January 8, 2013

Take time to smell...the wine

You probably already know that smell is important in taste. When you are stuffed up and have a cold, food tastes differently. Food that smells delicious often is, in fact, delicious. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that smell is also important in wine tasting.

In my recent reading, I was reminded of some interesting facts that may change the way you smell (and taste) wine. Just the other night, I sat with my feet up and was ready for a glass of wine.  I wanted to put the analytical part of my brain away--I didn't want to review the wine, or write about it. I just wanted to enjoy. But still, I couldn't pass up smelling the wine, and here's why:

  • I was reminded that wine is drunk in tulip-shaped glasses because it is an awesome way to trap odors. If wine was served in your regular water tumblers (usually a tall, straight glass), all the delightful scent molecules would waft away into the ether, perhaps making the air immediately surrounding your glass smell lovely, but it won't change your perception of wine.
  • When you see people swirling the wine around in their glasses, it's really not just some obnoxious party trick. The wine swirling really does help increase the wine's surface area, making the concentration of wine-scented molecules in the air above the wine higher--that way, when you stick your nose into the barrel of the glass (and I mean, stick it right in there), the wine will be giving off its pleasant (or sometimes, not pleasant) odors.

Yes, this is how close you need to be to smell the wine.

  • True story:  you can smell with your mouth. It's indirect, but as you hold wine in your mouth, and draw air through it, the warmed wine can actually reach your nose through the back of your mouth and to the nasal cavities. Smelling should not be thought of as something that happens prior to tasting, but as a part of it. 
These facts on their own may be mildly interesting, but they are even more so in practice. Like me, at the end of a long day, you just may want to plonk yourself down on the couch with a big glass of your favorite wine, and just drink it for the mere sake of relaxation.  

But do yourself a favor: take a few seconds to really smell the wine. I don't care if you go through all the fancy tasting ritual and swirl and smell and stare and slurp: just take that extra second to inhale the wine and let your brain do the rest. Your brain will thank you when taking that first sensory-laden sip of wine...because the result? Pleasure.

Taking time to smell the roses may be a cliché--but smelling the wine should not be.

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