Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Classic Wine Tool and an Improved Version

Windows on the World's introductory wine book by Kevin Zraly was the first one I read. The aroma wheel, designed by Ann Noble, was one of my first tools to learn the lingo and help me describe what I smelled in the glass. While unusual terms can certainly be used, it helps to have some common ground with fellow tasters as well. (The official website does not have a clear image of the wheel itself, but the internet does.) I liked that you could start on the outside and work your way in if you smelled something very specific or narrow down a broader sense of something by working from the center outward. 
However, many of the terms are confusing and some of the outside aromas don't seem to go together. Bacon and medicinal are not smells I associate with one another. It always seemed to me it could be done better and this one, from Aromaster is an improvement. They appear to make their money selling tasting kits and a board game but this is a useful version.
I think the verbiage is clear and I like the section titled "FAULTS" a lot, although there should be some clarification offered. In table wine, sherry and madeira (and vinegar) aromas should be considered faults this placement might confuse people who are learning. Sherry and Madeira are not wines with faults, they are produced from controlled oxidation. 
The wheel featured above is a free download if you want a copy, click here. They also have highlighted versions of the wheel for a number of specific grapes but those are not available to download. Of course, you are also welcome to dig through all of the images that appear on a Google search of "aroma wine wheels" if you want to find more aroma wheel choices.
The aroma wheel doubles as a flavor wheel since taste and smell are so closely related. Mouthfeel wheels have also been designed to help explore texture and how the wine feels on your palate. Here is one in black and white and the same version, but in color, at the bottom of this scholarly pdf. Here's one more, that says it is specifically for white wine (Sorry, the link is terrible - you need to click then select products and then Wine Mouthfeel Wheel - they do have a beer defects and wine defects wheel as well). 
All of this searching was prompted by a Wine Spectator article that featured a Brettanomyces wheel. 'Brett,' as it is more commonly known, is a spoilage yeast that can ruin wines but, in a classic example of wine world confusion, can also make them more interesting - especially if you like more wild, barnyard aromas. You can read more about Brett in my Resources section (Tips to Avoid/Identify Bad Wine) or just click here.
I also found an evaluation of a square version of the wine wheel, a beer wheel, a Bourbon wheel, a whisky wheel and even a sake wheel (you have to scroll around a bit but it's there).

A lot of information to explore, I will post this in the Resources section for easy future access.

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