The Flowers of Wine

Meritxell Falgueras explores the floral soul of wine.

“Only those who drink know how to appreciate the language of wine and roses,” said the Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

The idea of finding flowers in wine is more than a romantic cliché. Young wines offer us floral notes that can compete with a real bouquet. A wine doesn’t actually smell of jasmine. A wine still smells of wine, but a chemical compound gives it a note that allows us to conjure up this sensory image.

The Flowers of Wine

The primary aromas of different grape varieties determine these notes.  Image you’re a florist: you would probably be able to identify them, because you could recognize most flowers by their scent.  Depending on how much experience you have, you’ll find it easier to identify these impressions…  This is why it’s so important to fill our homes with flowers! If you want to excel at wine tasting, give your loved ones—and most importantly, yourself—flowers! Consider it the best sommelier training you can get. And it will build your self-confidence too.

Lets create wine’s most decorative floral arrangement, beginning with the most well known and most frequently used flower in perfumery, medicine and gastronomy: the rose. We often find a rose bush at the end of a row of vines. This is not, however, to scent the grapes! Roses, besides looking pretty, are useful in letting us know if a disease could strike the grapevine, because the rose bush shows symptoms first.

As with people, we can’t always expect a wine to give us the fragrance we desire.  It isn’t that mathematical. After all, not every German is tall and blond, right? Although most of the varieties we will be discussing display floral compositions, exceptions can arise due to the wine’s aging, blend and whether it has spent time in oak or not.  Because oak is like a cloak, concealing a wine’s most intimate aromas.

An experienced taster will notice how the flowers don’t disappear in a mature wine, but rather slip into the background.  Its bouquet will probably be more reminiscent of dried rather than fresh flowers.

In an ideal world, we would say that fresh white wines tend to have aromas of acacia or honeysuckle. Sometimes a hint of geranium can denote a problem in the winemaking process.

What about wine’s most tangible blossom: the grape flower? This fleeting flower marks a seasonal shift, blooming in May in the northern hemisphere and in November in the southern hemisphere, when our vines have already shed their leaves.

Whites aren’t the only wines to evoke a garden in our glass. Well-aged reds can display deep scents of mint, ferns, eucalyptus and damp earth that add a touch of distinction, freshness and personality.

In the Middle Ages, the violet was thought to reduce the feeling of drunkenness.  Perhaps this is why Pinot Noirs strike us as so delicate, refined, elegant, ethereal and smooth.

Merlots, Tempranillos and Syrahs combine their floral notes with a touch of red fruit, making them very seductive and appealing. Add to that the impressions of an enchanted forest—fresh grass, damp moss, herbs—that you can find in many a glass of red.

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