The Language of Wine

When you attend a wine tasting party, you might be surprised when people smell their wine and then say things like, "old leather" or "tar on the road." If you were to compare any other food to old leather or tar on the road, it would be insulting, but with wine, it is all part of the language.

When wine tasters say that a wine tastes like tar on the road, freshly mown grass or wet dog, they do not mean that there is an overpowering or even semi-strong smell of these elements in the wine. The wine tasters that talk about smelling these aromas in wine mean that they get a hint of such aromas as undertones or nuances mixed in with the fruity or flowery smells that are obvious aromas of wine.

With the right combination of nuance odors balanced with the initial aroma of the wine, you will have a wine that not only smells nice, but also tastes nice. What you should remember about tasting is that a great deal of what people taste depends upon what they smell.

Consider that the tongue has taste buds only for salty, sweet, sour and bitter flavors. You have tasted many things that do not necessarily fit into those categories, yet your tongue is incapable of tasting more. Your sense of smell makes up for what your tongue cannot taste, so about half of what you taste when you drink wine is actually, what you smell. This is why wine tasters describe so much of their impression of how a wine tastes as what they smell when they drink it.

It can be difficult for you to place the aromas that you smell when you first begin wine tasting. You might get a whiff of a nuance aroma but before you can figure out what it reminds you of, the aroma is gone. To help people place the common aromas that people smell when they are wine tasting, the scholars at University of California, Davis, long ago came up with what they call an aroma wheel.

The aroma wheel simply categorizes and names smells that you commonly smell in different varietals. If you taste a wine and you recognize an aroma or a flavor, but you cannot pinpoint the thing of which the aroma reminds you, you can look on the aroma wheel for common aromas that people find in the wine you are drinking and you will probably see the aroma for which you are searching your memory.

After all, who would sip a wine and think to him or herself, "yummy, this tastes like kerosene!" Especially if you like a wine, you do not jump in your mind to such answers. Yet, sometimes the wines that people enjoy drinking have nuances of flavors that those same people would not normally enjoy.

If you are interested in learning more about what aromas people commonly find in wine, you should speak to your wine merchant about obtaining an aroma wheel.

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About The Author, Ian Love
Ian Love is the owner of online wine Australia, specialising in red wine for wine storage. He also writes a blog on the wine.