Carbonation will amplify the components and change the perception in any case. Try this with a commercial mead (carbonate half the bottle, compare it to the other still half) or cider (open one bottle and let it go flat, compare it to an unopened bottle) as well.
I make a jalapeno ale every year for two local beer festivals (http://bbbrew.com/index.php?page=brewBlogDetail&filter=buergermeister&id=55
). When I taste the uncarbonated beer in the hydrometer the pepper and heat are more dominant. If I carbonate it to 2.5 vols then I get more of the smoked malts and even some cascade flavor. Pepper and heat is still there but much more subtle.
Temperature also plays a role. Try this with your wife. Put the same bitter in two soda bottles and carbonate them. Put one soda bottle in the fridge, leave the other one at room temp. Once the one bottle has cooled pour them into two glasses and see what she says. Then tell her it's the same beer, just at different temps.