On Wine Aroma, Taste and Flavour.


Taste is a fickle mistress. How taste works is not an easy exercise. In fact, even neurologists find it difficult to fully explain it, let alone understand everything about it.

Some people are super tasters (25 per cent of the population), another 25 per cent have possess little tasting ability, and 50 per cent are average tasters.

Super tasters possess highly developed and sensitive palates, along with a good memory bank. Super tasters, scientists claim, cannot tolerate many foods and drinks, including alcohol.

So what is aroma? By definition aroma is, an odour caused by one or more volatilized compound(s) aka scent, whereas taste is limited to sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savoury (umami).

Taste is a chemical reaction between stimuli and taste buds. Some scientists claim humans having 20 000 taste buds, which over time becomes less sensitive.

Taste along with olfaction (smell) determines flavour, which is the sensory impression of solid food, or a liquid.

Flavour is the sensory impression of a food or liquid by chemical senses of both smell and taste.

The nose is 1000 times more sensitive than of all the other senses and taste. Primitive people had more acute smell ability than modern humans. Smell aims for the emotional centre of the brain and can be appealing or revolting.

Tannins (mostly found in red wines) cannot be smelled, but can be tasted. The same is true for alcohol (in wines of less than 15 per cent alcohol by volume), but sensed as an irritation in the throat. The term full bodied refers to the level alcohol, (high alcohol wines are said to be full bodied). Dry wines make your mouth water because of the acidity that triggers the secretion of saliva.

The tip of the tongue perceives sweetness or the absence of it, acidity on the sides, and bitterness on the back. Some scientists claim that every taste gut perceives all the taste sensations, and even the upper palate has taste receptors.

Some unfortunate people suffer from anosmia and cannot smell anything at all. Hypersomia is opposite of anosmia which can be as annoying as anosmia, as people with hypersomia smell pleasant aromas as much as those that are revolting.

After tasting about 50 wines, the palate fatigue sets in and acuity suffers. In wine judging of huge numbers of wines, there is an upper limit of 90 wines per day, separated by lunch, per taster.

Taste also depends very much on upbringing. If you have never tasted an apple or pear, you will never be able to describe a white wine as such if a white wine emanates these aromas. This is the reason of Orientals having difficulty describing wines in European terms. Wine tasting terms and descriptions are eurocentric.

Temperature also affects aroma, taste, and flavour perception.

Next time you taste wine, pay more attention to your abilities of smell, taste, and overall flavour perception. This will make you a better taster, and will help appreciate wine more.

One Comment

  1. Great article, As I’m reading this on my ipad mini nothing was stopping me from walking over to the winerack to grab a bottle, this really made me thirsty 🙂
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