Thursday, March 31, 2005

Wine Science News
Vinography: A Wine Blog has posted a link to the beta version of Wine Science News. Apparently a product of the wine magazine Decanter, it looks like an interesting addition to the world of wine with sections on viticulture, wine making, wine business and, of course, wine drinking!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

More than a Sideways Glance at Santa Barbara
Eric Anderson of has put up his tasting notes for his Santa Barbara Futures Tasting. Unfortunately he did not get to taste all the wines, including some I would have liked to have heard more about. But it appears that he did taste some special wines, some very limited production wines, and even a Merlot! ............"Hey Miles, you hear that? Put the bucket down Miles. Here's your pill. That's a good boy!"

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Michael Broadbent Interview
Neal Martin of has interviewed Michael Broadbent MW. Click here to link to the interview. Its definitely worth a read, especially for his comments on Len Evans and Robert Parker, Jr.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Letting the Sediment Settle
I don’t know about you but after more than a week of posts on decanting and a lot of hours looking for hard evidence that it does anything besides remove sediment I’ve come up pretty empty.

However there are still some issues that need to be discussed about decanting and so after a few responsibilities in the real world have been completed I will return and finish my thoughts on this subject.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Decanting - Day 8
A couple of days ago I provided links to various internet sites under the guise of a search for “well documented, peer reviewed, evidence on the virtues of decanting”. Nothing could, of course, be further from the truth. While the internet does pretty much cover the known universe, the links and quotes given provide little more than anecdote and personal opinion.

There are other more appropriate databases to search for studies that have been done on the effects that decanting (i.e. aeration) may have on wine. They include Ovid Technologies, Inc. which I can access at work. And should be accessible at any university library. It includes (among others) Biological Abstracts (Indexes life science research reported in nearly 5,500 journals. Coverage is international and includes biological and medical research findings, clinical studies, discoveries of new organisms, biotechnology, pharmacology and botany.) which goes back to 1980, and Agricola (Index to materials acquired by the National Agricultural Library and cooperating institutions. Includes journal articles, monographs, series, and materials in many non-print formats covering a broad range of agricultural topics. 1970-1985 international in scope. 1985+ focuses on U.S. related publications.) which goes back to about 1979.

Searching a number of literature data bases I’ve come up with, how can I put this politely, less than might be expected given the opinions that are voiced on this topic. There is this one paper.

Avakyants, SP. Changes in bouquet substances during wine aeration. Izvestiya Vysshikh Uchebnykh Zavedenii Pishchevaya Tekhnologiya (1). (1972) 95-98.

No, I did not make this citation up. Now its possible that so few papers were identified because the searches did not go back far enough in time. Certainly no work from Peynaud was identified; his book was first published in 1980. But sensory evaluation of taste is a growing field and it includes wine. Just do a search of PubMed to see what I mean. Whoa, “decanting, wine” gives some hits! Scientific American: How does decanting red wine affect its taste? And why is it suggested for red wine, but not white?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Ethics in Vinous Cyberspace
There have been several posts recently about what constitutes ethics in wine blogs. See here and here for examples. Forums and bulletin boards are also prone to abuse, none more so than the most popular of all, eRobertParker. Apparently a distributor of Australian wines has been praising certain products and criticizing others. This is just not cricket! The offender has been banned, and apparently identified. Have a read and see if you think the correct action was taken!
Wine and Philosophy
We interrupt our regular programming to bring you notification of the BBC radio show The Wine Programme. Philosopher and wine columnist Professor Roger Scruton has been interviewed on his thoughts on wine, philosophy and terroir. The show aired on March 21, 2005 and the tape can be replayed.

You might remember that Scruton is the fellow who said "Australia is a big problem. It is a landscape that has been dragged from hunter-gatherer to farmer in 200 years." Australians have generally not, therefore, "built into their wine 'le gout de terroir'", choosing instead to make wines at 14.5% alcohol, and to brand them for sale in "the moron market" at "Wine and Philosophy" Conference at the University of London. More in a post here.

On the BBC show Scruton waxes lyrical about terroir, prayer, and needing a soul to commune with wine. If I understand him correctly he's describing what we used to call in the old days "getting a buzz". We used to get all philosophical at that stage too!
Decanting - Day 7
I can’t help myself. Just one more gem from the Google search of “decanting, wine” before we begin to get serious about seeing if anything is actually known about what decanting actually does to wine.

