Pascal who grew up with his hands in the soil of Frances great wine regions wrote this as a post to a wine group I frequent and I asked permission to reprint it to my Poor Robert’s. I am posting it just as he wrote it without corrections or interpretation. He asked that I fix it because, as he said, he was thinking in French and writing in English. I have chosen not to honor that request as I really feel that his blending of French thought and English words add flavor or perhaps aroma to the piece. I personally found it very informative and learned a lot about “smells” and how we perceive what we think we smell in a wine. Likewise I learned a bit about “words” and how we perceive what we think we understand in what we read. Enjoy:
Have you ever smell a grape?
Someone asked me why can we smell all sort of aromas in the wine like raspberry, blueberry, currant,…spices, herbs, dirt, mushrooms..etc. but NOT in a bunch of grapes even smashed.
So I thought I could put an explanation on Naked Wines for the Angels who would be interested although many of you Angels know it. So there it is. To perceive the aromas, the easiest way is to crush the berry between your fingers. Then, you mood carefully, in order to try to put a name on the perceived aromas.
In general, after a few seconds, here is the reflection that you will make:
“Bah, it smells like grapes” and you will not be wrong! Because in terms of aromatic complexity, the grape is to light years of our glass of wine. And yet the grape is the raw material. No good wine without good grapes.
It is true that some grains are more fragrant than others. For example : If you feel a grain of muscat or gewürztraminer, you will distinguish characteristic aromas. But if you feel a grain of Riesling, White Grenache, or Muscadelle, … (to stay on the white grape varieties), you’re going to have a lot more trouble smelling specific aromas. Basically, some grape varieties are aromatic, others are much more discreet. But in any case, the grape is rather “poor” in aromas.
But why do you find aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, pepper, wood, vanilla, etc. in your wine? In fact, this is what to keep in mind:
1 / In the grape, there is already a large part of the aromas that you will find in your wine. And yes, the aromas are there, located in the film of the grape, in the pulp … but only a part of these aromas is “free”. These free flavors are those that you feel once the grain is “broken” (we talk about grain crushing).
2- In addition to these “FREE FLAVORS”, you have “RELATED FLAVORS”. To put it simply, remember that the related flavors are linked to the sugars of the grape, hooked up or “accrochés” But they can not spread. In short, these aromas are odorless! for the moment, because they only want to express themselves. These bound aromas are called “flavor precursors”. At the base, they are there, in your grape. But you do not smell them.
These aroma precursors become odorous through FERMENTATION. Fermentation is the key! It is who leaves the fruit of its olfactory nothingness. It is who tilts the grape juice into wine, creating alcohol from sugar (thanks to the work of the yeast ). It reveals the FRUIT.
In Summary, retain this distinction FREE aromas and RELATED aromas, which explains in large part that a grape “does not smell anything”, whereas the wine develops a whole panel of aromas. (And I do not speak here of the aromas brought by the way of vinification, by breeding , or aging, …)
P.S This is an addition derived from questions and comments of some NW angels. From here it really becomes a dialogue that tells several lovely stories Enjoy:
Thank you Angels,
Bea, my Grandfather was a winemaker “a vigneron” he had 12 children ( 7 were boys) and they all continue the winemaking. Still now with my cousins ( I have 43 first cousins) hugh!
I have harvest every years with my brother and participated in wine making since we were 8 or 9 years old.
I remember in Southwest France lunches and dinners at the table especially during the harvest where we would be 20-30 people eating with a bottle of wine every foot on the table.
I remember going to the cellar ( chai )
as a kid and pour wine from the barrel ( fut) for the table. The smell of the cellar is nothing that I have experienced and I miss it .
During the harvest as a teenager for breakfast the “vendangeurs ” had breakfast “petit déjeuner ” consisting of fresh white Bordeaux with pate and saucisson and country bread. Something hard to forget.
I hope that you like my story
Reply from John:
in the telling of your story, I remember mine. My Grandfather made wine in a underground cave. He was a stone mason by trade, and he constructed a cave to make his wine. As a boy I was sent to the cave to get wine from the huge barrels. I was allowed a half glass with orange soda at dinner. Nothing as grand as yours, but good memories
Reply from James:
That’s a great story Pascal. So when you drink wine from the barrel, how long does the rest of the wine have since more oxygen is in the barrel? Do you need to replace the removed with with more of the same wine to remove oxygen? Just curious how that works. Thanks, Cheers!
Pascal’s Response to John:
Same here, I loved to go in the cellar and pour wine from the barrel, Reds or Whites.
I wish now I could have keep my grandfather ‘barrels, smalls and bigs.
Those are founded memories!
Response by Pascal to James and John:
Good question James: actually
wood brings oxygen to the wine The wooden barrel has physical properties that the stainless steel tank does not have: Instead of being waterproof, it has a porosity that allows the wine to be exchanged with the air. It is a kind of micro-oxygenation of your wine.
Thus, in a Bordeaux barrel, the 225 liters of wine are in contact with the wood and these gas exchanges will change the structure of the wine.
Oxygen is indeed the main factor in the evolution of wine. As Pasteur said, “it is by the influence of oxygen that the wine ages.” This contact with the air will bring fat and complexity to the wine. The sensation of acidity will be attenuated to exacerbate the fat of the wine. And there it is.
Hope it answers your questions James.
I know what’s you mean. Sentimental value has no prices. And I know it would mean a lot to have your grandfather’ treasure back.