OK! We’ve swirled our wine, we’ve watched the pretty rhythm of the rotating liquid, and we did so without spilling it on ourselves, our neighbor or the table! Or….not- either way- that wine has gotten some fresh air in it and that means we start smelling. The color of wine tells us so much, but the real personality of the wine comes out through the nose. The scents that rise out of the glass alert you to what is waiting for you- is it a simple or complex wine? Savory or sweet palette, showing age or maintaining freshness? Smelling a wine always starts to open my mind up to the possibilities- what to pair it with, how will it develop the longer it sits out, should I be looking for another bottle?
Here’s the deal- smelling wine is like the Tinder of wine tasting- it lets you know just enough to let you know if you want to know more.
Here’s the first note- when you’re starting to smell wine, start sniffing as soon as you stop swirling and start to lift the glass towards your nose. How close does that glass get to your nose when you start to smell the aromas? Is it shy or extroverted? Does it jump out of the glass and rush to meet you, or do you need to coax it out of the bottom of the glass, asking it to share it’s story? Every varietal has it’s own DNA, and that make up will allow it to either be unreserved in its scent, rising out of the glass powerfully, and some have low intensity, and you need to really work to get the smell.
Every wine has it’s own personality.
Then concentrate on what scents are present. “Wine” is the most common answer here- yup I get that. Take another smell though. Every wine is comprised of a variety of other scents- fruits, flowers, herbs, vegetables, savory things like cedar box or smoked meats, general smells like earth, or wet rocks, or damp forest…all of these scents appear in wine and we just need to use our noses to narrow them down.
This may be one of the most interesting facets of wine though- so I urge you not to breeze past it. You know how I waxed on about how every wine tells a story? Every wine tells you all about where it came from, what the soil and the climate was like there, what the weather did in that particular year, and the efforts of the farmer. Every single scent that you can smell in that glass contributes to the story. Dig in- do you smell citrus fruits? What about apples- green or red? Plums? Blackberries? Strawberries? Maybe white flowers or lavender? Dried fruits? Black pepper?
Training your nose to pick out these scents isn’t easy- believe me. Here’s the big trick though- ready for it? Next time you’re in your local grocery store, or at a farmers market- smell the produce. Smell the herbs. Smell the flowers. Smelling is free- you may look a little weird- but do it anyway. Then when you smell your next glass of wine- try to narrow in on the different sections of the store. It’ll help you to narrow down the flavors.
As you get more comfortable with smelling wine, you’ll start to recognize more and more about the wine from the nose, and next time we’ll talk more about what some of those scents mean. However, for now, smell your wine and allow it to introduce itself to you- swipe left or right but at least you’ll have a little more information to help with the decision.
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