Sniffs and Whiffs: Unlocking Your Sense of Smell

Become a Better Wine Taster: Unlock Your Sense of Smell

Long associated with a time of renewal, once April and May arrive, our senses seem to come alive. Of course, the sheer beauty of Paso Robles Wine Country and the surrounding areas that make up California’s Central Coast are awash in painterly colors and pastoral scenes. But, it’s the scents of nature—the freshly tilled earth, the burst of wisteria and honeysuckle and wild daffodils, the fog that hangs thick with eucalyptus—that really gets our attention.

As a wine aficionado—or a wine lover who is just beginning to unlock the secrets of wine—you’ve undoubtedly learned the value of your sense of smell in learning to appreciate wine and unlocking the preferences of your own palate. As a member of the Paso Robles Wine Club, in each shipment of wine, you’ll enjoy a variety of unique and interesting wines that with a few sniffs and whiffs will bring Paso Robles Wine Country to life in your own home.

Of all the senses, our sense of smell is the most elusive. It’s hard to remember smells and even harder to describe them to others. We process smells through a complicated biological process that occurs when molecules—light and volatile (quick to evaporate) particles--make contact with the nose. Once that happens, hundreds of receptors go to work to process the aromas by tapping into the part of our brain that recalls similar smell memories.

The best way to improve your sense of smell—and to enjoy wine on a deeper level—is to actively work on training your nose. You can easily do this by becoming more aware of the world around you. What does fresh cut grass smell like, or Sunday’s bacon as it sizzles in the pan? Keep a small notebook nearby to journal these smells, using adjectives and similar experiences; later on, these notes will prove invaluable as you taste through new wines.

As you work on your sense of smell, taste wine purposely by increasing your sensory awareness. 

Here are 3 tips to get you started:

Swirl Your Wine: Before taking your first sip of wine, swirl the wine in your glass. Doing so draws oxygen from the air and opens up the wine. This makes it easier for the molecules to go airborne and make contact with your nose.

Sniff Your Wine: Next, sniff your wine. Do so by taking small, demure sniffs, continuing to swirl the wine. You’ll likely notice that with each sniff, you smell something new, whether it’s the scent of wood or fruit, spice or floral.

Whiff Your Wine: While sniffing is demure, whiffing is bold. To whiff your wine, you’ll not only use your nose, but your mouth. You do this by opening your mouth and inhaling deeply, using both your nose and your palate. This involves the entire olfactory process into the mix and literally allows you to drink in the aroma.

As you’re sniffing and whiffing your way through the tasting experience, jot down your notes about the smells you encounter. It’s also helpful to note the wine, the AVA, and the varietal. This information will help you later on to unlock your previous tasting memories and bring a deeper awareness to your wine tasting experiences.