The differences between Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary aromas, explained

Friday, 21 June, 2019
The transformation of grape juice into wine is fairly miraculous. With zero additives other than yeast, wine develops a stunning array of flavors and aromas, almost all of which aren’t present in the pre-fermented liquid.

When analyzing wines, professionals split flavors and aromas into three different categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Each originates from different sources, and not all wines express all three categories.

“Primary flavors and aromas arise from the varietal and natural factors in the vineyard,” Dave Rudman, executive director for Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Americas, tells VinePair. “For example, a Burgundy at release might express primary aromas and flavors of tart strawberry and red cherry, reflecting the varietal character of Pinot Noir from a cool climate,” he explains.

In the official WSET tasting grid, aromas and flavors are broken down into different clusters, and then further into individual descriptors. Primary clusters include categories like “floral,” which contains the descriptors elderflower, rose, and violet, among others.

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