By Justin Taylor

The next time you are shopping or tasting wine, flip over the bottle and see if there are noted flavor and aroma descriptors.  Notice they have nothing associated with grapes?  Yet these are hints to you the consumer as to what you might expect to enjoy in your glass when you return home and pull the cork.  The marketing engine of the wine industry has developed these notes to advise consumers on wine choice and how to grapple with the differences between each wine on the shelf.  The reality of this material is that it often induces confusion to the novice who figures there are actually strawberries, blueberries, apples, chocolate, and pie spices added during the production process.

Wine production technology and research of the past 40 years in the United States has produced very tangible material for the consumer.  One of the most effective tools generally under-utilized in the larger realm of consumer circles is the Noble Aroma wheel.  Produced by sensory chemist Dr. Ann Noble in 1984, the aroma wheel was designed to create a common language between consumers of wine to explore the complexity that exists between different regions and varietals.  In addition to positive attributes, she included those that are also indicators of common faults from less than sound winemaking practices.

At its heart, a consumer can taste a wine and evaluate their sense memory across 11 simple characteristics such as Fruity, Earthy, or Floral.  The next concentric level of senses contains 25 terms that are sub-categories of the outer circle.  For example, if the wine is Fruity, is it reminiscent of Tree Fruit or Tropical Fruit?  The outermost ring of the wheel contains 83 different terms that represent common smells, spices, fruits, or flowers that could be used to trigger memories that exist in each individual consumer.  I highly recommend any individual who seeks to improve their conversational discussion or personal sense memory of wines, purchase a Noble Wine Aroma Wheel to develop a comfortable vocabulary in the wine world.  It is never too late to start your wine education!

The answer to the last wine and vine trivia is grape color concentrate.  The concentrate can be used to modify wines of a lower price to give the perception of high extraction and body, instead of blending to achieve the desired results.  Elderberries were used in the 19th century for the same purpose, until banned for use in wine production.  The wine and vine trivia for next issue is: Although not contained on the Aroma Wheel, what does the term Petrichor refer to in common sense memory?


Justin Taylor is Assistant Winemaker at Burntshirt Vineyards, Hendersonville, NC.