by Fred McMillin
for May 25, 1998
The Capsicum Caper
Smell is the oldest and most primitive of all the senses. The 'smell-brain,' with its direct contact with the memory areas, can act as an immediate catalyst of recognition and identification, which can be relied upon by experienced wine tasters.
...J.M. Broadbent in Wine Tasting
Most of what we sense about wine involves our ability to smell. Some experts claim the nose is ten thousand times more sensitive to odors than the tongue is to tastes.
...Andrew Sharp in Winetaster's Secrets
Our nose can recognize some 10,000 different odors. A wine can give off several hundred of them. In a study of the two compounds responsible for the fragrance of green pea shells, it was discovered that a slight rearrangement of either molecule produces an aroma characteristic of capsicums and merlot wine.
...Alan Young in Making Sense of Wine
Capsicums??? Capsa is Latin for box. Capsicums are tropical plants with their seeds in box-shaped pods...i.e., chilies, peppers, etc. So my panel decided to get a good Merlot and try to sniff out the capsicums. We used the current release of the USA winery that has made Merlot the longest, the 1995 Louis H. Martini. There was lots of blackberry, but behind that a peppery, herby scent. We figured we found the capsicum.
1995 Merlot, North Coast
If you can't catch the capsicum the first time, just wait. Expert Andrew Sharp tells us that the olefactory (Latin: olfacere, to smell) neurons are changing constantly so that in a month you'll have an entirely new set for a second try.
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