The Basics

  • When should we aerate wine?

    Some wines need to take a breath to reveal their aromatic and taste potential. What wine should be aerated before serving? Why and How?

    The modus operandi and the carafe will vary considerably with the objectives. Aeration and decantation are usually used as synonyms but they aren’t the same. Lets see why.

    Why some wines have to be aerated?

    The large majority of wines that haven’t reached maturity yet need to be aerated. Sometimes we hear saying that aeration “allows the wine to get some years”. This is not totally correct, but helps us to give the idea of the oxygenation. Oxygen melts tannins, wakes up aromas and adds balance to wine. Furthermore, aeration allows wine to get rid of some odour's defects.

    What wine has to breathe?

    The majority of red and white young wines benefit from aeration. Robust wines with strong tannins are those who need to be aerated more to round their tannins.

    However, you have to be really careful when letting young wine breath since some are fragile and very sensitive to oxygen, as for instance non-sulphites wines.

    In case of mature and older wines, rules are more complex. On the one hand aeration allows revealing hidden aromas, on the other hand it risks to ruin the drink. For instance, we usually say that vintage pinot noirs with weak tannins could suffer from aeration if it isn’t done very carefully.

    How to aerate wine?

    To oxygenate a young wine it is sufficient to pour it into a carafe. Wine must be gently slid down the side of the carafe. Prefer a carafe with a large base, so that a larger surface of wine is exposed to oxygen. Never close the carafe because the aim is to let the wine take a breath. Normally aeration lasts one hour, but you can leave the wine in the carafe until 3 hours in case you have a very tannic young wine.

    For older wines, aeration should be much shorter. An alternative could be to “bring the bottle up to room temperature”. This practice consists in opening the bottle six hours before the tasting and leave it at 13°C in your wine cellar. Doing so, wine becomes finer and more elegant.

  • Question of the month: which word indicates the transformation of sugar into alcohol?

    The technical word is: alcoholic fermentation, one of the most important steps of winemaking.

    What is alcoholic fermentation?

    Grapes are pressed with their skin in big batches to create the alcohol. Sugars in grapes turn into alcohol thanks to the microscopic fungi called yeast.

    Natural or artificial yeast?

    Winemakers can choose to use only natural yeast and leave the result up to the nature or to introduce artificial yeasts to influence wine aromas.

    To learn more about alcoholic fermentation and different steps of winemaking you can read our articles: “what are the steps of good red wine winemaking” and “Wine fermentation: is the winemaker a wizard apprentice?”

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  • Aromas improving over time, from primary aromas to wine bouquet

    Wine aromas develop over time, from flower bud to wine ageing in cellars. Have you ever heard of primary, secondary or tertiary (or wine bouquet)? According to wine experts, it is possible to detect more than 100 aromas in a glass of wine. You need to train to memorise all the flavours and to recognise them when tasting your wine.

    The team of My VitiBox works for you to better understand the savour secrets….

    Primary wine aromas: these flavours stay in the grape even before that the fruit is transformed into wine. They vary according to grape variety, soil and climate. These primary aromas are usually of fresh fruits and flowers and they are the strongest and easier to detect when you taste a young wine.

    Secondary wine aromas: as their name suggests, they are secondary and play a less important role. Secondary aromas give to wine typical flavours of yeast, brioche, butter and they appear during alcoholic and malolactique fermentation. Some winemakers add additional yeast to facilitate fermentation and to enhance the aromatic structure.

    Tertiary wine aromas (the bouquet): these flavours come with wine ageing. Wine matured in oak barrels will generally smell of woody, vanilla, toasted and coffee: the so called smoked and toasted aromas. Once the wine is bottled, tertiary aromas of leather, game, mushrooms and smoke will give complexity to the nose.

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  • 14 different aromas families in wine

    In my article "Aromas improving over time, from primary aromas to wine bouquet", I showed you the difference between primary, secondary and tertiary aromas which evolve over time. Here below, you will find a list of different wine aromas families. To learn how to recognise flavours you have to undertake the two steps of "nose”:

    Nose is a key step in wine tasting. People perceive flavours directly or retronasally. The first allows to detect the smells, whereas the second is connected with our mouth and consists in feeling the aromas in our nose once we have tasted the wine. Thus, people can appreciate the quality of the wine in their nose twice.The first nose: smell your wine a first time without swirling the glass. Then, as a second step, swirl your glass to aerate wine and smell more intense aromas. This phase is called “second nose”.

    You can come back to this list, in the occasion of your next wine tasting and prove your nose with your favourite wine boxes.

    PRIMARY AROMAS

    • Flowers: acacia, hawthorn, rose, lime tree, violet
    • Mineral: flint, kerosene, tar
    • Red fruits: blackcurrant, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, redcurrant, blackberry
    • White fruits: pineapple, lemon, grapefruit, peach, pear, apple
    • Vegetal: anise, fennel, ferns, cut grass, red or green pepper and thyme

    SECONDARY AROMAS

    • Fermentation agents: butter, brioche, milk and yeast
    • Chemical: carbon dioxide, artificial yeast, soap, sulphur

    TERTIARY AROMAS

    • Spices : Cinnamon, clove, pepper, liquorice, vanilla
    • Smoked and toasted: coffee, caramel, smoked, toasted bread, gingerbread, tobacco
    • Wood: mushrooms, tree mosses, truffles
    • Dried and candied Fruits: almond, fig, prune, hazelnut, walnuts
    • Sweets and pastry: honey, almond paste, praline
    • Understory: cedrus, oak, pin
    • Animal: leather, game , wildfowl, musk

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