Great Wine

Grape Destinations: Scent, Memory and Great Wine

Now I know why.

Opening the large, heavy wooden door to the cellar always holds something deeply comforting for me. I will be engulfed in this wonderfully complex scent of something fruity blended with a whiff of mould. There is the aroma of wine along with wood and then something I can only describe as cold stones or rocks. I love the quiet, the vast space and simple order. A neat row of large barrels down the middle facing the smaller ones, stacked along the walls on either side.

I switch on the lights and the group of people behind me let out a collective sigh of appreciation. As we walk down the left aisle and I explain the importance of long aging for our Brunello. I love this job and turn around to the group answering some question when it hits me. For a moment I am no longer with my group, but far away. I know that scents can spontaneously trigger memories, and here I am, at work, in the middle of a wine tour when, out of nowhere, a forgotten childhood flashback hits me.

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I have stopped my dialogue with the guests, smiling. They look at me curiously as I speak again. You know, something really strange just happened, which I would like to share with you. Intrigued, they nod and I continue. People always ask me how I got into wine but I never have found a fitting answer. But just now, surprisingly, a memory from childhood came back to me, activated by the aromas in this cellar.

Great Wine

Smell is essential when experiencing wine | Photo: Esther Mercedes Juergens

Smell Enhances Great Wine

Some of my group look around and seem to inhale more deeply, taking in the scent. As you might have gathered I am not Italian, but German, and my dad loved Riesling. Traditionally Riesling is also aged in large barrels, some of them half the size of these guys here.“ I say pointing to the 4.000 litre barrels.

One day my father brought home a big old barrel to put in the garden as a playhouse for us kids. They had cut out a big opening as door and put a wooden plank across the middle. We spend many afternoons playing in there breathing in the aromas of wood and wine. I guess now I know why I always feel so utterly at home and happy in a wine cellar.

-Esther Mercedes Juergens

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