25 March, 2002

Use your nose right

We have begun a course in wine tasting. Sounds real posh, doesn't it? But actually what it is all about is to wake up a sense, that lives a rather quiet and often much more hidden life than for instance the vision and sense of hearing.

To smell, to taste, to recognize the elements in the periodical system of taste, also when they are combined, is excactly what wine tasting is all about. To remember what you drink, to be able to store your impressions in the inner shelves for later comparisons is one of the objectives. Certainly, a more reachable one once you controle your nose.

Our teacher explains, how the scents are stored in a photographical way in the brain. When we are about to decide a fragrance, the first and intuitive impression will often be correct. If they brain has to go looking, searching on the inner hard disc, the search gets more complicated and with it naming the right scent. But both of them are the available methods to smell and name a wine: The intuitive and the methodical.

Table of top wines
All placed around a big table, where the top is a construction of tops from boxes of top wines, we are ready to receive 10 small glass bottles. This is our first quest: To find and name what is inside.

The level of our difficulties varies: We get roses - I mistake these for violets, even my garden is full of roses, some of them with beautiful scents as well - melon, apple, pear and a few more difficult ones. Great wines can have aromas like flowers
and fruits, but also animal and mineral examples pop up such as fur, melted butter, flint and chalk.

Simplicity is a good sign
This team is not really beginners - well, except me - here are winegrower couples from the region, who has definitely tasted the liquid treasures of France before. Diligently as well. Amongst us, there is also another teacher, who does wine tastings, a researcher in chemistry and a buyer of grapes and his wife.

Our teacher is really top. He writes books, does talks and tastings for privates and professionnals and is amongst others former French champion in wine tasting for amateurs.

He is so good, that he manages to express himself in a rather simple langugage. No difficult words to express his views. Only the necessaray technical words to communiate in a precise way. A good sign. He knows what he talks about, and has worked with his material. KISS, as they said in journalism school once upon a time: "Keep it simple, stupid".

Walk in your garden
You train your ability to recognice aromas best if you use your nose, our teacher explains. Use 10 minutes each week to expose yourself to scents, he suggests. Go for a walk in your garden, cook, visit the market. Give the nose something to work with.

The 10 exercises this evening was to recognize apple, honey, box, rose, grape fruit, vanilla, hazelnut, melon, thyme and pear. I smelled my way to seven right out of the 10.

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