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Unlocking the Secrets of Our Noses

Have you ever read some tasting notes (maybe mine) and then tried the wine and thought to yourself, "this doesn't taste ANYTHING like what he described?" Well scientists are on the way towards validating something that many folks have anecdotally believed for a long time: we all perceive smells differently. Scientists have long known that each of us processes colors in the visible spectrum uniquely -- my perception of orange may be similar to, but is just slightly different than your orange. But now they are coming to the same conclusion with aromas.

Unveiled at a recent wine conference in Napa, these initial research results show that our sense of smell (which is primarily responsible for our perception of wine's "flavor") may be as unique to each individual as their fingerprint.

The research also showed just how much psychology is involved in aromatic perception -- proving that the same odor when labeled "food" can smell differently than when it is labeled "sweat." I feel this is the ultimate validation of my use of "old socks" as an aroma descriptor.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.