Last week, I reviewed Bianca Bosker’s wonderful book Cork Dork. This week, I wanted to go into a little more detail on Bosker’s exploration of our sense of smell.
Bosker’s Meeting with Ann Davis
Bosker says that one of the most important things for cork dork wannabes is to stock our sense memory. She advises us to “smell everything and attach words to it.” She spent time with Ann Davis, the person who created the original Wine Aroma Wheel in the 1970s at UC Davis. Bosker says that “Ann’s ‘kindergarten of the nose’ is so named… because it corrects a gap in our education that should have been addressed back when we were sipping juice boxes and taking naps. While parents frequently encourage children to label visual and auditory cues, like the color blue or a dog’s bark, olfactory objects rarely get much attention. As a result, most of us never learn a standardized aroma lexicon that would let us talk about and identify odors… If you don’t store the information in some retrievable, specific way, it’s just this amorphous thing that comes back amorphous.”
“A Code and Consistency to Tasting Notes”
Bosker says that when we say we smell blackberries in a wine, we aren’t smelling real blackberries. “Saying ‘ blackberry’ is essentially our way of communicating that we’ve picked up a smell that we know other people have called blackberry in the past.” Bosker argues that there is a code and consistency to tasting notes that is very important in wine exams and competitions. She says there is a standard set of terms we know to attach to specific grape varieties. “In Court exams or in competitions, judges want to be sure that if you are presented with a Syrah, or what you think is a Syrah, you will repeat those key words to show you understand.”
Becoming a Smell Expert
Bosker also got to meet Alexandre Schmitt, a former perfumer who is now a wine maker. Schmitt “boasts that he can identify 1,500 aromas. To put this in perspective, he estimates most trained wine tasters can label 80 to 100 distinct scents. Given a set of smells to identify, the average person can put names on a measly 20.” Wow! I have my work cut out for me. How about you?
I hope my articles this week and last have convinced you to pick up Cork Dork. My friend Ken, who is a somm, thought she was a bit tough and judgmental on somms. I didn’t think so. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts.
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