Essences for Sensory Evaluation


At my wine appreciation classes and wine and food pairing parties, I always include a sensory component since 80% of taste is really smell. It is important to train your nose on what you smell in the glass. It is easy to do at home and fun to do at parties.

There are sensory kits you can buy. These are easy to use and come with instructions. You can also make your own at home.

Select a bland, neutral white wine that does not have a strong flavor or aroma. Get several big bowled wine glasses – one for every aroma you want to do. Put about 1 or 2 oz of the wine in each glass. Then add your aroma components like:

Vanilla – 1 drop of vanilla extract per oz of wine
Butter – 1 drop of butter extract per oz of wine
Peach – 1 tbsp of juice or puree per oz of wine
Melon – 1 inch cube piece of melon per oz of wine
Citrus – 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice or grapefruit juice per oz of wine

You can do the same thing in a red base wine with ingredients that are more suited to red wines. Red wines are more difficult than whites due to bolder aromas and oak content. However, it is more real life to do the red wine aromas in red wine. In addition to the above ingredients which you can also use in reds, you can add some of these:

Black Pepper – ¼ tsp of freshly ground black pepper per oz of wine
Chocolate – 1 tsp cocoa per oz of wine
Molasses – ¼ tsp of black molasses per oz of wine
Wood – 1 tsp sawdust per oz of wine

Now cover each glass with aluminum foil so that the entire bowl is fully disguised and the ingredients cannot be seen. Leave covered until ready to serve.

Once ready to serve, puncture the top of the foil with an ice pick or other slender hole. Number the glasses and write the number with a corresponding aroma on your key so that you remember which glass is which and so that guests will not move the glasses around and mix up the aromas. Give each guest a piece of paper numbered to correspond with the numbered glasses and have them write the aroma they guess. After everyone has completed the game, reveal the correct answers and offer prizes.