Did you know humans have the ability to “taste” through smelling? Well we do, and it is through a process called retronasal olfaction. This fancy sounding term is just some of the ways that food scientists, such as our guest speaker this week, recent M.S. graduate and soon to be Ph.D. student, Jenna Fryer studies how flavors, or tastes through smell, are understood and what impact external factors have on them. Specifically, Fryer looks at the ways fires affect the flavors of wine, a particularly timely area of research due to the recent wave of devastating wildfires in Oregon.
Having always been interested in food science, Fryer examines the ways smoke penetrates wine grapes. She does this by studying the ways people taste the smoke and how they can best rid the smokiness in their mouths, because spoiler, it has a pretty negative impact on the flavor. This research has forced her to develop novel ways to explain and standardize certain flavors, such as ashiness and mixed berry, as well as learn what compounds are the best palate cleansers. She will continue this research with her Ph.D. where she plans to figure out what compounds make that smoky flavor, and how best to predict which wines will taste like smoke in the future.
Through this work, Fryer has made some fascinating discoveries, such as how many people can actually detect the smoke flavor (because not everyone can), how best to create an ashy flavor (hint, it has to do with a restaurant in the UK and leeks), why red wine is more affected by smoke than white wines, and what the difference is between flavor and taste.
Tune in live at 7pm on Sunday April 24th or listen to this episode anywhere you get your podcasts to learn about Fryer’s research!
And, if you are interested in being a part of a future wine study (and who wouldn’t want to get paid to taste wine), click on this link to sign up!