I caught this tidbit of information in my local paper the other day and realized that it had a great deal of relevance for the wine industry:
Smell, taste found to fade with age
“…As people get older, the way food tastes changes – and not in a good way. While our taste buds are one of the few things that hold up fairly well as we age, our sense of smell is what contributes most of what we think of as flavor – herbs and spices, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, coffee, wine. And that sense falls apart.
According to research by Richard Doty, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Smell and Taste Center, ability to smell peaks by age 40. It’s downhill from there, with the slope growing sharply steeper after 60. Sixty percent of people between 65 and 80 have major olfactory impairment. More than 80 percent do after 80.”
Most wineries have information on their tasting notes about what aromas people might (or will) smell in their wines, and how the wines taste. However, your visitors over the age of 40 may not be able to discern some of the smells of which you have made note. Or, because of the fact that our sense of smell contributes greatly to “what we think of as flavor,” visitors are not necessarily going to get all the flavors that younger people would.
Remember that when you tell people that they will smell or taste certain flavors and they don’t, it’s very much like taking a test and failing. Additionally, for people who are inexperienced wine tasters, they may recognize certain flavors as one that they know, but because it is out of context, can’t tell you what it is.
Do everything you can to set people up to succeed and make them feel good about themselves by asking them what they smell and taste, rather than telling them what they “should” smell and taste. If they are in the ballpark, tell them that they have a good palate.