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  Editorial Issue 93, February 2011   
When the Nose Tells More Than LabelsWhen the Nose Tells More Than Labels  Contents 
Issue 92, January 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 94, March 2011

When the Nose Tells More Than Labels


 Sensorial tasting of a wine is always a deep experience, rich of emotions - both positive and negative as well - requiring attention, a continuous recalling to your memory, to your experience and to your critical and analytical attitude. Nevertheless, sensorial tasting is an exercise in which you will never end learning - and this is the good part of it - one of those activities in which you always have to face your ignorance and how much you still have to learn. The more you know, or believe to know, the more you realize the little you know. Knowledge and learning are exercises which let you realize about your ignorance: you can be happy for the little you learn every time, a little less happy for the awareness of what you still have to learn. Nevertheless, sometimes, with the little you know, as well as with your experience and trusting to your senses - smell and taste - you can discover interesting things, even unexpected ones.


 

 The scene is usual and well known to everyone interested in wine, not only as a beverage on its own, but in particular to the expression of a culture and the characteristic of a territory, last but not the least, to the technical wine making aspects of its production. You pour the right quantity of wine in the glass and you start to “make friends with it” by observing the aspect, the color and its transparency. You watch the glass looking for some clues, you put it in contrast to light, searching for something white, tilting the glass while trying to assess nuances. You make suppositions, you try to get an idea about it. Then it comes the time when you get the glass close to the nose - one of the most exciting moments of sensorial tasting - and smell, bringing up air full of aromas, starting the initial search for clues which can signal the presence of faults. Luckily, there are no faults and you then proceed with the search of other clues and positive qualities.

 You smell one more time, you swirl the glass in order to allow oxygen to “open up” the wine and, you go again with another smell. In some wines you clearly perceive the primary aromas of the grape, in others are the aromas of the grape revealed by fermentation and aging to be perceived more. A look at the label, in order to know what the producer has to say about the wine - it should be said, in case the law permits this - and you know, in a moment, the grapes used for the production of that wine and what was done in the winery. Sometimes you read that wine is made from 100% of a specific grape, proudly written in the label, in order to give you a better idea while clearing your doubts. Then you smell the glass again, but the aromas you get to the nose tell a truly different story, so different from what you read on the label. «Why are in this wine these aromas which make you recall and think about other grapes?» To clear your doubt, you smell the glass again while trying to convince yourself that wine is a mono varietal one, and the aromas of other grapes cannot be there. Nevertheless, they are there and continue to lead your mind somewhere else without clearing your doubt at all.

 Then you try to explain that anomaly by thinking about the aromas produced by fermentation and, in particular, the aromas yeast can give the wine, making sometimes them equal to other ones. Nevertheless that aroma is there and does not recall the work of yeast at all, indeed to other grapes. You then try to get answers from tasting, but also in this case some flavors - a roundness or acidity not corresponding to the grape stated in the label - strengthen your doubt that, at this point, begins to become a certainty. At the end you surrender to your doubt and you think about a number: 85. A number frequently explaining many things and allowing producers to “hide” things on the label, by making you see gold when there is no gold around. For the sake of truth, it must be said some disciplinary expressly forbid to write in the label the name of the grape or all the grapes used for the production of a wine. Eighty-five, that in our case means 85% - is the number many production disciplinary defines as enough to consider a wine made with just one grape, in other words allows to hide some truths and to declare as a mono varietal a wine which is not.

 Laws regulating the production of wine - and not only in Italy - are in many cases excessively permissive, defining too much flexible criteria while hiding - and this is not a news - transparency and honesty to consumers. In some disciplinary it is enough a grape is present for at least 85% to declare that wine as mono varietal, that is produced with that grape only. The remaining 15% can be any other grape, recommended or allowed in a specific area. Do you think 15% is a negligible quantity? Let's consider a non aromatic variety, therefore having no “easy” and immediate aromas. If to this grape we add a 15% of any aromatic grape, that wine drastically changes and, like a magic, it is enriched with pleasing and primary aromas. 15% is enough to completely change the character of a grape or wine. The possibility or the obligation, according to some disciplinary, to not declare some grapes in the label allow, moreover, easy and legal speculations in those areas in which they try to promote some local grapes poor in aromas - by enriching them with aromatic varieties - and giving to that variety a totally alien character. Come on, we are not all stupid: the trick is evident and you can also smell it.

 We are not asking about indicating in the label the percentage of each grape used in a wine: it is obvious they can change according to vintage and the weather conditions of a year. Some justify this - also in case the law permits them to do so - by saying some grapes were not written in the label because the quantity is so small as to be considered as negligible. So, if it is true it was negligible, why did they choose to add it? Maybe because it is a small production and by making so they can use it instead of throwing it away? This is just a light justification. If a presumed negligible quantity - and 15% certainly is not negligible - introduced by a grape having a strong character, of aromas or flavors, this significantly contributes to drastically change the organoleptic profile of a wine. And this also makes you ask the same old question: how much are reliable the labels in wine bottles? While waiting for concrete measures, let's continue to trust our nose. And our senses.

Antonello Biancalana






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  Editorial Issue 93, February 2011   
When the Nose Tells More Than LabelsWhen the Nose Tells More Than Labels  Contents 
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