“In addition to splashing, I personally 'pour violently' into the bottle, sometimes talking to the bottle in an aggressive tone. I think it helps. This method is for opening up the bouquet in a younger wine.”

Dionysus and Bacchus have always provided the possibility of gratuitous sex along with worship of the fruits of the vine, and now we have an excuse for gratuitous violence – decanting!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Decanting - Day 6
OK, let’s serious about finding some really well documented, peer reviewed, evidence on the virtues of decanting. What does a Google search of “decanting, wine” reveal? Here is a sampling.

From The
“Young wines also benefit from decanting, although the aim is not to take the wine off its sediment (there is rarely any such sediment in young wines), but rather to aerate the wine. The action of decanting itself, and the large surface area in contact with the air in the decanter, alters the wine, softening its youthful bite and encouraging the development of more complex aromas that normally develop with years in bottle. For this reason even inexpensive wines plucked from the shelves of the local supermarket can benefit from decanting, if a first taste reveals a tannic, grippy, youthful structure.”

Decanting is great for young red wines
Young red wines with strong tannins that almost chewy, woody, astringent taste greatly benefit from decanting. As the wine is poured into the decanter and left to sit for thirty minutes or so, oxygen soften tannins and pushes the fruit forward to intensify the bouquet and delight the palate.”

“So, to sum it up – you can decant whenever you want and whatever you want. People will say that only older red wines with sediment need to be decanted, but decanting a younger red will open it up too and you may decide to decant a white wine just because you like the way it looks on the table. There are really no rules here. For us – we decant red wines, pouring the younger ones with vigor into the decanter, and pouring the older ones with a gentle touch to separate the sediment from the rest of the wine. We let it breath for 10 minutes or so (if I can handle waiting that long on that particular day) and then fill up the glasses. We don’t ever put it back into the bottle though – we drink it!”

From Wine on The
“As a rule of thumb most red wines will benefit from breathing, but it only applies to white wines that have had 12 or more months aging. If you don't have a proper decanter just use a large water jug. The aim is to expose the maximum possible surface to the air, in order to help open up the fruit flavors and develop the wine's true character.

If a wine has spent up to 12 months in small oak barrels allow one hour; if it has spent 24 months allow 2 hours and for 36 months, allow 3 hours. If there is sediment use a port filter to decant. If you don't have a port filter then use a coffee filter instead.”

From Steamer Trunk
“White wines can be consumed almost instantly. There are exceptions—full bodied white Burgundies, and Bordeaux, as well as the best Alsatian whites do nicely with a little breathing spell. Ports are in a class by themselves and can benefit by several hours of decanting. Decanting is particularly good for young and tannic red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, most Zinfandels, Bordeaux, Rhone Valley wines and many Italian wines fall into this category. Tannin is a substance found in wine skins and as red wines are fermented in their skins, a slight bitterness can cling to the palate upon tasting. Aeration softens the tannins and improves the overall taste considerably. The rule of thumb is usually an hour.”

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Decanting - Day 5
We have seen what one Master of Wine (MW) has to say about decanting. How about one more? Michael Broadbent devotes almost fives pages to decanting in his book Wine Tasting (my copy is the 1989 Simon and Schuster Reprint). Here is a sampling of what he has to say.

“More fatuous argument has been stimulated by this side issue than almost any other.”

"The second, and in my opinion far less important, reason for decanting is to aerate the wine. It is in this area that there is a great deal of muddled thinking……”

“By general consensus, young wines can take, possible need, plenty of breathing time older wines less, very old wines scarcely any – just extract the cork and decant carefully. If it were only as simple as that.”

“How many times has one been told, and occasionally discovered accidentally, that a young red wine seems softer and better on the palate the next day?”

“It is my considered opinion that no noticeable oxidation occurs for a very considerable period after the cork is drawn, and, surprisingly little change occurs in the decanter. The main development takes place in the glass. The greater the wine, the more revealing and complex the bouquet and the longer it and the flavour will last.”

"My final advice on “air” is: be bold, and try decanting well in advance. Above all, with a really fine wine (and this applies as much to a top-class white burgundy as to claret) give the wine a chance to blossom in the glass: sip it, make it last, revel in its marvelous development.”

