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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Nose Is A Nose

(this post is the second in a series-see post Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 titled "Wine Tasting At First Sight. The third in this series will discuss taste and will be posted in the first week of April)
flavor (n); "the element in the taste of a substance which depends greatly on the cooperation of the sense of smell." (Oxford English Dictionary)
In wine tasting and evaluation, the sense of smell is a crucial aspect in determining the overall quality of a wine as well as it's taste.
When describing aromas, there are two key points to remember. The first aspect described should be the intensity of the aroma. Is it highly aromatic? powerful and inviting? or subtle and subdued? The second aspect should be the description of what did the wine's aroma remind you of? The character.
Varietals are recognized by specific aromas. The better the wine quality, the more apparent are the scents to the taster.  Aroma is the smell of the grapes used to make the wine.  Malolactic fermentation produces a butterscotch aroma (natural or added bacteria converts crisp malic acid (as in apples) into softer lactic acid (as in milk)-while aging in oak barrels contributes vanilla and clove notes to Chardonnay and most reds.
In contrast, Savignon Blanc is recognizable by its varietal herbaceousness (grass, bell pepper, eucalyptus).

Characteristic Wine Aromas 

Butterscotch, Honey, Chocolate, Molasses
As found in Sauternes, Cali Chardonnay, and French Puligny-Montrachet.

Moldy, Mushroom, Dusty, Chalky, Mineral
Used to describe Red Burgundy, Zinfandel or some fine examples of California Pinot Noir.

Violet, Rose, Orange Blossom
Some examples are Chenin Blanc, Vouvray and Sancerre.

Tree Fruit (Apple, Pear, Peach)
Tropical Fruit (Pineapple, Melon, Banana)
Citrus Fruit (Grapefruit, Orange, Lemon, Lime)
Red Fruit (Cherry, Strawberry, Raspberry, Currant)
Dark Fruit (Blackberry, Blueberry, Plum, Raisin)
Found in reds such as Beaujolais, Merlot and Pinot Noir

Herbaceous or Vegetative
Fresh (Cut Green Grass, Bell Pepper, Eucalyptus)
Canned/Cooked (Green beans, Asparagus, Green or Black Olive, Artichoke)
Dried (Tea, Tobacco)
As in Savignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewirztraminer.

Walnut, Hazelnut, Almond
Sherries, Maursault and a few Madeiras.

Licorice, Anise, Black Pepper, Cloves
Shiraz, Cali Zinfandels, Rhone wines.

Burnt (Smoky, Coffee)
Woody (Oak, Cedar, Vanilla)
Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon