Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are We the Sum of what We Drink?

When I first met the Hubs, I was involved with student government in college and I needed some printing done.  He worked at the printshop and agreed to help.  He had been meeting with friends on the opposite side of campus so he had to haul ass to make our meeting on time.  (He's going to kill me for relating this but, hey, it's for the greater wine good.) He was a little sweaty, but not that yucky "man stink." It was quite pleasant, earthy, natural body scent that was his alone. That scent memory remains with me and now that I have the ability to express the scent, because of my wine studies, the true description is a recently mown spring meadow mingled with ramps pulled fresh out of the soil and a hint of truffle.

Autumn, to me, is full of the craziest scents, much like forest floor leaf mold, rain on stone, herbs, wet earth, baking spices, apples and that gnarly, raw pumpkin astringency as the poor things are smashed on  mischief night.  So just for kicks and giggles I made a list of some of my favourite scents:

st joseph aspirin
puppy feet
fresh dirt
raw pastry dough
wet stone
leaf mold
fresh mown grass
gasoline out of the pump
a country field—sweet earth and green
ocean brine salinity
moth balls

I was wondering if we are the sum of what we drink? Do I drink the types of wines that I do because I like the above scents?  I suppose I could go into Phenol compounds (derived from grape parts and floating yeasts) that chemically are scents which, as individuals we can recognize.  However, what I'm most interested in, is how we recognize these chemical compounds and then effectively communicate what our beaks are sniffing.  So if I like the above scents, does that mean I'm more likely to like wines that carry those particular phenol compounds?  Let's check out a few:

armpit:  remember the Hubs story?  that's a resounding yes because I love Burgundy.  (Jacques Seysses, owner of Domaine Dujac, speaks of certain Burgundies smelling like a mistresses' armpit.)

gasoline:  I'm getting dizzy just thinking of the myriad of Rieslings I've enjoyed!

smoke: Some Loire Valley (and I haven't met a Valley wine that I didn't like) Sauvignon Gris smell of smoke, just like some Riojas.

basil:  Albarino has a distinct basil quality for me, as does Gruner Veltliner

dirt, puppy feet:  Rhone anyone? Why yes, I do.

I could go on with the rest but I think you get the picture.  Humans can recognize 10,000 different odors. However, no two people sense anything the same.  Does this mean anything?  Well, it could mean that I have a large memory pool so I'm able to match a wine with my scent memory.  Or, it could mean I drink way too much.  Either way, what I do think is that we each of us possess the ability to memory associate, which means a memory locked in our brains will surface sometimes years later due to a particular scent we experience.  Maybe the reason I detest Pinotage is because my father ran me over with his car and all I can remember is the burning scent of rubber as he accelerated.

That's a total fabrication of course, but I suppose that's my point.  I really have no memory of anything that includes rubber, the main scent of that wine, so is that the reason why I don't like it?  I don't know, it's all quite interesting though. 

What wine tastes of St Joseph aspirin?  Time to find out...


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