Smelling Wine

March 2, 2010

For my birthday a few months ago, my husband got me Bachhanales, which is a wine tasting guide and game. Whenever I drink wine, I never quite get all the smells that people say that are there. In the 1995 movie French Kiss, Meg Ryan’s American character goes into boyhood room of Kevin Kline’s French character. He has her drink the wine from his family’s vineyard, which she uses human characteristics such as sophistication to describe. He then shows her a box of various dried herbs and plant material in bottles he collected as a boy, has her smell some of them, and then has her drink the wine again. This time she identifies things such as lavender and mushrooms in the wine. He says that these things are all around in the air and the grapes absorb it into the wine.

This scene always stuck with me. I don’t really taste many differences in wine, and sometimes I am frustrated that I can tell a difference but lack the vocabulary to describe what I was tasting. That is why my husband bought me Bachhanales. Bachhanales is this kit of different smells that are common in wine. In theory, it teaches you how to identify what kind of wine it is, how old it is, where it might have come from, and a few other things like balance in wine.

The first wine I tried it with was a Syrah from Australia, in which I detected a strong smell of licorice and a little bit of elderberry. Afterwards, I have been able to smell licorice in all but one Syrah that I have encountered.

This past weekend, we went back out to The Rusty Grape Vineyard, and we took Bachhanales with us. We sat at one of their little café tables, sampling wine, and smelling samples out of the Bachhanales. Jeremy, owner of the Rusty Grape, poured us two different red wines for us to figure out. It was actually pretty hard, and we kept second guessing ourselves, but in the end, I got both of them right, but I felt completely overwhelmed by the possibilities.


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