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How Ann Noble and the Wine Aroma Wheel Revolutionized the Industry

Dr. Ann Noble, inventor of the Wine Aroma Wheel / Photo by Salgu Wissmath

Without a shared language, love can be challenging to describe. Similarly, talking about wine can be complicated without a common language, especially when referring to aromas and flavors. As America’s wine culture developed in the 1970s, writers and winemakers created their own vocabulary. By the 1980s, enologists started discussing wine in sensory terms. And in 1984, with a desire to create a shared system, Ann Noble, PhD, an enology professor at University of California, Davis, organized wine descriptors into the first Wine Aroma Wheel.

With this array of descriptive wine terms, Noble has helped countless wine lovers “find their voice. “From an academic perspective, it’s been hugely influential,” says Dawnine Dyer, a pioneering winemaker based in Calistoga, California. “She was certainly among the first to start to put some real discipline to the whole idea of sensory science in wine.”

Since then, the Wheel has been colorized and translated into eight different languages. For Noble, who grew up sniffing out lilacs and bogs near her Massachusetts hometown, it’s part of a quest to get people to trust their noses.

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