Comparison of the ability of wine experts and novices to identify odorant signals: a new insight in wine expertise

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Abstract

Background and Aims:

The ability to identify odours is important in wine tasting. Contradictory results have emerged from studies comparing the olfactory identification ability of experts and novices. The aim of this study is to extend the characterisation of olfactory capacity of wine professionals and to discuss the effect of practice and training on odour identification.

Methods and Results:

We used an original method to explore odour identification as a function of a semantic and perceptual task: visual images of odour sources, forced-choice olfactory identification and response time measurements. The performance of 39 wine experts and 41 novices was compared. The experts were more accurate than novices in olfactory identification; however, their response time was significantly longer.

Conclusions:

As a part of their expertise, wine professionals acquire a better capacity for identifying wine defects or everyday odorants.

Significance of the Study:

Experts apply a more complex cognitive process than novices when confronted with olfactory identification tasks. The mechanisms by which experts acquire their superior skill probably involve memory and olfactory mental representations, but their precise nature remains unclear.

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