A visitor to the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley, Calif., attends a wine tasting class. Unlike food — which gives us sensory cues like crunchy and hot, as well as tasting, say, salty — with wine, it's all about tiny differences in taste and smell. The danger is in getting too poetic. Charles O'Rear/Getty Images hide caption

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Charles O'Rear/Getty Images

Molecules in wine stimulate thousands of taste and odor receptors, sending a flavor signal to the brain that triggers massive cognitive computation involving pattern recognition, memory, value judgment, emotion and, of course, pleasure. Alex Reynolds/NPR hide caption

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Alex Reynolds/NPR

The John C. Sullenger Vineyard at Nickel & Nickel Winery, Napa Valley, Calif. Nickel & Nickel collaborated with scientists to collect wine samples and identify the bacteria and fungi in them by sequencing microbial DNA. Jason Tinacci/Courtesy of Nickel & Nickel hide caption

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Jason Tinacci/Courtesy of Nickel & Nickel

Patricia Gallagher (from left), who first proposed the tasting; wine merchant Steven Spurrier; and influential French wine editor Odette Kahn. After the results were announced, Kahn is said to have demanded her scorecard back. "She wanted to make sure that the world didn't know what her scores were," says George Taber, the only journalist present that day. Courtesy of Bella Spurrier hide caption

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Courtesy of Bella Spurrier

The Judgment Of Paris: The Blind Taste Test That Decanted The Wine World

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Manischewitz is closely associated with Jewish tradition, but it was once a huge crossover success. Sammy Davis Jr. was its spokesman in TV advertising. At one point, the typical drinker was described as an urban African-American man. Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

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Morgan McCloy/NPR

People who drink in moderation tend to be better educated and more well off, which increases their odds of being healthy. Photographer: Katsiaryna Pakhoma/iStockphoto hide caption

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Photographer: Katsiaryna Pakhoma/iStockphoto

Bottles for sale at Passage de la Fleur, a natural wine shop in Brooklyn, N.Y. For some, natural wines must be completely unadulterated — without the use of sugar, clarifiers or other additives common in modern winemaking. Other natural winemakers, however, will use a little sulfur dioxide or added yeast to correct problems, according to Stephen Meuse, a wine buyer in Massachusetts. Andrea Shea for NPR hide caption

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Andrea Shea for NPR

At the end of Charles Dickens' 1843 classic, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge and his long-abused employee, Bob Cratchit, enjoy a mug of Smoking Bishop. It's a drink loaded with English history, politics and class identity. Illustration by John Leech, 1817-1864. Culture Club/Getty Images hide caption

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Culture Club/Getty Images

Across India, several Christian communities prepare sweet homemade wines for the festive season from a rich array of local fruit, roots and grain. Above, a glass of golden pineapple wine. Courtesy Merwyn Mascarenhas hide caption

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Courtesy Merwyn Mascarenhas

A 1969 bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Last Christmas, thieves stole $300,000 worth of fine wines from famed Napa Valley restaurant the French Laundry. Most of it was Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Dale Cruse/Flickr hide caption

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Dale Cruse/Flickr

Grand Theft Vino: Higher Wine Prices Are Attracting More Thieves

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