Whether you love them or avoid them completely, aromatic wines are recognizable at first glance: you don't even need to swirl the glass to notice their aroma. But let's see what exactly is meant when we talk about aromatic wine and everything there is to know.
Small guide on aromatic wines (which should not be confused with aromatized wines ).
Aromatic wines: what are they?
The premise is that when talking about aromatic wines we are talking about perfumed wines .
Aromatic wines are those whose aromas are the same as those perceived when eating a grain of the same grape. The odorous molecules are found in the peel.
Aromatic wines have clear and typical aromas, and these unite grapes and wine. They are recognizable precisely because when tasting them you can smell identical aromas to those you smell when you bring your nose close to the bunch.
Where does the aroma of wines come from?
The aromas of wine depend on three main aspects:
1. with natural characteristics, typical of each single type of grape (perfumes primaries or varietals);
2. from the fermentation process ( secondary aromas);
3. from the refinement phase ( tertiary aromas), which complete the final bouquet.
Technically, the scent depends on the level of free terpenes , odorous molecules present in the skin, pulp and juice of the grapes .
Aromatic wines, more than others, are characterized by aromas that depend on the characteristics of the grape itself (primary or varietal aromas), in particular on the substances present in the skin of the grapes.
What aromas characterize aromatic wines?
The aromas of aromatic wines are always intense and complex , fresh and clear .
They are characterized by intense notes of fruit and flowers , to which are added the fragrant nuances of aromatic herbs , very frequent especially in young white wines (this does not mean that aromatic herbs are perceived only in wines obtained from aromatic vines: think for example to Pigato, which gives hints of thyme and marjoram: it is not an aromatic wine).
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What are the main aromatic vines found in Italy?
There are mainly 4: Brachetto, Gewürztraminer, Malvasia and Moscato.
Brachetto : native to Piedmont, finds its homeland in the provinces of Alessandria and Asti. The denomination became DOCG in 1996. The bunch is medium-small in size, ripening early (it is harvested in the first half of September). Brachetto is mainly used for the vinification of sweet and aromatic wines and gives intense notes of strawberry, musk and pink flowers.
Gewürztraminer : aromatic vine widespread especially in Eastern Europe and around the Alps: passing through Alsace, Germany, Alto Adige, Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria. It expresses itself as a "bomb" of perfume: exotic fruit such as pineapple, litchi, apricot, melon but also honey. It then surprises with spicy hints of cinnamon, cloves and even white pepper.
Malvasia : it is a large and composite family of vines, cultivated in almost all regions of Italy, made up of at least 17 varieties, mostly white grapes. Among the most important aromatics there are certainly Malvasia di Candia, Casorzo, Sardinia and Istriana. On the nose and on the palate they are recognized by intense hints of fresh fruit, citrus, peach, acacia and lavender.
Moscato : the aromatic grape par excellence: a must at the table during the Christmas holidays. There are various types of Moscato: the white one, grown mainly in Monferrato (Piedmont), is used to produce Moscato d'Asti. The aromas of this aromatic wine are peach, rose, sage and citrus. Yellow Moscato, widespread in northern Italy, such as Trentino-Alto Adige, is less explosive and stands out for its citrus fruits, delicate spices and musk. A real gem is the pink Moscato which offers nuances of pink, raspberries and wild strawberries. In Sicily, especially on the island of Pantelleria, we find Zibibbo or Moscato di Alessandria, from which aromatic passito wines are produced that smell of raisins, dried apricots and figs, candied citrus fruits and honey (to try with a Sicilian cassata and the world it will be nicer).
What are the most important aromatic grape varieties worldwide?
Outside Italy, the most important aromatic vines are:
Torrontès : white grape grown mainly in north-west Argentina. It gives wines similar to Moscato and stands out in the glass with unmistakable aromatic notes of peach and apricot.
Vitovska Grganja : aromatic grape grown on the border between Slovenia and Italy, very rare because there are only 66 hectares of it. The wine exudes aromatic, fruity and floral scents recalling white flowers, peaches and grapefruit.
Istrian Malvasia : in the large family of Malvasia types, Istrian Malvasia occupies a prominent position, as it is rather rare and of high quality. It is cultivated along the hilly strip of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Slovenia. It is a wine characterized by its notable olfactory complexity, with floral notes of lime, in some cases mineral notes of chalk and in other vegetal nuances of green olives, all in a sometimes citrus background of mandarin, in others spicier and with hints of fine almond paste.
What are semi-aromatic wines?
They are wines made from vines which, despite having an identity of aromas, can only partly be traced back to the characteristics of the grape . Aromatic substances are found mainly in the pulp of the grapes (not in the skin) and also derive from other factors.
They are semi-aromatic wines: Riesling , Sauvignon Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Glera, Sylvaner (for white grapes), Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, Vernaccia nera, Merlot , Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (for black grapes).
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What should you pair aromatic wines with?
There are essentially two principles for pairing aromatic wines:
1. aromatic wines should be paired with an equally aromatic recipe : one suggestion is to play with spices, condiments and sauces;
2. the paired dish cannot be too delicate , otherwise it will be lost given the power of the wine.
Given their freshness, dry aromatic wines pair perfectly with fish-based dishes, such as salmon tartare or first courses such as spaghetti with seafood, but some versatile varieties also go perfectly with white meats and cheeses .