Last year while browsing at photos on the internet, I caught a partial glimpse of this poster hanging on a wall in a french winery—I simply had to have it. I went on a lengthy quest to identify the French producer and supplier. Ultimately, my bilingual brother, was able to navigate a French website and order it from overseas. It is truly beautiful, and better yet, educational.
This visual display of glasses shows photos of the most common aromas you are likely to encounter while experiencing wines. I love glancing at it when I'm trying to determine what I can detect in a certain sample. Maybe it's miel (honey), citron (lemon), craie (chalk), or poivre noir (black pepper).
A great way to fine tune your own sense of smell is to begin to become aware of the scents you encounter everyday. You want to build a memory bank of aromas in your brain. You can use this as a reference every time you drink. Science and our own life experience teaches us that our sense of smell can be a visceral trigger of memories, an eerie flashback to our past. Capitalize on this human trait, and start focusing on what you really and completely perceive. You can train your brain!
Smell fruits from the outside and the inside; note the difference in the aromas of ripe fruit versus underripe fruit. Break foods into their original components. What gives a chocolate chip cookie its characteristic smell? Can you sense the butter, vanilla, brown sugar, and chocolate. When you have a marinara with your pasta, pretend you are trying to figure out the chef's secret recipe. Do you identify tomato, garlic, maybe a hint of oregano. Could there be a smidge of balsamic hovering in the background.
Be sure not to limit your focus to culinary aromas. Whenever you are outside (or at the nursery), literally, stop and smell the roses. Detect the spice and perfume in the flowers that surround you. Crush the leaves and needles of trees, ferns, and herbs between your fingers. Think of the smell of your yard after a rain or after its been freshly mown. And don't forget to study other smells like leather, pencil shavings, smoke and rubber–they'll show up in your wines from time to time as well.
I make you a promise: if you focus and learn to become an expert sensory observer of your own world, you will find, that in no time, you will be picking up more aromas in wine than you ever thought possible. Happy sniffing! xo SB