Five Things I Have Learned from Tim Gaiser…so far

 

Sitting in on a webinar with Tim Gaiser is almost as good as hearing him speak in person. Tim Gaiser is a Master Sommelier who has made an art and science out of wine tasting. He studies wine tasting with a deep intellectual curiosity that keeps his talks fresh and fascinating. There is always more to learn about wine and wine tasting. Here are five things that I learned last week at Mastering the Sommelier Tasting Method with Tim Gaiser a webinar hosted by the Napa Valley Wine Academy.

  1. There are now seven tastes rather than five. The original five tastes are Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty and Umami which is MSG. The two that have been added are Fat and Kokumi which is dairy.
  1. Floral aromas are best perceived at the edge of the glass.
  2. Pyrazines or bell pepper aromas are found in three types of wine; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. All three grapes are related. They’ve kept pyrazines in the family.
  3. Determine residual sugar on the finish. It is easy to confuse ‘fruit forward’ with residual sugar. But the sweetness of ripe fruit will be perceived on the front. The sweetness of residual sugar will linger with the finish.
  4. The most popular phrase with consumers when selling wine is ‘…a smooth finish.’

Wine tasting, like any skill, takes study, focus and practice. But gaining insight from a Master is invaluable in honing the skill.

Visualizing Scent

Chihuly

Chihuly

When you roll the wine around then put your nose in the glass, the first question you ask yourself is, ‘What do I smell?’ But before you ask yourself that question, ask yourself this question, ‘Where are my eyes?’ Where do your eyes go when you are smelling wine? According to Tim Gaiser, if you are like 90% of wine tasters, your eyes go down and to the left with a soft focus. You are not looking at anything in your environment. You are looking at the images in your head. For most of us, our scent memories are very visual. As we smell the wine, our minds are conjuring up images of black cherries, oak barrels, and vanilla beans.

Tim Hallbom, a behavioral scientist who studied Tim Gaiser and other Master Sommeliers and wine professionals has found that our sense of scent can be manipulated by manipulating our visual scent memories. If the first image that comes to mind is a blackberry bush, mentally move that image further away. What happens to the scent you are experiencing? Now, move the image closer to you and notice how the scent changes.

So, how does this help us become better tasters? Now, that we know that scent memory is visual, we can improve our scent memories by really paying attention to what the scent objects look like. The next time you come across a scent that could be found in wine, for example, a rose, study it as you smell it. Firmly etch it, both the aroma and object itself in your mind. Another good exercise for improving scent memory is to review scents even when you’re not tasting wine. Mentally call up objects along with their aromas. This type of visualization has been shown to be very beneficial in strengthening and increasing our scent memories.

Now, swirl the wine in your glass once again. Put your nose in the glass and inhale. What objects come into your mind’s eye? What aromas do you smell? Without lifting your head, move your eyes from the downward position that they are in to as high up as you can look without taking your nose out of the glass. What do you smell? If you’re like most people the answer will be somewhat incredible.

For more on the visual memory of scent, go to Tim Gaiser’s website, or, if you ever have the chance, take a class from him. He will probably be speaking again at the 2015 Society of Wine Educators Conference.