How to Properly Sniff Your Wine
7 MIN READ
Nothing tastes better than a top-notch wine. Just ask your nose.
That’s right — while our taste buds play a big role in our appreciation of a perfect varietal, our sense of smell might actually be the main taste-maker in determining the wine flavors that become our favorites.
Research shows that our sense of smell is closely tied to our memory, and exploring your wine with your nose opens up unique notes and new dimensions to every glass.
Read on to learn more about how you can properly smell your wine, preparing you for the perfect sip at your next wine tasting.
Know Your Nose
If you don’t think that smell plays a huge part in your sense of taste, don’t take our word for it. Test it out yourself.
Pinch your nostrils with a clothespin and take a bite of fresh fruit like a strawberry. Now, halfway through chewing, unclasp your nose. Take a deep whiff of the fruit. Ah. That’s better. If you’re paying attention, a rainbow of flavor will start to dance upon your tongue.
The “nose” or “aroma” of a wine refers to the smell of the wine. While our tongues mostly differentiate between more basic flavor profiles such as bitter, salty, and sweet, our nose can pick up on more acute, subtle notes in the flavor palette like fruity and floral scents.
Therefore, try not to wear strong perfumes or scents that could overpower the smell of those subtle wine aromas.
Taste Wine With Your Nose
Before sticking your nose in, remember to give your wine a good look-over. There may be visual textures and notes you can pick up with your eyes that might lead you to look for clues with your nose.
Next, give the glass a hearty swirl, rotating the liquid three or four times. Swirling your wine gives it a chance to react to oxygen, amplifying flavors and releasing vaporized aroma particles into the air.
After five to ten seconds of swirling, put your nose slightly above the rim of the glass and breathe normally. This will allow you to gather a sense of the primary aroma of the wine — these might be strong hints of fruit, spice, or earthiness.
After you’ve become acquainted with the main aroma, delve deeper by putting your nose inside the glass and closing your eyes. Putting your nose below the brim of the glass blocks out other scents and allows you to fully take in the wine’s aromas.
You might think you look silly, but it will provide a true sensory boost to your olfactory sensors deep in your nose. Take a deep whiff and hone in not just on the primary aroma but on the subtler scents as well.
If you’re with friends, take note of how different everyone’s answers may be. The smells that come up for you might even be influenced by the specific synapses and memories locked away within the smelling section of your brain.
There’s no such thing as a wrong answer in the art of wine sniffing. Your experience is yours alone, so make the most of it.
Smelling White vs Smelling Red
In general, white wines are fruitier than reds. On your smelling travels, you might find citrus fruits like lemon and tangerine, or more exotic flavors like banana or papaya in a white wine like a Chenin Blanc or a Sauvignon Blanc.
Of course, don’t forget to sniff for non-fruit flavors, like white pepper, chili pepper, sea air, or wheatgrass.
Red wines such as a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon cover a wide spectrum of scents from earthier smells of soil, tobacco, and leather, to deeper fruit aromas such as blackberries, plums, or dragonfruit.
Some wines are simple and direct in their aromas while others are more subtle and complex, requiring a more astute nose or simply more sniffing time. Just as you would drinking wine, remember to savor each sniff as it might just add a bit more to your understanding of the delicious glass in front of you.
Take Note of the Notes
If you’re new to wine smelling, it’s completely normal at first to smell... well, wine. As you get more into wine sniffing, you’ll find it easier to distinguish between different aromas.
To start to uncover your latent wine-smelling abilities, first, think of categories — citrus fruit, dried fruit, tropical fruit. Really hone in on each of those smells, where the scents intersect, and where they differ from each other.
Next, try to hone in on a more specific flavor. If there’s a stone fruit aroma, does it smell more like a peach or a plum? If it smells like citrus, does it smell more like a lemon or a tangerine?
The most important thing is to take note of your reaction and where you find the differences between different wines, especially which flavors you like the most and which are pleasant surprises.
Identify the Aroma
There are three different categories of aromas, all depending on the stage of the winemaking process.
These smells depend on the climate, soil, and age of the grape variety, and might smell fruity, floral, or earthy.
Nutty, buttery, or brimming with hints of vanilla, these secondary aromas emerge in the fermentation process of winemaking.
Coffee. Tobacco. Leather. These all may be used to describe the tertiary aroma of a wine, which stems from the aging process of taking on notes of the barrel that the wine is aged in.
You might also be able to smell whether a wine has gone wrong before making its way into your mouth. Overly oxidized wines can smell flat, while wines that haven’t received enough oxygen can smell quite putrid like boiled cabbage.
Smell and Sniff Everywhere
Worried you’re not a great wine sniffer? Don’t be! Very few of us have much training with our noses, anyhow. But, if you’re looking to gradually train your nose to sniff all the dimensions of wine, remember to use your schnoz in more areas of your life.
When cooking, try to smell every ingredient and really trust your nose’s judgment in whether to add or not add certain spices. Use your nose at the grocery store to determine which products to buy. You might even be able to predict whether those grey clouds are going to pour soon.
Truth be told, all of us could do a little more to reconnect with our noses.
Smell Perfect Wine Every Time With the Wine Connoisseur
To sniff your wine at its best, make sure to properly chill and oxidize each glass before putting it up to your nostrils.
In order to get the perfect glass of wine every time, you’ll be best served using a Wine Connoisseur, our expert wine aeration machine which chills and optimizes your glass, giving you the perfect pour.
After all, if you’re not using a proper aeration machine like the Wine Connoisseur, you’re likely not getting the best from your favorite varietal of vino.