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With a little extra time on my hands, I recently watched a movie, in which wine was one of the plot points; called “French Kiss” from 1995, with Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan, cast as Luc and Kate.

The latter with a severe case of aerophobia has allowed her fiancé to travel to Paris on business, where he immediately falls in love with a gorgeous French woman. Luc is a reprobate French citizen that has been in Canada plying his trade as a jewel thief. With a big haul, he intends to buy a vineyard, and settle down: near where his family is already in the business. The two apparently randomly sit together on a flight to Paris: where she will try to retain her fiancé.

The movie has a lot of comedic adventure, but there is an interesting scene, where Luc pours a glass of wine for Kate and asks her to drink it and describe the taste.

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She replies, “It is a nice red wine.” Luc implores her, “I think you can do better.” She bluffs back, (it is) “A bold wine with a hint of sophistication and lacking in pretension.” He replies, “You are not wrong. Wine is like people. The vine takes all the influences in life all around it, it absorbs them, and it gets its personality.”

He shows her an old school project, and uncorks a small bottle for her to smell. She notes that it is Rosemary.

There is another bottle; she says it is “some type of mushroom.” He congratulates her, and points to other bottles saying, “Currant, Cassis, Mint, and Lavender. They are all in the ground here, and in the air. Now, taste the wine again.”

She replies, “The currant, I can taste that right away, and from the brown bottle … lavender?” He nods and she replies, “Incredible,” as she realizes she is now a taster instead of a drinker: and maybe wonders how that applies to her life too?

Recently noticing an article by McKenzie Hagan, in August 2020, at, “A beginner’s guide to 24 popular wine grapes,” this writer scanned her list and all of them have been covered at one time, or another, in this column.

Another source, James Melendez, known as James the Wine Guy, in 2018 analyzed many authoritative sources and estimated there are about 10,170 wine grape varieties of which two thirds are Vitis vinifera, meaning there are perhaps 6,800 traditional wine grapes. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, of the United Nations, there is worldwide production of an equivalent of 36 billion bottles of wine each year.

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The study of wine includes geography, law, politics, climate, sociology, geology, and dozens of others of historically significant factors. Thus, the idea that any one person can master all the wines of the world is not realistic.

However, one can master 20 or 30 grape types, and the taste profiles, of a significant number of producers of wines.

We know some people smell asparagus in their urine; some do not, though most everyone’s urine, after eating asparagus, smells the same. Researchers have found a genetic trait that alters one or more of the olfactory receptors that identify asparagus smell in urine, a condition known as anosmia.

One study suggested that 58% of men and 62% of women had that genetic variance. What one tastes in a wine, depends on our knowledge base, vocabulary, perceptive tools, and personal biology.

Wine tasting relates to physiology, psychology, and neurobiology; with flavors identified by the brain using the senses of site, smell, touch (mouth feel), and taste. Studies indicate that our experience and the knowledge of what we are drinking influence our perception. Emerging science defines flavor as a multimodal process, wherein the senses subconsciously arrive at, and develop flavor opinions.

Olfactory experiences are difficult to describe as a personal experience. Therefore, how can groups of people taste, and describe, wines in an identical manner. The answer is they cannot. Nevertheless, can a well-developed training technique lead to consistent and credible opinions: by individuals, probably so.

Tasting wine is about learning. Some people are visual, some are supertasters, and some have powerful olfactory senses. Each finds what they recognize in a wine. Tasters look for the aspects of a wine that they are comfortable identifying. They draw conclusions about the grape, its terroir, and any production techniques. This allows one to deduce the country of origin and the wine region. The technique is not perfect; a 50%-60% score is usually passing in the classes taken by wine professionals and sommeliers. Not all tasters will find the same pleasures in a given wine, but eventually

they will find wines they like.

Stay healthy, and Cheers.

You can reach Robert Russell at

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