The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2013

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WINEOCOLOGY The Nose Knows WHY THE SENSE OF SMELL IS CRITICAL TO WINE APPRECIATION by Caitlin Stansbury, accredited sommelier and author of Wineocology W hat you call your sense of taste is, in reality, your sense of smell. You don't actually have the impression of a specific flavor in your mouth until you smell it with your nose first. The truth is, the single most information-rich, powerful and revealing sense organ in the evaluation and enjoyment of wine is your nose. Don't get me wrong, I'm not belittling taste buds. But while they are extremely sensitive, taste buds are only capable of registering salt, sour, sweet, bitter and umami flavor impressions. Your nose has the capacity to perceive thousands of distinct aromas, their concentration levels and an almost infinite number of even more subtle aroma combinations. Tasting is actually a blend of the specific smell of a substance layered over the five basic taste perceptions. Wine is unique in the world of aromas in that it is one of the only things in the natural world that doesn't smell at all like itself. Think about it. Even though wine is made 100 percent from grapes, wine doesn't smell like grapes. Try this: Split open a grape and take a sniff. It's . . . well . . . grapey. Candy companies have made millions by isolating that grapey deliciousness and suspending it in hard form. What is so surreal about wine is that a substance made solely from grapes can miraculously smell like so many other things. How? Grapes are unique for their powerful concentration of phenolics and other odorant components that are transformed during the fermentation process into the precise odor-active molecules that scent thousands of other substances. So when you smell green peppers in your glass of Carménère, you're actually smelling the very odorants that make a green pepper smell green and peppery. When you breathe in the scents of a wine you unlock the vault door to a treasure trove of information. Smelling wine the Wineocology way will tell you definitively whether the wine is in drinkable condition or not before it ever hits your mouth. Once you identify that the wine is good to drink, my book teaches you how to adjudicate the level of aroma concentration before sussing out the complexity of its scent markers. "Nosing" wine is the most difficult skill to master but it's also the most fun. You'll expand your scent library by exploring analogous wine-centric scents that you may not have experienced or paid attention to before, like cardamom, lilacs and even dirt. Most importantly, you'll meditate on the subtle aromas that you encounter in your daily life on a deeper level than before. Not only does this heightened awareness help you to appreciate wine, but it connects you more profoundly to the olfactory pleasures that have been there all along— right under your nose. 92  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2013 Author Caitlin Stansbury trusts her nose first, taste buds later. PHOTO: VIKTOR BUDNIK

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