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Two Women on Wine: The art of smelling wine

By smelling the wine, we can identify its components

Posted: May 13, 2010 3:11 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2010 6:00 a.m.

Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier

 

The nose knows is an adage that applies to wine as much as it does any other smell or taste sensation. The experience of enjoying wine utilizes three of our five senses: sight, taste and smell. The five Ss of wine appreciation - see, swirl, smell, sip, and savor - work together to create the wine experience.

We're delving in to discuss the most important aspect of wine tasting: smell. While our taste buds can distinguish just four tastes - salty, sweet, sour and bitter - the nose has this beat by a huge margin. In fact, our sense of smell is said to be a thousand times more sensitive than our sense of taste.

The oldest part of the brain is the olfactory region, which gives us our sense of smell. Our nose is the portal to the olfactory receptors that gives us the ability to distinguish and identify different scents.

Researchers have determined there are more than 10,000 different smells. Of that number the average person can identify close to 2,000 assorted scents. Stop and think for a moment about our environment and everyday activities and the smells associated with them -smells like those of the food you cook, grass freshly mowed, coffee brewed, baby powder on a baby after their bath. We catalogue many scents in our memories so every time we take a whiff of something, we commit it to memory and sometimes associate it with a particular experience. That's why Mom may come to mind when you smell a freshly baked apple or peach pie, or the smell of Old Spice reminds you of your Uncle Joe, or the smell of bubble gum brings recollections of your childhood. Your nose has a great memory.

So what does this all have to do with drinking wine? Well, when it comes to appreciating wine you need to put your nose to work to identify the flavors and nuances of wine. Wine aromas come from the grapes themselves, the soil they were planted in, and how the wine was aged. By smelling the wine first we can start to identify its various components.

There are a few steps to follow in order to smell wine most effectively. Start with swirling the wine. Fill a glass one-third full then place it on a flat surface. Hold the glass by the stem and gently move it in a circular direction until a small cyclone is created in the glass. This action aerates the wine, which allows oxygen to come in contact thereby releasing the wine's aromas.

After swirling the wine immediately bring the glass to your nose. If you wait too long, the aromas will disappear. Don't be shy. Place your nose fully in the glass, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Keep your mouth open a bit while sniffing to help capture the aromas. This allows you to take in all the scents. Repeat this step at least three times.

Concentrate on the different elements of the scents. You'll notice that with each sniff you will get more information than the previous one. Make a mental note of what you smelled each time. Does it smell like flowers or chocolate? Does is smell light or fruity? Can you detect some earthy, woody scents?

Congratulations, you have now completed the most important aspect of enjoying wine. Now sit back, pour yourself a little wine, sniff away and savor all the wonderful aromas and flavors. Cheers!

Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier are owners of Vino 100 in Valencia, a unique specialty wine store offering boutique, handcrafted wines from small, artisan vineyards, as well as a large selection of gifts and accessories. Daily tastings, weekly specials and monthly events. Visit Vino 100 located at 28112 Newhall Ranch Road in the HighRidge Crossing Center at the corner of Copper Hill Drive in Valencia. (661) 294-6886, www.vino100valencia.com .

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