When Sonoma’s La Crema Winery turned 40 last year, it celebrated the milestone with a unique exercise: Led by Dr. Henry “Hoby” Wedler, it was easily one of my top sensory experiences of 2019.
According to neuroscientist Camilla Arndal Andersen, how consumers describe the taste of food can be misleading largely due to inherent biases. Among the most problematic is the “courtesy bias,” which comes into play when people respond with what they see as a socially acceptable opinion that doesn’t accurately reflect how they feel. There’s also the “bias blind spot,” in which we think we’re less biased than others. In short, we’re biased about our biases.
INTERPRETING OUR ATTRACTION TO THE SMELL OF WET ROCKS
I’ll be teaching Wine 123: Causation and Detection of Wine Defects at Santa Rosa JC next semester (Spring 2020). Check out our video courtesy of the Distance Learning department’s Emily Hansen –
Of the five senses, smell in Western culture has gotten a bad rap. In the English language there are fewer positive equivalents for the sense of smell than there are for the other four senses. You might sniff out a deal or smell a rat but the terms for nose in our vocabulary particularly as they relate to wine are more often than not derogatory (snobby, snooty, snotty, etc.).
Although we understand the physiology of the olfactory epithelium, the organ where volatile aroma compounds are converted in to the electrochemical signals that we perceive as aromas, smell or olfaction is still largely a mystery. For example, we have 400 types of olfactory receptors but we don’t know which volatile aroma compounds activate the majority of them.
It seems a Ph.D. in organic chemistry is necessary to fully understand the
issue, but wine science educator Deborah Parker Wong can provide some insight into what happens when certain vegetables meet the palate.
A recent study conducted at jointly at Penn State University and the University of California Davis illustrates significant differences in what consumers and self-described wine experts find likeable in wine.
The wines in question were six pairs of unoaked Chardonnay that had been doctored with increasing amounts of the compound – methyl anthralinate (MA) – that gives some native American vitis labruscana grape varieties their “grapey-ness.”
The odor of wet dog isn’t exactly something we want to detect in wine, but
experiencing this scent after a communal hike at Kunde Family Winery in Sonoma Valley could actually prove enjoyable.
Among our many activities, wine professionals devote a considerable amount of time to perception, the state of being where we become aware of something through the senses.