It’s hard to get there, and it’s even harder to fully understand what they are talking about when words like “cinnamon”, “herbaceous” or even “horse sweat” (that’s right) flow into conversation. I’ve seen people trying to blend in by imitating this guys or nodding when they say that a wine reminds them of an antique fitment their parents inherited from their parents. I even did it myself once or twice to be honest with you. But when it comes to aromas, all you need to know is that it is so subjective that there will be no right or wrong answer for any of us. We are just guessing. (If you are in the wine business don’t fly off the handle yet, give me some time to explain).
Certain wines suffer a second fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation caused by bacteria (lactic bacteria lays on the grape skins and leaves mostly) that takes Malic acid from the grape and converts it into Lactic acid. Malic acid is present in green apples for example, and Lactic acid is present on dairy. So when this fermentation is intentionally caused, what they are looking for is to smooth down the sharpness of Malic acid and go for something more unctuous or soft if you will.
Now let’s take three different people, blindfold them and give them a glass of Lactic acid. There is no way any of this guys is going to guess Lactic acid, but they might find a hint of chocolate in it, or maybe yogurt, or milk perhaps, or something with this component in it. So from one element, we might get five or six different answers, which proves how subjective tasting can be.
Now let’s do it the other way around. Let’s take a random guy and give him a glass with some chopped Rambutan in it. You don’t know what Rambutan is? Exactly my point. There is absolutely no way he is going to guess Rambutan, he might mix it up with something else, maybe something that smells like it, but he will definitely not say Rambutan because it is not in his brain record. So then again, completely subjective. (Rambutan is a Malaysian fruit by the way)
Now you are thinking: But what about the wine descriptions in every bottle? Is that a scam? Are we so innocent?
Not at all. That description is done by one person, usually the winemaker, and it is his interpretation of this wine, but it is not the only one, and is not the absolute truth. Of course we are talking about a guy who has been trained for this, so he might be a little bit more accurate than us.
If you get a glass of Heineken and another glass of Budweiser and you taste them, you can tell the difference right away. If you take two different brands of cigarettes and you don’t smoke, you’ll probably find no difference between them, but a smoker will. It’s all about custom. The more you try the more into details you get. Even tap water tastes different everywhere we go, but just because we are so used to it.
Drink straight Cabernet Sauvignon for a month and then switch to Malbec and you’ll see a huge difference. That’s good training in my experience. That’s what we used to do in Wine University in order to get a trained palate.
Don’t waste any more time, open a bottle of wine, it´s training day!