Wine tasting is so … 2007, non? What’s new, what’s now:
wine-smelling, the very foundation of wine appreciation! Turns out it’s your
schnoz, not your taste buds, that’s responsible for most of what you recognize
as flavors — including those you find in wines.
But if “notes of licorice,”
“undertones of bell pepper” and a “black currant finish” sound like a bunch of
pretentious doublespeak to you, meet the
wine aroma wheel. Developed by Ann C.
Noble, a chemist and former professor from the esteemed viticulture and enology
department at the University of California, Davis, the wheel is a guide to help
would-be wine aficionados distinguish the aromas found in wines — so you too
can speak sommelier.
The wheel sorts wine aromas into categories (like “fruity”
or “spicy”), then divides them into more specific descriptors (like “raspberry”
or “black pepper”) in an attempt to make wine descriptions more consistent and
meaningful, rather than fancy-schmancy but vague (like “fragrant” or “harmonious”).
It can also make it easier for vino novices to narrow down just what it is
they’re inhaling — particularly if you set up a wine-smelling bar so you can compare the bouquets of wines with
their real-deal aroma equivalents. Here’s how:
Order a handsome laminated aroma wheel complete with
instructions for just six bucks plus 75 cents shipping from Ann herself.
2. Decide which wines you want to taste — er, smell. Noble
suggests starting with whites, since the aroma and flavor variations among
whites are more pronounced.
3. Pour a little of your “standard,” a cheap jug wine in the
same color family as the ones you’re smelling, into a group of glasses.
4. Then, consulting the instructions, gather the ingredients
representing the common odors in the wines you’ve chosen — from Rose’s lime
juice to canned asparagus brine — and add a different flavor to
each of the glasses of your standard. If you’ve included a Riesling,
Gewurztraminer or Muscat, you’ll also want to fill an empty glass with Froot
Loops® or part of a Handi Wipe®, since, oddly, both are rare sources of the
exotic fragrance known as linalool, which is derived from the oil of certain
types of trees and plants and also happens to be a characteristic scent of, you
guessed it, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and Muscat.
5. Label each glass and cover it with plastic wrap so the
smells don’t all just mix and mingle together willy-nilly as they’re wont to
do, those wanton little whiffs.
6. Start sniffing. Pour yourself a glass of your chosen
wine, give it a good snort, then try to identify the components of the bouquet
and compare them to those aromas’ standards. Not sure? Smell the standards that
seem like possibilities till you get some matches.
7. Drink your homework. You’ve studied hard today!