This Will Lyons article serves as a reminder that “practice makes perfect.” As he notes “our sense of smell is one of our most powerful senses. But unlike our eyes, which automatically recognize color, and our ears, which are attuned to detect sounds, our nose needs to be trained.” Whether you are a casual drinker, a wine professional or someone in-between, the sensory pleasures of wine are equally accessible with some basic training. The results of accurately identifying and naming aromas will vary person-to-person but the tools required are the same, a sense of smell and command of some basic wine language. Otherwise practice practice practice. As you begin to develop and build your olfactory memory the wine in your glass will present itself differently and may even greet you with familiarity. For those who concentrate, olfactory recognition of familiarity in a wine can be nearly as intoxicating as the alcohol itself, it is evidence of personal progress and a pat on the back for having done so much work (drinking). While there is no point at which practice and learning should cease, once wines begin to express themselves as old friends you have reached a tipping point. Beyond this tipping point, no longer can you be scolded for drinking alone. For who can be said to be drinking alone when an old friend is present.
Basic (but important) Aroma-Related Wine Language:
Primary Aroma: aromas that result directly from the varietal (i.e. any fruit)
Secondary Aroma: aromas that result from wine-making and aging (i.e. vanilla/spice from oak)
Tertiary Aroma: aromas that develop from bottle aging and the slow march of maturity (i.e. forest floor, mushroom)