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Wine Sensory Scientist Ann Noble Retires From UC Davis

The developer of the Wine Aroma Wheel will be succeeded by one of her former graduate students.

Lynn Alley
Posted: August 21, 2002

Renowned sensory chemist Ann Noble, widely recognized for her work in developing the Wine Aroma Wheel, is retiring this fall after 28 years on the faculty of the department of viticulture and enology at University of California, Davis.

Noble, who earned a Ph.D. in food science at the University of Massachussetts, was hired by UC Davis in 1974. She was the first woman hired in the department as a faculty member, and she helped gain international acclaim for its sensory research program.

The Wine Aroma Wheel, developed in 1984 and now familiar to numerous students of wine-tasting classes, features an array of sensory descriptors for both white and red wines. Noble believed that there was a need to take wine sensory studies "out of the Ice Age" and to develop a framework from which to objectively interpret what she and her students were smelling in wines.

Noble's latest research is focused on how consumers perceive astringency in wines, while another of her ongoing projects looks at how wine aroma and flavor influence consumer preferences.

In addition to her research work, Noble taught undergraduate courses such as "Wine Types and Sensory Evaluation," which she describes as "kindergarten for the nose."

As of January 2003, Noble will be succeeded by Dr. Hildegarde Heymann, a UC Davis graduate who worked in Noble's lab from 1982 to 1986.

For the past 16 years, Heymann, a professor of food science and a co-author of a widely used sensory-evaluation textbook, has "built the sensory program at the University of Missouri into one of the best in the country," said Noble.

"People keep telling me that I am the new Ann at UCD. However, I won't be the new Ann, I plan on being me. My research areas will likely only slightly overlap with the work she did, but I do hope to build on her legacy," said Heymann.

Noble says she now intends to "climb mountains, raft rivers, write books and papers, read novels and be a visiting professor … around the world."

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