Making Wine Sense: Smell – It’s Science!

We continue this series of “Making Wine Sense” where we determine how our 5 senses are used when enjoying our favorite pastime… wine drinking! In previous posts, we’ve covered SIGHT with white wines and with red wines. Today, we’re moving on to using our SCHNOZZ!

SMELL

Sniffing or smelling wine is perhaps the most important step when experiencing wine. And most of us either half-heartedly sniff a wine before tasting it or skip it all together. So why is sniffing a wine so important?

What We Smell is What We Taste

Remember way back when in some science class when we talked about olfactory nerves? ….no? Ok, me neither. But I do remember talking about them in wine class. (Amazing how much more info I find myself retaining when it relates to wine.) Anyway, olfactory nerves are in our sinus cavity and send impulses to the brain (through the olfactory bulbs and tract) that convey the sense of smell. While we think we are tasting a certain flavor, it actually has more to do with what we smell. The perception of flavor is based on what our olfactory nerves sensed when we took a big whiff of that wine.

Think about when you have a cold and you can’t really breathe through your nose. When we’re sick, nothing tastes good. That’s not just because we’re grouchy, it’s because we quite literally can’t taste it… because we can’t smell it. Our sinus cavities are all jammed up and our handy little olfactory nerves can’t do their job of registering smells and flavors.

Test it out! Next time you pour a glass of wine, first plug your nose and take a sip (while keeping your nose plugged).  Don’t let go of that plugged nose until 5-10 seconds after you swallow the wine. Have a cracker or something to cleanse your palate and then take a big sniff of the wine followed by a sip. See how different it is. (You could do this with juice or soda or whatever other beverage as well – it’s just less fun.)

Wine Smelling-It's Science.

Wine Smelling-It’s Science.

We’ll continue #MakingWineSense to discuss our human capabilities with smell vs. taste before moving on to our next sense!

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