Super wine tasters: Who has the best sense of smell of wine in the world?
According to archaeological findings, wine was first produced in 5000BC, and since then, different regions around the world have developed and mastered the historical and “sacred” art of winemaking. Because wine differs in color, taste, and aroma (or neck, as professional wine tasters like to call it), they use its smell to understand the story behind the wine.
The best wine tasters in the world smell over ten aromas in each wine. Experts with deep knowledge of wine aromas are people with trained memories and of course, huge personal experience. Wine aromas are coming from the grape itself, from the fermentation process, and from aging (oak influence or bottle aging). All grape varieties have typical aromas which make their unique profile. Trained wine tasters can detect the aromas and, after a full wine tasting description, can find out the actual wine they taste. Aromas and flavors are the key factors of wine tasting notes and,so is the color of the wine. We have to look at viscosity to understand the alcohol levels, sugar quantity, and body of wine we taste.
Because wine tasting encompasses the use of all the senses — sight, taste, touch, and smell, there are questions about who has the best sense of smell for wines.
Wine tasters and sense of smell
We have described the wine as an embodiment of intricate flavors and aromas and a complexity of body and alcohol. These, put together, give different wines their signature smell based on their terroir, grape variety and their production and aging.
At least 80% of how things taste can be deduced from their aromas, and wine is not an exception. It is common knowledge that we made wine from grapes, and the grape juice is allowed to ferment for some time. Then, in some cases, there are the oak barrels and special tanks used for fermenting wine that affects the flavor. 
All the above-listed factors point to the fact that a bottle of wine could contain sometimes hundreds of chemical compounds. And smelling it will reveal a lot about its flavor or aroma. As such, they allow you to soak up what winemakers or producers intend for their customers — the sensory experience. If we use proper glassware, we could find extra aromas which usually are closed in less than perfect glasses.
The link between the flavor and smell of wine
Wine tasters hold their sense of smell in high regard and won’t hesitate to flee from anything that poses a danger to their noses. This unrivaled love for wine tasters’ sense of smell was shown by Robert Parker’s landmark nose insurance that cost a jaw-dropping one million dollars.
As we mentioned earlier, the top factors that affect the smell of wine are the type of grape used in making them, the infused flavors, and, of course, the vessel they are fermented in. Because the terroir, grape growing/farming method, refining, and fermentation type that farmers adopt differ, it makes sense that sniffing different wines will give unique aromas.
Understanding the layers of wine smell: What does red wine smell like?
From the most pronounced to the subtlest aromas and flavors of wines, one cannot get the full aromatic experience from wine tasting without mastering the technique involved. We thoughtfully presented the technique as the five S’s of wine tasting. If you get it right, you won’t miss the aroma as it permeates your senses.
A typical red wine would smell like the grape and any other fruit part of its profile — ranging from pomegranates, blackberries, plums, currants, cherries, olive notes, and boysenberries. This is where red wine gets its primary smell or aroma.
The secondary smell comes from other special processes like fermentation, malolactic fermentation, and cold maturation, from which processing we gain banana, savory, fresh-cut grass, and many other aromas showing as all winemaking work. Then the tertiary which is coming from oak aging and bottle aging that we can find are truffle, wood ash, tree bark, cloves, or fennel aromas. This bouquet will most likely evade you unless you have a sharp sense of smell and a sensitive nose.
Do wine critics have the best sense of smell of wine in the world?
One name that often pops up is Robert Parker Jr., a renowned figure in the wine world. His contribution to wine tasting has positively influenced winemakers and vineyard owners across the globe to adopt the best winemaking and farming practices.
He came up with the first wine scoring system that is globally relied upon by wine consumers and tasters for judging the quality of the wine. It is a 100-point scoring system with notes that help wine investors make the best investments.
Another name on the list of people with the best sense of smell of wine is Jancis Robinson. Renowned as one of the most applauded wine critics in the world, her depth of knowledge of wine selection and management propelled her to the limelight.
She has many awards under her belt, including recognition as the world’s most influential wine critic in France, the USA, and internationally earlier in 2018. She is the brain behind the famous Robinson 20-point wine scoring system.
Other names on the list include Richard Juhlin, James Suckling, Lisa Perroti-Brown, and Antonio Galloni, among others. While these are all globally recognized and respected wine critics, it is not clear if they have the best sense of smell in the world or hyperosmia that was developed through years of nose training their nose. However, they inevitably have an above-average understanding of the smell of wine. See more resources here
On this day in history
May 24, 1976 — The Californian wine Chateau Montelena Chardonnay beat top French wines to emerge as the overall winner/best wine at a blind tasting event in Paris.
Want to read more about wine? Try reading these books!
Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine
- “Smelling Wine: How To Smell Wine.” 2022. Home.Binwise.Com. https://home.binwise.com/blog/smelling-wine.
- ” How To Smell A Wine And Why It Is Important.” 2022. Canned Wine Co.. https://cannedwine.co/blogs/blog/how-to-smell-a-wine-and-why-it-is-important.
- Souter, Katie. 2022. “Who Are The Most Important Critics In Fine Wine?”. Vin-X. https://www.vin-x.com/which-are-the-most-important-critics-for-fine-wine-investors/.
- Photo attribution: vastateparksstaff, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons