Smelling wines for a living

nose in wine glassPretending to be Jilly Goolden while swirling and sniffing the contents of each wine glass is half the fun of wine appreciation. But sometimes, I admit it, I need help identifying a wine’s aromas. Just because someone tells you they smell and taste wines for a living it doesn’t make their judgement infallible.

At a South African wine competition the judge (a Master of Wine by the way, a qualification shared with only 289 other wine professionals) rated the majority of the entered Shiraz wines as having “no sense of smell whatever.” Clearly something was up with the ’highly trained’ nostrils because fellow judges overturned the results.

choc squaresMaybe the tempting Shiraz aromas of plum, blackberry, dark chocolate, raspberry and black pepper couldn’t penetrate through a nose blocked with a South African cold? Or perhaps the judge just hadn't sniffed each spoonful of his last blackberry and plum crumble or analysed each square of Lindt 70 per cent cocoa chocolate as it passed beneath his nose?

cakeBecause that's how you'll find and add aromas to your memory. Sniff and remember everything, that's what I do (and many odd looks it's got me). Not just food either. It's true many wines do smell rather like fruit or cake but they can also smell like the inside of a garden shed or that pair of smelly trainers kicked under the sofa.

The more smells you lodge into your personal aroma memory bank, the easier it is to identify and put words to that huge array of aromas wafting out of each glass of wine.

PG Wine Tips

£3.99 and under

There are still some good bottles to be found that cost the same as a couple of National Lottery tickets.

Vieille Fontaine French Vins de Pays du Comté Tolosan
£3.29 Tesco

Bargain of the Week. Strong bubblegum aromas as soon as the plastic cork is removed followed by raspberry and cherryade. And it tastes like it smells.

Toro Loco Spanish Tempranillo 2009
£3.49 Aldi

Aromas of sweet cherry and raspberry, followed by liquorice and barley sugar flavours.

£5.99 and under

There are a few fruity, slurpable wines among the forgettable masses.

Spar French Vins de Pays Sauvignon Blanc
£5.35 Spar

The label description of ‘brimming with gooseberry flavours’ does this wine an injustice – it’s better and more complex than that. There are gooseberry flavours but these are balanced with grapefruit and the sweetness of melon.

Costs a bit more, but tastes great

Sometimes a bottle of wine tastes so fab it's still a bargain whatever it costs.

Boschendal Lanoy South African Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
£6.79 Tesco

Strong aromas of blackcurrant leaf and violets. Rich and fruity flavours of blackcurrant, strawberry and raspberry with a grind of black pepper.

sparkling wineSpar Donacella Cava Brut
£6.79 Spar

A light lemon and lime fizz with some background digestive biscuit flavours going on. Try and ignore the aroma of light lemon washing-up liquid.

Anna de Codorniu Cava Brut
£9.99 Sainsbury’s

Marzipan and toasted pinenut flavours with an unusual aroma of lemon and daffodils.

This article has appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on Mature Times