I certainly hope later editions of this otherwise excellent little book are less confusing. First we are told that he thinks that “little change occurs in the decanter” but then “be bold, and try decanting well in advance”. Maybe he has a lot of really pretty decanters that he likes to boldly show off?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Decanting - Day 4
Is the view on decanting expressed in The Oxford Companion to Wine the personal opinion of Jancis Robinson? Here are some of her comments on the subject from How to Taste (revised edition published in 2000).

“For a long time it has been thought that the process of aging in wine was simply one of slow oxidation, that small amounts of air either already present in the sealed bottle or entering through the cork, gradually react with the wine to make it develop into something more complex and ramified. It was thought therefore that if you poured a bottle of wine into another container such as a decanter, you would aerate it and somehow telescope the aging process into just a few minutes by putting the wine into contact with a lot of air. The bouquet would be fanned into life by all this oxygen. This view is still widely held, but the results of comparative tastings of samples of the same wines opened and decanted at varying intervals before tasting have been suspiciously inconclusive. Furthermore, some authorities argue that the effects of aeration can only be harmful; that by exposing a delicate bouquet to air you may make it evanesce, and that the interesting reactions between oxygen and wine are too complicated to be speeded up. All that can happen, they argue, is that the wine starts to oxidize too fast, and therefore it begins to deteriorate.”

She goes on to say “It is true that the potential disadvantage of dissipating the bouquet of a wine by decanting it or allowing a half-full bottle to stand open for a while can sometimes be an advantage. Some wines, full-bodied reds particularly, can be too intensely flavored when young. Rather than gaining extra flavors, the decanter allows them to lose some of their aggressive youth and mellow into a more palatable, if more vapid, middle age. This is especially true of some rich reds from California, Australia, Italy, the Lebanon, and the odd rustic wine from Spain and the Rhône.”

Hmmm, there is nothing like a nice vapid red wine!

One thing Ms Robinson does do in “How to Taste” is suggest a variation of the Peynaud anecdote. All you need is three bottles of the same wine. Open and decant one bottle three hours before tasting, decant another one hour before tasting, and open the third immediately before tasting. Have each wine poured for you so that you do not know how long they have been exposed to air and then do a comparative tasting. Does decanting make a difference?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Decanting - Day 3
My Wine Page-a-Day Calendar poses this question for March 18th:

Q: Which two wines would most benefit from decanting?
A. a 4-year-old Australian shiraz
B. a 20-year-old tawny Port
C. a 2-year-old Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon
D. a 20-year-old vintage Port

A: C and D. Decanting is done for two reasons: to pour older wines off their sediment and to help tight and tannic young wines open up. Because a two-year-old Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon is sure to have a hefty dose of tannin, it will undoubtedly benefit from spending some time in a decanter. And vintage Port is a powerful fortified wine. It will have a fair amount of sediment and should certainly be decanted.

Hmmm, someone else who believes that aeration will reduce the perception of tannin in a wine. Interesting!
I have to interrupt the Decanting series to announce some late breaking news. Shiraz has won its first award from the blogosphere. Tom Wark of FERMENTATIONS has announced the first annual WINE BLOG "MASTI AWARDS" for Masthead Excellence. Shiraz won for Best Minimalist Approach to Masthead Creation. The blog received this accolade because “Most wine bloggers are so excited to offer up our expertise to a waiting readership, as well as being pretty darn lazy, that we generally just toss up any old masthead on our blog that the service offers and then jump into the writing. Shiraz's masthead takes this cache of Lazy that defines wine bloggers and take it to a minimalist height.”

What can I say? Well first I’d like to thank Blogger for providing the template that allowed me to carefully craft the word Shiraz into the masthead. And…….. well, really that was it. But I’d like to thank Tom for recognizing that Shiraz does take a simple approach to Blog formatting. I’d like Shiraz to be fancy and eye-catching, and maybe when it grows up and moves to something like TypePad it will be. But maybe if it stays this way Shiraz can be a multiple winner of the Best Minimalist Approach to Masthead Creation award!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Decanting - Day 2
Described in The Oxford Companion to Wine (2nd Edition, Edited by Jancis Robinson, 1999) as an “optional and controversial step in serving wine, involving pouring wine out of its bottle into another container called a decanter.” The reasons given for decanting are to remove sediment, to aerate wine, and practical aspects of putting wine on the table before rather than during a meal, and showing off your fancy decanter. Again that name Peynaud comes up in the discussion on decanting as a way to provide air to a wine. The comment is essentially as stated by Peynaud in his book. The rebuttal? “However there are certain types of wines, Barolo most obviously, which may not have been included in Professor Peynaud’s experiments with decanting regimes, which can be so concentrated and tannic in youth that to lose some of their initial sensory impressions is a positive benefit.” Hmmm, the Barolos I tasted recently had several hours in glass before we tasted them, still seemed awfully tannic to me. They must have been absolute monsters out of the bottle! And I love how all of those experiments of Peynaud's are dismissed with a simple "may not".

