Quick! What is one of the most sensual, aromatic products in the world, right up there with exquisite perfume and exotic flowers? Wine, of course. The ability to describe the aromas and flavors of wine in a way another person can understand is a fine art, a cross between poetry and effective copywriting. So you can imagine how impressed I was to hear the attractive young female sommelier at New York’s five-star Le Bernardin restaurant artfully describe the aroma of a few wines we considered ordering.
“Well done!” I responded, before asking her secret in teasing out and remembering the flavors specific to each varietal.
“Le Nez du Vin,” she whispered.
What is Le Nez du Vin, you ask? It is a very well organized tool for teaching yourself and others how to identify the signature scents and flavors in a wine, basically helping you to develop your olfactory (scent) memory. Based on the groundbreaking book Making Sense of Wine by Jean Lenoir, Le Nez du Vin is available in a series of kits (12 aromas red wine, 12 aromas white wine, the Master Kit, the 12 aromas Faults Kit, 12 aromas New Oak kit) that help you learn how to identify isolated flavors in wine.
The Master Kit, for example, comes with 54 vials of scents, an illustrated 119-page book, and 54 illustrated, two-sided Explanatory Cards. On one side of each card is a number that corresponds to a scent in a vial, along with a color picture representing the scent. On the other side of the card is the name of the scent, a short descriptive paragraph that helps you understand what the scent smells like through associations with other scents, and the wines the scent is commonly found in (along with the regions).
For example, let’s pretend I have just poured you a glass of 2006 Smoking Loon Pinot Noir from California. Perhaps you are just beginning your wine education and detect a fruit scent, but can’t really express what you are detecting in words. You would pick up the book, look up Pinot Noir (found on page 32), and read the following:
Raspberry, Blackcurrant, Cherry, Violet, Liquorice
This grape variety doesn’t stray much from its homeland of Burgundy, and has made its great red wines famous. It is resistant to cold weather, which might explain why it grows well in the Champagne region. It is rarely blended with other varieties.