How To Taste: Wine Aroma Wheel

Onward with the tasting tips: 

You know that frustrating moment when you smell something and you KNOW what it is, but you can’t quite come up with the name? There’s a really helpful tool for that called the Wine Aroma Wheel. It was developed at University of California at Davis, one of the best wine schools in the world, to help us use common language to describe wine. 

Instead of saying something esoteric, like “The wine reminds me of a warm day on the ChampsÉlysées…” you describe something that others can relate to. Everyone know what raspberry smells/tastes like. Everybody knows licorice…

The center of the wheel has the broadest descriptors and becomes more specific as you work your way out. For instance, if you have a generally fruity impression, as you work your way outward, it asks questions: “Does is remind you of citrus fruit? Or berries? Maybe a little of each?” And then becomes more specific, yet: “You say citrus fruit. Is it more like grapefruit or orange?” 

It’s impossible for the wheel to include every possible aroma because we’re capable of detecting so many, but it does a great job of representing the most common ones to get those sensory wheels turning.

As you take a closer look at the wheel, you’ll see that some of the descriptors aren’t so wonderful. How about “wet dog” or “skunk”? This portion of the wheel is meant, primarily, to identify aromas for “When Wine Goes Bad!” Fortunately, spoiled wine can’t hurt you, but it certainly can offend! And, in some cases it’s a question of degree. For instance, Riesling lovers don’t mind smelling a hint of diesel in the wine – in fact they expect it in certain cases. But if the wine smelled of nothing but diesel, that’s a different kettle of fish altogether (fortunately, “fishy” is a descriptor I’ve never heard in reference to wine!). 

If you’re planning a tasting party, you really can’t beat it as a conversation starter and an aid. Plus, your purchase will help support Professor Ann Noble’s well-deserved retirement 😉 

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