Wine Talk

Snooth User: Alleigh

How to develop sensory perception?

Posted by Alleigh, Feb 20, 2009.

Hi all--
While I'm an avid wine drinker, I've only recently decided to take my interest to the next level. Obviously, there are basics like familiarizing myself with the smell/taste of red and black cherries, lemons, etc., but what did you do to increase your smell/taste range to more advanced items like white pepper or to learn the difference between various types of licorice-type tastes (fennel, candy, anise, etc)? Any help would be greatly appreciated. TIA!

Replies

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Feb 20, 2009.

Practice,practice, practice and working in a kitchen for 15 years didn't hurt.

Seriously it's a mater of relaxing and letting your memory take over. Things go slowly in the beginning, and for some forever, but it does get more intuitive.

Now in order to smell white pepper in a wine you have to know what white pepper smells like so don't be afraid to start sniffing the world with a new found passion!

When I go to a winery I'll smell the weeds around the vines, put the rocks from the groun on my tongue and in general try and absorb new aromas or flavors whenever and wherever I can.

It makes me look like a kook sometimes but I enjoy it!

Where are located by the way. Tasting with other people who are more experienced can be the greatest experience builder. It's like playing tennis with a champ, not that I play tennis, but you tend to bring out your A game!

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 20, 2009.

I thought my dad was nuts when he would pick up things in the forest and smell them, but it all makes perfect sense now.

Go to a farmer's market and start smelling all the fresh fruit, vegetables, spices, etc. This will start building up the flavor memory. Also, there are plenty of wine fans in the your area (DC). Maybe you can go to some wine events and join a tasting group. Remember - you have to have experiences to have experience.

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Reply by Pymonte, Feb 21, 2009.

Wine fans in the NOVA/DC area?

Hrmm....

Don't know any.

;-)

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Reply by chaser68, Feb 21, 2009.

I agree with Piaz...working with food definitely helps. You are exposed to a lot of different smells/tastes that way. Keep experimenting. I went to a friends tasting once and he had small dishes filled with different types of typical wine smells. Dried flowers in one, peppercorns in another, vanilla, spices. It was really interesting for beginners.
You can't gain experience without practice practice :-)

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Reply by alavaughn, Feb 24, 2009.

Yup, practice is the key. One of my mentors once told me, "When you smell a wine, close your eyes and imagine what aisle in the grocery store you would be standing in smelling those same smells." I found it an interesting way to start delving into things. I often remind myself to stop and just smell what's going on around me, rotting leaves in the fall, new grass in the spring, and I constantly smell everything. It looks a little weird, but it's helped a lot! I also recently learned a trick, if you smell a wine with your mouth open, it seems somehow more intense... Strange, but try it! And I agree, it's slow going, like learning a language, it goes in fits and starts I think.

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Reply by SFJoe, Feb 24, 2009.

Not bad to consult a book, either. Broadbent's book on tasting is a very good place to start. Nice instructions on the systematic examination of color, smell, taste, finish, etc., and summaries of wine styles and types. Get the most recent edition.

I am trying to remember the name of the handy book I bought quite a while back that had paired tastings of similar wines that led off down a decision tree of different options. It was fun, but will surely be out of date and must not have been republished because I can't find it.

But once you've practiced, you should taste as much wine as you can, thinking about it, and comparing your views to other peoples'.

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Feb 24, 2009.

Thank you everyone. Great responses!

Welcome Joe and when you track down the title of that book please let us know!

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Reply by alavaughn, Feb 24, 2009.

Also, I think you can download a tasting grid from the Court of Master Sommeliers web site

http://www.mastersommeliers.org/

It's a really useful tool as well!

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Reply by PaulEH, Feb 25, 2009.

Thanks alavaughn. Downloaded the tasting grid and instructions. Looks like a helpful tool.

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Reply by Mark Angelillo, Feb 26, 2009.

What's pretty wonderful about getting into this is all of the wine you get to drink. It's not often that developing oneself is so pleasurable.

