Olfactory experience

The olfactory experience is the second step in evaluating a wine, that allows to contextualise it from the fragrances point of view. Their research is perhaps the most fun phase of tasting because, firstly, it is rich of references to our personal olfactory experience, secondly, it allows us a pleasant comparison with friends or collegues. This also permits to verify what you learned during the visual evaluation.

Do not forget that out smell organ is not  particularly well developed, so the olfactory experience must be dealed with the right calm in an clean environment, free from pollution and other smells: let's avoid the tables along a road, the places for smokers of the kitchens.

Smell the wine

The first approach must be done in a gentle way, i.e. without turning or shaking the glass. We get close and, after breathing of a few seconds we leave our nose out of the glass. A prolonged stay does not improve the experience, but rather, it may temporally compromise the ability to distinguish the various shades.

Rotate the glass

After memorised the most volatile fragrances, turn the glass slightly (but do not do it for sparkling wines) so that the wine increases its contact surface with the air. In this way it release further fragrances imprisoned in the liquid that define a more complex scent frame.

Wine scents

During the first phase of the olfactory experience, we identify the affinity families of the various fragrances among the following: floral, fruity, vegetal, spicy and other. This scheme is certainly a simplification, but it helps us to contextualise a product correctly. Later, if we are capable, we go to search for the singular shades within each category, where, literally, a world of fragrances opens.

Since the smell is the least used sense of the human being and, therefore, the less precise, it is not easy to provide with a precise description of out smell sensations. In fact, despite the pleasantness of this activity, we often perceive fragrances we don't recognise and it is like not having the words to write.

A little knowledge is undoubtedly useful to make a comparison between the various wines we taste. However, if we are beginners, we try to memorise the sensations we have tried little by little, maybe by helping us with a notebook and with fragrances schemes like the one proposed here.

We begin to outline the olfactory experience distinguishing three essential profiles the collect all the fragrances: the primary, secondary and tertiary scents.

Primary scents

The primary scents are those found in wines produced with aromatic grape varieties and, with less intensity, in semi-aromatic ones. These varieties keep their olfactory profile unaltered during vinification, giving a profound and absolutely pleasant experience. Generally, this category includes floral and fruity fragrances.

Secondary scents

The secondary scents are those that emerge during fermentation. They can be indifferently of all kinds: floral, fruity, vegetal, spicy.

Tertiary scents

The tertiary scents are those that emerge during fermentation and ageing. They usually remind vegetal and spicy notes.

Variety and intensity

Once the olfactory profiles are outlined, a further in-depth analysis is ito evaluate their variety and intensity. Do not be frightened, it is the same mechanism we use when we smell a bunch of flowers, only extended to all the categories we have seen above.

Variety and intensity are two parameters that complement each other very well and they allow to describe the olfactory experience extensively. Let's see in the following diagram how they interact with each other.


The variety describes the olfactory complexity, i.e. it is related to the amount of scents we perceive, regardless of they are more or less intense.

A wine can be complex when it has a bouquet composed of many fragrances, even very different, that generates continuous sensations of curiosity and wonder. To stimulate out olfactory imagination, think of a bunch of flowers made up of many varieties.

On the contrary, a wine is simple when its bouquet of fragrances, regardless of the intensity, is meager. It is not necessarily a bad wine (many one the market are just that) and the involvement will be more precise. As above, think of a bunch of flower made up of a single variety: if it is a bouquet of roses, the involvement will be clear and evident.


The olfactory intensity, parameter that always we find with the variety, describes the strength of the wine smell against our perception.

A wine is intense if we perceive immediately, almost with force, the scents emanated inside the glass, no matter how many they are: a wine can be intensive even if characterised by a single scent.

On the contrary, a wine is poor when its bouquet is difficult to understand, almost imperceptible. In this case, we can not consider it a good wine.

The unmistakable scents

Some grape varieties stand out from the majority, almost coming out of a kind of anonymity, making in their wines emerge clear and (almost) unmistakable scents.

Describe scents
Happy wine!