Tastebuds Suck! Long Live The Olfactory Bulb

Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter will know that I’ve recently returned from a press trip to South Africa to attend the bi-annual Cape Wine fair. It was a fabulous trip until I came down with COVID-19 near the end of the trip.

Up until now, I have managed to avoid getting the disease. With so many people around me having gotten it in the past year or so, I was starting to believe that I might be one of those folks who can’t get it. Turns out I was just being properly careful, and despite my care, my luck ran out in South Africa. At an event where I was wandering around a big hall filled with thousands of people spitting and talking without masks. Go figure.

The worst part about coming down with COVID was that I had to cancel the last section of my trip: several days of individual producer visits that I had painstakingly arranged ahead of time.

The second worst part about getting COVID was the brief 36-48 period in which I was totally and completely anosmic: I completely, utterly, totally lost all sense of smell.

Of course, this was a relatively common, if mysterious, side effect of COVID-19 early in the pandemic. I know I read plenty of stories about it, and the about the efforts of those affected to regain their sense of smell following their infections. And of course, several of my wine colleagues around the world experienced this.

But it seemed to me, anecdotally speaking, that with the most recent variants and waves of COVID, anosmia was not a commonly reported side effect of the disease. So it took me a little by surprise when on the second day of my self-isolation in Cape Town, I stuck my nose into a jar of Tiger Balm ointment and got…. nothing.

Now, I’ve had bad colds before, and frankly, I’ve been more congested at other times in my life than I found myself in the midst of COVID. On all those occasions, however, I could smell something. In this case, it was as if someone had simply disconnected my nose from my brain.

If it hadn’t been associated with all the other nasty symptoms of COVID, and if it hadn’t also been a little scary for a guy who depends upon his nose a little more than the average person, the whole experience would have been amazingly fascinating.

We all know intellectually that most of what we taste is aroma. After all, our tastebuds really only give us sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. It’s one thing, however, to know this theoretically. It’s quite another to experience the world of food when those five taste sensations are ALL you’ve got to work with.

Yes, folks, for those of you who haven’t had the “pleasure” of COVID-induced anosmia, let me tell you. Life with only your tastebuds really, really sucks.

Potato chips? Faintly salty cardboard.
Pastries? Faintly sweet cardboard.
Orange juice? Ever-so-faintly sour liquid cardboard.
Chicken noodle soup? Cardboard strings in lightly salty water.

Interestingly, spiciness which I (erroneously it turns out) tend to think about as more of a physical interaction than an aroma, was completely absent, too, as an order of extra spicy chicken curry delivered to my room irrefutably proved (chunks of soft cardboard in a faintly salty slurry of…. cardboard).

Much to my relief, the complete anosmia lasted only around 2 days, after which I felt like my nose was back working at roughly 50% capacity, or close to what I’ve experienced with the average bad winter cold. After a week of testing negative, I felt like I was back to about 85% of my aroma-sensing capacity, with the notable exception of spiciness, however, which has been one of the last sensations to return.

I’m now a little more than two weeks into testing negative for the virus and I feel like I’m back to perhaps 90% of my previous olfactory strength. I’ve been resuming my winetasting activities with some relief and relative confidence, and I have been trying to smell as many intense smells as possible, a sort of ad-hoc regimen resembling the recovery techniques I’ve read about for those whose anosmia didn’t disappear after a couple of days.

More than anything, however, I now have even greater respect for all of our olfactory equipment, which, it seems, deserve a hell of a lot more credit for making life good. Because it turns out that a life with only tastebuds wouldn’t be much of a life at all.

The post Tastebuds Suck! Long Live The Olfactory Bulb appeared first on Vinography.

Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 2/7/21

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

Today was International Women’s Day, so there’s a lot of great stuff below focused on the women of the wine world.

Five Inspiring Women in the World of Wine
More names for us to know.

Xenophobia, Racism and Classism: The Sinister Roots of America’s Prohibition
Great history lesson.

Aria Dorsey of Folk and Rolf & Daughters in Nashville, TN, on a Year that Started with a Tornado and then Served Up a Pandemic
Tornado? Because the pandemic wasn’t enough to deal with.

In focus: How the drinks industry is tackling gender inequality – The Drinks Business
More of this, please.

Meet The Woman Bringing A Caribbean Twist To French Champagne
Breaking barriers is a good thing.

How much alcohol is in your wine?
Invariably more than it says on the label.

E.U. and U.S. Tariffs Suspended, Wine Professionals Hope for Refunds
Welcome relief. But refunds seem unlikely?

