How to Taste Wine, Part IIa: You Smell What?

July 9, 2023

Next up in our series on tasting wine is ‘Smell’ or put more artfully, ‘Aromas’. Before we jump into the mechanics and details of smelling wine let’s try to put this whole concept of wine tasting into perspective.

The most intimidating and sometimes absurd part of any wine tasting is when people start smelling or ‘noseing’ the wine. First there’s the swirling and then the intense nose dive into the glass for some serious sniffage. Sometimes this ritual gets repeated three or four times before anyone takes a sip.

It can be a rather alienating experience. It was for me at my first tasting. I began to focus on what everyone else was doing and not on the wine in my glass. When people started to announce the aromas they were smelling I went along with it, though I was sure I had never smelled a ‘forest floor’ or ‘cassis’ before in my life.

I felt discouraged when I left that tasting. I felt like I knew less about wine than when I arrived and I didn’t feel confident about trying more wine again in the future. Most of all, I didn’t enjoy the wine, because I was busy trying not to look or sound dumb in front of people who seemed to know a helluva lot more than me.

The most important thing to remember when tasting wine is not to go outside of yourself. At that first tasting I was smelling for the smells everyone else was smelling, NOT what I could smell. Since I’d never smelled a forest floor before I was never going to get that, no matter how hard a I tried.

Some years later I was working in a garden with my roommate and that moist, earthy scent of fresh potting soil was all around us. A-HA! This was that smell! You see, someone’s ‘forest floor’ was my ‘potting soil’. In reality, potting soil and a forest floor don’t smell exactly alike, but for each of us, that earthy smell in wine triggers something specific in our smell memory.

It’s your wine and your smells (that sounds weird, but I think you know what I mean)! Being honest and staying within yourself means that you will trust your own senses as you taste more and more. That is what leads to enjoyment and ultimately to all of the great shared experiences that wine offers.

Tags: ,

Leave a Comment

− 1 = eight