The use of a wine aroma kit (or wine references in our sensory jargon) is one of the best ways to improve your ability to identify wine aromas, develop your own wine tasting terms and avoid the “tip of the nose” phenomenon.
Two solutions to get a wine aroma kit: make one or buy one !
Make one: That’s the cheap solution, if you have time and plan to use the aromas within few days.
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, 1998).
You can always buy a wine aroma kit: There are many commercial aroma kits out there for wine professionals or for casual wine tasters. There are pros and cons to use these kits; it requires some practice to manipulate properly the aromas and store them well. Additionally the cost may be a drawback, especially if you are a student starting your wine tasting training.
However, if you don't feel like taking the Do It Yourself solution below, I offer some thoughts on what to consider when buying a commercial wine aroma kit to one visitor in the Q&A section of this website.
I have been working with Wine Awakenings lately. They have launched a sensory kit dedicated to wine appreciation including aromas, tastants, and various tools such as the wine aroma wheel.
How to choose a 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.
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.
in 1 oz neutral white wine
in 1 oz neutral red wine
In 1 oz neutral white still wine
In 1 oz neutral white or red wine
You can freeze the cork-tainted wine for future reference so that it won’t oxidized.
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
S02 Sulfur dioxideDried apricots (which were treated with sulfite)
Caution: Many asthmatics are very sensitive to it!
Check out the Wine Aroma Dictionary for additional suggestions of aroma references