Smelling is the hardest part of a wine tasting
Long story short, we don’t walk around sniffing things on a daily basis. That would be kind of weird. So… yeah… Anyway, learning how to pick out aromas in wine takes time and practice.
And remember from the last video? YOU CAN’T BE DRUNK AND LEARN.
Before we get started, make sure to have a pencil and notebook ready. Also, for help, I’ve included a free flavour chart and tasting note template that you can download from the link above. This will be super helpful while you’re learning. Check it out.
There are three levels of aroma…
When learning how to smell wine at a tasting, there are three levels of aroma–primary, secondary, and tertiary.
Primary = smells that come from the vinyard and grape growing process.
Secondary = smells that originate in the winery as the grapes ferment.
Tertiary = smells that accumulate while the wine ages in the cellar.
But how do we translate these into real life while we are sniffing wine?
Steps for smelling wine
Remember, during a tasting, you should always use more than one wine in order to create comparisons between them. When you are first starting out, it’s also helpful if you choose wines that are quite different, for example, a Beaujolais from France versus a chianti from Italy. If you pour the wines into tapered glasses, you can swirl them with ease (and without spilling). HOT TIP: Don’t wear white!
Pick up one of the glasses of wine and swirl it around. This oxygenates the wine and really jump starts the aromas so you can get a good whiff.
With red wines, typical primary smells will be aromas of red fruits, black fruits, or stone fruits–berries, cherries, plums, etc. With white wines, you may smell apples, pears, peaches, etc. You may also pick up hints of minerality. As you continue to swirl, you may also pick up aromas that contain different levels of ripeness–one wine may have a riper, more decomposed or cooked smell than another. Secondary smells may or may not include an “oaked” smell. Some may be slightly spicy… or not. And for tertiary smells, you may pick up a slightly leathery aroma. All of your findings should be recorded in your notebook in order to register and remember these smells.
Over time, and with patience, you will begin to create connections based on your experiences. Picking out smells in wine tasting is hard, so give yourself a break, and have fun while you’re doing it.