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The Sensory Analysis of Wine

After a two-year hiatus, I’m going to begin blogging again – hooray! Despite the fact that I’m no longer taking courses at Las Positas College in Livermore due to freelance work schedules and the ilk, I find I’m still drawn to the school for enology or viticulture coursework.

One course that I have yet to take is the sensory analysis course. I remember fellow students who were taking the course simultaneously coming in with home made kits — boxes full of tiny containers, each with a different food item, such as fresh and dried fruit or dried herbs.  I remember being overwhelmed, and yet intrigued, by these kits designed specifically for wine aroma analysis.


Photo: Wine

There are kits that are available for sale for wine aroma analysis that greatly range in price — Beginning with a few dollars that can be made in your own kitchen and on to full kits with dozens of vials that are over $100 and can exceed $500.


But any kind of kit is important for wine drinkers who wish capture tasting notes. When we smell certain things, we’re relying on memory, an imprint of what the characteristic aroma “should” be, but we  can’t always distinguish the aromas unless we have an exemplar on hand for comparison. I always think of peppermint and spearmint. While they are extremely similar, spearmint is more subtle due to the lack of menthol that exists within peppermint. Years ago while visiting a chiropractic doctor for an examination, he gave me a blind smell test to test my senses. I thought I was smelling peppermint or something “minty” when the aroma turned out to be cinnamon sticks.

Whether a wine writer is starting out or is an experienced taster, I feel having a sensory kit on hand on occasion would be beneficial so as to be able to zero in more closely on the aromas, and to reduce any bias or prior scent imprints on the tasting.

What do you think? Do you think a person should be able to learn to distinguish tastes and aromas without a sensory kit? Is it cheating to use one? Or are sensory kits a tool that anyone can utilize to realize the full scope of a wine’s fragrant aromas and tastes?



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