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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Sarah Ahmed

Dr Ann Noble, inventor of The Aroma Wheel, which celebrates its 21st birthday this year, has said she is sceptical about recent claims that women are better wine tasters because they have superior sensory perception skills. Noble, a sensory chemist who has worked at UC Davis's department of viticulture and oenology for 28 years, said: Women, in my experience, are not more sensitive nor better judges than men.' She attributes these claims to studies of single compounds in the laboratory situation comparing women at different stages of the menstrual cycle. This effect does not carry over into evaluation of real foods or wines, which are complex.' As for the higher sensitivity of pregnant women, Noble related a cautionary tale based on her studies into sourness. A pregnant woman produced results varying considerably from one day to the next, and from the other judges'. While there may be high sensitivity, consistency is an issue. However, she said she believes that, initially, women may be better at describing wines. Much of the time they are the ones in the kitchen working with foods and spices. Consequently, they have a larger aroma library in the brain, and are more able to recognise, for example, clove, which they used in a ham, because they experience the smell with the item and were able to acquire this information.'