This is rather naughty, but when I was working as a Sommelier and attended tastings with other wine professionals, we’d say deliberately weird tastings notes and see if anyone agreed with us. My best one was:

“It’s like when you lick the inside of a plant pot”

Someone actually agreed with me on this, it made me immediately question what they do in their spare time.

Is it, in fact, possible to get all of these different characters from fermented grapes? When I went through my Sommelier training, we spend a lot of time analysing wines, tough job I know, what I found most interesting about that process was that you spend more time smelling the wine than you did tasting the wine. In fact, often the tasting of the wine was just to confirm that the aroma’s you smelt are also there in the taste.

The question I often get asked by restaurant staff and the general public is, why can’t I smell these things in wine? Simply put, the answer is practice. Like anything else, your sense of smell has to be developed before you can pinpoint specifics in wine. Top wine buffs like Master Sommeliers will often go to farmers market just to smell the produce and will buy flowers to smell them at different stages of decomposition. In comparison, the general public normally pours, takes a sip, decides whether we like it or not and then get on with life as normal. So, where is the halfway point? What small changes can we make to develop our sense of smell?

Stop using the word fruity

Telling someone that steak is meaty is pretty useless, the same is true with wine and fruity. However, if you can link it to a family of fruits, suddenly things become much more interesting. If you’re tasting a white wine, is it citrus fruit, green fruit (apples and pears) or tropical fruit? If your tasting a red wine is it red fruit or black fruit.

Make it personal.

Professional wine writers tend to steer away from personal experiences as they don’t translate well to the general public. However, your not sharing your notes with the general public and the sense of smell can trigger very specify and powerful memories. I at a training session with a restaurant, a young waitress smelt a red wine and instantly said:

“This smells like my grandmother’s homemade strawberry jam”

I didn’t know her grandmother and I hadn’t tasted the jam, yet that memory was so specific that it really spoke to me.

Your sense of smell is linked to your memories and as that is personal, you can’t really be wrong with what you smell.

For those wishing to develop their sense of smell and wine-tasting ability further, one of our wine tastings would be perfect, as well as a fun evening with your friends or family. We have a 54 piece aroma kit which can really help develop your sense of smell. We also have our bespoke tasting sheets, which guide you through our process of analysing wine.