I don’t know where it came from, but I am compelled to write in praise of our sense of smell. Since my first pregnancy, my sensitivity to odors has increased exponentially (and that was a LONG time ago). Of course in the wine industry, we often start enjoying the wine via olfaction…mmmmmm. There nothing like a great nose on the wine.
Some interesting things about our sense of smell: According to wikipedia, it is our accessory olfactory system (as opposed to the main olfactory system) that smells the fluid-phase chemicals. How that gets translated in our brain is the stimulus, instead of going to the cortex, goes to the amygdala and hypothalamus. The amygdala, you may remember from high school or college bio, primarily processes memory and emotional reactions. The hypothalamus controls hunger, thirst, anger, fear, sleep cycles, some hormones, etc.
You know the moment when you smell a great wine or an amazing dish cooking either at home or in a restaurant there are some magnificent automatic responses: I instantly smile, without even thinking about it. But I know I am about to eat or drink whatever has reached out and stimulated my sense of smell. Wow. Sometimes I salivate in anticipation, and I can’t help be feel elevated, even bouyant. Ok, obvious, but still homage-worthy.
- Dogs, according to wikipedia, for example, have about 100 times more receptors for smell per centimeter than do humans.
- In women, the olfaction sense is strongest around ovulation.
- “As of yet, there is no theory that explains olfactory perception completely.” (wikipedia)
That fascinates me…something that seems as simple as our sense of smell, science can’t figure out! And I love that the parts of the brain that translates the nose of a wine taps into our emotional and our base needs. That, at least seems to make perfect sense! Then you add time and context to all the variables and we bascially have more wine to taste, smell and enjoy than we have time in which to do it. That’s another reason I can go back to some of my favorite bottles of wine or sparkling over and over again. It could be the person I’m with, or maybe a regular day that has brought me to another great bottle of wine. It will feel, smell and taste a little differently every time.