Going Retro

Isn't it odd that we aren't taught how to taste? From an early age, we are taught how to identify color or a note of music. Yet, current scientific research is shedding light on how we taste and how we can train ourselves to get more out of our food and wine.

The most important way that we can get more flavor from our food and wine is to attentively smell. Smell is our body's way of identifying what we are eating (or about to eat), while taste is oriented towards detecting the nutritional benefits and potential dangers of a food or drink. While scientists argue about the percentages of each sense, there's consensus that smell makes up the majority of what we call flavor.

We tend to think of smell as what we do before we eat or drink, inhaling the aromas from the wine before we take a sip. However, there's a second component to smell which is called retronasal olfaction, the act of smelling a substance that is in one's mouth. A huge amount of our perception of flavor comes from retronasal olfaction.

One way to get more out of your food or wine is to increase your retronasal olfaction. You do this by swirling the wine throughout your mouth. Then, once you swallow, breath out through your nose to channel the wine's aromas back through your smell receptors. This simple practice can help the more subtle nuances of the wine come to the fore. Give it a try sometime and try to pay attention to how dramatically it can affect your tasting.