Part of the fun of wine drinking is waffling on to wine loving friends about the latest great bottle of something you just quoffed over a steak at La Tuttichia’s – or some such place.  But could you go any further than “it was a great bottle of wine”?  Could you actually describe why it was so good?  The truth is that most people can’t and for the very good reason that it’s actually very hard to define in unambiguous language why something is good.  Most of us have just never been trained to do that kind of thing.

Similarly, it doesn’t really help if you come up with something like “it had the most fantastic bouquet of Cabernet Sauvignon”.  Wine made from the same grape variety can taste very different depending on the region the wine is from, the terrior, the year and the style of the winemaker.  For proof look no further than Chardonnay which is a true wine chameleon – from something light and fruity to the most elegant wine of great complexity and length.

So what can you do?  Well most wine evaluators will have grown up with the idea of comparing the smell of wine to odours that we might be familiar with.  This is a good example from the Dan Murphy’s website describing a Henschke Henry’s Seven Shiraz Grenache Viognier:

This blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Viognier is a relatively recent addition to Henschke’s impressive range. Typically fragrant plum and raspberry aromas, followed by a velvety palate with rich fruit flavours. A fruit bomb!

So lots of fruit there – plum and raspberries – do you like those flavours in a wine?

But in truth how else could you describe the smell of a wine?  You have to refer to aromas that people will be familiar with – we have to have this “common language”.

Up until 1984 there was no real pattern to all this chatter.  But in that year a lady called Ann Noble came up with the very clever idea of the Wine Aroma Wheel.  This intriguing device gives you a real map, a framework to help you describe wine aromas.  If you are not used to doing this kind of thing, the Wine Aroma Wheel is well worth a look.  I get the impression that the copyright belongs to Ms Noble, but like so many things you can find it on the web if you want to look.

But it does raise the issue that you have to know what things smell like.  Do you know the aroma of lychee?  To really appreciate this concept you have to set yourself the task of going out and seeking aromas to experience.

A hint as to what the Wine Aroma Wheel looks like.

A hint as to what the Wine Aroma Wheel looks like.

The other complication in all this is that people do perceive aromas differently, and what some people warm to, others will recoil from.  Wines that have a certain minerality on the nose – great white Graves from Bordeaux are a good example – will really divide opinion.  Personally I love them, but generally people don’t because they are unusual.  I think the Wine Aroma Wheel is a good tool – if for nothing other than to reveal how aligned you and your partner’s wine “noses” really are.