Not that it isn't a long road, but it's a good one and one that can be easily shared with friends.

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Reply by fibo86, Feb 26, 2009.

I'm not too sure if you have these over there but you can pick up "step by step introduction to wine appreciation" red & white wines, these kits have step by step manual, 10 oils that have the main basic aromas that you would find in red or white wines you also get a strip booklet where you dip the strips into the oils you are expecting to smell from the wine, then it helps to pick up those characters. http://www.winekits.com.au otherwise, you can as someone else mentioned, use actual things peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, saw dust or pencil shavings cigar box ect.

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Reply by alavaughn, Feb 27, 2009.

Also, if you want a good wine read, pick up Questions of Taste. It's edited by Barry C. Smith, and is a collection of essays by a diverse group of people, tackling the more philosophical aspects of wine. Lots of people weigh in including a biochemist, winemakers/critics, linguists, philosophers, etc. It really got me thinking, and that's always a good thing...

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 27, 2009.

If you are looking for something more basic and instructive that QoT, try this, the much needed update on Schuster's award winning book, which will be out in May.

http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Win...

The current edition (but out of date in terms of vintage recommendations) is here:
http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Win...

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Reply by Alleigh, Mar 2, 2009.

I wasn't so much looking for "how to taste" information, but rather how to start developing the distinctions in various tastes (anise vs. fennel, for example). I think the first set of suggestions were particularly helpful.

I've bascially decided to develop a regime of smelling. I'm picking 4 things a week and focusing on "learning" their smells, recognizing small distinctions between them, and trying to commit these differences to memory. So far, that seems to be the most practical approach. It's definitely all about practice.

Thanks for all the feedback everyone!

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Mar 2, 2009.

Maybe it would help if you had to write about these 4 items' smells and how they compare and contrast to other things already in your smell/taste memory.

If you are looking for ideas where to find different tastes, the incomparable Gary V goes through a huge number of flavors and smells in 30 minutes: http://tv.winelibrary.com/2006/12/1...

Good Luck!

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Reply by stanman08, Mar 6, 2009.

BOOKS AND DRINKING MAY HELP, BUT I THINK THE BEST WAY TO DISTINGUISH AND PINPOINT THOSE AROMAS IS TO PURCHASE VARIOUS FRUITS FROM THE STORE AS WELL AS SPICES. LAY THEM OUT ON A TABLE, CLOSE YOUR EYES, THEN COMMIT THOSE SMELLS TO MEMORY! JANICE ROBINSON HAS A GREAT BOOK OUT THAT COVERS THIS. CHEERS!

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Reply by Richodn, Mar 6, 2009.

Here's my problem. My sniffer doesn't work real well to begin with. I recognize the smells in a wine I open but can't always identify it. They sell kits to match up smells found in wines that help you learn the smells, but they are a bit pricey. I'm always tempted to buy one

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Reply by h2w4, Mar 8, 2009.

you can make up your own version for relatively little money. At UC Davis for the wine sensory science course we had a relatively neutral red and white wine (usually some very cheap bag in box wine), we would pour approx. 2 oz of wine into a series of wine glasses and then add aromatic things. We would add things like a butterscotch candy for butterscotch aroma, cinnamon sticks for cinnamon aroma, some cigarette (or cigar)tobacco for tobacco aroma, pineapple juice for pineapple, etc... We actually had over 40 different aroma standards, This only really works for about 24 hours before the aromatics begin getting too dull (or in some cases too strong like in the case of the cinnamon), but it's a nice experiment for say a tasting party.

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Reply by Austin Sung, Mar 10, 2009.

I suggest 2 things.
1. Buy aroma kit. From various aroma kit, I think ' Le Nez Du Vin ' (made in France) is one of the best aroma kits(54 kinds). From different price search sites, good prices can be found.
2. Try to write taste note. It doesn't have to be perfect. You can write anything you feel on sight, smell, taste and overall opinion section. Also you can give points on what you tasted just like Robert Parker. As dringking wine or tasting food is extremely objective, you don't have to worry about wrong or right.


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