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Taste: It’s Personal
Cilantro is a polarizing herb; people either love it or hate it. And the people who hate it really, truly HATE it. I know, because I’m one of them.
I’m not alone. According to a study from the University of Toronto, over 21% of people with East Asian heritage, 14% of those with African heritage, and 18% of Caucasians showed a violent dislike for cilantro. Other cultures show a more tolerant attitude toward the plant that 16th century herbalist John Gerard called ‘that stinking herbe’. In particular, people with Hispanic or Middle Eastern backgrounds-cultures which traditionally use a lot of cilantro in their cuisine-are more likely to find it tasty, describing its taste as fresh, green, and citrusy. But the rest of us? We think it tastes like soap, and we can’t imagine why you’d want to eat it. Why the divide? Why do people react so differently to the same herb?
The answer, it turns out, is genetic. Cilantro is loaded with aldehydes, organic compounds formed by the oxidation of alcohols. Some (most) of them-the unsaturated aldehydes-have a fresh, pleasing smell. But a small minority-the (E)-2-alkenals- smell soapy or even moldy. Many of the people who hate cilantro have one or more gene mutations which make them super-sensitive to those (E)-2-alkenols. So you may taste citrus, but I get dirty feet, smelly cheese, and soap. Green bell peppers and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc-also high in (E)-2-alkenols- inspire similar hatred.
Taste-with or without these gene mutations-is personal. Very very personal. Which is why, when meeting new customers, we ask lots of questions and may even pour you a few wines to taste. We want to make recommendations that are right for YOU and what YOU like. We want you to go home, open the bottle, and think, “Wow! That’s delicious; that’s perfect.”
We want to help you find that ‘perfect’. Even if it’s a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Just don’t bring me cilantro.