How and Why to Smell Your Wine

Want to Smell Wine like a Snob?

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Posted by The Wineosphere on Wednesday, June 10, 2015

No doubt you've seen people smell wine like a snob. Ever wonder how to do it?  Theres definitely a trick to it. If you want to look like an expert, watch the video or read on.

You might be asking, why do I need to smell wine? We argue this is a vital precursor to drinking it. Everything you experience when you take a sip and sniff of your wine is a calculated decision. The many techniques employed to make the contents of your glass more refined and more complex deserve your attention.

Now that youre convinced that smelling wine is a necessary step, let us tell you how. You want to begin by swirling the wine around the glass a little bit. Pinch the stem of the glass, or lightly hold it in between your fingers. This aerates the wine, allowing oxygen to release more flavor compounds.

Bring your glass up to your nose as comfortably as possible. Take a big breath, and try keeping your mouth open to heighten your sense of smell. Have a think, let the smell of the wine take you on a journey. With a bit of practice youll start to recognise those scents as displaying certain characteristics of the wine whether it be stone fruits... or an old pair of gym socks.

When you finally take a sip, try to connect what you smelt to what you taste. Most importantly, enjoy your newfound ability to smell wine like a snob. And if you want to crosscheck your nose with ours, simply open up Wineosphere, scan the barcode of your wine and compare notes. Easy! 

 To learn more about different wines, how they smell and what you should be looking for, download the Wineosphere app here now.

The Great Marius Cork vs Screwcap Battle

This week Campbell Mattinson from The Wine Front undertook an interesting comparison of Cork v Screwcap 13 years later.

Bear in mind that we’re talking a thirteen year old wine now. Back in the wild, carefree days when this wine was a youngun’, Winefront stashed a dozen bottles of Marius Shiraz 2002 into the cellar, six of which were sealed with a screwcap and six with a cork. Screwcap was suddenly the rage back then but many folks were yet to be convinced, particularly of a red wine’s ability to age under the seal. Look how far we’ve come. We’ve reported on the progress of these bottles a couple of times – like in 2006 here, when the cork-sealed version looked very good – but it’s been a long time between drinks. Until today.

In the kitchen. Opened (not by me) and allowed a short-ish amount of time to breathe. One of each. The stated alcohol is 14.5% and it feels that and more. It was matured in French and American oak for 19 months. It comes from a vintage described, on the back label, as “perfect in the Marius vineyard”.

Marius Single Vineyard Shiraz 2002 CORK: 

Pretty good colour. Still deep and dark, with only slight signs of dulling. At first this seemed tired, and jammy, but as it breathed it seemed more floral. Echoes of its young, pretty self started to show. That said, it’s tarry and warm, the alcohol quite obvious. If I opened this of a Friday night I’d think: it has many years to go, but I preferred it as a young wine. The cork though has clearly performed well; it doesn’t smell corky and it has developed more or less as you might expect/hope. Not unhappy with the original drinking window provided, even if it does have years left.

Marius Single Vineyard Shiraz 2002 SCREWCAP:

More darkness about the rim; it looks younger than the cork-sealed version. From there things take an interesting turn: clearly there is a strong resemblance between the two wines, but this seems better integrated, more complete, prettier as a whole but with lots of attractive secondary flavours too; bramble and leather, blackberry and violet. It seems more complex. It hasn’t remained still, but all its components have developed in lock-step. If I opened this of a Friday night I’d think: this has many years ahead, but I’m glad I opened it now. It’s at its peak. It’s arguably better than it was when it was young; for this version, I got the drinking window slightly off.

Few of us need convincing nowadays. The horse has bolted. But this Thursday morning exercise was a convincing display in favour of screwcap.

© The Wine Front 2014.

Decanting. Getting some air in there.

A version of this article first appeared in SUNDAY Magazine.

RED WINES are like houses. Most of them are best when they’re brand new; only a few are worth a lot of money once they make it to very old age (and only then if they were characterful to start with) and if you don’t air them out they start to smell mustier than a mountaineer’s socks.

Which brings me to the subject of decanting – a fancy word for getting air into a wine. If you do it right you’ll answer one of life’s mysteries: why does the last glass of a bottle of red often taste the best? It’s not because you’re too drunk to be discerning. It’s because by that stage the wine’s had a good airing out.

Double Decanting

The easiest way to get maximum enjoyment out of a bottle of red then is to use the ‘double decanting’ method. Get a clean jug – any kind of jug – and slosh its entire contents into it. No need to be gentle with your pouring either – I once heard a winemaker say that at this stage he gives the wine a quick whiz with a Bamix, though I personally don’t recommend it. Then simply pour the wine back into the bottle. 

What you’ve done is blown off the wine’s cobwebs. 

The Fancier Option

Of course you can use a fancy glass decanter and let a wine ‘breathe’ in it for an hour or two (which works very well too), but the above method works well with most bottles of red. And with a lot of whites too.

This advice is for young, robust-ish wines. Be more careful – i.e. slower – with older reds.

Basic stuff – but if you want to get the best value out of a bottle – open up the windows, and get some air in.

© The Wine Front 2014.