Le Nez Du Vin–Wine Tasting Cheatsheet

October 15 2012 - 8:32 AM

Fragrance is a huge part of flavor and the way we taste. Considering the importance it plays in nearly every aspect of the way we eat and drink, it’s surprising that we have such a limited vocabulary when it comes to details around aromatics. Enter Le Nez Du Vin, Jean Lenoir’s wine aromatics kit, available online at Wine Aromas. A coffee table sized fabric lined “book” stores 54 bottles of assorted aromas derived from different wines. In addition to the fragrances, a set of flash cards provide a key to what you’re smelling, the bottles are not labeled. A guidebook takes advantage of the fragrance palette and gives you the necessary context. You’ll familiarize yourself with which fragrances are found in wines from different regions as well as which fragrances match to varietals.

Ideally, once you memorize your fragrances and where they belong from a region and varietal context you can more effectively master the art of blind wine tasting.

The set does represent a master class in wine. It also does require an equally impressive amount of work. At the outset I could only identify about one in ten of the little numbered bottles. I was also exposed to fragrances that I really didn’t have any association to whatsoever. From linden which is pretty common here in Illinois to the differences between red and black currants, not only do I now have a frame of reference but I can look for the flavors in different wines.

This set really isn’t for everyone. At $400 it’s certainly more than a few awesome bottles of Burgundy. But it’s also an exercise in conformity. Some of the fragrances don’t necessarily smell like what they’re labeled but that’s okay. It’s not about accuracy of that kind. It’s accepting the vocabulary and using it for identification and accurately identifying wine. Sitting around with friends discussing the hints of mushroom and straw you enjoy from specific wines might not jibe with the vocabulary and potentially confuse you. The trick is really becoming fluent in the language of Le Nez Du Vin and realizing you might only really use it to converse with your glass.

That can certainly be a stimulating conversation.

I’ll be updating my progress to see just how good I can get with blind tasting. At this point, I’m up to 2 or 3 in 10 for fragrance ID. Wish me luck!