Placing It All Together - Wine Analysis Overview - Part One
I was thinking about the articles from the last few weeks that I’ve been writing on wine analysis. Articles 36-46 cover so much information related to these techniques. Today, I’m going back to review this information and highlight the key points for you.
The Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc that I’ve referenced will play a key part. I wish to use this wine to explain the process and show you the techniques and tricks. I use these for pairing along with blind tasting (future articles). The format to explain everything will be the following:
- An overview of the article (linked for you to go back and read),
- Explain the highlights for you to remember (or to go back and quickly review), and
- The Takeaway, which is the main highlight that I want you to remember.
This article lists a set of scenarios to explain how an aroma can bring up a memory. Every aroma is linked to a memory. To help you find the aroma, I relax to let my mind think of the first memory that comes up and what I was doing at the time. This technique leads me to an aroma. For example:
- Apples are linked to my dad taking us to an apple orchard as a kid.
If I was blindfolded and that aroma is exposed to me, that memory pops up helping me to clarify it.
Now I may not know what the aroma is, but I can remember what I was doing when I experienced it. That’s key. The memory will have the aroma embedded in it. I use this to help us find the aroma.
I also talked about slowing down. This is important to help us unlock our mind to experience aromas. Too many times, we rush and do not take a moment to experience what is around us.
I force myself to slow down to experience aromas. When I get a glass with any beverage in it, I purposely slow right down. This helps to focus my mind on what is coming, and to open my mind to receive the memory to help with aroma. If you see me live doing this, you will see me stop, shake my head (I actually do) as I’m telling myself to focus.
Sweetwater Donuts located in Michigan is an incredible experience. From the picture, your mind is already describing some aromas. If I asked you to tell me what you think the aromas are, you most likely could come up with a list. This would be based on your previous experiences with a donut, chocolate, etc.
Describing a donut is something we can picture and understand. My goal for this article is to explain that describing aromas are still deeply linked to memories. Using this for wine, I wanted to give you a list of aromas that typically are found to help you focus. The trick is to remember that:
- White wines have aromas linked to fruit growing on a tree (apples, pears, peaches, citrus, tropical) and vegetables that are green in nature (beans, unripe peppers, asparagus).
- Red wines have aromas linked to red fruits growing on a tree (plums, cherries), dried fruits (raisin) or the vine / ground (berries).
Now that we have a place to start, I have a set of questions to help me focus on finding the aroma if it’s still not clear. These questions help my mind focus on the memory:
- Does it smell good or bad to me?
- Where have I experienced this aroma?
- Where does it grow?
- Can I narrow it down to something specific?
When I get a glass to analyze and I can see the color, I use this to ask appropriate questions. Since Oyster Bay is a white wine, I’m focusing on white wine aromas and asking questions to focus. That will help me find more aromas instead of including typical red wine aromas.
When we smell wine, we tend to focus on finding one aroma in the glass. For example, if I asked you to tell me what the primary aroma is, you would focus on this only. However, wines have a number of aromas so how can you determine each of them without getting confused? Being able to find them individually is the key. This is why I introduced the Bell curve for reviewing aromas.
Using a Bell curve is simple. The top of the curve represents the primary aromas (strongest in the glass). I’ll use my memories to help me define these aromas. Once that is done, if you relax and let your mind wander, you will be able to detect aromas before the primary ones (or the left side of the curve). Same with the right side. They may not be as strong as the primary, but they are there.
Opening your mind by using the curve will help you find more aromas in wine. The goal is to find more than the primary aromas. This will give you a deeper examination of wine. However, I use it to also assist me with understanding what the wine is for blind pairings and for pairing food with the wine.
This article focuses on how to find the primary aromas in a glass of wine. I purchased the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2022 for this exercise. Everyone should be able to find it. Plus, it’s a great price and a great showing for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
I discuss the techniques for chilling a bottle down to service temperature (fridge, ice bath, etc.) while prepping to take notes. Note taking is key to help you focus. Once it’s chilled, I then explain the technique on how to smell the wine and my thoughts on what’s in the glass.
This is an exercise for you to try out yourself to see what you can pick up and if it’s the same or different from my findings. More importantly, it’s to show you that anyone can do this! I showed you my notes to help guide you as you try it yourself. If you have not done the exercise, please purchase a bottle and try it for yourself. Overall, I picked up numerous aromas in the glass by using the bell curve along with relaxing.
Mouthfeel is the focus of this article and an exceptionally important aspect of understanding wine. I decided to use potato chips to describe the concept since it’s relatable to everyone. Ultimately, mouthfeel is related specifically and only to the texture on your palate. Please make sure that you keep this in mind. It’s very easy to confuse with other terms and concepts.
I posted a copy of the mouthfeel wheel and all of the different terms that can be used to describe a wine. I love the concept of the wheel, but I ask everyone I teach not to use it. Keep it simple and describe everything in your own words if possible.
I wanted you to start to think about the texture of all beverages and food that we consume. We already know that we look forward to the crunch of a potato chip. My goal was to get you to focus on the texture by moving it to the forefront and not an afterthought. When I pair food and wine, I really focus on pairing the mouthfeel of both.
This article discusses the terms and confusion of mouthfeel. There is a difference between mouthfeel and flavor. Again, I want you to focus on mouthfeel which is texture based. The example that I used is lemon juice. If we focus on the mouthfeel terms, we can say that lemon juice is astringent for example.
I also highlighted on the mouthfeel wheel the best terms to use for describing a wine’s mouthfeel. These terms are easy to understand. I always try to keep it simple instead of flowery.
This article shows both an example (lemon juice) and Oyster Bay to help describe mouthfeel. I want you to understand how important mouthfeel is to wine and eventually food pairing. For example, I can describe a glass of milk using two mouthfeel terms:
- Creamy, or
Instantly, each term conveys its own place in your mind (good and bad). It’s a very powerful tool that can help describe beverages in detail. Most times in beverage descriptions, it’s overlooked.
Next week, I’ll finish off the reviews of the remaining 5 articles (42 – 46) and explain their importance for wine analysis. Over all these articles, I’ve focused on giving you examples and the importance of understanding each concept related to beverages. Please take some time to review each article and ask your questions. I would love to help you clarify the information.