October 21, 2013

Scratch & sniff for winos


If you’ve ever aspired to become a wine connoisseur but don’t have the money to spend on the finer vintages to develop your palate, there’s a new scratch-and-sniff book that promises to help you learn the ins & outs of oeonology. It might also appeal to toddlers and lead to a very young generation of alcoholics, but hey, they’ll also know which merlot goes best with their mac and cheese.

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert is a new title written by Richard Betts and illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton that aims to take the mystery out of wine and make it more accessible. Michaeleen Doucleff writes about the book for NPR’s food blog The Salt, and says that despite the playful visuals, the book has the credibility of “serious wine science” behind it, no surprise considering that Betts is one of only 200 Master Wine Sommeliers in the world.

On his inspiration to write the book, Betts explains, “Until recently, wine has been more hoity-toity, not accessible to people. We’re making it more inclusive. Wine is a grocery, not a luxury… We were talking and realized that the wine world didn’t need another tome with glossy photos, maps and descriptions of wines you will never drink.”

The book itself is just a 10-page board book, illustrated with drawings of noses, the “wine wheel” (which categorizes all the wine smells as either fruit, wood, earth, or other), and of course, scratch & sniff panels that show the difference between chardonnay and sauvingnon blanc, and which red wines smell like red fruits (like strawberries) vs. black fruits (like blueberries and cherries).

As for the scratch-and-sniff elements themselves, Doucleff writes that the technology just isn’t there to make totally accurate, but Betts accepts that limitation. “It’s not about saying that this smell is the most faithful recreation of peach in a glass of wine,” he tells The Salt, “but the book gets you thinking about what you like and don’t like—and talking about them in terms of vocabulary [readers] already have, not in ‘wine speak.'”


Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.