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Five-Minute Classroom – Curious Tasting Notes: Grass & Flowers

Upon hearing a wine described as grassy or floral, would you wrinkle your nose and reach for a different bottle or savour these unusual tasting notes? Common to certain types of white wine – some of the world’s best-loved, in fact – it’s time to get to know which wines display these unique characteristics, and learn how to pick them out for yourself…

While tasting notes of grass and flowers might sound obscure in relation to wine, when enjoyed in combination with fruit flavours and aromas they can add pleasing sensations on the palate and lead to interesting assertions about a wine’s age and where it was made—even the climate in which the grapes were grown.

Drink Your Vegetals

Most commonly found in young, unoaked aromatic wines, vegetal notes can range from grass to asparagus and herbs, and are most commonly found in wines from cool-climate regions, such as sauvignon blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand and torrontés from the Salta region of Argentina. Both of these regions get a lot of sunshine during the ripening season, which would normally cause grapes to develop overly fruity aromas and flavours, but ocean breezes and high altitude keep the vineyards in these regions cool. Meaning that instead of becoming overripe, these naturally aromatic grape types maintain their fresh vegetal notes.

Location, Location, Location

In New Zealand, sauvignon blanc is a particularly aromatic white wine in which you can find typical aromas of cut grass. Balanced by high acidity, Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc wines display these grassy notes, alongside sharp citrus and tropical fruits such as passionfruit, lime and lychee. In older vintages, such as Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016, these aromas are softened to lime leaf, lemon zest and orange blossom.

Floral Fancy

Torrontés, an aromatic grape variety grown in Argentina’s Cafayate Valley, nearly 6,000 feet above sea level, often displays aromas of white flowers, along with refreshing acidity and tropical and stone fruit characteristics. Terrazas de los Andes Torrontés 2017 is a particularly good example that displays fresh and floral notes such as camomile and jasmine, alongside tropical fruits such as lime and lychee, as well as nectarine and peach.

Going Against the Grain

Without the addition of oak, these white wines are able to remain aromatic, displaying their true aromas and flavours without the addition of heavier flavours such as vanilla or spice. Yet unusually, Cloudy Bay has also experimented with adding oak to its sauvignon blanc wines, resulting in softened aromatics that have become fruitier and more floral over time.

An excellent example is Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2015, which has aromas of nectarine, sweet herbs and honeysuckle, yet has retained its fresh minerality, in part because the grapes were picked at night when the vineyard was cooler, and also due to the strength of the aromatics of this particular type of sauvignon blanc grape.