• Anne McHale

Try this aroma trick at home

Hope you've enjoyed some delicious wine recently. Following on from my video on how to taste wine, I thought I'd go into a little more detail about why it helps to bring air into your mouth whilst you're tasting and to get the aromas of the wine up around your nasal cavity.


The simple explanation is that nearly all of the thousands of flavour compounds which we as humans are able to experience are actually experienced via the sense of smell and not on our tongue. On our tongues we can only detect five tastes: salt, sour, bitter, sweet and umami (the last being the Japanese word for 'savoury' and referring to a savoury taste which is distinct from saltiness and found in a variety of foods such as mushrooms, tomatoes, aged beef and parmesan cheese).

Everything else we taste, we are actually smelling. That's why, when you have a cold and your nose is blocked, your enjoyment of food and wine is much diminished.



Try this simple experiment at home to illustrate for yourself how important the sense of smell is in experiencing flavour. Put some cinnamon powder into a small bowl and pinch your nose tightly with one hand. On your other hand, lick a finger, put it into the bowl and put some powder on the tip of your tongue. What can you taste? My guess is that at most you can taste a slight sweetness, but that if you were doing this 'blind' you would never know that the powder was cinnamon (for fun, you can try this on a friend).


Then remove your first hand from your nose.....and, voilà! The glorious spicy flavour of cinnamon reveals itself. It's amazing how powerful the difference is.


Next, you'll be ready to try this with wine by gently bringing air in through your mouth as in my video. Try first without taking air in so that you can see the difference when you do it. Be warned, though - it can take a bit of practice; the first few times you may find yourself accidentally breathing in some wine. As I like to say, though, there are worse things to practise!

I hope you enjoyed these fun experiments - and happy wine-drinking until next time...

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Anne McHale Master of Wine, London, UK