A Scent-Sational Afternoon

In general, I much prefer the scent-sations of wine over those found in NYC at large.  With results of my smell Google-ing topping out at “Trash, subway fumes, coffee, cigarette smoke” vs. “cherry, plum, wood, apple,” I think most people would agree with me.
All opinions on smell aside, most of us have likely experienced an encounter where a true aroma afficionado showed us our lack of olfactory aptitude, leading us simply to nod in confused agreement about the Barolo/Burgundy/Brut in question. (Ahem, my misadventure at Corkbuzz last week.)

In an effort to avoid confusing cassis and cranberry in more embarassing social situations, I grabbed the girlfriends for an afternoon of serious sniffing (and of course, sipping) in Central Park.

Armed with a delicious picnic basket, and a bottle of Brooklyn Winery’s 2010 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay,we set out to  explore the scents of wine, and the sights of crazy people in and around Columbus Circle.

To test our noses, we brought along a wide variety of fruits and spices we’ve often smelled in wine, or noticed on the notes on our favorite bottles: apples, pears, strawberries, oranges, lemon zest, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and cinnamon. We also brought a wine aroma wheel to help narrow down otherwise general scents we were identifying.

Inhale deeply, and read on for our conclusions.

  1. Scratch Swirl and Sniff


The same way those dorky stickers from the dentist need to be scractched a before the smell comes out, wine needs to be agitated and mixed with air to release its aromas.  The best way to do this sans spilling is to make sure the glass is only about 1/3 full, and keep it on the table.

Once you’ve formed a beautiful wine cyclone, stick your nose deep into the glass and inhale.  This might sound silly, but the nose of a wine dissipates quickly so its important to jump right in.  Also, the experts at Dummies.com note that this is an excellent way to avoid talking to people at parties.

  1. Use tools.

Sometimes, I honestly wonder where creative marketing teams get the words they put on the back of wine labels.  “Apricot nectar with hints of a silken oak finish” ?

This is why tools like the wine aroma wheel or this Court of Master Sommeliers Worksheet are awesome tools to help us normal wine drinkers describe wine aromas. The wheel is my favorite tool, because it divides common wine smells simply, and then breaks down each category. For example, the first whiff might scream fruity, and a 2nd or 3rd sniff can narrow ‘Fruity’ down to ‘Tree Fruit,’ and finally apple or pear.

  1. You’re not wrong, you’re just not right.

Smells can be subjective–what might remind me of earthworms might remind my friends of dirty socks, and free association when smelling wine is great.


That being said, when’s the last time you actually smelled a Granny Smith apple, a dirty sock, or an earthworm? Never is an acceptable answer, and that’s why it’s possible to misread wine label descriptions or,  as I discovered at Corkbuzz completely misidentify scents in a wine simply because you’re not accustomed to identifying the slight differences between common wine scents (like blackberries vs. raspberries).

This is one reason why having a wine smell party is a great practice. Likewise using a wine wheel can be a fun, free way to up your olfactory ability. Another option is simply smelling everything in the grocery store, which works wonders for freaking out bored cashiers or supermarket stalkers.

Wine Scent-sations Uncorked:

Laura Loves: Practicing my ugly face when grocery store staff notice me smelling each and every item in the produce section.

Wine For Dummies Online Edition! Check it out here.

This wine advice: “Get a corkscrew and practice using it.”

BK Winery–Thanks for hooking me up with wine wheel and some juice!

Fun Facts: Strange scents are inherent in some great wines. Riesling tends to have ‘Petrol’ fumes.

If your wine smells like wet cardboard or newspaper it’s corked (read: ruined.) so don’t drink it!

Download-able: Another excellent wine wheel from AromaMaster.com.

Sniffing in 140 characters: Pour, swirl, and dive in with your nose. Sock juice, apricot, or earthy it’s all good. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

  • August 13, 2012
  • 0