Part 1. "Olfactory" Tasting

Smelling a glass of wine is a practice that requires a certain "education". To evaluate the aromas of a wine it is necessary to regain possession of our dormant olfactory abilities, hence, reactivate our sense of smell to discover a world that we know only in part.

There are many things to look at when examining a wine's bouquet. To begin with, we must consider that each wine has its own unique characteristics linked to the grape of origin, the area of ​​cultivation, the method of vinification, the type of aging, evolution and more. It is essential that the aromas that comprise the bouquet are distinct and pleasant; experience is often necessary to analyze and understand the more complex and original wines. Another parameter of great importance during the olfactory examination is that which calls for the identification of wine defects due to various causes, including incorrect winemaking procedures, excessive oxidation that lends a marsala smell, use of barrels that are too old or not adequately clean and several others, including the unmistakable smell (and taste) of cork!

For several years I have been dedicating myself to wine-tasting and, although having achieved an improvement in my skills of “aromatic reading” of wine, I am convinced that it is never an absolute value; on the contrary, I have the clear opinion that the olfactory information obtained during a blind tasting is at least in part, subjective! Every wine in the glass has objective characteristics, but each of us can perceive them in a slightly different way.

An approach that is perpetually stimulated by curiosity, but also doubt, and therefore motivation towards discovery, is necessary when do a wine-tasting.

To conduct the olfactory examination, I concentrate on this order of "steps" which I summarize below: the aromatic exposure or "first nose"; the aromatic opening or "second nose".

The aromatic exposure (the evolution of the bouquet) 

The "first nose", or first exposure to the wine's aromas, can reveal to us, in accordance with the varietal type and/or the aging process, a young, mature or aged bouquet.

Young. If the bouquet is young I try to identify the fresh fruit, the aromatic herbs, the light flowers, the sweet tone of the barrel; basically this is a wine that expresses itself well but in a way that is still not sufficiently exhaustive and performing.

Mature. If the bouquet is mature, I acknowledge that some "youthful" scents may still be present, but that spicy, buttery, vegetable, honeyed notes and others are sometimes more developed due to the bouquet's evolution.

Aged. An aging bouquet, on the other hand, exposes spicy timbres, dried or candied fruit, toasted notes, undergrowth, animal or earthy scents and others.

But we must be careful because wines evolve in different ways according to their own intimate, typical, territorial character. Some wines reach their aromatic peaks when they possess a youthful bouquet, and therefore they deserve a classification (and appreciation) in that stage of aromatic expression. Just as the opposite is true, such as with some noble wines, or "Crus", which in a young or mature phase show a closed, introspective, cold, disordered bouquet, and where it is only in the aged phase of the bouquet that they show their profile, the aromatic articulation, the balance between individual aromas, a defined and persistent, distinct and pleasant range. I can say in general that great wines are tasted (and appreciated) during this phase.

The aromatic opening (the nature of the bouquet) 

What is identified as the "second nose" of the wine is the moment of aromatic tasting in which we begin to further examine the bouquet's aromas. I believe this phase of the tasting is more complex, stimulating and stratified; it is essential to analyze and include the various aromatic nuances that characterize a wine.

In order to catalog the overall olfactory impressions relating to the varieties and wines of the world, it is worth mentioning some indicative profiles that affect the nature of the wine bouquet.

  • Vinous: perfume of must,
  • Aromatic: scent of grapes and / or herbs,
  • Fragrant: scent of yeast and bread,
  • Mineral: perfume of flint, flint, graphite,
  • Barrel: scent of vanilla, coconut, licorice,
  • Lactic: scents of butter, cream, yogurt,
  • Toasted: aromas of toast, cocoa, coffee,
  • Smoked: aromas of burnt wood, ash, tobacco,
  • Chemical: scents of wax, paint, acetone,
  • Marsala: aromas of nuts, burnt honey, candied fruit

During my internship, I have deepened the act of tasting with the privilege of being able to memorize wine fragrances and styles. I have selected a series of indicative aromatic profiles both as a function of the parameters of intensity, strength, and impact that distinguish wine varieties and cellar processing, and as a function of persistence, expressiveness, definition parameters, which fall within the peculiar palette of cultivars, territories and districts.

  • Linear: aromas of a specific aromatic family
  • Typical: aromas of a specific grape variety and / or territory
  • Faithful: aromas of specific grape and vintage
  • Decided: clear and powerful aromas
  • Closed: perfumes not well expressed
  • Open: defined and expressive aromas
  • Vertical: youthful, clear and elegant aromas
  • Round: aromas of maturity, sweet and elegant
  • Warm: aromas of maturity, "sweet" and spicy
  • Articulated: scents from different aromatic families
  • Wide: articulated and defined aromas

In conclusion, it should be remembered that, to classify the olfactory bouquet of a wine, one must have a knowledge of the relativity of aromas within the greater body of wine. Tasting is no longer an involuntary, unconscious, anarchic intuition, but a reasoning that is inspired by the role of the olfactory memory and the methodology of impressions, to conclude upon the most likely result, without ever neglecting the extreme variability of expressions that make up the world of wine!

-Luisito Perazzo

Best Sommelier of Italy 2005

Instagram: @luisitoperazzo


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