The Essence of Food: Understanding the Flavor Wheel [Infographic]

Flavor wheels help people describe food more objectively.

Flavor wheels help people describe food more objectively.

Eating is a truly multi-sensory experience. As such, it can be hard to process taste and smell simultaneously to properly describe the flavors of your favorite dishes requites processing taste and smell simultaneously, which can be difficult. And that’s why the flavor wheel was invented.

Establishing flavor
With the flavor wheel, you’re meant to look at taste and smell as two interconnected senses. For any food to be truly pleasurable, it has to have the right aroma, which makes you actually want to eat it. Then you can enjoy its inner flavors.

An endless array of flavors
No two foods truly taste the same, and that’s why chefs have created flavor wheels for almost every kind of ingredient or beverage. Each list has its own pool of descriptive terms, and there are wheels for everything from chocolate and wine to walnuts and olive oil.

Science lending a hand
In the past, flavor wheels were created by chefs and food fanatics. However, over the last decade or so, food scientists have helped refine these wheels. Using the latest technological devices and data from sensory science, these experts helped make flavor wheels more accurate and reliable.

Speaking the same language
As part of the recent updates to flavor wheels, researchers wanted to make these tools more objective. By relying less on emotions or memories, and instead on discernible facts, it’s easier for more people to reach a consensus on flavors.

Spinning the wheel
Each flavor wheel is fairly straightforward. You begin by choosing the most basic descriptions from the center. Then, for more specific concepts, you move on to the outer wheel. So, if you sip some wine and note a fruity aftertaste, you’d then choose between options like grapefruit or lemon.

Appealing to the eye
Flavor wheels have to be as visually pleasing as they are functional. Seeing how the colors of the wheel interact is a way for people to better describe the flavors at hand. Plus, bright colors are often more pleasing to the eye and help with boiling food down to its basic components.

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