Aromas bring forth the exquisite bouquet of a fine wine, give flavour to your favourite meal and make flowers smell as sweet as they do. Aromas can enchant us – they are the essence of our passion for wine. But how can we find the right words to describe them?
Professor Ulrich Fischer, the German Wine Institute in Mainz, the German Oenologist Association and A.C Noble – a professor at UC Davis in California – all had a hand in developing the aroma wheel. Using 75 descriptive terms, the aroma wheel can define the nuances of aroma and taste to help us identify sensations experienced in wine tasting.
Whilst our tongues are only able to distinguish between salty, sweet, sour and bitter, our sense of smell is able to detect an incredible diversity of aromas. This is why sipping, swishing and smacking of the lips is very much de rigueur at a wine tasting. When wine is exposed to oxygen, it releases a delicate bouquet that rises up to our olfactory nerve. This transmits the information to the limbic system, the area of the brain that controls our emotions.
Sensitise your nose! Avoid wearing perfume and other fragrances when wine tasting! Let your imagination run wild! The more active your imagination, the better. As with learning anything new, the golden rule is practice makes perfect! "But where do I start?", you may well ask. That's a very good question!
Our tip: Progression is the key to success: begin with lighter-bodied wines, work your way up to fuller-bodied; serve dry before sweet and fruity, young before old.
Perhaps you associate a certain smell with a childhood experience or a particularly memorable holiday? Anything goes when you're describing an aroma! Ultimately it all comes down to emotions and feelings. Don't hold back! It doesn't matter what you are reminded of – whether it be liquorice, chocolate or blackberries – the more accurately you can describe what you taste, the more diverse the palette of wine aromas will seem.