IMPERCEPTIBLE at first, then ever so slightly we sense the lengthening of the days and warming of the air. The nascent sensations of spring are upon us and nothing so beautifully portends spring as the scent of flowers. This can mean only one thing; its time for us to kick back and enjoy a glass or two of floral wine.
Modern winemakers increasing understand the science of aromas and aspire to make aromatically attractive wines. One desirable aroma compound that has been identified is monoterpenes or terpenes for short and it’s this compound that’s primarily responsible for the floral aromatics of many wines. When you smell a wine what you’re actually sensing is the vaporized aromas of monoterpenes and other compounds.
We’ve taken a look at the styles of wine that are most associated with floral aromas.
Think flowers, and the two German varieties Gewurztraminer and Riesling immediately come to mind. The former grape actually originated over a thousand years ago in the German-speaking Alto Adige region of northern Italy. The most frequent floral qualities of this variety are rose petals and Lilly of the Valley. The noble variety Riesling has been cultivated in Germany for at least 500 years and typically makes intense dry or sweet wines with rich floral aromas of apple blossoms, lime tree blossoms and other flowers.
The Viognier grape is cultivated in many wine regions but this variety is best known for the complex, age-worthy white wines of the Northern Rhone. The best examples of this variety often exhibit vibrant white flower, orange blossom and wild floral qualities. The ancient Muscat variety is another floral champion.
The aforementioned varieties all make lovely floral wines, but perhaps the most flowery of all wines is Torrontes.
Flower of the Andes
Primarily planted in Argentina, the Torrontes variety makes unique white wines replete with floral sensations. The best Torrontes wines come from the northern wine regions of Argentine, especially Salta. The two most famous sub-regions of Salta are Valle Calchaqui and Cafayate that boarder the Andes Mountains. These regions are home to the highest vineyards in the world ranging from 1,500 to over 3,000 meters above sea level. The finest high altitude Torrontes wines literally explode from the glass with pungent honeysuckle and jasmine flower aromas.
The INCA Calchaqui Valley Torrontes Chardonnay, 2010 is an excellent example. This predominantly Torrontes wine has a light golden yellow color with greenish hints and plentiful floral and citrus aromas and flavors. The minority Chardonnay contribution adds greater weight and texture to the wine while still retaining the fresh and aromatic qualities typical of a good Torrontes wine. If you’re a movie lover, you may like the fact that the winemaker for INCA is Huge Ryman who was portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film “A Good Year.”
Sensations of flowers in white wines are usually more obvious or overt than in red wine, but floral reds certainly exist. The Nebbiolo grape indigenous to the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy commonly offers rich scents of roses and violets. Less expensive Nebbiolo Piedmont Rosso wines also feature floral notes.
Young Pinot Noir wines often offer lively scents of rose petals while more mature Pinots frequently feature violet bouquets.
Violet aromas are also quite common in Malbec reds from Mendoza, Argentina and in some Merlots, while lavender is found in many Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Grenache, Syrah and Petit Verdot reds.