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Why We Smell Wine

Some customary actions happen when delving into a wine for the first time or revisiting it to find nuances, and they are sight, smell, and taste related. The next series of posts will focus on these elements of wine tasting and will reveal why we even do these things in the first place. Today, we're focused on why we 'nose' (smell) a wine when in the glass. Let's dig into it.

Like looking at a wine, smelling it can tell you much about what is in your glass. It can shed light on wine condition, flavours, climate of origin, and grape.

What Smelling a Wine Can Tell You


The primary reason you would see a sommelier 'nose' a wine is to assess its condition. Is the wine flawed? Here, when looking for flaws, we're mostly smelling to see if a wine is corked. We smell wine to determine its sense of wholeness without flaws.

Discerning Grape Variety

Smelling wine can also give you insight into the grape in your glass. Many varieties have telltale signs that no matter where the grape is grown, their true-to-nature aromas will always appear in your glass. Grape varieties such as Riesling, and Torrontes are good examples of this. On the nose, Riesling has a TDN (trimethyl dihydronaphthalene) scent that many refer to as petrol. Torrontes on the nose is very perfumed; think unmistakable violet scented perfume. Cabernet Sauvignon is recognizable from its bell pepper (pyrazenes) scent on the nose. There are many more examples of grapes that have an unmistakable scent, and the more you dig into different grape varieties, the more you will start to pick up scents that are traits of that grape.

Get a Sense of Flavours

The aromas of a wine, especially when aerated, can give you hints about its taste. For example, nosing a wine may allow you to recognize that it has seen some oak aging, which gives you a hint to possible vanilla, clove, and allspice on the palate.

Our sense of smell is tightly connected to our sense of taste. Read more here about our olfactory system at work to learn more.

Aroma Memory

On a less technical side, our sense of smell is closely tied to memory, and the aromas of wine can evoke powerful recollections of past experiences. By associating certain aromas with memories, we can create a more profound connection to the wine and enhance our enjoyment of it.

Like tasting wine, smelling wine is a skill that can be developed and refined over time. By actively engaging with the aromas in wine and paying attention to the nuances of each scent, you can improve your ability to identify and appreciate the complex bouquet of flavours in a glass of wine.

So, the next time you pour yourself a glass of wine, take a moment to take in the aromas that rise from the glass. Trust us, it will enhance the entire tasting experience.


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