My nose is a very blunt instrument. That’s what I learned from our wine course (which just finished). When I smell wine, it smells of wine. I can’t discern anything else. Mention that it smells of bread or mushrooms or apricots, though, and instantly I identify them. In fact, I’ll start smelling them in every wine. My sense of smell isn’t objective; it responds too much to the power of suggestion. Maybe it’s from growing up out in the country. Smells in Indiana are uncomplicated. Manure, butter, fish… those I can identify. Elderflower petals? Not a chance. The dream of being a wine connoisseur has been shattered.

I did like drinkin’ all the champagne tonight though. Yum yum!

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  1. If it’s any consolation, I have heard that an experiment was conducted on professional/expert wine tasters where they could taste the wine but not *see* it, and they failed miserably. In some cases, they even confused white and red wine. This is all according to my sister (she took a wine tasting class herself and got all into it). It might be one of these urban myth type things. But after taking the class, didn’t you get the feel that it was all kinda, well, BS?

  2. i remember hearing the very same thingβ€”i think they also did an experiment where they had expert tasters give their opinions on whites and…white wines dyed red. the “experts” described the dyed reds in terms typical of genuine reds, making me feel a whole lot better about my wine ignorance, which is more than made up for by my beer expertise. πŸ˜‰

  3. Heh. I actually blogged that experiment back in February. πŸ™‚

    I didn’t think it was complete hooey. Our teacher was a cool guy, and he didn’t go in for a lot of the high-falutin stuff. (He never described a wine using “human” adjectives, for example.) While directly comparing two wines, I could see what he meant by words like “structure” and “finish”. But I needed him to show me; I couldn’t do it on my own. I just got the impression that guys like him DO know what they’re talking about, but it takes, like, 20 years of tasting wine and studying it to get to that level.

  4. All I know is that there are wines I like, and wines I don’t like.

    Chardonnay = yum, Sauvignon Blanc = yuck

    Do you like Champagne? I’ve always found it quite sharp, but maybe that’s because I’ve only ever had the cheap stuff! Did you try a bunch of different Champagnes? Any tips on picking a good one?

  5. I’d only ever had cheap stuff myself, and yeah, it was always kinda sharp and not nice. The stuff we had last night was, though. Very dry, but not too acidic. Your mouth kinda felt clean after each sip. And as our teacher pointed out, not many Champagnes are supposed to be drunk on their own. You’re supposed to have them with food. That might help with the sharpness.

    Anyway, we had eight different kinds of fizziness: three Australian kinds, and five Champagnes (non-vintage, vintage, blanc de blanc, rosé, and premium cuvee). The biggest surprise of the night to me was the idea of drinking Champagne with savory food – oysters, smoked fish, and nuts (for example). I even asked him at one point why people in movies always have it with strawberries and chocolate. Turns out our teacher has, like, a one-man crusade going to change the long-standing belief that champagne goes with sweet foods. He says it’s just not sweet enough itself, and it’ll kill anything sweet you serve along with it. It’s supposed to be dry.

    As for picking a good one, Champagne seems to be the one area where you can be reasonably assured that price = quality. That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily like it, but the most expensive ones are the ones considered “the best” by the experts. (The premium cuvee we had was $180/bottle.) Personally, I liked the rosé the best, along with probably the non-vintage Champagne. Those were only, like, $60/bottle.

    Other things I learned: you shouldn’t really store Champagne. They’ve already stored it for years at the vineyard before bottling, so by the time you get it you’re supposed to drink it. Only a very few kinds can be nicely cellared. (And since they use such crappy corks, even if you do have a nice cellaring Champagne you run a risk of the wine seeping into the cork’s glue and getting ruined.) Also, to open a bottle with minimal spillage, get it really cold. That has some effect on the solubility of the carbon dioxide bubbles (I can’t remember exactly), but the upshot is cold Champagne is much less likely to erupt. Also he holds the bottle at, like, a 45 degree angle while twisting out the cork. That makes more surface area within the bottle, which also helps it not shoot out.

  6. that’s circular blogging for ya. πŸ˜‰

  7. I’ve been meaning to post on this topic all week, and keep deleting my half-written comments.

    I love wine tasting and trying to distinguish those buttery, fruity, floral notes. It’s like a game. I think that palate is something that develops with time and attention. For example, you might be able to distinguish between Coke and Pepsi because you’ve been drinking them for 20 years, something a wine connoissure might not be able to do.

    I interviewed at Anheiser Busch a couple of years ago and finished the day of interviews (with people who held masters degrees in yeast) in the tasting room. They taste water samples and beer samples from every stage in the brewing process to detect for any off flavors. Then they do blind tastings of different beers from different breweries and rate them. It’s just like wine tasting, where they speak about the notes and the slightly grassy taste, etc. I couldn’t get over the fact that they were doing this with Bud. But this is why every Bud the world over tastes the same.

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