Part 2. How to Smell a Wine

When wine is served and a person begins the practice of smelling it repeatedly, it can seem like witnessing a difficult ritual shrouded in mystery.

A taster uses his senses to establish a relationship with the wine much as any other individual does, but there is a substantial difference. The taster relies on his own experience or on the memory of his own encounters with smells when performing an evaluation of the various aromatic references and classifying them.

This evaluation is supported by the use of a set procedure, and the taster must practice a high degree of concentration. Concentration is the element that distinguishes tasting as a voluntary act. There are those (the tasters) who smell wine to be inspired, to want to understand and classify the aspects of the wine through their own sensations, and those who simply smell wine and are not applying any level of experience, procedure or dedication to the process.

In tasting, the only way to interact with wine and grasp its essence, is through the details of its bouquet. Therefore, to facilitate the integrity of these details, there are certain guidlines to follow when performing a wine tasting:

    • be in good health (a blocked nose will change the results of an evaluation of wine);
    • do not eat foods with strong flavors before or during a tasting;
    • do not consume ingredients that can affect the quality of the olfactory analysis, such as coffee, chocolate, licorice, and others;
    • avoid cigarettes before an evaluation;
    • do not wear strong perfumes;
    • ensure your hands are clean and odor-free. 

Even the context in which the tasting takes place assumes great importance, and  certainly must confer comfort and tranquility. Important elements are the ideal temperature for tasting the different wines and the appropriate glass, of the tulip type with a wider base and with the edge that narrows to properly expose the aromas.

As a standard I proceed taking into consideration the following:

1. I take brief sniffs resting my nose in between sniffs to reduce the risk of olfactory habituation.

2. I make sure that the wine is at the right temperature according the the specific type of wine: sometimes a slightly warmer wine makes the aromas more volatile and easier to sense.

3. I open the wine and pour it into a decanter or into the glass 1-2 hour before drinking it, in order to make the wine breathe. This procedure is requested for strong red wines but also for some young whites. It has been proven that opening the wine and leaving it in the bottle (without pouring it in a a glass or decanter) does not help the tasting.

4. I use a medium-sized, smooth glass, with a stem and a tapered lip (tulip glass). In this way the aromas will concentrate in the glass.

5. I pour the wine in the glass leaving two-thirds of the glass empty so the volatile aromas have room to accumulate and concentrate.

6. I pick up the glass without swirling the wine at first, taking a first sniff in order to evaluate the first nose which will tell me the evolution phase of the bouquet.

7. When I am ready, I swirl the wine in the glass so that it oxygenates and liberates more aromas into the air. I take a second sniff. This will tell me how complex and large the bouquet is and it will reveal all the scents. 

I repeat this last operation several times. It is the moment of the aromatic tasting that I consider most complex, stimulating and stratified; it is essential to analyze and include the various odorous nuances that characterize a wine.

Have a good tasting!

-Luisito Perazzo

Best Sommelier of Italy 2005

Instagram: @luisitoperazzo

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