Around 80% of what we perceive of as taste actually comes from our sense of smell. Our sense of smell is very important and has a huge role in the art of wine tasting. The key to detecting and describing smells isn’t in the number of expensive wines tasted over the years, it’s my day-to-day life of grocery shopping! You can’t recognise describe a smell if you haven’t smelt it before!
If you would like to expand your aroma memory, I recommend you visit the local greengrocers. Purchase some of the fresh produce; dirty carrots, seasonal fruit, ripe tomatoes on the vine, different coloured grapefruit and citrus. Take your items home and spend time thinking about how each item smells. What does the damp soil smell like? What does the stalk of a tomato smell like? Can you remember smelling that green peppery smell before when you’ve visited a greenhouse? A ruby grapefruit smells and tastes very different to a yellow grapefruit. Peel back the skin and pith, think about the different smells and log them in your memory bank.
While I may never describe a wine as smelling of dirty carrots, I may use the term ‘earthy’ and recall the damp smell of earth on the carrots. Sometimes a white wine will have a strong vegetal note reminiscent of the green peppery notes of ripe vine grown tomatoes. These descriptors round out the tasting note and help others relate to the wine.
By paying attention to the smells around us and logging them in your memory bank, we improve our ability to recall aroma and describe a smell. Wine tasting is about the senses and smell is a huge part of that experience!