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How to create a homemade wine aroma kit 

A homemade wine aroma kit is a cheap and easy solution to use for practicing wine aroma description. You just need a base wine, different produce, spices or materials, and of course some time to plan ahead. The aroma references will have to be used within the next few days of preparation.

I found training for wine aroma identification more efficient when aromas are presented in a base wine, so to mimic a real wine tasting situation. I also found through my research that the training efficiency was higher when references were real products (e.g. real fruit versus an aromatic composition) or were real wines with distinct characters (see Sulmont et al, 1999).

Advice to prepare your homemade wine aroma kit

Select a base wine

How to choose the base wine? A base wine is by definition neutral, without faults, without strong aromas, tastes or mouthfeels. The best base wine I found for creating my wine aroma kits are in bag in a box, which mean you also have a large volume of the same batch to play with.

  • Prepare these wine references directly in a wine glass or in an hermetic container that you can store in the fridge if you don’t plan to use the aroma reference right away.

  • If you add pieces of products in the wine such for green bell pepper, let them macerate for 30 min to an hour and remove the pieces so that you don’t have any visual cues if you try to recognize these aroma references blind.
  • Use a “control wine” in your wine aroma kit, i.e. a wine without any addition to help you compare the wine without and with the aroma. It helps with the process of identification.

Below are some recipes for wine aroma references, borrowed from Dr. Ann Noble. Indeed, these references are a good complement to the wine aroma wheel.

Recipes for a homemade wine aroma kit

White wine common aromas

in 1 oz neutral white wine 

  • Asparagus: several drops of brine of canned asparagus
  • Bell Pepper: tiny piece of bell pepper; don’t leave them in for too long
  • Vanilla: Drop of vanilla extract
  • Clove: One clove
  • Citrus: ~ 1 teaspoon of fresh orange and grapefruit juice
  • Peach: several teaspoons of peach or apricot puree or juice
  • Pineapple: 1 teaspoon juice
  • Honey: 1 – 2 Tablespoons

Red wine common aromas

in 1 oz neutral red wine 

  • Asparagus: several drops of brine of canned asparagus
  • Bell Pepper: tiny piece of bell pepper 
  • Vanilla: drop of vanilla extract
  • Clove: one clove
  • Soy sauce: few drops, great for older red wines
  • Berry: Fresh/frozen berries and/or jams
  • Berry jam: 1-3 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • Black pepper: few grains black pepper 
  • Anise, black licorice: use few drops of anise extract


Sparkling wine particular aromas

In 1 oz neutral white still wine 

  • Lime: a few drops of Rose’s lime juice or squeezed lime juice
  • Apple: Sniff freshly cut apple
  • Toasted hazelnuts: Crushed nuts alone
  • Sour cream/yogurt: 1Tbsp. in empty glass
  • Yeasty: 1 Tsp of Vegemite® or Marmite®)
  • Cherry/strawberry: few drops of flavored juices or extracts 
  • Nutmeg: few grains
  • Caramel: crush one Kraft® caramel 
  • Vanilla: as for table wines


Wine defects

In 1 oz neutral white or red wine 

  • Moldy Cork:  the BEST standard is the actual example of the defect. Save a spoiled wine which has a moldy odor, produced by TCA (trichloroanisole). 

          You can freeze the cork-tainted wine for future reference so that it won’t oxidized.

  • Oxidation: a few drops of sherry
  • Volatile acidity (VA) A few drops vinegar
  • Sulfur:      

                          H2S Hydrogen sulfide, boiled egg or black sand from Japanese food store 

                          Ethyl mercaptan: Smell of natural gas (tell people to experiment on their own
                           carefully.

                          S02 Sulfur dioxideDried apricots (which were treated with sulfite)

                         Caution: Many asthmatics are very sensitive to it!

  • Brettanomyces is a wild yeast found in some wine: a drop of creosote or add a piece of old fashioned Band-Aid to create a horsy, sweaty saddle, barnyard smell

Check out the Wine Aroma Dictionary for additional suggestions of aroma references

Sulmont C., Lesschaeve I., Sauvageot F. and Issanchou S. (1999). Comparative training procedures to learn odor descriptors. Effects on profiling performance. Journal of Sensory Studies. 14 467-490. 
DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-459X.1999.tb00128.x

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