Your nose is the key to enjoying a glass of wine, long before the wine ever hits your palate.
The act of swirling your wine (volatilizing your esters) releases the bouquet. (The bouquet is a result of the wine making process. Aroma, on the other hand, is related to the scent of the grape.)
It cracks me up that there are classes on volatilizing esters. But then, if you see people swirling their wine as a wine geek habit, and you follow suit only to simulate the mannerism without knowing why it’s being done, this is why classes on volatilizing esters have evolved, I dare say.
Esters are chemical compounds found in all substances. In fruit, the same chemical compounds found in green apples, blackberries, and blueberries, for instance, are also present in certain grape varieties. This is why a tart Chardonnay, for example, can be said to taste like green apples, and a really round and juicy Pinot Noir can be said to taste like mashed plums. Those flavors cross the spectrum of fruit.
It’s just Chemistry 101, and a lot more fun when it’s related to the finished product of wine. I recall the differences between my own Chemistry 101 and Oenology 101. Oenology (enjoying wine) was a lot more fun than chemistry (blowing up potato mash… although, that was a lot of fun, too).
Esters are formed by the action of alcohol and acids, and reside in the finished product…In this case, it’s wine.
If you’ve never done this, give it a whirl…
- DON’T SWIRL your wine first.
- Just smell the wine in your glass.
- Put your nose in the glass (tip your head and focus on just one nostril, really concentrating your effort).
- Take a deep sniffing breath.
- NOW SWIRL your wine.
- Put your nose back into the glass.
- Take another really deep sniffing breath.
Voila! The contrasts are remarkable.
Now, take your time and think about what aromas come to mind, besides “wine,” and begin to find your own descriptions for what aromas are being associated with that variety and glass of wine. It might only be one new aroma for that day, but you’ve got the rest of your life for discovering the rest available to you and your wine experiences.
REMEMBER: You’re your own best expert, because you know (more than anyone else) what you love and what you can’t stand. Developing our own palate rocks!