Vernacular in the wine community can be puzzling. Terms like robust, tannic, luscious or flighty are flung around with ease. Yes, flighty. A word I’ve legit heard to describe a wine. Colourful adjectives describe both aromas and flavours. And sometimes, they’re even used to describe an overall ‘feel’ of a wine. However, there is one term that describes both a wine’s characteristic as well as a category of varieties. Want to guess what it is? It’s time to explain and explore aromatic white wine.

Let’s Define Aromatic

The definition of aromatic is ‘having an aroma; fragrant or sweet-scented; odoriferous‘. If you consider this, all wines are technically aromatic. So, what makes an aromatic grape variety different than the rest? The answer is terpenes. 

Terpenes is an aroma compound found in flowers. A subgroup of terpenes, called monoterpenes, are what’s found in grapes. As a result, we smell floral aromas in certain white wines. So, if you smell rose or blossom in your wine, there’s a chance it could be an aromatic white varietal.

Which Varietals are Aromatic? 

The most common aromatic white varietals are: 

Gewürtztraminer (rose)
Riesling (jasmine)
Sauvignon Blanc (elderflower)
Muscat Blanc (orange blossom)

Other examples, perhaps more regionally focused, include: 

Torrontés (rose petal)
Viognier (honeysuckle)
Albariño (lime blossom)

Does Sweetness Come into Play?

Sugar and aromatics do not correlate. However, the natural sugar levels in grapes like Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Muscat (or Moscato) can result in highly expressive and somewhat sweet wines (although they aren’t sweet all the time, especially when talking about Riesling). In contrast, aromatic varietals like Torrontés and Albariño are nearly always drier style wines.

Are There Aromatic Red Wines? 

Don’t forget, you can always use the term aromatic to describe wine, whether it’s red or white. But when talking about grape varieties that are aromatic, there are only a handful of red ones. Madeline Puckette from mentions four relatively less known Italian grapes as examples: Brachetto, Freisa, Aleatico and Schiava.

I hope that helps put aromatic white wines in perspective. Tell me in the comments below, which is your favourite aromatic white wine?