With wine it is the equivalent of “continuing education classes”; education and discovery never end. Even an occasional wine drinker will eventually reach a point where the themes of “taste”, “taste” and “mouthfeel” will become the search. Well, maybe the obsession would be the extreme, but experiences with wine much better when you focus on the aroma, taste and mouthfeel of the wine. The question now is: Are you enjoying 100% of your wine bottle? Try to bring the full experience of that bottle of wine to your conscience.
The science behind why we like wine requires a doctorate to fully understand it, which is why the wine industry is so interested in understanding the science behind the flavor, aroma, taste and mouth feel of wines. One of the leaders in this research in the United States is Dr. Ann Noble, a former professor at the University of California-Davis. Dr. Noble is the leading expert on the interaction of flavor, aroma and mouthfeel and is the inventor of the Wine Aroma Wheel. Another expert in fine wine chemistry is Mr. Henry Wedler, PhD candidate in Computational Organic Chemistry. His specialty is the chemistry of fine wines in relation to the primary senses of smell (perception of aromas), as well as taste (perceived by the gust) and mouthfeel, perceived by the sense of touch (nociception).
The research of Dr. Noble and others and the work in chemistry of Wedler and others, we can begin to explain and understand why we like a specific wine at a given time and with a pairing of meals. It can be said that wine is not a drinker’s drink like beer, but should be enjoyed as an art. (Although there are many who would argue that artisanal beers are similar to wine in their complexity. Processing why we like specific art is a mental exercise much like appreciating the art of wine.
There is a plethora of famous quotes from famous people about the art of wine, but without the definitions of taste, smell/aroma, and sensation of wine in the mouth, it would be really difficult to be precise when explaining the art of wine. Therefore, the work of Dr. Noble and Mr. Wedler, among others, in the world of wine and academia, puts words to the music of wine.
In the research for this article, Dr. Noble added context to the discussion about taste, aroma and mouthfeel. “You can’t separate taste, aroma or mouthfeel and still have a meaningful discussion; all three are inextricably linked,” said Dr. Noble. “Let me demonstrate my point of view: hold your nose and have a sip of an unknown drink and try to define the taste exactly. It’s impossible because our brains need the additional references of smell and mouthfeel along with taste.
At this point it is a fact that the character of the wine is best summed up by its taste, aroma and mouthfeel. We like certain wines based on the olfactory processing of these signals and the reaction of our brain to these inputs. Specifically, the wine’s olfactory inputs (aromatic compounds) first activate our “olfactory bulb”. The signals sent from the olfactory bulb to other areas of the brain are finally integrated into the prefrontal orbit of our brain with the entry of our taste and mouth receptors. The brain dictates taste likes and dislikes and can therefore be reprogrammed to change perceptions with additional experiences. Remember that at first we didn’t like it and people said “it’s an acquired taste” and now you like brie cheese.
Dr. Noble, while at UC Davis, developed the Davis Wine Aroma Wheel, which is literally a circular representation (a pie chart format) of three concentric rings radiating from the center of the wheel chart. Moving on to the outer ring, each piece of the pie chart adds more complex descriptors to the myriad of wine aroma descriptions. The Aroma Wheel starts with 12 simple descriptors that could be called macro aromas, and ends (outer ring) with a well-defined set of 125 descriptive aroma notes to explain what a person may be smelling in the wine. For example, starting with a high level vegetation smell might end up in a micro smell that might be as unexpected as eucalyptus.
The Rueda Aromatica will allow the wine drinker to be precise in analyzing the odors in the wine and eventually progress to a point where the Rueda is not necessary to organize and mentally define the aromas.