Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wine Appreciation, Without Actually Drinking It

I don't mean to discriminate against people who can drink wine, but as this is being written by a pregnant lady, I can only speak from my current situation.  This really is for anyone who wants a little wine appreciation or education, but does not involve actually drinking wine. 

People ask me all the time how I am feeling during this pregnancy.  My answer, "I've been feeling great!  But I miss my wine!"  As I begin my second trimester, I have so far avoided any morning sickness (knock on wood) and have been feeling pretty good overall.  This has been a blessing because had I not been feeling well, the vineyard would be a complete disaster.  I've still been able to go out and work and train and squat and prune and...well, you get the idea. 

On the other hand, feeling relatively well has made my wine withdrawal more pronounced.  See, if I were feeling awful, wine would probably sound disgusting.  But it doesn't.  It sounds so good!  In my opinion, not being able to drink wine is almost equivalent to having morning sickness.  Although giving up wine is for a good cause, it still really sucks.

So, I'm taking this 9+ month opportunity to find some other ways to appreciate wine.  I may not be able to drink it, but there's no harm in smelling it!  Although I sense Aaron is getting sick of me asking him if I can smell his wine whenever he pours himself a glass.  And the client at my work dinner gave me a funny look when I asked him if I could smell his wine too.  What gives? 

Even if you don't drink wine, you know that the bouquets and aromas of a wine are an integral part of the wine experience.  When you're poured a glass of wine, you might swirl the glass, examine its color, stick your nose in the glass and inhale deeply to see how it smells. 

Noticed how none of the above include actually tasting or swallowing the wine?  Right up my alley.  And in wine tasting, our ability to smell and detect aromas is more acute than our ability to taste it. 

Here are a few things you can do to heighten your wine scent awareness.

You can buy a wine bouquet kit, like one of these below.  I think we got these from Wine Enthusiast a while back.  You can also find them on Amazon and get a very complete set of aromas included.

They offer several different bottled scents that you might find in a wine.  Good and bad smells.  If you've ever read a label on a bottle of wine where it describes "hints of tobacco, plum and a black pepper finish" and wondered how anyone could ever have a nose so polished that they could pick those scents out of the wine, this kit might help.

OR, if you've ever had a glass of wine and thought something tasted really off, but couldn't describe the awful smell or taste, this kit might help. 

They help train your nose to recognize scents that you might find in red or white wines.  The best is to hide the numbers on the bottles and go through and see if you can pick out the smell from the chart listed.  It's harder than you think!  And kind of a fun party game to see who can guess the most!  Because really, what's a party without sniffing glue and cauliflower?

Another option, if you want to save a few bucks on buying a kit, is to make a wine bouquet kit yourself!   It just requires getting your hands on a neutral wine to use as the base.  Ask your local wine shop to help you pick out neutral, blander wine in both red and white.  And I'd suggest cheap too!  No point in using expensive wine when you are going to taint it with different flavors!

Then you can go to store and buy a bunch of ingredients (recommendations below) to put in each wine.

Pour about 4 oz. of wine in each wine glass.

Make sure you number each glass and keep a key of what ingredient is in each numbered glass.  Just don't reveal the ingredient on the glass! 

Here are some ideas for ingredients:

White Wine base:  Honey, vanilla, nutmeg, grapefruit, peach, pear, pineapple (juice), lemon peel, oak, lemon juice, butter, cantaloupe, green tea.

Red Wine base:  Strawberry, strawberry jam, black pepper, tobacco, coffee grinds, oak, chocolate, mint, cherry, green pepper.

You don't need to add a lot of each.  Just enough that you can identify the smell within the wine.  If you need to add a chunk of fruit, just remove it before you actually do the wine "tasting."

Then you can smell the different wine glasses and see if you can guess the scent in each glass.   You'll be a wine bouquet master in no time.  Once you're able to recognize these scents in a bland wine, it will become easier to do so in a more complex wine as well. 

See, it is possible to have fun without actually drinking wine! 

At least that's what I keep telling myself....