intensity and complexity of aroma

Intensity and Complexity of Aroma – Day 8

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Olfactory Evaluation of Wine

Intensity and complexity are two ways of evaluating aroma in wine tasting. Learn how to talk about what you smell in wine and what that means in this episode.

Wine of the Day

Bordeaux Château Fages Graves de Vayres 2016



  • Bell pepper
  • Fresh-ground pepper
  • Different types of wood
  • Something white to observe the wine color, like a napkin or white paper

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Drink wine along with me, Annie, and learn to engage all of your senses in a powerful new way. SUBSCRIBE to the channel to follow along.

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Find a Bordeaux on Wine.Com

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

Welcome back to DiVino Wine School!

(HOOK)  I hope your noses are ready to work because today we are going to learn techniques to describe aromatic intensity and complexity.

TITLE/SCREEN: 21 Days to Wine

TITLE/SCREEN: DAY 8 – Complexity and Intensity of Aroma

Welcome to Day 8 – Complexity and Intensity.

I’m Annie certified sommelier.  Divino is my wine consulting company back in New York.  


These videos are my way of sharing what I truly love about wine, which is the storytelling and tradition that comes with it.

All this information and vocabulary about color and consistency and aroma…is simply part of the language. 

TITLE/SCREEN: Join the conversation.

TITLE/SCREEN: Subscribe& Enroll!

Before we jump back into aroma, please take a second to subscribe to my channel. It’s also free to enroll (the link is down below), and this way you will get a head’s up on what we’re smelling and tasting, and receive copies of all the class notes.


The more you know, the more you love.  And I like to point out that when you really love someone, or something, you want to know as much as possible about them. The same goes for the things we love.

And if you love wine will never stop learning.

Let’s jump right back in where we left off with aroma. What do we talk about when we talk about the nose?

TITLE/SCREEN: What do we talk about when we talk about the Nose?

I promised you this episode would be intense.  It will also be complex.

I brought a (TBD) Bordeaux with me today.

I also brought some bell peppers and a pepper mill filled with black peppercorns. If you are following along, pour yourself a glass and give that that pepper a sniff. Careful with the ground-up one! The scent of fresh ground pepper is really intoxicating when you actually pay attention to it, but we don’t need any sneezing fits over here.

TITLE/SCREEN: Wine name and vintage.

Before getting into the specific scent notes you recognize in a glass of wine, like lemon zest, rose petals or strawberry jam, whatever….

We start with general descriptive terms like Fruity, Floral, Spicy, Herbaceous or Vegetal, and Mineral. 

TITLE/SCREEN: *optional Graphic BULLET/COLUMNS  Fruity, Floral, Spicy, Herbaceous, Vegetal, Mineral. 

From there we get more specific.

For example, spice notes like sweet cinnamon and nutmeg. Or Herbaceous and Vegetal notes like grass, bell peppers, and fresh leafy herbs.

You might not be able to figure out exactly what fruit or flowers you smell because that takes a lot of practice, but you can still describe the wine. The more you can decipher, the more you say. And the more scent notes you recognize, the more COMPLEX the wine is. 

TITLE/SCREEN:  More Specific Smells = More Complex

For example, The Moscato d’Asti I drank last week had intense fruity notes of apricot, peaches, and floral notes of rose petals and freesia.  

Just like color, aroma and flavor also come in a whole spectrum of intensity and complexity.


Intensity is exactly how it sounds. Is the wine extremely aromatic? Does the scent hit you in the face? Or is it light and subtle? There is a sliding scale, and as usual, practice makes perfect.

If you order a very delicate Pinot Grigio and your friend or partner orders a super citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, take turns evaluating the intensity of each one.

Intensity depends on a several factors.

TITLE/SCREEN: Grape variety, and Ripeness, Climate, Techniques in the Winery

One: the grape variety itself and how ripe it was.  If you start with an aromatic grape like Moscato or Gwürztraminer or semi-aromatic grape like Sauvignon Blanc or Vermentino, these wines are likely to produce more intense aromas.

AND Riper, juicy grapes have healthier skin, which is where the aromatic molecules come from, so wines with intense aromas might indicate grapes grown in hot climates or sunny places, like near the sea or on a tall mountainside.  

TITLE/SCREEN: Winemaking techniques

Two: techniques in the winery. Cooler temperatures during fermentation help preserve aromas, especially in white wines.  Oxidation and wood barrel ageing can both contribute to and mellow out aromas, so this one can be tricky.

 That said, if you get a very intense woody note, what we call “oaky” there’s a good chance the wine aged in barrels.  Small barrels and brand, new oak barrels impart stronger aromas than large, old oak does.

*Side note – Smell some wood this week. It’s as easy as cracking some sticks in half. Snap one off a big tree and compare it to a dead one on the ground. Peruse the lumber aisle at the hardware store.

Young fresh wood has all that fresh sap in it. Older wood is dried and out and much more subtle.

I actually did a video about different types of wood on my channel. Please check it. I could talk for hours about wood.



The AGE of a wine can also affect the intensity of aromas.  Grapes are plants and wine is alive.  Fresh fruit and vegetable notes tend to fade with time, and transition into rich ripe fruit or jammy notes, especially in red wines.  Earthy notes, literally, things like dirt, dry leaves, the damp forest floor…these emerge and become more intense over time as wine begins to breath and oxidize and age. Or become more “Mature.”

TITLE/SCREEN: We all return to the earth one day.

We all return to the earth one day. The best of us (and the best of these guys) do it with grace.

This is a lot of information to take in. There’s a reason this series is 21 episodes long! Please let me know if you have questions. Comment away!

TITLE/SCREEN: Ask me anything! Do I make sense?

Compared to intensity, complexity is actually pretty simple.  As I said before, it’s the difference between smelling one general scent note or clearly identifying many different ones.

TITLE/SCREEN: COMPLEXITY = Clearly identifying multiple distinctive scent notes.

A younger Cabernet Sauvignon-based Bordeaux might have intense notes of blackcurrants and bell peppers, but after ageing in barrels and resting in the cellar for a decade, aromas might become less intense but more complex, with different herbaceous notes, like mint and sage and cedar wood coming out.

The Bordeaux I brought is a XXXX [tbd] insert tasting notes.

Going back to color, a red wine that is garnet or brick red, especially around the edges, and is not so opaque, should indicate that this has aged, and you should expect more “mature” and complex notes.

TITLE/SCREEN:  What does all this language mean for you?

So what does all this language mean for you?

It means finding wine you really like. As we now know, Cabernet can be young or mature. It can oaky or not, it can be intensely fruity or more herbaceous and green.  Once you figure OUT the style you like best there is a whole world of wine out there with similar characteristics to discover and share with other people.

TITLE/SCREEN:  Knowing more about wine means finding more wine to love.

Wine is more of a culture more than a food group. So going back to language, think of it as high-school French versus a semester abroad in Paris. It is my goal to help you feel curious and confident so you can really join the conversation.

Don’t forget to subscribe and Enroll. if you want to know in advance what we’ll be tasting and smelling. It’s free! Best return on investment all year.


See you next time!

END TITLE/SCREEN: Wine is a language. Learn how to speak it.

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