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Secret to wine-tasting is a good sense of smell

Mon 07 Sep 2009 12:06


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Professional wine tasters often spend more time sniffing a glass of wine than sipping it. This is because smell is our most acute sense, approximately 1,000 times more sensitive than taste.

In fact, what we experience about flavour in food and drink is about 75 per cent smell (olfaction) as opposed to just 25 per cent taste (gustation) – something you might notice when you have a blocked nose, which often makes food taste bland.

Aromatic wines are perfect for those with sensitive noses. These wines are made from a group of grapes known as ‘aromatic varieties’, grapes that have a very distinctive, almost perfumed aroma.

These tend to be white wines, although there are some reds that are considered aromatic.

The key aromatic grapes are Riesling, Muscat and Gewurztraminer, though there are lots of others too.

Wine expert Tom Cannavan picks his favourite aromatic wines.

1. Gérard Bertrand Winemaker Selection Dry Muscat 2007, France, priced at £5.99 from Tesco
Gérard Bertrand is an ex-rugby international for France, who is now a serious winemaker in the Languedoc region of southern France, with a large and impressive wine business.

This Muscat smells like it is going to be sweet (Muscat is often made into a sweet) wine, but in fact it is bone dry and food-friendly.

This wine has tastes of grapes, melon and flowers and goes nicely with fish, chicken with grapes, asparagus and avocado salad.

2. Taste The Difference Gewurztraminer 2007, France, priced at £6.99 from Sainsbury's

Gewurz means "spice", and this spicy grape is at its best here.

Gewurztraminer evokes the Arabian nights, with its exotic aromas of Turkish delight and attar or roses - once sniffed, never forgotten!  This excellent and moderately-priced example comes from one of the best cooperatives in Alsace - a central wine-making facility for many small grape growers in the region.

With tasting cues of rose petals, lychees, Turkish delight and spices, this wine goes well with Chinese or Thai food, smoked salmon blinis and quiche Lorraine.

3. Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés 2009, Argentina, priced at £7.99 from Majestic (or buy two bottles and save £2 = £6.99 each)

Pulling the cork on a bottle of Torrontés can be like opening a bottle of Eau de Cologne: there is a heady, floral and herbal character that is unique to this grape, a real speciality of Argentina.

This example comes from Susana Balbo, one of Argentina's best and most experienced winemakers, and the grapes come from Cafayate way up in the Andes mountains in the north of the country.

This wine has flavours of peaches, citrus fruit and white flowers and goes well with Chinese food, especially lemon or chilli chicken.

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