essential oils secreted by plants. This chemical compound is responsible for the aromas associated with all our favorite flowery grape varietals. It can actually be perceived in the grapes straight off the vine even before the winemaking process begins! A friend of mine, while abroad in France, recalled to me how she would pull Muscat Canelli off the vine, bite into it, and taste nothing but orange blossoms. Talk about a WOW moment! Or the genuine state of confusion her palate was likely in, ha!
The terpenes aroma compound can be found on the skins of grapes & maceration time aids in imparting the floral tones into the final wine. Maceration (a term that just means skin-to-juice contact) of 4 to a full 24 hours is all that is needed for the terpenes to impart their character. You never want the maceration period to extend too long because the wine would then be exposed to excessive amounts of oxygen. That's the basics, BUT you already know in the wine world we like to be specific, and *ahem* add more confusion to the mix. Though the aromatic compound that cause floral tones are terpenes, there are several subcategories that allow one to be more specific about what they are smelling. For example, Citronellol will cause the aromatics of roses & orange blossoms to be detected on the nose. The others include Geraniol, Nerol, A-Lonone & B-damascenone. I'll highlight a couple of my favorite varietals to pick up these aromas in & what specific terpenes are associated with them below.
Sangiovese - While bright acidity & sour cherry are the main characteristics on the palate, notes of roses tend to dominate the nose for me. Usually, it comes across as fresh roses in comparison to Nebbiolo who, for me, has more of a bruised or dried rose petal aroma to it. This a defining characteristic of B-damascenone. I find it to be more prevalent when the sangiovese has been vinified in concrete or stainless steel. Purple flowers like Violets can often be lifted from the glass with this wine as well, and that would A-lonone. Wine Recommendation: Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso di Montalcino $27.99
Torrontes - Geraniol, geraniol, geraniol! It's the term for aromas perceived as lavender & geranium flowers. Also, this grape when vinified takes on a synthetic aromatic compound I can't for the life of me remember, but it's the same one found in Fruit Loops. Anyway, Torrontes provides such an abundance of flowers on the nose, but it keeps me interested with the fleshy white fruits on the palate. Even though I adore the QUEEN of Torrontes, Susana Balbo, I do have to admit I have a different fave to list as the wine recommendation... Wine Recommendation: Zuccardi Family Serie A Torrontes $15.99 to 21.99
Viognier - I wasn't sure which varietal I wanted to briefly touch on to round out the trifecta of 3 solid recommendations, but I've been drinking a lot of Viognier recently, and it would likely be a crime not to talk about it. This Rhone Valley varietal is often blended with Syrah to add additional aromatics, traditionally, but you can find it vinified as a single varietal as well. I tend to pick up a lot of white flowers like magnolias & honey suckle on Viognier. It's really an elegant beauty if you've never experienced it. I went with a blend as the recommendation only because this is typically how most people are introduced to the varietal. Wine Recommendation: Asylum White Blend $24.99 (Always showing off South Africa here!)
Tell me about what varietals you enjoy picking up floral aromas in OR help a brother out and tell me that chemical aroma in Fruit Loops, cause now it'll drive me insane------ Cheers!