How to understand the smells, bouquet, aromas or perfume of a wine
You’ve looked at the wine already, what’s next in learning to taste wine like a professional? That’s easy. You only need to taste the wine. Remember when we first looked at a wine evaluate it? Now, we are going to swirl, smell and sniff the wine. Your sense of smell is much stronger than you realize. It’s a key component to understanding how to taste wine like a professional.
It’s said that as much as 85% of taste is derived from your sense of smell. But you cannot smell the wine without first swirling your glass gently. If you’re a beginner, to avoid smelling the wine once its drenched your clothes, swirl the glass, but keep the stem of the glass firmly planted on the table.
You will not spill the wine if you keep the glass anchored to the table. The action of swirling your glass allows oxygen to enter into the wine, which allows the wine to release its scents into the air while coating the glass at the same time.
After swirling your wine, you can use whatever technique that works best for you, when nosing the wines aromatics. However, one little trick that could help is, keep your mouth slightly open when inhaling and exhaling the scents from the wine. That little secret will allow you to discern more aromatic complexities in your wine. Next, do not simply inhale the aromas. Sniff them, more than once.
You will inhale more of the wines aromatics using that technique. But at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to nose a wine. Use what works for you. Some tasters inhale deeply, others take small, short sniffs, while others practice a combination of both techniques. Find the technique that works best for you. To help understand the aromas that are correct for the grape varietal characteristics of the wine, please see our page on the Davis Wine Aroma Wheel
Generally speaking, if a wine smells good, meaning there are no off odors such as scents of wet dogs, old news papers, mold, vinegar or generally unclean scents, the wine is sound. The next step is to note how complex the wine smells and what scents make up its complex, aromatic profile. The key to being a good wine taster is understanding that we all have different levels of olfactory capabilities.
Some people are going to be more sensitive overall than others. Select tasters will also sense some, specific fragrances better than others. Sense memory, or perhaps it should be scents memory” is the key here. Most of the scents found in wine are common to us. The lack of fear in trying to recall, recognize and communicate our sensations is all that is required here.
It’s important to note that wines and the grapes they are made from are quite complex and that once your fear of sharing what you smell and taste subsides, wine will no longer simply smell like red wine or white wine. You’ll find a vast array of scents and flavors are present in your wine.
Nosing what you smell in a wine can tell you a lot about the wine and its potential character. For example, when examining wines from Bordeaux varietals, as well as some Rhone wines, the scents of dark fruit like blackberries and plum tell the taster the wine is made from ripe berries, The darker the fruits, the riper the wine and the higher level of sugar and alcohol.
The scents of blueberries are the sign of an even riper wine. Jam flavors or scents in a wine can be a sought after complexity in the right amount. Too much jammyness and the wine could be over ripe and too high in alcohol. Prune and raisin scents are more often caused by over ripe fruit, which is usually lacking in freshness. When looking at a wine, when you encounter cherries, raspberries or other red berries, that is often the sign of fruit that did not achieve full, phenolic ripeness.
Those wines will be brighter in their palate profile and higher in acid as well. A light, balanced sense of oak is to be expected in young wines. This is reflected by odors of vanilla, coffee or toast aromas. But when those smells become the dominant characteristic in a wine, it is a potential sign that the wine will be oaky later in life as well.
Regardless of the wine being white or red, remember, the fruit needs to smell clean and fresh. While earth and other mineral odors or sensations are a sought after complexity in wine, dirt in the fruit is not.
Part of being a good wine taster is also being able to recognize flaws in wine, especially corked wines. The biggest fault in a wine that a wine taster needs to be able to identify takes place due to TCA, which causes a wine to smell like a wet dog, or old, wet newspapers. For Help with How to Recognize a Corked Wine and its Causes
So far, we have dealt with primary scents in young wine as well as faults in wine, which can be found in young or old wine. Older, mature wines also need to retain a freshness to their aromatic profile. But when wines age and mature, they exchange their primary fruit aroma for more complex, secondary scents.
In red wine, smells of earth, truffle, tobacco, spice, cigar box and forest floor and common aromas. White wines develop more notes of honey, flowers, spice, butter, popcorn, caramel and minerals with time.
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