Wine Aroma Wheel

March 4, 2010

There are so many smells with grape wines that in 1990, Professor Ann C. Noble designed a “Wine Aroma Wheel” while she worked at UC Davis Enology Department. It is copyrighted, but a quick search on Google images will turn it up.

The wheel is broken into three sections. The first section is the over arching umbrella – does it smell floral, spicy, fruity, vegetative, earthy, chemical, oxidized, wood, caramelized, or microbiological. From there, these groups are broken down into subcategories, the more generalized scents that novices should pick up. For instance, fruity is broken down into citrus, berry, tree fruit, tropical fruit, estery, dried fruit, and labrusca. Some things like floral are not broken down into further groups. The last category is for the more advanced, as it talks about specific smells. For instance, a novice might detect citrus notes, but someone more advanced may comment that it is more like grapefruit, lemon, or orange.

Downloading the user guide, I am definitely one of those people it describes as one user who would benefit from it. “Novice tasters often complain that they ‘cannot smell anything’ or can’t think of a way to describe the aroma of wine.” That’s why when I first saw the wine wheel at a winery just outside of Leavenworth, WA, I decided to spend the $5 to buy it. Admittedly, I haven’t used it much since getting Bachhanales since that allows me to smell things rather than remind me of different words to possibly use. However, a wine wheel is cheaper and much more portable than Bachhanales.

I was out at a grocery store that was sampling various olive oils one day, and they had a wheel for olive oil! Apparently the concept has been used on other food items, like beer, chocolate, coffee, cheese, etc. I’ve been trying to figure out how to convert the 163 apple aromas determined by Long Aston Research Station in 1975 into a wheel.

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