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Another wine newbie! Wink

Someone at the restaurant I used to work at mentioned these "scent kits" that help wine enthusiasts identify a variety of smells -- for instance, "asian pear" and "candied lemons" on the label of wine I drank last night. I've trying searching google for these, but am not sure what they're called.

I'd like to also ask the wine community if these have proven beneficial in their learning about wines. I currently smell wines I purchase, and while I always smell something, I generally can't identify it.

I want to search through the previous "I'm a newbie to wine" threads first to read up on suggestions, but I always welcome any further insight. I plan to head to a local wine shop that does daily tastings -- thankfully there are quite a few in DC. Hopefully their tastings will be somewhat structured.
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I'm very much interested in the same thing. I am able to ID some "in your face" aromas like oak, cherry etc. but some of the others like cassis, leather, smoke, I have difficulty with. Although, I have noticed that the more actual tastings I attend the 'ol sniffer has improved. Gotta attend more tastings I guess Big Grin, but do those kits really work?
Originally posted by Instant Access:
I have the kit to which Board-O is referring. It is indeed expensive, but I think it's a good kit. It has scents like leather, coffee, smoke, black currant, etc.

Eric, where in the DC area are you?

Which DC shops offer tastings and when?
Alright, looks like I'll be purchasing one of these wine kits. I think having one will prove beneficial to my learning. Thanks for the input.

I live in NW. There is a shop on Connecticut Ave., just north of Dupont Circle, that has daily tastings between 5 & 7 -- the name slips me, but I could find out if interested. Usually only 2-3 bottles and one taste of each per customer (DC alcohol regulations), but it's a pretty good way to get a swig of various wines.

I see you're also in DC. Do you have any suggestions or places, events, etc to try?

I live in NoVa, but work in DC. Figured DC is more recognizable to folks than Nova.

I sometimes stop by Balduccis of McLean, Arrowwine (Arlington), Cecile's (McLean). They opened 2 new shops in Vienna as well.

Balducci's does a wine event every few months where they'll have 30 or so wines open for tasting. It's a really good way to sample a variety of wines. I think the next event is Sat. Dec 16th from 2 to 5 p.m.

The Balduccis McLean store just lost their wine guy (Paul) so the jury's out on whether the wine program there will remain strong. Paul brought in really great wines.

I didn't realize that DC had more restrictive tasting laws than VA with its 1 oz. rule.
I am pretty sure you can build your own "test"...

I think I read about it in a book... hmmm... this book as a matter of fact... "The University Wine Course: A Comprehensive Text and Tutorial" ...

one of the lessons in the book has you purchase a bottle of red and a bottle of white... pour about 3. oz into a number of glasses and then into each glass you add a specified amount of a number of items... one item per class.. in the end you have a 24 glasses of wine that have had a certain aroma artificially enhanced in the wine... it is supposed to help you identify what orange peels smell like in white wine, liquid smoke smells like in red wine, etc...

it sounds like a fun and less expensive route around the Nez Du Vin kits... have a tasting and ask your guests to bring some of the 'ingredients' and maybe some extra glasses if necessary...

all that being said.. i have yet to have done this... my wife and i are waiting until our new house is built so we can host something like this for our 'wine' friends... Smile
I played with the Le Nez du Vin while taking a course in Bordeaux. It's fun trying to guess the smells. It's also very useful in training your nose. They also have a "Defaults" kit to detect the smells when a wine goes bad. I just bought the 54 vial Master kit (Le Nez came out with a 2007 version) and expecting it for delivery tomorrow. Can't wait. You can check out these sites for info:
Sokolin has an ad on the WS site for 15% off through December. It's by far the cheapest I've found.

Lots of people are impressed by Le nez du vin or are at least having fun with it.

Personally, I've trouble with the synthetical nature of the scents. While I have a reasonable tasting technique and know most basic wine smells of the most current grape varieties, I almost never get a Nez du vin-number right.

Considering this handicap, I prefer smelling the real things. You know, cutting a green apple in two and then sniff deep. And the a red one, a banana, an overripe banana, a grapefruit, a pink grapefruit, the coffeejar, the tea caddy, a newly tarred road, a tin of pineapple, a fresh pineapple, the leather of my wallet (worn with a hint of euros) and that of my belt (new, thanks Santa), trees and flowers, various bodily parts... All the smells are there, outside those tiny little flacons.
Wine smelling kits Roll Eyes

Save your money and it's just after the holidays too Smile

All you need are the winemakers notes and professional reviews on wines you want to open to start. Practice picking up what they are smelling and tasting on your wine, then it will be easier to pick other aromas and tastes once your senses get used to it. Perhaps you don't smell burnt wood like the notes say - but you think you smell roasted walnuts or whatver. It will seem easier when you do that. Have a basis.

After a while certain varietals will display a few of the same core scents and tastes (Cabernet with blackberry, currents etc.) and then you go from there.

Just try a lot of wines and have experience from a previous wine of that type and someone else's opinion to get you going.
Over Christmas, I found the perfect way to learn how to smell wines. My Mother-in-Law's fruitcake. It has the spice, the fruit, nutty smells, the burnt/oak odor...everything that you would find in a glass of wine. I'll even send it to you free of charge, just out of the goodness of my heart. Razz

What I do is smell/taste the wine, and make my notes. then read up on the specific varietal, and the smells and flavors that one would expect from the type of wine and taste again, looking for those notes. I then consult the notes of an expert (WS/RP/etc.) and taste again, specifically looking for the things they mention, and compare my initial notes with theirs. It's amazing how some flavors just become so apparent when you are specifically looking for them and how others are so obviously missing.

I guess that once you know what you might expect from any varietal, you can start doing that on your own without the preparation.
Just make it up and never say the same thing twice. If you smell pear, call it poached pear or pear drops. If you smell tobacco, call it tobacco leaf or cigar box. If you smell coffee, call it spent espresso grounds or sumatran beans.

I'm half kidding. I don't know if these guys make it up, but I find it suspicious that they never taste or smell the same thing twice.

1) Notice that two tasters rarely agree on what's in a wine. It's a largely personal experience.
2) Realize that the flavor and aroma components in wine resemble our real world smells and tastes. It is not exactly the same flavor compounds.
3) Relax and let it come to you. Try to taste wine before looking at the tasting notes. You don't have to sell your expertise, so it is ok to use broad flavor descriptors: berries, earth, minerals, tobacco, coffee/chocolate, white fruits, citrus, etc. If you have the ability to get more specific, more power to you.
I think of these things like all the gimicks fishermen buy to help trick a fish.

I received one for Christmas from my very well meaning daughter. I use it all the time so I can say I do when she asks.

I guess it has helped me become 7% better than I was and I am very week in identifying smells.

I put it in the same catagory as those who say to eat dirt so you can learn to identify the earthy flavors...unless I'm going to try to be a professional reviewer, I'll just describe what I can the best I can and be happy with what I like and think tastes good. Eventually my palate will develop to what I will be satisfied.
Originally posted by Peer Gynt:
Just make it up and never say the same thing twice. If you smell pear, call it poached pear or pear drops. If you smell tobacco, call it tobacco leaf or cigar box. If you smell coffee, call it spent espresso grounds or sumatran beans.

Excellent summation of our resident vampire!

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