Monday, December 3, 2007

Breathe Deep

Yoga teaches you to focus and use your breath to fuel your strength. It also gives the oenophile an advantage when tasting wine.

Our olfactory receptors are equipped to distinguish more than 10,000 separate aromas. The sensory mechanism called the olfactory epithelium, a little patch about the size of the bar code on a wine-bottle back label, lies at the top of a bony cavern inside our skulls at the base of the brain.

Smells reach the olfactory epithelium through our noses. But smells also get there by an alternative route. Inside the mouth, at the back of the palate, is an internal opening called the "retro-nasal passage". It delivers another aroma shot straight to the brain, giving us a second chance to smell what we're about to swallow.

This mechanism likely evolved to give early humans a second line of defense against consuming rotten or spoiled food. But in modern times, it gives us another way to analyze our wine.

That is why you will sometime see people hold a small amount of wine in their mouth and suck in some air through slightly parted lips. They are aerating the wine and allowing the aromas to reach their retro-nasal passage.

Next time you pour a glass, try this method and see if you don't increase your enjoyment.