You’ve probably already consumed whatever wine you were working with yesterday, so, we start again: First, pour a small amount of wine into the glass – around 50 – 75mls, or a quarter full. This is not pretentious custom. We need room in the glass for swivelling (aeration), and also so that we can keep precious aroma molecules in the glass.
Before we swivel, take a sniff of the wine fresh poured. Older wines are unlikely to give off too much aroma without agitation. Ironically, more mass produced wines are likely to give an intense aroma from the outset. After your first sniff, swivel the glass. The aim is to let air into the wine and aromas out. Swivel for a few seconds and take another sniff. The character of the wine should now start to show itself.
The aroma of a wine is a strong indicator of the flavour to follow. Becoming familiar with the aromas and flavours you enjoy most, and being able to describe them, will help you select more wines you enjoy in future. Do you smell more fruit or more oak? Is the smell apparent with one sniff or do you need to concentrate to pick up aromas? Neither end of these spectrums is necessarily a sign of quality: you’re trying to get in tune with your preferences.
Here is a sign of quality we get from aroma: how does the aroma change as you work your way through a bottle? Excellent wines will evolve once opened and often the aroma becomes stronger or more interesting with time. Un-excellent wines (a technical term :) ) will loose flashy fragrances after opening. It’s an indicator of how well integrated flavour and aroma molecules are.
Image: large oak barrels, like the ones I’m shown at Comte Lafon in Burgundy, enrich the fruit aromas within the chardonnay; there is no need to mask inferior fruit with distracting oak