A study has found that specialist oenophiles have a much more acute sense of taste than the rest of us – and it may even be in the genes.

The findings mean that apparently eccentric descriptions of wine by critics such as Jilly Goolden as having the taste of “pear drops”, “liquorice” or even “rubber” may not be wrong just because ordinary people cannot taste them.

It could simply be that their palate experiences the flavour of a wine in a completely different way. Researchers suggested that the findings may call into question the whole raison d’etre of wine experts.

Prof John Hayes, director of Pennsylvania State University’s sensory evaluation centre, said: “What we found is that the fundamental taste ability of an expert is different.

“And, if an expert’s ability to taste is different from the rest of us, should we be listening to their recommendations?” ( 4/3/2012).

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