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

As I recover from my surgery a little bit of idle reading has me rediscovering the following quotations.

“Only bottles which have a deposit need to be decanted.”

“If it is necessary to decant, it should be done at the last moment, just before sitting down or just before serving, never in advance.”

“Only wines suffering from some fault (for example, a lack of cleanness on the nose, the presence of some gas, a little thinness in constitution) warrant decanting sufficiently in advance to allow for plenty of contact with air.”

Who said this? The same person who wrote “I have carried out dozens of controlled decanting experiments on wines of all ages and all origins. The wines were either handled under inert gas so as to avoid any influence from oxygen, or, alternatively, I varied the amount of dissolved oxygen and the length of contact with air.” Hmmm, that might just qualify him as someone who knows more about decanting wine than most. Who is he? The author is the late Emile Peynaud and the quotes are from his book “The Taste of Wine”. Peynaud first published his book in 1980 and then published a revised second edition (from which I have quoted) in 1996.

Now all of us know that wine will evolve and change over time. Just let wine sit in your glass for 15-30 minutes and it will change in aroma, longer, say several hours, and the actual feel of the wine in your mouth may change. I experienced this recently with Penfold's 2002 Bin 389. Well wine is a living thing. Isn’t it? I read a bit more of Peynaud. He related an anecdote. A 1962 Médoc Cru had been decanted “almost four hours” before lunch. During the lunch “everyone praised the virtues of letting wines breathe”, except Peynaud. He asked that unopened bottles of the same wine be opened and a comparison be made. “The strong, estery bouquet of the undecanted wine filled the glasses with a floral, truffle-like refinement, while the other appeared totally faded by comparison. On the palate the undecanted wine was livelier, fresher, less thick but also less fleshy. Everyone agreed that decanting had made the wine lose finesse and elegance though it had made it seem fuller. It had made a lively and refined wine seem rather common and lackluster.”

I wonder if this experiment has ever been tried with recent vintages of Aussie shiraz?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Leaving a Bitter Taste
I'm supposed to be resting after surgery. But a visit to the doctor to make sure that all is going as planned and that nothing is in danger of falling off (even though the color due to bruising is highly suggestive of exactly that scenerio) has me dropping into the lab to see what's on the slab. Among the pile is the March 10th issue of the science journal Nature with a letter entitled "The receptors and coding logic for bitter taste" by KEN L. MUELLER, MARK A. HOON, ISOLDE ERLENBACH, JAYARAM CHANDRASHEKAR, CHARLES S. ZUKER & NICHOLAS J. P. RYBA. Nature 434, 225–229, (2005)

The synopsis provided is as follows: Almost every naturally occurring toxin tastes bitter, so the ability to detect bitterness is vital to animals as a means of avoiding poisonous substances. The T2R family of receptors, found on the tongue and palate epithelium, are implicated in bitter taste sensing. A combination of genetic, behavioural and physiological studies now confirms that T2R receptors are necessary and sufficient for the detection and perception of bitter compounds. Intriguingly the system can be subverted: bitter can be the new sweet. Mice engineered to express a bitter taste receptor in what are normally 'sweet' cells display strong attraction to this family of bitter compounds. So the 'taste' of a sweet or a bitter compound is a reflection of how the specific receptors are wired, rather than a property of the receptors or even of the tasted molecules themselves.

