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Ann Noble's aroma wheel story


The story of Ann Noble’s aroma wheel started at one prestigious University in California when she also began her academic career.

Dr. Noble conducted research on wine flavor compounds in the department of viticulture and enology. 

Her focus was to identify the aroma compounds typical of specific varietal wines. Such findings would help the California wine industry better understand the uniqueness of the aromatic profiles of their wines.




cited in Planete Grapes [1]


She not only needed to analyze wines with fancy analytical equipment, but she also needed to find wine tasters to assess the wine aromas. To her disappointment, colleagues and students lacked the words to qualify what they were smelling.


They would say "harmonious," "elegant," "round," and "balanced," descriptors that were not very useful for her research. 


She needed precise descriptors that she would relate to the wine chemical composition. Because her research would help understand how specific practices in the vineyard or the cellar could change the wine aromatic profiles.

So she decided to help these wine tasters. And she created with her students a tool to teach people how to categorize wine aromas.  



Dr. Ann C. Noble developed the Wine Aroma Wheel in 1984-1987 using a scientific approach to categorize and illustrate the types of aromas wine drinkers could perceive in white or red wines.


It took several iterations and validation with wine professionals before releasing the final version of the Wine Aroma Wheel.

The wheel has very general terms grouped in 11 categories in the center: Fruity, Floral, and so on.

These categories break down in the middle section into 25 subcategories. For example, Tree fruits, citrus, or Berry are part of the Fruity category.

And the most specific terms are on the outer tier. 


Wine can contain more than 800 aromatic compounds, creating more than the 80 different scents listed on the Wine Aroma Wheel. Thus, the Wine Aroma Wheel terms are not the only terms you can use to describe wines, but they represent the ones you'll most often perceive in white or red wines.

The Wine Aroma Wheel is used to this day by wine educators around the world.



Want to become a wine expert / Master taster?

Then you need to hone the analytical methods of wine tasting, which include learning to describe aromas with the Wine Aroma Wheel


Professors Kathryn and Michael Latour at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, published two studies to understand how wine enthusiasts learn from their tasting experience [2, 3].


In a first study, their experiments showed the benefits for beginners to use the Wine Aroma Wheel to strengthen their experiential memory and learn the multi-faceted tasting experience more effectively.


This was confirmed in a second study. Indeed, people beginning their wine tasting journey realize how an analytical approach to wine tasting, using a tool such as the wine aroma wheel, helped them "better understand the framework" and "know what to look for in wine evaluation."



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References

  1. Fallis, C. Origin of the Wine Aroma Wheel, Dr. Ann Noble, Planete Grapes, May 22, 2014 
  2. LaTour, K. A., & LaTour, M. S. (2010), Journal of Consumer Research, 37 (4), 688-697
  3. LaTour, K., & Deighton, J. (2018). Learning to become a taste expert. Harvard Business School Research Paper Series #18-107.
  4. Teague, L. The Tool That Transformed Wine Tasting, WSJ, October 2, 2020
  5. Bosker, B. Is There a Better Way to Talk About Wine? The New Yorker, July 29, 2015

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