How To Become An Expert In Appreciating Wine: An Exploration Of Taste And Smell
Are you curious about wine and want to understand more about it? Read the book Cork Dork to find out what wine is really all about.
The award-winning author, Bianca Bosker, left her job as a journalist in order to become a certified sommelier.
This journey of exploration taught her many lessons from discovering why we like certain wines better than others, to finding out where flavor comes from and training her sense of smell in order to truly appreciate wine.
Through reading this book, you will learn why the taste vs smell debate exists, how licker rocks can help uncover interesting flavors in different wines, and how you can increase your knowledge in the world of oenology.
Whatever level of expertise you have with regards to wine, Cork Dork will give you an insider’s insight into the subject.
The Key Message Of This Section: A Chance Encounter Ignites An Obsession With Wine
Bosker had never been into wine–it was simply something you served at restaurants.
That changed when she met a sommelier preparing for the World’s Best Sommelier Competition and asked, “How much of a competition can serving wine possibly be?”
The answer was intense and, as her journalist curiosity kicked in, Bosker wanted to understand what these sensory experts were doing.
She quit her job and dedicated her time to tasting and learning about wine.
Her goal? To pass the Certified Sommelier Exam by becoming one herself.
But it wasn’t an easy task.
The exam is considered the industry standard for becoming a fully-fledged sommelier and involves mastering an immense amount of knowledge about different grape varieties, countries of origin, and vintage years.
It requires serious dedication—in effect, being crazy enough and obsessive enough to really become a top sommelier!
Sommeliers Put Great Effort Into Improving Their Sense Of Taste And Aroma
The sommeliers that the author, Bianca Bosker, interviewed made it very clear that they are deeply serious about smell and taste.
For instance, one master sommelier from California suggested starting with fruits by tasting all the different varieties, including ripe and unripe oranges, navel oranges, green lemons and limes – even the pits and peels!
They also take more extreme measures to protect their sense of taste.
For instance, a top sommelier always travels with a batch of homemade granola so his taste baseload is consistent.
Another advises stocking up on a favorite toothpaste brand to avoid confusion from trying new brands.
These may be extreme measures for most people but they demonstrate how seriously these highly trained professionals take their senses of smell and taste.
We All Have The Power To Improve Our Sense Of Smell Through Training
Focusing on the topic of flavor and its components, it’s clear that most of us still don’t truly understand what goes into creating a delicious drinking or dining experience.
While it was commonly thought up until the 1970s that the tongue could identify different tastes on various parts – sweet, salty, sour, etc.
– this has since been debunked.
In fact, 2001’s mistranslation of a German PhD student’s dissertation all but confirmed that flavors are actually experienced with all parts of the tongue.
Additionally, understanding how flavor works means seeing the difference between taste and smell.
Although both play an important role in creating flavors we love, your nose can actually detect an impressively large array of smells – much more than we realize!
This is why something like coffee with your nose held closed may not taste as flavorful as it would if you were able to smell its aroma too.
The good news is that by doing things like training ourselves to recognize essential aromas or engaging in smell-focused activities such as those run by Professor Thomas Hummel from Dresden University, we can help improve our recognition skills over time!
Unlock The Secrets Of A Great Glass Of Wine With These Pro-Tips
When drinking a glass of wine, it’s wise to learn how to detect and describe the wine’s characteristics.
Luckily, this is not too difficult with a bit of practice.
First, look at how the wine rolls down the sides of the glass after you swirl it – slow and thick tears hint at high alcohol levels while thin and quick tears point to less alcohol.
Then, smell the wine – don’t just take a quick whiff – hold the glass almost parallel to the floor so more aroma is exposed and sniff from multiple angles to get all of its flavors.
Third, sip on the wine by swirling it around your mouth before you swallow it with pursed lips and sucking in air for odor molecules.
Lastly check for tannins as well as body through feeling what type of viscosity it has in your mouth.
Creamy wines are full-bodied whereas lighter wines have skim milk type textures.
All these simple steps will allow you identify different notes in every glass as well as come up with accurate descriptions for them!
The Key To Being A Top Sommelier: The Intricacies Of Service And Judgment
For professional sommeliers, service is just as important to their job as knowing wine is.
