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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 12:07 GMT
Wine tasting: A load of old plonk?
Wine tasting: AP
Grapes for wine: A hint of honey? A sniff of apricot?
Wine buffs can tell little more than red grapes from white when they describe a vintage's bouquet, according to scientists.

A wine's nose is more linked to its colour than its scent or taste, a French researcher claims.

Gil Morrot from the National Institute for Agronomic Research in Montpellier says smell cannot be divorced from other senses such as sight and taste.

So when an expert enthuses about a "whiff of honey" or a "dash of apricot" much of the information is based on the wine's colour.

Wine on sale: BBC
Students used the same terms to describe red wine and white wine dyed red
The verdict is based on a study of 54 students who were asked to describe the noses of two glasses of Bordeaux, one red and one white.

Then came a crafty trick: an odourless red dye was added to the white wine to see if the undergraduates could tell the difference. It seems they could not. They used the same terms associated with red wine to describe the smell of the dyed white wine.

Pamela Dalton, a smell expert at the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia, US, said she was not surprised by the findings, but added that she thought wine connoisseurs would not be as easily taken in as students.

"In most everyday experiences we don't need to describe odours in detail," she said. "Even in professions that do, the words they tend use to describe the odour sources rather than the quality of the odour itself."

The work, which is published in the journal Brain and Language, is reported in New Scientist magazine.

See also:

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03 Sep 99 | Sci/Tech
Inheriting the family nose
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