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Smell & Memory: Wine 1012 min read

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Wine aroma wheel

Did you know that your sense of smell is located adjacent to your memory within your brain? That explains how a whiff of something can suddenly trigger an intense memory that was long forgotten. I often find that aromas in wine take me back to childhood memories that have nothing to do with the wine itself!

Pinot noirs sometimes smell dusty, reminding me of the gravel driveway we had when I was a kid that would turn to deep dust in the summer from the lack of rain.

A dry rosé with heavenly strawberry notes will take me right back to stirring the pot of strawberries as I made jam with my mom when I was young.

Chardonnay will occasionally smell tart like the flintstone vitamins from my childhood.

Plum aromas in jammy red wines remind me of eating italian plums right off a family friend’s tree when I was 8 years old.

The smell of cedar in oregon pinots will transport me back to the day my Aunt Bunny passed down her beloved cedar chest to me.

Two different white wines have smelled of playdoh, bringing back memories of sculpting funny animals in elementary school.

Working my first job at a movie theatre, surrounded by the aroma of buttered popcorn is the first memory to come to mind when I smell that very same buttered popcorn smell in a certain Cabernet franc.

Rieslings, with their distinct rubber/petrol smell, will remind me of opening up a box with a new pair of keds inside.

Only half of these are on the aroma wheel, so who’s right and who’s wrong? Traditional wine enthusiasts probably think my olfactory sense is off and that I should just follow the wheel. But I don’t think the aroma wheel should dictate what I smell in a wine or else I’d miss out on all kinds of wonderful memories!

One of my wine instructors suggests creating your own custom wine aroma wheel filled with smells you find in wine, not those we’ve be told should be in wine. The aroma wheel also lacks any designation between what is a fault in wine (and shouldn’t be in it) and what’s not. Even beginners recognize that moldy cork and musty odors are not smells you want in the fragrant bouquet of your wine. Add these smells to your wheel as faults, alongside the aromas you do want to find in the next bottle you pop open.

Now that you know some of the memories triggered by aromas I’ve found in wine, please share yours with us!

Michele Francisco
Michele Francisco, a founder and regular contributor to Winerabble, a blog primarily about Pacific Northwest wines, is living the dream in Portland, Oregon. Her passion leads some to believe she's got wine running through her veins. Contact Michele at michele@winerabble.com & be sure to visit her online portfolio at www.michelefrancisco.com.

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