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What is 'bouquet'?

Wine Concepts

Dennis Overstreet (Wine Expert) gives expert video advice on: What is 'bouquet'?; Why do tannins matter in wine?; What is the difference between hard tannins and soft tannins? and more...

What is 'bouquet'?

This is where you become an expert now, and you've moved out of the realm of just being a novice, pedestrian amateur. You have now become an expert. The difference between bouquet and aroma - and even wine writers get this wrong constantly - bouquet is something that happens in the bottle. Aroma is reflecting what the grape is about or the grape variety. So if you say, "I am smelling this champagne, and I am picking up notes of acacia, there's a little bit of kiwi here and grapefruit," that's aroma. If I am picking up a hint of vanilla, there's something here that is giving me a character that is reminiscent of oak, that is bouquet and age. That happened in the bottle, or something that man did to it. If man puts it in a barrel, that's bouquet. If it's something that reflects the grape variety itself, that's aroma.

Why do tannins matter in wine?

Tannins are things that come from the grape skins. These are, if I can say, if we were on the Titanic, and we see the life raft that is thrown out there. Tannin preserves the wine and gives it the capability of aging. Now there are soft tannins that happen with maturity that gives the wine a different character. Tannin is something that you recognize on the roof of your mouth. It is something that almost akin to, if you chewed on a teabag, that none of us do. But we would have this astringent quality that pulls our gums back and our teeth want to fall out immediately. That is tannin, and that is a preserver of wine. It is sort of that tattoo, that if you become a member of the Satan Slaves. You want everyone to know, you're powerful. You've got tannin. That's what it is. You need a tattoo.

What is the difference between hard tannins and soft tannins?

In order to preserve you need tannins. The skin of the grape is where we get the tannin that astringency. When the grapes have not matured properly, we also get tannin from the seeds. And so we refer to hard tannins and soft tannins. Hard tannins come from the seeds, the soft tannins come form the skin. We need those tannins to make the wine age. To make the wine age gives it character, it is something that is sort of this alchemist thing. As it develops in the bottle, it gives off this wonderful bouquet, and it gives the richness, gives the poetry of like a novel a writer that can put the words together that create the magic. But you need the tannin; you need the drama that's there.

What do winemakers do to enhance the flavor of wine?

Leaves are in the fermentation of the wine. It is in the barrel and it could be pumped or it could be in the barrel and the sediment drops to the bottom. And it is dead yeast, the dead yeast that created life. Sort of the caterpillar turning into the butterfly situation. If you stir the leaves you will get character that is there. The danger with why it is not done with commercial pedestrian wines is that you add another element that creates a situation where the wine can go off and oxidize 2 years later and create something that is foul and bad. But, this is an old school way of stirring the leaves, and, it is particularly done with white wines to add that more sort of milky sensation. It's mother's milk. It's sort of like Milan glove leather. If you've ever touched a horses nose it's so soft and wonderful. That's why you stir the leaves. You have a chardonnay, and you taste this, and it's so soft, and you get so excited, versus something that is just acidic and whatever. That extra dimension of richness. It's day glow colors versus the regular colors.

Why do I hear people talk about sulfites in wine?

Sulfites are natural. They're in any dried fruit. Apricots have sulfites. Sulfites are out there. Sulfites are something to preserve wine. And sulfites also make sure that it doesn't brown, especially in white wine. Sulfites have chemically been used to keep things fresher, especially in America. In our culture we have learned this Listerine clear, we don't want to see anything. We think purity means that it be totally transparent and that it be gem-like bright. But it strips it of everything. So sulfites are added to preserve and make things brighter. There are people that are allergic to sulfites. There is no wine that is made, there is no fruit that is out there, that naturally does not have sulfites. Is one aspirin good for you? In Hollywood we say, "if one's good for you, give them six." So that is the problem that has happened, is sulfites naturally occuring, I doubt that there would be any threshold that anyone would detect, but because sulfites have become popular, allergies and such, and the fact that they have been overloaded to the effect -- with inexpensive wines, yes, it could be a problem. But when you are talking about a quality product that has a real cork, rather than a collapsible bag, or something that you screw off, there is a concern for sulfites.