You Too Can Be a Wine Tasting Expert

Paul Giamatti plays a wine snob in the movie SidewaysHow do those wine tasting professionals identify all those flavors in wine you ask? The answer is simple: they learned, and you can learn too, simply by drinking wine. Note a recent study by researchers at Northwestern University who aimed to learn how the brain differentiates between similar smells and modifies and updates that information based on experience:

In the study, researchers presented a single odor to human subjects continuously for 3 ½ minutes. Half of the subjects received a minty odor; the other half, a floral odor. The researchers discovered that this prolonged sensory exposure induced mint (or floral) “expertise,” depending on which odor the subjects had experienced. Those exposed to the minty smell were better able to differentiate between a variety of minty smells; likewise, the floral-exposed subjects could better discriminate among floral smells. In other words, study participants exposed to one minty odor became experts in other minty smells. Testing showed subjects retained their new expertise for at least 24 hours.

But is there such thing as a super taster? Probably not. Increased aroma sensitivity when tasting wine results in one thing: the overwhelming scent of Alcohol, not trace nuances in the beverage. Don’t believe me? Try a little experiment. Usually during a fasting period of 2 days or more, you will find that your sense of smell has dramatically increased (an unwelcome side effect of that is noticing people’s bad breath/ body oder). Now try and enjoy a glass of wine. Pure Glycerin. No subtle hints of orange blossoms or violets, just a big whiff of alcohol.

So there you have it. The wine snob super taster is a myth, it’s simply a person who has devoted more time to drinking wine than you have. Just learn to focus a little bit more the next time you enjoy a glass of wine. Compare what you are smelling to what you already know, or grab a few ingredients from your cupboard and compare. Wine is an enjoyable beverage. Don’t let anyone pompously come across as a better taster than you – you too can be a wine tasting expert.