Sniff Longer Than You Sip

I completed a powerful guided meditation today. The focus was on the power of our senses. It talked about scent in particular, and the ability for it to conjure happy memories from our past. For instance, the scent of cut grass makes me think of childhood. Mowing the lawn, playing catch on the grass, laying on a picnic blanket. This powerful association makes me think about freedom and innocence.

Our senses are a wonderful tool for mindfulness, allowing us to truly savor experiences when we slow down. This is one of the reasons that enjoying wine slowly is so important to me, and why it is such a powerful vehicle for recalling positive experiences. To achieve this, it's all about the nose. 

The Art of Smelling Wine

Figuratively, I often talk about slowing down and smelling the flowers. In this case, slowing down and smelling the wine is the key to getting the most out of what's in your glass. Unfortunately, most people skip over this important component of wine tasting entirely. I often watch people pop, pour and guzzle, perhaps offering a few flicks of the wrist to swirl before immediately placing the glass to their lips.

Wine Tip: Swirl and sniff the wine in your glass twice as long as you spend tasting.

For me, the art of smelling wine, and taking in complex aromas, is the most important step in wine tasting. This is especially true when it comes to aromatic varieties like Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer. I always try to remember to spend the most time swirling and sniffing, before and after I take the first sip. Because our sense of smell is far more powerful than our sense of taste, this is where slowing down really pays off. Before you power through that next bottle of wine, try to take your time, swirl slowly, and allow the complex aromas to flow out of the glass. It just may transport you to another place, or summon a happy memory from your past.

Five Reasons to Sniff Longer Than You Sip

Here are a few reasons why you should take more time to smell the wine in your glass. (I found a lot of these on the internet, so it must be true!)

  1. The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses.

  2. Studies show that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell, especially when it comes to pleasure and well-being. 

  3. According to Madeline at, the act of swirling wine actually increases the number of aroma compounds that release into the air. She says to look for Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Bouquets, and explains where they come from. You can also watch her awesome short video on how to swirl wine.

  4. Swirling and sniffing allows the wine time to stretch its legs! Good wine needs to oxidize slightly when opened, especially if it has been bottled up for a while. If it has been properly stored, it will have been exposed to very little oxygen. As wines age, they need air to help fully release their aromas and flavors. Swirling and smelling helps. Besides, if you were corked up in a bottle for a decade, wouldn't you want to stretch and breathe for a while when somebody let you out? 

  5. It forces you to take your time, be mindful, and enjoy wine longer. Isn't that reason enough?

If you really want to get into refining the art of smelling wine, check out Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser's terrific post (appropriately) titled The Art of Smelling Wine