This Scratch-'N'-Sniff Wine Book Will Get Your Nose Drunk...On Knowledge

scratchPhoto: Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
If you can't tell a good wine from a bad one, don't worry — neither can most professional wine tasters. In fact, several studies have shown that the very subjective art of rating wines is more than just imperfect. One four-year experiment demonstrated that judges, when blindly presented with one wine three times, gave the same vino vastly different scores on each tasting, thinking they were different wines. So, those ratings of 93 and 94 you see on bottles at the store? Take them with a large grain of salt.
What isn't bunk, however, is the complex mélange of aromas and flavors that make up every wine, even plonk. True wine connoisseurship comes from being able to distinguish those volatile compounds that waft up from the glass and into the olfactory bulb of your brain. Fortunately, a new book by Richard Betts helps newbies flex that muscle by doing more than just describing wine's many bouquets — The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert actually lets you smell them.
In his book, Betts breaks down the hundred-odd aromas often used to describe wine into four categories: fruit, wood, earth, and "other." It also looks at the typical scent components of whites and reds, explaining how to differentiate the more subtle notes among them.
But, at only 10 pages long and resembling a children's book more than Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine, the Scratch and Sniff Guide won't dive too deep into the complex chemical soup that makes up every bottle — and it probably couldn't. The Guardian reports that an Austrian wine scientist identified "27 distinct organic acids in wine, 23 varieties of alcohol in addition to the common ethanol, more than 80 esters and aldehydes, 16 sugars, plus a long list of assorted vitamins and minerals that wouldn't look out of place on the ingredients list of a cereal pack." Whoa.
And, while NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff notes that the book's smells themselves aren't especially true to life, Betts says that's not the point. "It's not about saying that this smell is the most faithful recreation of peach in a glass of wine," he tells NPR. "But, the book gets you thinking about what you like and don't like — and talking about them in terms of vocabulary [readers] already have, not in 'wine speak.'"
So, forget the scores, and learn to trust your nose. (NPR)

More from Food & Drinks

When ex-teen Rachel Gelmis was drug tested, she knew she was clean. But the test thought differently. Her results were, like, insanely positive for a lot ...
It's no secret that food is one of the best categories for nostalgia. Who doesn't wax poetic about snack foods like Dunkaroos? But not all of our favorite...
If you've got a Trader Joe's in your neighborhood, chances are it's your go-to supermarket. It's cheap, convenient, and the snacks are unbeatable. It ...
S'mores are a messy dessert favorite. But why not skip the sticky situation and enjoy yours in a cone
Turmeric has quickly become classified as one of those magic superfoods — you know, the ones that you're always hearing about. This spice is basically the ...
While some people might be trying to get you to delete your Instagram food pics, there are many, many more tinkering around in their high-tech laboratories...
Growing up, your parents may have told you to be grateful for your food, because some people are starving. Now, your own meals can actually help other ...
(Paid Content) Scrambled eggs for breakfast? Yawn. Standard-issue pancakes? Predictable. To effectively get us out of bed in the a.m., we prefer a morning ...
Coffee lovers of the world, get ready. We have news that might make even a die-hard caffeine addict à la Lorelai Gilmore jump up and down in excitement. ...
DIY cotton candy ice cream that doesn't require an ice cream maker? Winning
Whether you're brunching or, uh, dinnering, etiquette is of the utmost importance when dining out. And no, we don't mean keeping your elbows off the table...
Once in college, I had a friend Google "how to make a grilled cheese," and I remember being completely baffled that someone would need a step-by-step ...
Once the vegetable our moms would have to beg us to try ("just a bite!"), today, we can't get enough of cauliflower. It practically defines the word ...
Great drinks, a perfect soundtrack, the perfect lighting: all these things can make a party good. But what makes a get-together memorable? The food. Once ...