masters of wineA Master of Wine is someone who has passed the rigorous tasting and theory exams and submitted an acceptable research paper to the The Institute of Masters of Wine. There are currently only 354 in the world. Why?

1. There are approximately 800 volatile compounds in wine that human beings are able to smell along with the 5 basic tastes that we detect in the mouth.

2. When combinations of odors and flavors are present the intensity of one is reduced by the presence of others. This is called hypoadditivity–the more aromas there are to smell the less any of them will be clearly detected.

3. We use 4 senses when tasting wine (audition being relatively unimportant unless you’re listening to music), but the input of one sensory modality can influence the others. Tastes influence aromas, aromas influence taste, color influences both, as do tactile impressions. This makes it hard to focus attention and distinguish analytically various sensations.

4. Except for detecting sugar, bitterness and spoilage, evolution has designed us to respond more readily to visual stimuli rather than aroma or taste,.

5. Assessing wines requires assigning meaningful words to sensations, a skill that no one develops naturally, and for which there is no settled vocabulary,  since it has no application outside the rarified domain of wine or food criticism.

A better question might be “Why are there so many Masters of Wine?”