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What are the aromas of an oxidized wine?

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The typical oxidized wine aroma is reminiscent of Sherry wines. Learn more about it below.  This is still a work in progress and we will regularly add new descriptors extracted from the wine aroma wheel. 

  • Aroma: Sherry 

  • Category: Oxidized 

  • Type: Oxidized

  • Aroma definition: Oxidized wines have a typical Sherry-like aroma. Sherry is a high-alcoholic (18%) wine produced originally in Spain; it is matured in barrels under a natural veil of yeasts (“flor”) that prevents excessive oxidation. However, as maturation spans over several years, oxidation happens slowly and imparts complex aromas of walnut, ripe apple, etc. While in the case of Sherry making these aromas are desirable, it’s not the case for regular table wines and constitutes an off-flavor.
  • Origin: Exposing the wine to ambient air leads to the oxidation of ethanol and other wine compounds called aldehydes. Acetaldehyde will impart green apple aroma (due to the formation of acetaldehyde) at low concentration to a nutty/sherry aroma when it’s more developed. Phenylacetaldehyde will develop honey-like aromas and methional will impart boiled potatoes notes, that could be classified as sulfury.

    Wine color will turn orange due to the oxidation of anthocyanins.

    Winemakers follow stringent protocols to minimise exposure to air and reduce the risk of oxidation at all the winemaking steps. Sulfites (or SO2) are added after bottling and before applying the closure to minimize that effect too.

    Wine oxidation happens also during bottle aging, with oxygen permeating through the cork. Most often, the wine oxidized aromas will contribute to a complexity desired by the winemakers. However, forgotten bottles in a cellar will eventually turn brown and without any desirable flavors.

  • Wine styles: Some wines are deliberately made to favor the production of oxidative aromas. For example, “Vin Jaune” produced in Jura (France) has a similar process to Sherry making but the resulting flavors are different due to the grape variety used- Savagnin blanc- which has some typical aromas. Some Chardonnay makers like this aroma profile in their wines too. However, in most table wines, Sherry-like aromas signal a wine fault.

    White wines are more susceptible to developing oxidized wine aromas than red wines. While oxidation can also occur in red wine making, if well integrated, these aromas contribute to the wine complexity.
  • Aroma standard: Place a few drops of sherry in a white/red wine base. You can try oxidizing a wine yourself by exposing it to air, however it may produce a vinegary aroma rather than a sherry aroma due to the natural presence of acetic bacteria in your environment.

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