Sunset San Leonino, Toscana ©2006 dave trieger.
When asked to describe a wine's aroma most people would just answer, "It smells like ... GRAPES, I guess." They don't trust their own senses enough to pinpoint a particular smell, and would feel more comfortable describing its taste.
But I think you can dig up a smell from early childhood much easier than a taste. I can remember vividly the lilac smell of my mom's jewelry box... and in first grade when the teacher passed around tests on mimeograph paper, or walking into the candy store and being hit by a wave of sweetness. These odors are burned into my memory and wines give me the chance to use my life experiences to describe them.
I found that if you THINK about it too hard, the description won't come. But fear not ... there are ways to wake up your senses. The trick is to close your eyes and breath in deeply and slowly. It's almost as if your looking for the FEELING the wine evokes on your senses more that the AROMA.
Lots of good wines have so much to offer in the way of aromas. Some wines are complex and have multiple layers of flavors and smells... you might smell oak from the barrels and smoke, or licorice, chocolate, coffee, leather... it just goes on and on.
So open a good bottle, let it aerate for an hour or two, then pour a glass and plug into your untapped past and you'll look at wine in a different way. Don't miss out on all the great things it has to offer.