Scientists, no less a neuroscientist, have determined there’s something to the snob appeal of adjectives to describe wine. This, according to neuroscientist and author Gordon Shepherd of Yale has been proven!
Shepherd argues that wine tasting engages and stimulates your brain more than a challenging physics equation or classical music interpretation. Whaaa? In his book, Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters, he does a deep dive into the dynamics of how our brain processes and shares the information once the fluid (wine) is in our mouths – a very sophisticated chemical lab on its own. The effect of the wine’s appearance (color, clarity, effervescence), its aromas and the mouthfeel all come together as part of our brain’s mechanics.
He suggests that unlike a math problem that utilizes a specific source of knowledge, drinking wine and tasting wine engages our brain more fully.
Speaking to NPR, Shepherd noted that we “don’t just put wine into our mouth and leave it there”. Heck no! We move it around and then swallow. And these are very complex motor acts.
But the most complex part of drinking wine and one of the fine points of his book is the argument that when we are consuming wine, our brains actually need to create the flavors. Aha!
Meaning, that this is similar to the way we use color – attention all designers and artists – the objects we see and enjoy don’t have color themselves, it’s the light that hits them and bounces off that create color from the wavelengths. So, exactly as in wine: the molecular structure of wine doesn’t have taste or flavor – but once in our mouths our brains are stimulated, and the brain creates flavor in the same manner that it creates color.
So, what’s our takeaway? That when drinking wine our brain enjoys sectioning out the colors, aromas and mouthfeel of wine and giving us information based on sense and taste memories from other arenas of our lives. A bit complex to wrap our heads around, however next time you smell berries, cassis, tobacco, leather, pears, apples, honey, white flowers, petrol, smoke….your brain is having a blast deciphering all of this for you.
And, who could argue that drinking wine is more stimulating and definitely engaging than a math problem!
Contributor: Stacie Hunt, Certified Silver Pin Sommelier/AIS
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Image Credit: LA International Wine Competition; bingemagazine.com; quotefancy.com