In continuation of Part 1 and how to handle and view a glass of wine, we must now begin appreciating its aromatics.
Sniffing the wine:
The viewing part is finished. It is the less important part of the tasting. The most important part of the tasting is the nose sense. Only using your nose, you can detect 75-80% of the flaws in the wine. You need to sniff the wine by sticking your nose into the glass. It should sound like a New York bar in the 80’s. If you do this and you start to cough, it is because you are doing it right. You don’t want to kill your nose, but you want to be able to assess the wine’s properties. If you smell rotten eggs, damp board, wet newspaper, or something disgusting, it is because the wine is sick, and you need to stop the tasting right there. If you smell alcohol, spices, and fruits, or something very appealing, it is because the wine is in very good shape. Tasting glasses are designed to enhance the errors of the wine, so if a wine can smell good it is in very good shape.
And then we do the swirling: circular movements, either on the table or in the air. When the swirling stops you will sniff again, and you will feel a different sensation: the alcohol is gone and you feel the backbone, the real aromatic structure of the wine.
You need to retrain your nose sense. If you practice, you get it. The nose has a lot of associative memory, because it is a very primal sense, so once you’ve identified one concept with an aroma, you will always remember it; and the next time you smell that, your mind will travel back to the time you first realized it.
With wine there is no right or wrong. Anything you perceive is your own expression, and no one can tell you you’re wrong. Maybe you cannot recognize or explain what you are sniffing, but it’s okay because it is your own perception. The only thing that matters is if you like it or not. Once you get it, you will remember it forever. It’s easy. You need to practice.
Pro Tip: We cannot taste what we cannot smell. The link between smell and taste is no truer than in wine. We recommend trying a Wine Awakenings kit, a box set of little aroma bottles of the most common scents found in a host of wine varietals, along with descriptive notes that identify aromatics. This is a fun and easy way to educate your nose!
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.