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September 30, 2019 | Frey Winery Blog | Frey Vineyards

Our Sense of Smell and Taste

Eva-Marie Lind is an expert in the field of aromatic raw materials and sensory perception.  A recognized leader in the art of perfumery, she has designed the aromas, scents and flavors of many perfumes, health and beauty products.  Frey Vineyards invited Eva-Marie to come to the winery as a sensory sommelier and merge the foundations of the art of perfumery with the art of winemaking.Diagram of the nose and nerves leading to brain.By Eva-Marie Lind

For a moment, let us explore our sense of smell and taste.  We each have our own genetic encoded odor print.  None of us, outside of identical twins, experience the sense of smell and taste in the same manner.  Scents and flavors elicit psychosomatic (mind and spirit) as well as physiologic (body) responses, which, beyond our awareness, imprint themselves onto our memory.  In addition, our perceptions are influenced biologically, by age, sex chemistry and environment.

We each respond to scent through a variety of circumstances unique to our individuality.  This theory, called ‘learned-odor response,” is why the same aroma (scent and flavor) can affect each of us quite differently.  An aroma that triggers good memories for one person, may revisit painful memories for another.  Our individual histories, locked within the recesses of our mind, govern our responses and our feelings.  

Of all our senses, smell may be our most acute; enabled and facilitated by the mysterious process of our olfactory nerves that, unlike most others in our physical make-up, have the capacity to renew themselves.  Each olfactory neuron survives a mere sixty days and is then replaced by a new cell.  When these cells renew themselves, the axons of neurons that express the same receptor always go to the exact same place.  This is why our memories are able to survive all this turnover of neurons.

Drawing of the nose and the mouth.

We have the capacity to smell and identify over one trillion odors in one square inch of the brain.  Smelling is rapid in response, taking merely 0.5 seconds to register as compared to 0.9 seconds to react to pain.

Our nose and its epithelium are an ‘organ’- one that digests, assimilates and transfers odor molecules to the brain to be further processed.  Registering odors is generally independent of our left hemisphere brain, which is the care-center of our mind and is responsible for our impartiality, examination and intellect. Our left brain is also responsible for governing language and speech which suggest why it is so difficult for many to adequately describe aromas with language. Odor recognition is predominately a right hemisphere brain activity.  This is the area responsible for our passion, emotion, creativity, and instinctive behavior.

The senses of smell and taste are tightly joined, however tasting requires tens of thousands more molecules to register, than does smell.

Taste buds are as fascinating as our olfactory neurons. In the 17th century, Marcello Maphigi identified the papillae of our tongue, each composed of taste buds, as “organs of taste.” Taste buds also reside on the soft palate, tonsils and the upper third of the esophagus. We have nearly 10,000 buds. Sixty -five taste buds fit into the space of one typewritten period. Each papillae contain about two hundred and fifty buds. Just like our olfactory neurons, taste buds are in a constant state of flux and regeneration, shedding and renewing every ten days.

Taste buds distinguish the four qualities of sweet, salty, bitter and sour.  In Japan they add a fifth quality of ‘karai, for spicy, hot and richness.  In India, within the Ayurvedic tradition, there are six “rasas,’ removing spicy and adding astringent and pungent.  All other tastes and flavors are detected by the olfactory receptors that reside within our nasal passages.  We smell odors and flavors through our nose, as well as the passageway in the back of the mouth.

Wine tasting can be enhanced with the unique vocabulary and experiential inferences of scent. My goal is to alter your perception, encourage your imagination and facilitate a (r)evolution between the world of perfume and wine.

Sampling wine.

 

 

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