Jul 19, 2010

Product Review: The Wine Aroma Wheel

Over the last couple of months I kept encountering mentions of Dr. Ann Noble’s invention, the Wine Aroma Wheel, in my readings about wine. First time was in a 2007 book of profiles about women in the wine industry, Women of the Vine: Inside the World of Women Who Make, Taste, and Enjoy Wine, in which Noble was the subject of an entire chapter. Then I came across a discussion of the Aroma Wheel in the recent highly-readable biography of Robert M. Parker, The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr., and the Reign of American Taste. And then someone whose knowledge of wine I respect spoke enthusiastically about the Wheel.

The universe seemed to be telling me something, so I embarked on a little research. I liked what I read, so I purchased the Wheel last week (it's only $6 plus a non-scalping 75¢ shipping). I've been having a lot of fun with it ever since. It's a really useful wine tool, not least because it helps reinforce use of the "proper" terms involved in wine tasting.

According to Wikipedia, Ann Noble received a Ph.D. in Food Science from the University of Massachusetts. She worked as a sensory chemist for the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, where she discovered that no objective framework and no agreed-upon terminology existed for wine aromas. Her research led to the development of the Aroma Wheel, which provides a visual graphic of 12 basic aroma categories and components that tasters encounter in wine (e.g., Earthy, Woody, Spicy). These 12 categories are then sub-divided into different aromas each can contain, and then subdivided again. For example, the Fruity category is subdivided into six sub-categories (including Tropical Fruit, which is then subdivided into four entries: Lychee, Pineapple,  Melon, and Banana).

It sounds complicated, but the Wheel is easy to use. It provides a great way for people new to wine to learn the lingo as well as to train themselves to understand the aromas they encounter. And for those of us who have more experience with tasting, the Wheel helps to sharpen aroma detection skills. Also, by reminding you of aromas that might be in the glass you're tasting, aromas you might be ignoring, the Wheel can help kick you out of any "aroma rut" you might have fallen into.
Photo: Fruity section of Aroma Wheel copyright A C Noble 1990 2002 wwwwinearomwheelcom.jpg
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