So it is true that an aversion to bitter is a good thing, but if you actually do like bitterness then maybe, just maybe, your sweet/bitter receptors have been mixed up!
The Best Wine Value In The World
They call Australia "the lucky country". There are a number of reasons for this. Tom Wark of the wine blog FERMENTATIONS has discovered one. Australian fortified wines! If you are an Australian over 55-60 years of age you know about these wines because they were what your parents and grandparents drank when you were a kid. OK, maybe Grandma drank mostly cheap cream sherry, but muscats, tawny ports and tokays have been part of the Australia wine scene for many, many years. Today some of the old names still exist, but more importantly not so old names, like Dutschke, try to continue the tradition. These are not easy wines to make. Base material must be established and added to over a period of years. But still only small amounts of wine are bottled each year. If you find some, especially Muscat, from names like Buller, Chambers, Dutschke, Morris, Seppelt, Yalumba , then buy a bottle. When you get it home pour a small glass, take a seat in nice big comfortable chair and swirl, sniff and sip your way to the lucky country. Pair it with some walnuts and dark chocolate.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Amazon Taking Orders for the Sideways DVD
Amazon is listing the Sideways DVD for release on April 5th, and they are taking orders as you read this. Better get that order in now! Both widescreen and full screen editions will be available.
A Little Bruised
Due to minor surgery late last week I will be pausing to reflect upon the many varied hues of color to the bruising that has followed the procedure. Who knows, with a bit of luck reflection upon the various shades of blue and purple may improve my description of the color of wine. I should be back to add to the Tasting Notes eBlog with a tasting of Aussie Shiraz around the 17th.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

2005 Vintage a Delight to Behold
Well in Pokolbin, anyway. Pokolbin? Where the hell is that? That's what wine blogs are for, to help with all these little details. Of course, you could just Google it! Pokolbin is in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia. The Hunter Valley is one of the oldest vineyard regions in Australia. Well known to Aussies, it really gets very little press outside the country. But one thing is for sure if the McWilliams Mt Pleasant Shiraz for 2005 are top wines then get some. We are talking, in particular, about the Maurice O'Shea Shiraz. The latest release is the 2000. Don't say you were not blogged in a timely manner.

In fact get a bottle or two of whatever you can get of the Mt Pleasant wines as, apart from being excellent, they are a little bit of Aussie wine history. As Langton's describes them in their Leading Australian Cult Wines page Maurice O'Shea is often regarded as the father of the Australian table wine industry. His wines (1921 to 1956) were remarkably good, begging the question why the Hunter Valley has not achieved its early promise in the market. I recommend the Maurice O'Shea Shiraz and the Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Wine Forums and Internet Trolls
Still no reply from Kahuna (Ben Stevens) on where he obtained the material for his Worrying research on oxidation ? post on the Mark Squires' BB on

Its getting to the point where you have to begin to wonder if this is not a troll. First, and so far only, post by this individual. Picks a topic sure to incite discussion (e.g. research by a French group showing that high alcohol New World wines do not survive long-term) and posts it on the largest and most active wine forum. It also mentions the effects of closures (natural cork versus synthetic cork), another point that has been hotly debated on eBob in recent times.

The problem is that several of us have tried to find out more about the lead investigator of the study Dr. Jean-Pierre Varoni. But he seems not to have published anything of note. Googling selected phrases from the text of the post by Kahuna also failed to identify anything. Others have pointed out that Jean-Pierre Varoni is very similar to Pierre-Antione Ravoni an associate of Robert Parker, Jr. However this may just be co-incidence.

If it is a troll then it is comforting that very few were taken in by what is quite a well constructed post. The post displays a good level of knowledge regarding the chemistry of redox reactions as they pertain to wine (although it could easily be a verbatim copy from lecture notes or an oenology text book).

More worrying is that if it is not a troll and Kahuna has decided not to return (for whatever reason) and provide the requested link, then Dr Varoni and his study have been poorly served by this individual.
Barossa Backfill
Another update on the Barossa trip has been added. It is the tastings done on December 14 and includes such notables as Kalleske (winemaker), Torbreck, Veritas, Smidge - Two Hands (winemaker), and Thorn Clarke. A numer of wines were tasted from barrel. You can find it here.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

High Alcohol Wines Turn to Vinegar
On Thursday a thread appeared on the Mark Squires Wine Bulletin Board under the title Worrying research on oxidation ? The initial post contains material from a “science research site” which describes "A recent study by the research arm of l’Union de Maisons de Bordeaux headed by Dr. Jean-Pierre Varoni, as yet unpublished, appears to have established that high alcohol wines may be at risk of rapidly turning sour in the latter stages of cellar development. The study, prompted in part by the tendency toward higher alcohol levels in New World red wines, concluded that the results were, 'alarming,' and calls into question the suitability of this wine style for medium- or long- term cellaring. "

Unfortunately no link was provided to the “science research site” and the thread originator has not (at this time) returned to provide any additional information. But this is a sufficiently interesting topic to follow up so……..

