What is the 'Bouquet' of Wine?

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 07:30 -- The-Wine-Man

According to the nature of the grape variety and its stage of development, wine reveals a primary, secondary, or tertiary bouquet characteristic of the respective phases of youth, maturity, and aging.


We can generally say that a bouquet is in its primary stage when it offers aromatic perfumes such as fresh grape, mint, basil, thyme, clementine, lime, kiwi, lemon grass or green apple.  It possesses youth, with an intense body that is like a solid block, due to the concentration of aromas.


The secondary bouquet is a mixture of scents that indicates the transformation of a wine that is between youth and maturity.  These include fresh fruit perfumes like peach, apricot, pineapple, strawberry, and raspberry as well as a bit of floral scent, pepper, coriander, bread yeasts, butter, mushroom or acacia honey.  This includes the majority of wines the public consumes, usually between two and eight years old, that are the product of non-aromatic grape varieties, including whites such as chardonnay, chenin blanc, and tokay pinot gris and nearly all the main red wine grape varieties of the same age.



As the wine develops, it takes on spicy perfumes like cinnamon and clove, but also the scent of jam, coffee, and chocolate, as well as fresh and candied fruit, a hint of animal, and undergrowth, leather, truffle, or dried cep.  All of these aromas are indications of aging and we are in the phase of the wine’s apogee: it has become well-rounded, fat in the mouth and complete.  But is this tertiary bouquet always a sign of excellence?  Unfortunately not.  Wines are like people, they develop differently, each to the beat of his own internal drum.  When a Beaujolais nouveau or a muscat sec, has achieved perfect maturity, it nonetheless presents the aromas of a primary bouquet.  In both wines, the presence of a hint of tertiary bouquet along with an orangey colour indicates an unbalanced structure.

By the same token, it is tantamount to a sin to taste an Alsatian riesling grand cru, or a Barolo, or a Bordeaux grand cru when it is still in its primary or secondary bouquet phase.  The aromatic pallet is closed, not yet affirmed, and the wine inevitably feels harsh in the mouth due to its tannins and its acidity.  Only the tertiary bouquet reveals the intensity, the persistency, the aromatic complexity, and the perfect balance which would otherwise be concealed.

In fact, all the wines of the great terroirs, worldwide, should be tasted when in the tertiary bouquet phase.