Cold and Flu ruins your ability to taste wine.
So why does having a bad cold or flu affect us so badly when it comes to wine tasting or the enjoyment of food.
You may not know but we actually taste with our nose and this is why our taste buds are so affected when the dreaded cold comes calling. It’s currently thought that our mouths are capable of tasting 5/6 taste sensations only - Sweetness, sourness, acidity, salt, bitter and the newly discovered umami (savoury).
We have taste receptors on our tongue, the roof and sides of the mouth and back of the throat. The tongue is the primary source of taste detection with tiny bumps called Papilae which contain hundreds of taste buds all looking forward to the task of tasting and sensations.
There are between 2000-5000 taste buds in our mouths and each has around 100 taste receptors. It’s the job of these taste buds and receptors to determine the sensation received when a substance in the mouth reacts chemically with the taste receptor cells.
This important information then gets transported to the huge filing cabinet of our brain which will store it as a memory. If that memory is good we will live the food/drink. If it’s bad our bodies will remind us in many ways that we dislike this taste. If it’s a brand new taste then we can make the decision with our conscious minds.
When we taste professionally we are looking at colour, consistency, aroma’s, viscosity, and flavour. We use our senses to help us determine many aspects of a wine and to get in touch with our filing cabinet brain. Each little bit of evidence is determined and out together like a jigsaw to lead us to a conclusion about a wine.
The job of the nose is of huge importance when it comes to tasting any substance. Our noses are superb bits of technology and can give us immense amounts of information before any substance even enters our mouths. You may have seen many wine experts swilling a wine around in a glass and then smelling the wine with gusto. This isn’t the expert being silly, it’s them testing the wine with their nose prior to taste to give them important information about that wine.
Our nose will tell us well in advance if we like our dislike something even if we are blindfold and haven’t even tasted the food/drink. Personally I detest sprouts and the mere aroma of sprouts cooking produces revulsion in my body just entering a kitchen.
For other people that might be the aroma of a strong spirit like Whiskey or Brandy. It may be that they had a few too many one day when they were younger and the mere aroma will send the brain into mass panic.
So when our noses are out of action with a cold or flu we are essentially shutting off 90% of our ability to taste and appreciate wine.
This week I had the enviable task of testing 4 amazing Chardonnay from Burgundy. I have a wonderful lady who has a very specific taste in oaked and buttery Chardonnay and I have been on a mission to find the perfect wine for her. Despite my best intentions I tried 3 of these fantastic wines and they all tasted bland. There was nothing wrong with the wines, the problem was me.
So the next time you have a bad cold I advise you not to crack open any bottle of great wines and just drink a Tuesday night wine from your rack if you must open something.