A little checking reveals that the l’Union de Maisons de Bordeaux site is here. Their Partners, presumably including their "research arm", are here. The study could come from the Oenology Dept of Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2. But my French is not good enough to figure out if the work comes from there or if Dr. Jean-Pierre Varoni is a member of the Faculty.

OK, so let’s look in the research literature databases to see where Dr Varoni does publish as this will help locate him. So far I have searched PubMed which is excellent for biomedical literature searches, but its fairly limited when it comes to non-medical related vinous topics, as the original post seems to be. There are other databases that can be searched via Ovid Tech. The most relevant databases are probably Agricola (Index to materials acquired by the National Agricultural Library and cooperating institutions.) and Biological Abstracts (Indexes life science research reported in nearly 5,500 journals. Coverage is international and includes biological and medical research findings, clinical studies, discoveries of new organisms, biotechnology, pharmacology and botany.)

J-P Varoni does not appear in any of these databases. So either Varoni has yet to publish, publishes only in obscure French journals that are not indexed in major library data bases, or the wrong name was given. Googling Varoni’s name or phrases from the text of the original post does not pull up anything.

Is this whole thing a hoax…….?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Do You Hear That Wine?
Continuing on from yesterday. It has been reported in the science journal Nature that a Swiss musician can taste music as distinct flavors. The individual, E.S., has synaesthesia in which there is usually a concurrent perception of a musical note with a color. However E.S. experiences different tastes upon hearing different tones. A major third evokes sweet while a minor third is salty! If she hears a tritone she experiences disgust which is not a taste sensation, although it is a reaction I've had to some wines! I wonder if I was listening to music at the time? A link to the Reuters press article is here.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Picking Up a Scent
I received a Page-A-Day Calendar for Christmas. Mine was the Wine Lover's . You also get a free on-line calendar so I've added it the Blog. Look to your right-> Probably breaking some sort of Copyright doing so but if it helps you know what day it is and you learn a bit of wine lore then maybe you'll get your own. The note for yesterday was about odors. One of my favorite subjects. That got me doing literature searches again to see if there is anything new on odor perception. I won't bore you with the details, just the summary of one which led me to another.

Color has a profound effect on the perception of odors. For example, strawberry flavored drinks smell more pleasant when colored red than green and descriptions of the 'nose' of a wine are dramatically influenced by its color. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we demonstrate a neurophysiological correlate of these crossmodal visual influences on olfactory perception. Subjects were scanned while exposed either to odors or colors in isolation, or to color-odor combinations that were rated on the basis of how well they were perceived to match. Activity in caudal regions of the orbitofrontal cortex and in the insular cortex increased progressively with the perceived congruency of the odor-color pairs. These findings demonstrate the neuronal correlates of olfactory response modulation by color cues in brain areas previously identified as encoding the hedonic value of smells. The color of scents:chromatic stimuli modulate odor responses in the human brain. Osterbauer RA, Matthews PM, Jenkinson M, Beckmann CF, Hansen PC, Calvert GA. J Neurophysiol. 2005 Feb 2; [Epub ahead of print].

Human olfactory perception is notoriously unreliable, but shows substantial benefits from visual cues, suggesting important crossmodal integration between these primary sensory modalities. We used event-related fMRI to determine the underlying neural mechanisms of olfactory-visual integration in the human brain. Subjects participated in an olfactory detection task, whereby odors and pictures were delivered separately or together. By manipulating the degree of semantic correspondence between odor-picture pairs, we show a perceptual olfactory facilitation for semantically congruent (versus incongruent) trials. This behavioral advantage was associated with enhanced neural activity in anterior hippocampus and rostromedial orbitofrontal cortex. We suggest these findings can be interpreted as indicating that human hippocampus mediates reactivation of crossmodal semantic associations, even in the absence of explicit memory processing. The nose smells what the eye sees: crossmodal visual facilitation of human olfactory perception. Gottfried JA, Dolan RJ. Neuron. 2003 Jul 17;39(2):375-86.

All because of this little study. Well not entirely, but it certainly influenced both.