Now that you’ve looked at the wine and swirled it around in your glass, there’s only one more step before you get to drink it: smelling the wine.

When you smell a wine, you’re preparing your brain for the wine you’re about to taste.

When you smell a wine, you’re preparing your brain for the wine you’re about to taste. Our sense of smell has a profound affect on the way our brain processes flavor. If you want to better understand just how profound, hold your nose and then put a strawberry in your mouth and start to chew. Halfway through chewing, release your nose. You’ll notice right away how much more you actually taste when you have your sense of smell. This is why smell is so important when it comes to tasting a wine.

It’s Time To Learn How To Smell Wine!

When you go to smell the wine, stick your nose all the way into the glass and close your eyes — sure you might feel silly doing it, but you’re going to notice a lot more smells this way — then breathe in deep. As you smell the wine, think about what scents you’re picking up, and keep in mind that there are no wrong answers! If it’s a white wine, maybe you smell bananas, lemon rind, pineapple or even that scent that is always in the air when you go to the beach. If it’s a red wine, you may smell prunes, cherries, strawberries, peppers, plums or tobacco. In both situations, you may say you just smell grapes, and that is totally fine too. Your brain can only pick up scents that are in your memory, meaning they are scents you’ve smelled before or smell often. That’s why ten people could be sitting around a table smelling the same wine and say they smell ten different things!

Now that we’ve given our brain some material to ready our taste buds, we want to determine if we’re picking up any scents that could signal that something could be wrong with the wine, such as the wine being corked. A corked wine is not pleasant to drink, so if you smell anything that is reminiscent of wet newspaper, a moldy dank basement, old wet rags or wet dog, there’s a chance the wine is corked. If you’re not sure, feel free to ask those drinking with you if they pick up similar scents, and never be afraid to ask your server what they think, because if the bottle is corked, they should replace it. A good rule of thumb to remember here is that the only way a wine can be corked is if the wine bottle was sealed using an actual real cork. If instead the wine is closed with a screw cap or synthetic plastic cork, having a corked wine is not possible.

Now that you’ve assessed the wine for any irregularities, learned how to sniff wine, and readied your taste buds, the next step is drinking!