An increasingly popular activity among travelers and beverage enthusiasts is wine tasting. Many people have the idea that simply taking a sip and smacking the mouth a few times is what tasting wine is all about, but smelling is even more important to capturing all of the flavor notes present.
The human olfactory system is far more intricate than taste buds – while our tongues can only detect four flavor profiles (sweet, sour, bitter, salty), the nose can detect thousands of different smells. Think about it – have you ever noticed how you can’t taste food as well when you’re sick with a stuffy nose? This means our sense of taste is more nose-involved than mouth-involved, especially in the presence of complex flavor profiles like those found in wine.
The fruity flavors of wine such as grapes and berries are easily detected by the tongue because of familiarity. Additional factors such as fermenting time, aging and storage type can make a huge difference in a wine’s overall flavor profile. These are additional “layers” of flavor that are more apparent when smelled. For example, many wines are stored in oak barrels which certainly affect the overall taste of the wine, but most people haven’t actually “tasted” oak on the tongue.
Wine aromas are typically described as floral, fruity, citrusy, earthy, or any other familiar scent associated with a type of wine. To properly smell a wine, swirl the glass around for about 10 seconds to release the aromas. Put your nose into the glass and take a good, steady whiff. Think about the scents you’re picking up while smelling in order to prepare your brain for the flavors to come. For example, Chianti Classico is a red wine with a floral aroma, specifically of violets along with hints of cherry and earthy spice. Its most available varieties are fermented for at least 24 months, resulting in a deep, rich flavor.
Now that you have an idea of how to smell and detect aromas in wine, be sure to schedule a few "wine smellings" in your future travels.