Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Ah, Aroma!
Wines have aroma. Which means you can smell flavors when you take a good sniff. This means you stick your nose deep into the glass. No, don't wave your nostrils over the top of the glass, all you'll smell is whatever is in the air around you; which shouldn't be perfume, cigarette smoke, body odor, etc. Stick it in there! See, aroma!

But what aromas? Well if you read the tasting notes in every wine magazine and on-line wine site you'll see many and varied descriptions of what can be smelled in wine. Some people seem to be able to smell just about everything in a single wine. Others, like me, smell something but often an accurate description eludes us. Why? Well it is probably because we don't have a good library of matched flavor memories and descriptors. We know we've smelled that odor before but just can't put a description to it. Is it asparagus, wet hay, grass cuttings, or grandma?

Then along comes the aroma wheel. No it won't improve your ability to smell all the flavors that the wine magazine lists for its latest fad wine. But it will allow you to standardize your descriptions of wine. You'll use fewer key words, but they will mean more and that's a good thing if you want to be consistent in your wine tasting. For example, "Floral is a general but analytical descriptive term, whereas "fragrant", "elegant" or "harmonious" are either imprecise and vague (such as fragrant) or hedonic and judgmental." Of course, if you're a hedonist and like to come up with descriptions like, "Hmm, a simple yet fragrant wine, somewhat reminiscent of the runoff from an Afghan camel driver's loin cloth", then an aroma wheel is not for you.

Along with how to use the aroma wheel, AC Noble (of UC Davis) provides information on how to generate sets of aroma standards for white, red and sparkling wines. The standards can then be used to describe the aromas in different wines. Practice makes perfect in wine tasting. Or you could just buy pocket sized aroma cards. Just imagine on your next visit to wine country you could pull out your aroma cards, scratch and sniff and tell the wine makers just what their wines smell like! You'll look like a real pro!

Next, Stem, sight, smell, sip, swallow. Or I'll just describe how I taste wine. Its really simple and fun!