IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Take a good sniff of your wine

Joe Bastianich, a winemaker, shares some tips on how to smell wine

You don't need to be an expert on wine to enjoy it. But there's a lot you can learn to enjoy it even more. Joe Bastianich, a winemaker and restaurateur, was invited on TODAY to share some of his tips on how you can cultivate your ability to smell — and appreciate — a good wine.

Sense of smellSmell is the most powerful of all the senses, most directly connected to the brain, and keenly related to memory. "Olfactory stimulus is the fast track to the brain," says Joe Bastianich. The olfactory sense can be cultivated.  Some people have more of an aptitude than others. Tasting and smelling wines creates a data bank of smell sensations that you remember and can refer to. 

The glassThe aroma of wine is greatly affected by the shape and size of the glass. There are three basic glass shapes and sizes: one for rieslings, one for pinot noirs, and one for cabernets. Each has a different rim to experience the smell of the wine and a different shape to create various trajectories for the wine to travel to the mouth. 

Wine scentsThe easiest fragrances to pick up in wine are things like key limes, blackberries, raspberries, blueberry pie, cedar cigar box, honey. You have these sensations in your mind from the real world. The next time you open one of these wines, you will be able to distinguish certain scents, and that's how you begin your wine education.

Swirling wineIntroducing air into wine creates a molecular change that releases the aroma of the wine.  Opening the cork introduces air, pouring or decanting introduces air, and swirling it introduces air. Swirling the wine in your glass can be done in the air or on the table. Beginners should probably start by putting the pedestal of the glass on a flat surface and gently spinning it around to get the wine spinning. You can also spin it in the air, but be careful not to spill it.

Wines Joe shared with the TODAY cast:

  • 2005 Donnhoff Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spatlese
    Riesling Glass: The smallest glass of the three is shaped to make the experience of drinking riesling heightened. A flared rim lets the aromas hit your nose, and lets the wine hit the front of your tongue and soft palate (where the wine hits your palate completely alters the taste of the wine). A riesling will always have the aroma of lime or lemon, or petroleum.
  • Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2005
    Pinot glass: The size is in between the riesling and the cabernet glasses, large and tulip shaped for wine of  great aromatic power complexity. Pinot Noir will consistently have the aromas of raspberry and tobacco.
  • Grgich Hills Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002Cabernet Glass: The largest glass, with a rim closing inward towards the opening.  Perfect for propelling wines of intense fruit and extraction.
    Cabernet may have aromas of blueberry pie, mulled stone fruit, cedar cigar box, horse sweat, cocoa, leather, currants, balsamic, or raw meat.