How to Smell a Wine & Why it is Important

What is often called the “nose” or “aroma” in the wine world refers to the smell of the wine. Smelling the wine before tasting is important, as smell affects how we process flavour in our brain. Our tongues actually only differentiate between sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

Give it a swirl

The first step in smelling your wine is giving it a good swirl. The swirling releases aromas into the air. After about 10 seconds of swirling, put your nose into the glass and breathe normally - don’t sniff! To distinguish smells more easily, it is recommended to avoid wearing strong perfume that could be overpowering.

What can you smell?

It is completely normal to just smell “wine” at the beginning. The more different wines you smell, the easier it will be to distinguish aromas. Our tip is to think of categories first. For example, if you are drinking a white wine, can you smell citrus fruit, tropical fruit or florals? Does your red wine smell of red fruit, dried fruit or black fruit?

Once you have identified a category, try to become more specific. Is the citrus aroma reminiscent of a lemon, lime zest, orange peel, tangerine or pink grapefruit? Can you distinguish between raspberries, strawberries, cherry or pomegranate when you smell red fruit? It is a fun activity to ask everyone in the room what they are smelling and share your notes - an aroma can become obvious once someone else has given it a name. 

These are our notes for our Grüner: peach, green apple, grapefruit and white pepper. 

Types of Aromas

Fruit, florals and earthy notes are all primary aromas. These aromas are derived from the actual grape variety and depend on climate and ageing. There is a huge variety of primary aromas ranging from cherry, fresh-cut grass to elderflower.

Secondary aromas come from winemaking, as they are fermentation-derived. These aromas include nuts, butter, vanilla and cedar.

Finally tertiary aromas come from ageing. This can include a large variety of smells, including roasted nuts, baking spices, cocoa, coffee, tobacco, leather and cedar. Especially vanilla and coconut are related to oak-ageing. 

It is also possible to smell faults in wine. Oxidised wines smell quite flat, while reduction in wine (not receiving enough oxygen) can smell like boiled garlic or cabbage. Corked wines often smell of wet cardboard or musty cellars. But don’t worry, this could never happen with our canned wines!


Check out Canned Wine Co.'s explanations about the colour of wine, how to start tasting wine and why not to be afraid of tannins to become the expert at your next wine tasting! You can also try out your new skills by doing a tasting with our canned wines. 

Written by Marieke Hammes

Previous Article Next Article


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Recently Viewed