Have you ever wondered how some people can sniff a glass of wine and tell you the grape varietal, the vintage, and even what type of barrel was used in the ageing process? Some people can even pick the exact wine!
Well, they have essentially trained their noses (and palate) to do all of that. It’s a pretty cool skill to have, especially if you want to become a passionate wine enthusiast or professional sommelier. Learning to identify the aromas found in wine just by smelling is achievable by just about anyone assuming no olfactory defect; it just takes training. Training your nose this way takes a lot of time and quickens your recall not only for wine aromas, but simply in general!
So, what is the easiest way to train your sense of smell to pick up and identify the aromas found in wine? One great way is to buy and have in stock constantly fresh live produce like raspberries, green bell peppers, cedar etc but that's rarely practical. The best way is to buy an aroma kit, like those by Le Nez du Vin, as these are used across the wine industry and what you may call ripe strawberry may be another red fruit altogether in the world of the somm! To counter such ambiguity and standardise aromas in the industry, these training devices are priceless.
What is a Wine Aroma Kit
When it comes to what an aroma kit actually is, the answer is pretty straightforward. An aroma kit is a group of bottled aromas or fragrances found in wine bottled in concentrated forms. For example, let’s say you are with your best friend, who also happens to be a sommelier. They pick up the glass of wine you just poured, swirl it around and inhale the aromas. They tell you they are picking up notes of vanilla, clove, and blueberries.
Excited to have the same experience, you inhale, and to your surprise (or maybe not surprising at all), the liquid in your glass just smells like wine. So what is the difference between you and your friend? Well, it’s an untrained nose vs. a trained one!
Getting the full wine experience means going nose-deep into the subtle and more obvious aromas. As I said above, the easiest and most effective way to accomplish this skill is to use an aroma kit.
How Much is an Aroma Kit
Aroma kits can range from £30 to £400. Now, it is important to understand that a cheap aroma kit will not be as effective, nor last as long, as a higher end version (like the best; Le Nez du Vin) and its aromas may not actually last very long. Why is this? Compare an aroma kit to perfume. If you buy an incredibly low-cost perfume, you are going to wind up with a fragrance that doesn’t provide the same intensity you were hoping for, and it may even have a bit of a chemical smell to it and it will get worse, quickly, over time. However, suppose you decide to invest a bit more in expensive perfume. In that case, you will find yourself with the exact aromas that the label said would be there. The Le Nez du Vin aroma kits last for 5 years and if you keep them in tip top condition, even longer.
How to Use an Aroma Kit
Once you have received your aroma kit, it is time to learn how to use it!
Step 1: Read through the manual that came with your aroma kit. Frequently, the manual will provide helpful tips to train your nose faster and help you identify these smells in your actual wine.
Step 2: Ensure you are in a neutral smelling environment then open one bottle at a time and smell it. Remain focused on the scent for a few seconds before closing it back up.
Step 3: Smell some coffee beans to reset your nose. This is an old trick but very effective! If you jump between each aroma without resetting your nose first, you will confuse your brain and slow down your training process. For some reason, coffee is an incredible way to remove the current aromas from your nose and essentially “reset” it.
Step 4: Once you have gotten through the bottles, test yourself without looking at the label. Open the bottle or jar, inhale, and name it before looking at the label! If you have one of the larger kits, 54 or 24 aromas, we don't recommend trying to learn all of these aromas in one day, but rather choosing 4-6 per day and training yourself over time.
Step 5: Once you have become good at naming your bottled fragrances, you can move on to trying to identify the aromas in your favorite wines. From here, pour yourself a glass, guess the fragrance notes, and check the label, or the tasting notes of the professionals, to see how you compare.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Give yourself some time to train your nose, and you will have this skill down pat before you know it!
How to Make a DIY Aroma Kit
If you are an art and crafts person or are on a tight budget, there are ways to build your own DIY aroma kit at home and only use items from the grocery store. Another bonus is that you may already have some of these ingredients in your cupboards or spice rack!
What You Need for a DIY Aroma Kit
For our makeshift aroma kit, we are going to use dried spices because they last MUCH longer than fresh ones. Here is a list of 12 spices you will need to make an aroma kit at home.
- Black Pepper flakes or peppercorns
- Vanilla (an extract is fine, but actual vanilla is better!)
- Dill (again, dried)
- White Pepper (not necessary, but cool to learn!)
- Black Cardamom
- Dried Mushroom
- Dried Tobacco (ground or leaves)
- Cedar (chips work well)
- A Bit of Dirt
In order to successfully complete this project, you will also need to purchase some glass jars. These can be small vials or bigger mason jars; it is entirely up to you. Simply jar up each individual spice/ingredient in a separate jar, and voila! You now have a quick and easy way to learn more about the aromas in your favorite wines. These wont last as long as the Le Nez du Vin aromas and neither will they exactly match the aroma compounds found within their vials but it's a good and cheap alternative.
Where to Buy an Aroma Kit
Here are our three best deals on the Le Nez du Vin range;
#1 The Ultimate Somm Kit - 54 Aromas & Oak & Wine Faults
Coolersomm's very own creation; the Ultimate Somm Kit is a none repeating set of 78 aromas that includes all the primary, secondary and tertiary aromas plus 12 oak and 12 wine fault aromas - the perfect kit for a budding sommelier. It's also offered at a significant discount to purchasing the same kits individually.
#2 Le Nez du Vin Red Wines 12 Aromas
If you're just getting into wine and want an aroma kit focused on red wines then the Le Nez du Vin Red Wine 12 Aroma kit may just be the perfect kit for you and it's a bargain at under £80. Plus, with holidays and birthdays, this aroma set could make an incredible gift for red wine lovers.
#3 Le Nez du Vin 54 Aromas - The Master Kit
The classic 54 aromas from Le Nez du Vin is our bestselling kit to broaden your wine tasting skills.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, multiple Sommeliers lost their sense of smell during that time for several months and some longer and over time had to gradually retrain their noses, we have many testimonials of customers using our Le Nez du Vin kits to do exactly that and claiming that their skills are now even sharper than before! Most frequently our Le Nez du Vin kits are bought as gifts for wine loving family members or bought by those embarking on the WSET level 3 qualification or diploma.