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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Nose Knows Best

Monday, July 26, 2010

Never take a sip of wine without smelling it first. Many experts would recommend swirling and “nosing” a glass of wine before each sip, arguing that to be able to experience the flavors of wine to the fullest, you need to be able to smell its aroma. Turns out, our flavor-sensitive cells are all concentrated in a small patch at the top of the nose known as the olfactory area, so only when vapors of the foods and beverages we are consuming make it up to that area do we fully experience the essence and full experience of the wine we are drinking. If you don’t believe me, try this test: Put a clothespin on your nose and try to tell the difference in taste between an apple or an onion, or a piece of milk chocolate and a piece of cheddar cheese. You won’t be able to tell the difference!

So unless you’re still a member of the JV team, consuming wine merely for its inebriating qualities, always swirl and nose the wine first. Why swirl? Wine’s flavor molecules are only given off on the liquid’s surface, so by swirling the wine around in your glass, you increase the surface area, allowing more of the aroma to be given off. An interesting thing to do is to always first nose the wine without swirling, then swirl and nose it again. You will be astonished by the drastic difference you get and the much more intense and complex aromas are released after just a few swirls. When smelling your wine, first identify the fruits that the wine’s aroma reminds you of (cranberry, orange rind, mulled prunes, pineapple, pear). Next, note the non-fruit savory/spice/herb aromas you get (black tea, vanilla, cinnamon, tobacco, leather). Then, try to identify any minerality, which to me is the toughest for me to identify by nose alone (limestone, slate, riverstones). Finally, try to identify any wood notes (coconut and dill are common American woods, while vanilla and toasted almonds are common of French oak barrels). Only when you have fully savored the aroma and bouquet of the wine are you ready to finally taste your wine….

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