On the nose.
If you have ever read any wine critics column you will have come across the phrase: on the nose.
Wine is a drink, right. So what has it got to do with the nose? Why is so much importance placed on the nose?
There has been a lot of research that demonstrates how closely linked our olfactory and gustatory senses are.
Ok, so if you just want to get drunk, you don’t care too much about what the wine smells like. May I suggest that if getting drunk is your sole aim, you should not waste real wine and you can just get some generic stuff from the supermarket?
If you want to properly enjoy wine, then you can’t sidestep the smelling stage.
The smelling stage is the second step of formal wine-tasting. First you look at the wine, then (often after swirling it to expose it to oxygen and release some aromas) you smell it and finally you taste it. The taste should confirm most of what you have discovered when you smelt the wine.
The first thing that your nose will inform you of is whether there is a fault with the wine. If the wine smells awful, it’s likely that it will not taste good either. There are some common wine faults that can be identified pretty quickly. Wine Folly gives a great explanation here.
Then, there are 3 kinds of aromas: primary, secondary and tertiary. When you learn wine-tasting formally, as I did at WSET , the difficulty resides in classifying them properly.
Primary aromas come from the grape variety itself. Fruits and flowers aromas are probably the easiest to identify. For example pear, grapefruit, black cherries, blackcurrant notes are all quite straightforward. There can also be some herbs and spices aromas (white pepper, cinnamon, eucalyptus).
Secondary aromas come from the way the wine is made. For example, the yeast and the fermentation method or the aromas coming from the oak of the barrel. You may hear descriptors such as biscuits, cream or cedar.
Tertiary aromas come from the ageing process. The oak still has a part to play in this, as has oxidation. Tertiary aromas descriptors include walnut, marmalade but also leather and farmyard! The last one being a bit of an acquired taste, it has to be said.
It is now late summer and wine producers are planning for harvest.
During those last beautiful summer days, why not go out on a sniffing field trip? Go and smell the flower beds, the orchards, the cut grass, the fruits and vegetables in the supermarket some freshly made leather handbags and maybe even the odd farmyard ! Make mental notes of those olfactory experiences and, little by little, you will learn to spot some of those aromas in your wine. The next step will be to learn in what type of wines you could normally expect to find some of those aromas.
If it is something that you would be interested in practising, then contact me to book a wine-tasting evening or afternoon.
So wake up your nose and smell the wine!