Hyposmia ~ the aging palate

Probably not too many people in this lifetime want to admit that their palates are on the wane. No awards are given for fessing up, and it will definitely work in one’s disfavor, but I’ve always been one for telling it like it is, not like it isn’t… I just didn’t know there was a name for this life changing phenomenon.

I’ve got to thank Dan Berger for bringing it up years ago in his Vintage Experiences Commentary. I’ve been thinking about this. I even talked to a colleague about it, and he told me to just let it go because I have wisdom to offer… Yeah, right… but it’s just not the same.

I’m always ready to reinvent myself. As one part of me is left behind, I discover another. It’s in the not letting go of the old room that doesn’t allow for one to discover what’s in the new one.

So, let’s discuss… What’s Hyposmia, anyway?

hy·pos·mi·a (n.) A diminished or deficient sense of smell.

The good news for me is that I was born with a hypersensitive sense of smell, so I probably still have a better than “average” ability now. None-the-less, having my sense of smell diminish a bit causes me to wonder what happens to people who are born with an average sense of smell.

Like Alice, I’m off into a new room, exploring new things, and not letting one thing that slips ever-so-slowly away become a negative…

It’s just an opportunity for new things to come my way. For instance, I can go photograph a wine competition and bring back wonderful images, versus having to be the one where after a flight of wine, I’ve just lost it but must trudge on. (This image was taken at the Riverside Wine Competition in May 2007, thanks to the generosity of Dan Berger and Juliann Savage.)

I have something for my eyes (glasses), and even if someone invests something for my nose, I’m happy to smell a bit less… versus extending the length of my nose and its capabilities. Enough already!

It’s not the changes that happen in our lives that matter. It’s how we handle the changes that counts!

For Dan’s issue, please contact him thorough his Web site for his full story. It’s very enlightening, and he’s brave enough to put it out there. I’m just following his lead. I can’t call it an “opinion” because it’s got a medical name: Hyposmia.

This perhaps might explain to me, however, how Robert Parker can give (for instance) a 2004 Black Coyote Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon a score of 91, and write the following:

  • This deep ruby/purple-colored wine, made at the Judd’s Hill Winery and bottled by Robert Pecota winery, is outstanding. A beautiful, rich wine, it exhibits notes of black currant, licorice, underbrush, and subtle background oak. Medium to full-bodied, still very young and primary but very promising as well, this wine should age nicely for 12-15 years.

Then, another wine critic writes the following, with a score of 84:

  • Wholly absent of the polish and finesse that we associate with Stags Leap Cabernets, this brawny but soft-centered wine is singularly defined by ripeness, and its ongoing toughness and undisguised heat stand out for lack of buffering fruit.

Same bottle, two opinions.

And, thanks to Lewis Carroll for these wonderful images. Where would we all be in life without a little Alice in Wonderland!

4 Responses to “Hyposmia ~ the aging palate”

  1. Don Phelps says:

    Two widely different reviews of the same wine is also why a wine wins Double Gold at one Competition and Bronze at the next one – Wine is a personal thing and one person’s opinion is exactly that – their opinion. If there were real standards in judging their would be more consistency in scores but this is not mathematics 🙂

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    So true, Don. Wine is subjective… a-l-w-a-y-s in a-l-l w-a-y-s.

  3. Chris says:

    Great article and observation about the differing notes on the Black Coyote. But I think there is more than just hyposmia at work here. Sense of taste is complicated and R Parker puts Judds and Robert Pecota in the first lines of the review… meaning those influenced his taste “perception” greatly.

    I’ve also heard that Ridge wines have gotten bolder and less nuanced as the famed winemaker has aged with rumor about hyposmia being a factor.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, for weighing in, Chris.

    As we age, we lose a bit of this and that… to be sure. Our eyesight isn’t the same, nor is our hearing. Hair thins out, elasticity of our skin isn’t the same, our sense of smell and taste is impacted. I’m happy that I started out as a super palate (this only means that I had more taste buds than the average palate). As my taste buds have diminished a bit, I’m thankful that I started out with so many. As child, however, it was a nightmare… tasting so much from vegetable – mostly – that my mother over-cooked right into bitter.

    Aging also has some great benefits, but that’s another story and not worth all that hoopla here. (It happens to ALL of us, we must remember, unless we “die young and stay pretty,” as the song goes).

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