Domaine Faiveley and the Riches of Burgundy
An interview with Eve Faiveley.

Restaurant Wine Directors Worry About the Future
Eric Asimov talks with some of them

Wine influencers – the future of wine writing?
To paraphrase my friend Meg Maker: don’t confuse communicating about wine with wine writing

Shanghai busts 2000 cases of smuggled premium wines
Wine and ham trying to avoid paying taxes.

Bursting the bubble – meet the female winemakers who popped the patriarchy
More patriarchy popping please!

The Differences Between Dry Farming and Irrigation
Jamie Goode does some excellent explaining.

New Somm Group’s Language Challenge
The new somm on the block.

Lilia Perez brings an international perspective to her winemaking at RGNY
A young talent, though I wish the first thing we learned about her wasn’t what she was wearing.

Will Fish Sauce and Charred Oranges Return the World Covid Took From Me?
Retraining the nose.

Put a Cork in It? The Wine Closure Industry is Changing
Better and better.

Some Comfort for Wine Ponzi Scheme Victims
I’d call it “celler temp” comfort. Not quite cold, but close.

Sulphur Ye Not the Little Wines
A wonderfully dogma-free take on lo-no sulphur.

Interview: Christina Rasmussen, wine writer and co-founder of LITTLEWINE
A nice profile.

Wine Future 2021 Part 1: How wine needs to prepare for post-covid world
A nice summary.

New Burgundy Level Adds to the Chaos
Interesting new classification.

Interview with Ryan Opaz – Foot Trodden co-author
Simon Woolf interviews his co-author.

Pressure for ‘Argon taint’ to be recognised as wine fault
Satire without racism, sexism, or profanity. Imagine that?

Freezing Temperatures Hit ALL of Texas, Vineyard Damage May Be Extensive
There will be a lot more CA wine in Texas bottles soon.

Vaccinations for California Vineyard and Wine Production Employees Varies by County
Wine is essential, says the state.

What’s a Sommelier to Do When They Lose Their Sense of Smell?
Disability insurance, if you’ve got it?

California’s Wineries and Women’s Ownership: An Empirical Study
‘Study’ seems a bit grandiose. But glad someone is counting.

The Language of Tasting
More stimulating thoughts from Terry Theise on tasting.

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Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 2/28/21

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

Sumita Sarma: how wine can be proud not ashamed of its diversity
An important article everyone should read.

Germany’s most famous vineyard – and the world’s most expensive white wine
Famous… for Riesling.

The Good News from California’s 2020 Vintage No One Is Talking About
Well, actually it’s ALL that wine makers are talking about.

How Orson Welles Became the Most Infamous Pitchman in Booze History
The story behind the best wine ad outtakes ever.

So Ancient, Yet So New: Gorgeous Red Wines From Greece
Mmmmm. I love me some Agiorgitiko.

Q&A: Lettie Teague, wine columnist, The Wall Street Journal
Felicity Carter interviews Lettie.

Covid’s Impact on Wine Tasting
Science offers some hope.

The shy 2018 Grand Cercle bordeaux
Jancis would buy them if she could find them.

10 new MWs announced today
Including the link to read their research papers.

Vintage 2005 With Steven Spurrier – “Wines worth talking about”
Steven takes a little trip down memory lane.

Why Drink Domestic
Plenty of reasons, but not all compelling.

10 Diverse Voices in Wine
All worth checking out.

French Critics Rate Organic and Biodynamic Wines 6-12 Points Higher in Scores Compared to Conventional or Sustainable Wines, Wine Economists Find
So says one research paper.

Do Organic and Biodynamic Wines Get Higher Scores? That Isn’t What the Evidence Says.
Oops. Maybe not.

Go On, Use Me
Terry talks tasting. So well.

Musing on Smoke Taint from Harvest 2020
Questions put to many vintners.

Here’s How to Tell if a Wine Is Worth Aging
Careful, it’s a very long answer.

The huge opportunity for wine e-commerce in 2021
But who is going to exploit it?

Wine Embraces an Online Future
Only because it has to.

Wine, Covid and the Smell of Success
And the method for regaining your sense of smell? Stinky cheese.

The decline of the oak barrel in winemaking
Bow down to the great concrete egg.

The ‘Monumental’ Role Soil Microbes Play in Wine
Michelle Williams pulls out the microscope.

For Wine Professionals, Loss of Smell Due to Covid-19 Raises New Concerns
Six months in, some still suffer.

Manhattan wine store’s entire $300,000 inventory stolen: police
Hunt them down like dogs in the street.

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