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Enjoying wine with your nose

THE art of wine appreciation is a multi-sensory experience. About the only sense we don't use to appreciate wine is that of hearing. When I judge international wine competitions in Italy, France and the US, up to 30 percent of the score is awarded for smell. Because using your nose is so essential in assessing and appreciating a wine, I'll pick three of the most desirable aromas and suggest the grapes and wines that offer them.

Technique is important. When smelling a wine, use a generously sized glass and don't be timid.

Stick your nose well inside the glass and inhale slowly with your mouth slightly open to optimize your ability to smell.

Vanilla is one of the most prevalent and desirable aromas and it's usually the result of certain varieties like chardonnay being aged in French oak and, to a lesser extent, American oak.

If the tantalizing aromas of homemade vanilla ice cream or a vanilla souffl?? excite you, then try the Trapiche Oak Cask Chardonnay from Argentina or two quite affordable Burgundies, the Domaine Laroche Chardonnay and Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay. These offer a variety of attractive fruit scents in addition to elegant notes of vanilla.

The combination of fruitiness and vanilla make these wines natural companions to roasted or grilled oily fish like salmon, tuna and cod.

Discovering wines with scents of cherries is a classic wine experience. The perfect wine for this is an Italian sangiovese. The historic Chianti red wines of Tuscany that are at least 75 percent sangiovese deliver these aromas in abundance.

The Ruffino Chianti Superiore IL LEO DOCG and Mazzei Chianti Classico Fronterutoli DOCG are two elegant wines that deliver lovely cherry perfumes as well as savory cherry flavors on the palate.

Paired with grill meats, these aromatic wines are sublime.

Another intriguing scent is black pepper. The Spanish grenacha variety, known in France as Grenache, makes wine that often tickles your nose with a tang of black pepper.

Try the Huellas Priorat or Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses, two super wines from Priorato, the new star red wine region in northeast Spain.

Both these hearty reds explode from the glass with pungent black pepper and spicy fruit aromas and flavors, making them suitable for moderately spicy meat dishes. So the next time you savor the excellence of wines, don't forget to use your nose!


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