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Spice aromas in red wine

Do you know how to get the best whiff out of your wine?

If you are a professional, the method you could use would be to take 2 sniffs which are short, followed by a slower longer sniff.  Doing it in this way allows your nose to be primed for the last sniff which helps you obtain the full aroma.

To help understand the aromas of red wine you can put together your own wine aroma kit by buying spices and testing them in a controlled way.  If you use dried spices they keep for longer and it is less pricey to make your kit.  You can find reasonably priced small jars to keep the spices in.

Suggested spices would be:


  • Anise
  • Oregano
  • Black Peppercorn 
  • Vanilla
  • Nutmeg
  • Dill
  • White Pepper (optional)
  • Black Cardamom (optional)


  • Dried Mushrooms
  • Soil
  • Dried Tobacco (optional)
  • Cedar Chips (optional)



Some medium bodies wines such as Carménère and Primitivo will have this flavour.


This can be found in wines like Bordeaux as these are grown in a cool climate.

Black Pepper

Northern Rhône Syrah and Australian Shiraz are easily identifiable in a blind tasting when they display a distinct freshly cracked black peppercorn aroma.

Black Cardamom

This is a spicy aroma which is found in some wines from the Côtes du Rhône.

Dried Mushroom

This is common in Old World Wines and some new world wines


Italian and Spanish wines are often described to have this earthy aroma.


This is found often in wines that have been aged in oak barrels, which can be American, or French and they make different aromas.


Another aroma that can be linked with wines aged in American oak barrels, athough sometimes it can be thought to be a coconut flavour.


Australian Shiraz or Californian Pinot Noir often have this aroma.

How to use a wine aroma kit

There are two methods for using your kit:

  • Blend with Wine: Blend single aroma kit ingredients into a small portion of wine (in a glass) to understand how aromas interact with the volatile compounds of wine (a.k.a. alcohol)
  • Smell Aromas: Smell an aroma in its jar and then smell a wine. This overloads your senses with the selected aroma and opens up your ability to smell the wine in a different context. By smelling the aroma from the kit first, you effectively remove that aroma from your sense of smell for a short period of time and suddenly you’ll smell different things in the wine that weren’t as obvious before.

Spices need something to volatilize aromas into the air. By crushing, cutting or rubbing spices you can smell them more easily. The best trick is to add the spice into about an ounce of wine in a wine glass. The spice will ‘flavor’ the smell of the wine. This technique works particularly well on spices like anise and green peppercorn. If you don’t want to ruin your wine with spices, just smell them inside the jars.

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