A visit to a wine cellar is always fun, even for non-wine drinkers. Here, in the huge containers, is where the magic happens – this is where the wine matures after the fermentation process from sweet, often slightly sticky, grape juice. Tasting a young wine just on the cusp between juice and wine in terms of alcohol content can give you a sense of the dynamics at play during the fermentation process. In addition to alcohol, fermentation produces hundreds of other chemical compounds. For now, however, the wine is left to settle and mature.
And to mature and develop, wine needs, among other things: time. White wine only needs a few months, whereas red wine can take up to several years. Something else happens in the barrel or tank during this time. The wine develops depending on the amount of oxygen and suspended sediment still present in it. It is this process that gives a wine cellar its distinctive aroma. Berry, rose, citrus, chocolate or cinnamon scents can develop depending on the grape variety. There are also aromas of alcohol and wood.
Every cellar has its own unique smell that is determined by the composition of the walls, the vessel materials and the location above or below ground. Take your time, because the distinctive aroma of a wine cellar is frequently the result of decades of hard work. An old cellar smells different to a much newer one.
Each season has its unique smells in the wine cellar, and yet another dimension of time comes into play. If you get chance to visit a cellar multiple times, you will notice that different aromas are particularly prominent depending on the season. For example, in autumn, there is a scent of fermentation aromas, a chilly freshness, transforming fruit and always a hint of yeast.
A visit to a wine cellar is especially enjoyable when the outside temperature is hot. Because: wines are typically stored in a cellar or in a cool, temperate location to control the maturing process. A "cellar temperature" of 15 degrees is usually ideal for the future wine.
So, the next time you visit a winery in the Palatinate region of Germany, don't just focus on your taste buds while sampling the wine. Instead, allow your nose to enjoy the pleasure of discovering the many aromatic notes on its own. Happy sniffing, and enjoy!