When it comes to wine, the nose knows

It’s no surprise that pungent waves of multiple aromas arise from most any enjoyable glass of wine. But there’s a science behind why a wine tastes the way it does and that science involves our noses and lots of pesky facts involving four-and five-syllable words.

We’re not going down that brainiac-laden boulevard because huge encyclopedias of olfactory infused terms already do that. Instead, we’re going to talk about “the nose” of a wine in hillbilly fashion, i.e., without the burden of scientific terms getting in our way.

The funny thing about a wine’s “nose” is that few agree upon any given wine’s aromatic qualities. Adjectives like peppery, effusive, oak, cherry and chocolate pop out like so many adjectival fireworks from most any critic’s wine column (including this one’s) when speaking of a wine’s complexity.

Between a few glasses of very nice Cabernet at a Denver watering hole where I am known by my first name (which officially makes you Faye Dunaway in the movie Barfly) – a few gal pals and I determined three things while discussing our wine’s nose: 1) it is completely subjective; 2) no two wine critics ever agree on a wine’s aromatic heft (or lack thereof); and 3) the guy at the end of the bar was really hot.

Evidence, if your scientific bend demands it, shows that, after the third glass of wine, few can determine whether you’re drinking in the $100 or the $10 range of wine anyway. Furthermore, who hasn’t snuck the $12 bottle into the $102 carafe, only to have guests oohh and ahh over the vino, due more to the libation’s presentation than persnickety complexity?

Can I get a witness?

Yet science presents some interesting actual facts about it all. Ronald Jackson writes in the verbose, comprehensive and six-syllable-filled tomb, A Wine Tasting Handbook (Academic Press), “Sex-related differences have been detected in olfactory acuity. Women are generally more sensitive to and more skilled in identifying odors than men. This presumably relates to women becoming more sensitive to odors upon repeat exposure-by up to 5 orders of magnitude. In addition, the cerebral activity of women on exposure to odors is considerably more marked than men. The types of odors identified may also show sex-related differences. Women generally identify floral and food odors better than men, whereas men tend to do better at identifying petroleum odors. In addition, women experience modulation in olfactory discrimination, correlated with cyclical hormonal changes.”

I’ll remember that when I need someone to sniff out petroleum odors.

I don’t know if Jackson knows what he’s talking about and really, does it matter? Put the glass to your nose, take a nice sniff, swirl the wine around and sniff again. If the wine doesn’t smell moldy or sulfur-like, take a very long and lovely drink of the stuff — and check out the guy at the end of the bar.

Love, Faye.

Word o’ the Week

Oxidation – Though now fairly rare in commercial table wine, until about thirty years ago, oxidation in wine caused a “flat” sensation in wines. Often associated with browning in white wines and unnatural dark hues in reds, faulty corks or improper cork insertion causes most oxidation, though oxygen can also seep through the cork or between the cork and the bottle neck.

One Winning Wine Tasting

April Fool’s Blind Wine Tasting

Trios Enoteca and Elysium Fine Wines will host an April Fool’s Day Blind Wine Tasting from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The evening of fun will allow attendees the opportunity to taste five wines, using only deductive reasoning powers to determine the varietal, region and age of the wines.

The event is meant to be fun and casual and is open to all wine lovers -aficionados and novices alike. Cost is $15. Trios Enoteca is located at 1730 Wynkoop Street in downtown Denver. Phone 303.293.2887 for further information.

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