Sunday, August 21, 2011


wine nose

People who are new to the wine tasting experience sometimes have a tough time describing how wine smells.  A recent article from Tacoma's News Tribune offered some tips on how to become more comfortable with wine's aroma descriptors.

Wine tasting isn't a test - there are no right or wrong answers when describing what a wine smells or tastes like to you.  Your palate is a singular event in the universe, and all you need to do is report what it tells you.

The Court of Master Sommeliers - folks who know a thing or two about tasting and describing wine - say the tastes and smells of wine are divided into three areas: fruit, earth and wood.

The fruit aspect comes from the grapes, while the earth aromas tell you about the soil where the grapes were grown.  The wood influence comes from the oak barrels in which the wine is fermented and aged.  Some wines are made in stainless steel tanks, and display no characteristics of wood.

To train your palate to pick up the fruit aromas in wine, pay more attention to the fruit you eat.  Don't be embarrassed to get a good whiff of the fruit you buy at the market.  Sometimes, closing your eyes when you smell or taste fruit will help you remember its attributes better.

Earth notes include chalk, flint, dust, slate or rocks.  The influence of wood often shows itself as a vanilla profile, but coffee, chocolate, caramel and spices can all come into play.

Smelling and tasting wine should make you think of something you have smelled or tasted before, and that's how you should describe it.  The article mentions Flintstones vitamins as an unusual, but perfectly legitimate descriptor.  Wet driveway, Pez candy, crayon, tar and a freshly mown lawn are some other descriptors that I find in wine aromas.

Swirling a wine around in the glass helps stir up those aromas and release them so they'll be a little easier to notice.

Expand you palate when you get the chance, and be true to it by expressing how the wine smells to you.  Remember, there's no wrong answer.

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