Wine Perception: The Differences Between Flavor and Taste

As a writer, one thing you learn, above all else, is that words matter.taste

Early in my career, I turned in a story that included the sentence, “Over 1,500 people were in attendance.” The editor circled the word “over” and jotted a note in the margin: “Over means above. The correct terminology for this is ‘more than.’”

As a wine writer, the words I see most people confuse are taste and flavor. On the surface, they would seem to be synonymous. They are not.

One way of putting it is that taste is a part of flavor. The other important part is aroma. If you prefer equations, look at it this way:

Taste + Aroma = Flavor

The tongue is the No. 1 receptor of taste, but other areas of the mouth also are involved in sending information to the brain for “processing.”

The role of aroma in the equation should not be minimized. In fact, there is research that suggests aroma may play an even more important role than taste in determining a wine’s flavor.

If you’d like to read more about this topic, the University of Florida has a Center for Smell and Taste, and provides summaries of a great deal of research on its website.

They say that perception is reality, and that’s probably why a single wine can be perceived by 10 different people in 10 different ways.

That’s not a good thing or a bad thing; it’s simply part of the mystery and allure of wine.

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Posted in Wine in the Glass

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