Making Wine Sense: Swirl & Sniff

Friends! If you remember, we were #MakingWineSense at the end of 2015. And guess what… we’re still #MakingWineSense here in 2016. Why? Because using our senses while drinking wine is super important! Yes, we can enjoy wine without looking at its color or smelling it before sipping. But doing so helps us enjoy that wine even more. And who doesn’t want a goal of enjoying wine more than we already enjoy it?!

If you missed the previous posts on this topic, you can see them here. If you’ve been tracking along with the posts (as spread out as they are), then you know that we’ve spent a good amount of blog time on using our sense of sight and sense of smell when wine tasting. And guess what… we’re still on smell. It’s THAT important that it requires THREE posts. (Or maybe I just like to dive into details.)

Swirling. It’s not just for wine snobbery! It actually helps. For both white and red wine, swirling the wine once poured in your glass is like a mini decanting session. You swirl to air it out. It’s sorta like opening the windows for the first time in the spring (or fall for us Arizonans). Think of that wine all corked up in that bottle for however many years (or even just one year) – it needs to be “opened” or allowed to “breathe”. Swirling allows the wine to suck in some oxygen. And when we allow it to do that, the wine gifts us some of its beautiful aromas. That’s when we stick our noses in the glass and breathe it in. And when we breathe in the aromas of the wine, that helps us taste the wine (as discussed in the previous smell posts).

Ok now – before we all get extra excited about practicing our swirling skills – be careful. There is no need to seem like a wine snob by aggressively swirling your wine for 10 minutes before taking a step. When you first crack open the bottle and pour a glass, swirl that juice around for maybe 10 seconds. If it is a really big red, maybe longer. Take a big sniff, and then enjoy. As long as the bottle is sitting open while you’re enjoying those glasses, you probably don’t need to swirl the wine around for the last glass in the bottle.

If you do want to seem extra snobby, go ahead and swirl for an annoyingly long time and be sure to stick your pinky out while holding the glass and sipping. That usually does the trick.

Making Wine Sense: Smell Capabilities

The past couple of weeks, we’ve been Making Wine Sense by highlighting out how wine tasting is actually a sensory experience. We continue to explore our sense of smell and what that has to do with how we taste wine.  Earlier this week, we posted about how the olfactory nerves in our sinuses play such a big part in sensing flavors.

Smell vs. Taste Abilities

Another reason that smell is one of the most important steps in wine tasting has to do with how much we are capable of smelling vs. tasting.  When it comes down to it, we have 6 taste sensations:

  1. Sweet
  2. Sour
  3. Salty
  4. Fat
  5. Bitter
  6. Umami (Savory)

That’s it. These are the 6 things that we can truly “taste”. And when it comes to wine, only sweet and sour are relevant. (More on that when we get to the taste post of this Making Wine Sense series.)

We are capable of sensing 6 tastes.

We are capable of sensing 6 tastes.

But smells… there are so many smells! In fact, we know we are capable of perceiving over 10,000 different chemical compounds that register as smells! That’s right – SIX taste sensations vs. over TEN THOUSAND smells! This all goes back to those nifty olfactory nerves sending impulses to the brain. The aroma comes in through our nose, tickles those olfactory nerves, which ultimately sense impulses to the brain which tells us, “that smells like apple pie – we’ll register that as a flavor!”.

We are capable of smelling over 10,000 chemical compounds which register as flavors!

We are capable of smelling over 10,000 chemical compounds which register as flavors!

 

So when someone says they taste blackberries or strawberries in a wine, what they’re really saying is they sense them – or have smelled them – and they are registering as flavors. Some wines are often described as having a “barnyard” or “earthy” flavor. I doubt many people have tasted an actual barnyard before, but most of us have smelled one. And that smell is registering as a flavor. (Note that “barnyard” is not a negative description for wine!)

Next time you’re sipping on something delightful, think about what you’re sensing!! What are some unusual flavors that you’ve tasted on a wine?

 

Making Wine Sense: Smell – It’s Science!

We continue this series of “Making Wine Sense” where we determine how our 5 senses are used when enjoying our favorite pastime… wine drinking! In previous posts, we’ve covered SIGHT with white wines and with red wines. Today, we’re moving on to using our SCHNOZZ!

SMELL

Sniffing or smelling wine is perhaps the most important step when experiencing wine. And most of us either half-heartedly sniff a wine before tasting it or skip it all together. So why is sniffing a wine so important?

What We Smell is What We Taste

Remember way back when in some science class when we talked about olfactory nerves? ….no? Ok, me neither. But I do remember talking about them in wine class. (Amazing how much more info I find myself retaining when it relates to wine.) Anyway, olfactory nerves are in our sinus cavity and send impulses to the brain (through the olfactory bulbs and tract) that convey the sense of smell. While we think we are tasting a certain flavor, it actually has more to do with what we smell. The perception of flavor is based on what our olfactory nerves sensed when we took a big whiff of that wine.

Think about when you have a cold and you can’t really breathe through your nose. When we’re sick, nothing tastes good. That’s not just because we’re grouchy, it’s because we quite literally can’t taste it… because we can’t smell it. Our sinus cavities are all jammed up and our handy little olfactory nerves can’t do their job of registering smells and flavors.

Test it out! Next time you pour a glass of wine, first plug your nose and take a sip (while keeping your nose plugged).  Don’t let go of that plugged nose until 5-10 seconds after you swallow the wine. Have a cracker or something to cleanse your palate and then take a big sniff of the wine followed by a sip. See how different it is. (You could do this with juice or soda or whatever other beverage as well – it’s just less fun.)

Wine Smelling-It's Science.

Wine Smelling-It’s Science.

We’ll continue #MakingWineSense to discuss our human capabilities with smell vs. taste before moving on to our next sense!

Wine Talk Tuesday: Nose Fatigue

Wine Talk Tuesdays has a new source for wine fun facts and random tid-bits of wine info… and that source is:

Wine Wars – A Trivia Game for Wine Geeks and Wannabes!! Thank you, Ms. Snodgrass, for this very practical and W2WK applicable gift!  (See photo below!)

Tonight while having an impromptu wine war, we learned about nose fatigue.  That’s right… nose fatigue.  Thought your nose didn’t fatigue?? Well, you are mistaken.  It does.  And guess what… it is quite the wimp.  Nose fatigue sets in within SIX measly little seconds when swirling a glass of wine to assess the wine aromas.  That means at second number seven, your nose means nothing to you, and you must rely on your other senses.  …In my humble Wino opinion, that’s not such a bad thing since it results in you having to taste wine instead of just sniff it.

And, fellow Winos, the answer in the Wine Wars trivia card said that “concentration is required” during those six seconds.  So make those six count… but don’t you oversniff.  It’ll do you no good.

 

Wine Wars