Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

The Noble nose: Sniffing and swirling with Ann Noble

By Jessica Yadegaran
Wednesday, June 27th, 2007 at 11:19 am in Uncategorized.

There’s so much to say about Saturday’s first annual Wines Women Want at the Four Seasons, I’ll no doubt blog and write about it in the paper for some time. After all, 60 percent of wine consumers are women; and women are still usually the ones bringing family and friends together for food and drink and celebration. Though I’d say my millennial male friends are gaining on us, with their master brewing and affinity for tapas. They’re becoming quite the Martha Stewarts, with an edge.

Back to Saturday. I took a sensory evaluation class from Ann Noble, the food science professor at UC Davis and the inventor of the wine aroma wheel. She’s a sensory scientist and flavor chemist and the first to make a diagram out of the dominant flavor descriptors in red and white wines. Ann’s an idol of mine.

Before we started tasting, Ann explained that this was “kindergarten of the nose.” That it’s easy to describe wine but because we grew up in a verbal and auditory world, and a world where colors are a popular descriptor, we don’t pay attention to our noses. But humans have the ability to catalog 4,000 aromas. What we lack is the vocabulary to discuss them. I was fascinated. Growing up, she would go on bike rides calling out scents to her friends instead of visual stimulation.

What we did next is a must in any wine descriptor or sensory evaluation class. Monica Chappelle at the Lafayette Community Center does this too. With Ann, we sniffed and eventually tasted three white wines blind. On the table, covered up, were the physical representations of the eight main aromas in white wines: from pineapple juice and lychees to vanilla and clove.

I had more than a few ah-ha moments — when I sniffed the actual item and them recognized it in the wine. Wow. It’s really a must for anyone interested in enhancing or perhaps finally breaking through their sensory walls with wine. Tip: Cover the wine up with your hand or a lid while you’re swirling. Uncover and then smell. It’s much more effective.

The wines, a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and White Reisling, were all great and all by J. Lohr, one of my favorite Paso Robles producers.

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