Forget “aftertaste.” The next time you’re swishing around some vino, try talking about its “retroaromatic effect.”

That’s the aromatic rush you experience at the back of your mouth a few seconds after tasting a food or beverage. Want to get even more geek science-foodie cred? You can refer to a new study by food chemists that demonstrates that this delayed flavor is released by mouth bacteria.

The study, which appears in the November 12 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, shows that “[t]he mouth acts as a reactor, adding another dimension to odor perceptions.” Bacteria in human saliva breaks down foods’ compounds, releasing chemicals called thiols, which then come in contact with the olfactory tissue lining the nasal cavity.

Sterile saliva, the study’s scientists found, failed to break down the compounds.

So, someone says you have a “dirty mouth”? Perhaps not such an insult to a food-lover, after all.

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