Smelling a glass of wine and recognizing its aromas is a difficult task, but it is very rewarding when we succeed. There are simple rules and techniques to make the operation easier: use a suitable glass, pour the wine at the correct temperature, fill it one-third full (leaving two thirds of the volume empty so that the volatile aromas can accumulate there), hold the glass by the stem in order not to contaminate the nose with the smell of your hand, don't wear perfume or scented hand cream and be in an odorless environment.
Then there are the different ways to smell the glass. The techniques of taking a first "sniff" with the glass still and then, taking repeated sniffs after having swirled the wine in the glass (and therefore airing the wine) are well-known. But, there are 2 other ways of smelling a glass, which can help us better perceive even the most hidden aromas, and can give us important information about the nature of the wine we are tasting: shake the glass vigorously and then smell; smell the bottom of the empty glass after drinking the wine.
Let's take a closer look at these 4 ways of smelling wine in the glass:
1 - Smelling the wine from a still glass. (also called "first nose"). Only the most volatile aromas are perceived when smelling the wine from a still glass. Smelling the wine in this way allows us not so much to recognize the individual aromas, as to understand if we are dealing with a bouquet of young wine (mainly flowers and fruit), mature (including spices) or aged (tertiary aromas).
2 - Smelling the wine after having swirled it in the glass. (also called "second nose"). During its movement, the wine comes into contact with the air and releases a greater amount of aromas. This is essential to recognize and analyze the various aromatic nuances that characterize a wine. In this phase the wine is smelled repeatedly to define its olfactory profile. For example: Typical aromas (those of a specific grape variety and / or territory); Articulated aromas (those of different aromatic families); Linear aromas (aromas of a specific aromatic family); etc.
(To learn more about the first and second nose, consult our blog by clicking here)
3 - Smelling the wine after vigorously shaking the glass. In this way the wine emulsifies with the air and the possibility of making the aromas volatile (and therefore perceptible to the nose) increases. Unfortunately, it is a method that often risks spilling the wine. It is therefore rarely used, when there are doubts about possible defects in the wine (i.e. rotten wood, mold, oxidation, and others) not clearly perceptible with the first two methods.
4 - Smelling the empty glass after drinking the wine. After finishing the wine the glass remains dirty and a few drops of wine accumulate on the bottom. Smelling the glass like this, empty but "dirty" with wine, you no longer smell the more intense aromas of fruit, flowers, spices and more because there is not a sufficient mass of wine. However, for wines aged in wood, the aromatic molecules linked to tannins remain "clinging" to the glass. Smoked, wood, caramel, licorice and others become immediately noticeable because they are not covered by the other aromas. This is a highly recommended and fun procedure, especially for those approaching tasting.
Smelling wine is a pleasure but you have to do it well in order to discover all you can about a wine. We recommend that you follow steps 1, 2 and 3 above all. The technique is very important to smell a wine, but it is not sufficient to recognise the aromas in a bouquet. In fact, In order to do this, you need to first build your own personal library of memorized aromas and a vocabulary to describe them.