Certainly how a wine tastes and its texture are hugely important but there is a strong argument that a beguiling aroma is the most important trait a wine can have.
What we taste is of course intimately linked to what we smell, as humans can identify over one trillion smells (according to research done at Rockefeller University in New York).
As for taste, we can distinguish between five and 20 basic flavours, the rest of what we taste in that glass of chardonnay or cabernet is aroma interpreted as flavour.
The science of how we smell is still open to debate and no definitive explanation exists — a Nobel Prize likely awaits anyone that figures it all out.
The long-held theory that we identify smells through the shape of scent molecules was famously called into question by Luca Turin and you will find lots of TED talks and books by and about him debunking the old theory.
Turin writes wonderfully about scent and also writes about perfume as a side line (his A-Z Perfume guide is excellent).
Turin proved that you could easily change how a molecule smells without altering its shape and he posited that a better theory involved quantum physics where we detect smells by their vibration via quantum tunnelling (the way that particles can seem to appear and disappear).
Turin’s theory is compelling but is also not without its flaws.
I have read a lot on both theories and the (amateur) conclusion that I came to was that it had to be some combination the two as neither comprehensively explains how we smell.
A recent BBC Science programme on quantum mechanics presented by Jim Al-Khalili came to a similar conclusion.
So I bring all this up to encourage you to pay as much attention as possible to the scent of what you drink, ignore the slagging this will bring from friends and family.
Stockist: Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie
This is an unusual blend of grenache blanc, chenin blanc, mauzac and viognier, all of which are interesting on their own in the right hands. Fragrant, zesty and floral on the nose with soft dried pear and apple flavours.
Stockists: Matsons Bandon, No 21 Midleton and Cork City, Cronin’s Costcutter Bantry, Stacks Listowel, The Corkscrew Dublin
As you might guess this wine smells of peaches but also honeysuckle and acacia. There is a lovely limpid weight to the wine and all the fragrance and fruit is matched by just enough acidity. Try with spicy food like Thai.
Stockists: O’Donovans, JJ O’Driscolls, Matsons, No. 21, 1601
Chateau Pennautier is a stunning 17th century chateau and wine estate a few kilometres from Carcassonne (and worth a visit if you are in the area).
Their wines are widely available and generally reliable and I like this citrus and cox’s pippin-scented varietal viognier — fresher and lighter than the Rosine below but a good inexpensive example of the grape.
Searsons Monkstown, searsons.ie, selected independents
This is from the Collinnes Rhodaniennes IGP in the northern Rhone and grown on a hill between Condrieu and Cote Rotie.
While this is not cheap it tastes as good as many a Condrieu costing €50 or more. Fragrant and complex with tropical fruit and peach, taut and focused with a fresh mineral finish.
McGuinness Louth, Bradleys, Le Caveau Kilkenny, www.lecaveau.ie
A blend of sauvignon blanc, sauvignon gris and semillon (50%-30%-20%) that gets some oak ageing including some new oak.
Fragrant and fruity with spicy hints, sweet pear and yellow apple with a background sweet almond character and good freshness.
JJ O’Driscolls, Hole in the Wall D7, O’Learys Cootehill, Quintessential Wines Drogheda www.quintessentialwines.ie
The Jurtschitsch family have owned this estate since the 1860s and now farm organically. This has ripe stone fruit aromas and a lovely rich mouth-feel — soft and complex but with a solid citrus and slightly peppery zing on the finish.