A for Aromas, Acidity and Appearance
B for Barrels, Bottles and Blackberry Wine
C for Color, Clarity, Carboys and Cherry Wine
D for Decanting and Decanters
E for Equipment
F for Fermentation
G for Glass and Grape
H for Harvest
I for Infusion
J for Jeroboam and Jug
K for Kabinett
L for Leaf, Label and Lees
M for Merlot, Muscat and Must
Today’s letter is “N”, so we’ll talk about Nose.
A wine tasting term, “Nose” is used to describe how wine smells in the glass. Different wine varietals produce different aromas. The nose is also affected by how the wine is made and stored.
There are three levels of wine aromas. Primary wine aromas come from the fruit, secondary wine aromas are a result of the fermentation process and tertiary wine aromas are derived from the aging process. For example, oak fermentation imparts spicy, smoky or vanilla aromas, while malolactic fermentation results in rich, buttery aromas.
The nose of wine is critical for tasting purposes. There is a set technique in being able to differentiate the aromas a wine imparts. During a tasting, wine is swirled in the glass to release the aroma vapors. The nose is then placed into the glass and with several, quick sniffs, the aromas become apparent. Care must be taken to not prolong inhaling, as the aromas quickly blend and become indiscernible.
When it comes to smelling, we take a distant second place to dogs and cats. Still, we humans can train our sense of smell, and you don’t have to be an expert wine taster to learn to sniff out the differences among wines.
The aroma of Cabernet Sauvignon and the closely related Merlot grape, for example, often reminds me of cedar wood and pine needles mingled with a good fruit smell reminiscent of currants.
Some add hints that wine tasters call “vegetal:” green olives, green peppers, tobacco leaves or grass.
Aging the wine in oak may add touches of vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and almonds. Extended bottle aging may lend a toasty quality and impart earthy scents as variable as mushrooms, old leather, roses and wildflowers.
Other grapes have their own trademark aromas: Zinfandel often evokes berries. Pinot Noir, the fine grape of Burgundy, may recall violets and spice. The pungently floral quality of freshly ground black pepper signals Syrah, the French Rhone grape.
Among whites, Chardonnay recalls crisp, ripe apples and may add notes of butter, coconut, figs and other tropical fruits, particularly if it’s aged in oak.
Riesling, the queen of German grapes, may evoke apples, too, and sometimes citrus fruit, canteloupe and pine.
Sauvignon Blanc often shows a grassy smell and sometimes grapefruit.
Chenin Blanc reminds me of melons and, occasionally, orange blossoms. A smell of peaches identifies Muscat and Gewurztraminer; the latter may add elusive spice.
One thing makes common scents: Smell is important to the wine taster. Much of what we think is taste really comes through our noses. If you don’t believe it, try to enjoy a wine – or a meal – the next time you have a bad head cold.
Winemaking is so much fun – at least for me – and am tickled every time I give the wine I make as gifts to friends and family who love drinking it as much as I love making it. While we go through this alphabetical series on winemaking, if you have any burning questions, be sure to ask them in the comments below, and I’ll reply there – and maybe even highlight your specific question(s) in a future post!
Thanks for joining me in this fun adventure!