The sense of smell
Updated: Feb 4, 2019
All the time, I have been asked many times, how do you get that linden, quince, cherry cola or wet stone aroma precursors in wine. Well, some might think this as a gift some might say practice makes your olfaction sense better. OK, how we gonna make this olfaction work? Here I will explain but firstly let me introduce the author of Le Nez Du Vin (Eng: The nose of the wine), Jean Lenoir.
Jean Lenoir- the author of Le Nez du Vin
From his Le Nez du Vin book
I was born in Burgundy, a “son of the vine,” into a family that has always nurtured a passion for wine. Our everyday red was deep-hued and unforgettably fruity. As it was often my job to draw off the wine, plunging the pipe into the cask to fill the pitcher, I began to perceive its flavour at a very young age. I learned to taste as I learned to walk!
I began to introduce wine into cultural centers as a work of art, in the same way as music or painting. In 1978, I started the first wine-tasting classes for beginners at the Maison de la Culture in Chalon-sur-Saône. These meetings fueled our enthusiasm and raised many questions about taste and the sense of smell.
Encouraged by another artist, Daniel Spoerri, and his idea of creating a “book-object” (book-cum-work of art), I invented Le Nez du Vin.
Why is Le Nez du Vin?
Le Nez du Vin is a great tool to empower your senses, I could say it is the best tool in the market. There are many aroma kits in the market that are not as quite powerful. These aroma kits are standardized so you can smell continuously the same aroma precursors and do the registration to your memory storage.
Let’s start with determining factors of the aromas
- From Le Nez du Vin
Vine (age and varieties)
Geological nature of vineyard soil
Vine-cultivation practices (pruning, harvesting, and more)
Maturing, storage and aging conditions.
In June, a grape is born when the flower forms as a bud. It gives off a subtle scent. After the commencement of the berry development, called fruit setting, the seeds are protected until they are fully developed. With time, and sunshine, the grapes make and store aroma precursors, including from their environment. These precursors are water-soluble molecules. They don’t give off any fragrance of their own, so the aroma is not free, not accessible with naked nose. These aromatic elements attached to a small carbohydrate. Via reaction of enzymes, they release the aroma. These reactions also happen during alcoholic fermentation, a.k.a. primary fermentation, and then during aging as well. The primary aromas come from grape varietal itself.
After primary fermentation and malolactic fermentation, you will have another reaction and then get the secondary aromas, as also known as pre-fermentation and fermentation aromas. Lastly, during the maturing stage- this process can be in barrels or bottles- new reactions rise and form the wine. These are called post-fermentation aromas. They all contribute to each other during winemaking process to get the certain quince, linden notes in the wine.
When you are in nature, you can smell many different scents, for people who are expert on their field, they can pin point immediately what scent they smell. Olifactory epthelium is a tissue located at the nose cavity, it is covered by mucus that covers the receptor cells. These cells carry zillion of protein receptors that translates to electrical message which sends to an image to olfactory bulb. This bulb answers to retina in the eye, image processed through the brain and reduced to an outline in the piriform cortex. Afterwards, the correlation between the imagine and the odoriferous molecule registered to brain and keep there in the memory storage for future references. So scent is the perception provided by our olfactory epithelium. Aroma is the perception when the wine is in the mouth and the volatile compounds present and reach the olfactory epithelium retronasally with the air we breathe. Flavor is the combination of olfactorical, gastronomical, and many other sensations perceived during tasting, what is commonly call “taste”
Are they any other ways to develop your senses? Yes, there is! I conducted many workshops to wake your senses, I always strongly suggest for participants to smell fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, cigars, leathers whatever you can smell. It is better if you can smell them in their own fields, gardens, orchards etc. If not, smell all the materials in grocery stores, someone may look at you like you are crazy but doesn’t matter. For me, the registration of the correlation between the image and the scent with the fruit, spice, vegetables as such, it is much more efficient if you can do it in their field. That would make better understanding and quicker way to do it.
Also, you will realize by time, you can even smell the things you didn’t know before, or they were somehow recognizable but cannot put a name on it. This brain exercises may take you in your childhood and you can smell the things that reminds you from those days like cherry cola, or any baked pie smell. The important to feel the aromas and associate them with the imagine and that would make it easier to smell them in next time.
He also has different kits where you can educate yourself about wine faults and oak aromas.