From decanting wine over a candle and making sure to pour women before men and guests before hosts, to avoiding dripping any of the precious liquid from the bottle, there’s so much more than just knowing about different types of wines.
Sommeliers like Victoria James must also possess delicate situational judgment when it comes to helping their customers find the perfect drink for them.
People don’t necessarily know what kind of bottle they want – a young male banker might think he wants something big and powerful, but this could be completely wrong for the food his table has ordered.
The sommelier must discern between a customer’s desires for how they come across and what would actually work best with their order.
James must make these exact kind of calls every day – ultimately leading to the restaurant getting more money in return as an excellent service is always worth it!
At Marea, a typical bottle can cost up to $300 or even $1000 or more in some cases!
It begs the question though …
if bottles can cost that money – is that wine really worth it? That’s something we’ll explore in detail in the next section.
The Key To Identifying Good Wine: Always Pick Something You Want To Keep Drinking
When it comes to deciding whether a bottle of wine is good or not, one key factor that many sommeliers and connoisseurs look for is whether or not you’re wanting to keep drinking it.
Essentially, if you take a sip of the wine, enjoy it, and find yourself wanting another – then you know it’s likely good quality.
The level of quality does also correlate with price – generally the more expensive the bottle, the better the quality.
However Karl Storchmann, NYU economist and founder of the Journal of Wine Economics explains that at a certain point price no longer really corresponds with higher quality; instead, sometimes people are simply just paying for scarcity.
In addition to this natural approach to judging wine quality, some manufacturers will also artificially manipulate their wines.
This can range from using oak chips in steel vats when real oak barrels would be too expensive, to using additive CY3079 or grape juice concentrates such as Mega Purple to boost aromas and flavours.
Some view this as manipulation rather than enhancement – but if it ends up making an inexpensive but tasty beverage then who’s to say its wrong?
Bosker’s answer summed up essentially what makes a good wine: its yummy!
One sip should lead you into wanting another sip and so on.
If you find yourself reaching for that second glass quite easily – then congratulate yourself in your new discovery!
The Key To Unlocking Wine Tasting Notes: Finding A Common, Understandable Vocabulary
In Cork Dork, author Bianca Bosker is determined to understand the wine tasting process.
During her exploration of this topic, she encounters sommeliers reeling off descriptors like dusty-road and stale beer – terms that are completely meaningless (at least to normal wine drinkers).
This begs the question: Are tasting notes really helpful? Or do they more likely confuse us than help us?
Evidence suggests that tasting notes can be confusing for amateur wine drinkers.
In a 2007 study, participants were asked to identify which of two wines was which based on professional critics’ tasting notes alone.
The results showed the participants’ guesses were no better than if they had randomly chosen.
Dedication And Hard Work Pays Off: How Andie Bosker Got Her Sommelier Certification
The Cork Dork book follows author Bianca Bosker’s journey of mastering the art of wine.
When she set out on her quest, she had little knowledge and experience with wine, but dedicated herself to studying it and taking the Certified Sommelier exam – a challenging task that tests several areas in order to become certified.
For weeks prior to her test, Bosker spent many hours studying hard by blind tasting wines alone every day before breakfast and learning about wine facts through 1,000 flash cards loaded onto her phone.
Additionally, she put in effort towards honing her service skills by practicing the proper movements for pouring sparkling wine around empty chairs in her kitchen.
On the day of the test, Bosker felt plenty anxious but was still confident that her knowledge and blind-tasting skills would get her through successfully.
Much to her surprise (and joy!) when it came time for our final task – serving a Master Sommelier by uncorking a bottle of champagne – Bosker remembered all the techniques she had practiced months earlier and did it perfectly while keeping calm.
In no more than 18 months after barely even knowing what sommelier meant, Bianca Bosker passed the test and became an official certified sommelier!
The final message of Cork Dork revolves around the idea that we can all learn from sommeliers to discover great wines.
We may not be able to apply their intense dedication and knowledge, but by investing some time in improving your ability to smell and taste the difference between good and bad wine, you can start to confidently order the best bottles on any menu.
As a final actionable advice, next time you eat out, let the sommelier take care of you.
Chances are that she knows which wines are worth your money, what obscure labels have superior flavors, and is passionate about helping you find something extraordinary.
Trust her expertise – it will pay off!