The sense of Touch in wine tasting

Oral sense of Touch… (and a bit of Hearing)



We’ve been through most of the important 5 senses taking part on wine tasting: Sight, Smell, Taste, including a light “touch” on the sense of Touch, since touch plays a key role in experiencing taste it “deserves” a separate chapter.
Oral touch sensations, include those generated by pressoreceptors, mechanoreceptors and thermoreceptors sensory cells of the oral cavity.
touch mudThe bodily sense of touch is the first sense to develop. It supplies, major means of information from the proximal environment. The human hand is one of the most important adaptations in our evolutionary history, mainly because we are the only primates able to perform opposition between our thumb and the fingers allowing us the ability to perform minute highly accurate digital manipulations.

The Oral somatosensation plays a crucial role in many aspects of our multisensory perception of food wine and flavour sensation. The tactile stimulation we receive in our mouth supplies informs of food and beverage from the temperature of a food through to its texture. Food texture has been defined by Bourne as: ‘the response of homunculus-of-primary-somatosensory-cortex-in-bluethe tactile senses to physical stimuli that result from contact between some part of the oral cavity and the food’. Other researchers included the contribution from other senses, like olfaction, vision, even hearing, and kinesthesia in their definitions, (Kinesthesia is the awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body using sensory organs). In terms of describing texture of food or wine, these may appear sticky, grainy, sandy, smooth, creamy, harsh, spicy hot or temperature changer (hotter or colder than our body temperature), all of these are felt in the mouth.
When it comes to the tactile experiences associated with the consumption of food and drink, they are obviously important. Oral-somatosensation is recognized as taking a major role in our overall experience of food and drink.
The multisensory aspects of texture
It is, however, not always so easy to ascertain exactly which sense is actually doing the work in terms of giving glass of champrise to specific aspects of our multisensory experience of food and drink. We assume that the experience of bursting bubbles of fizzy drinks in the mouth is due to the CO2 bubbles popping in the oral cavity, it turns out that sensation of carbonated or fizzy bubbles on our tongue is not solely tactile but rather a result of the stimulation of the sour taste receptors on the tongue. The perception of fattiness in a food or drink is sensed by tactile receptors, However these sensations do not solely come just from the ability of the oral-somatosensory receptors to sense texture of food or drink consistency, but an accumulation of perception from the olfactory and gustatory IMG_0165receptors. Wine astringency or phenols in fruits and vegetables like brewed tea leaves, squeezed pomegranate or tannins of young red wine, is actually a tactile sensation, although many think of it as part of the wine taste and flavour.
Oral touch sensation is also responsible for the sensation of what we call “mouth-feel”. A menthol candy may evoke a cool mouthfeel sensation, a bite on a hot chilly evokes a burning sensation, alcohol evokes heat sensation etc. Jowitt defined mouth-feel as: “the textural attributes of a food or beverage responsible for producing characteristic tactile sensations on the surfaces of the oral cavity.” (Jowitt, R., “The terminology of food texture”. Journal of Texture Studies, 5:351-358, 1974)
tongue2“The tactile stimulation of the oral cavity is also very important for another reason: it turns out that where we localize a tastant follows the location of the tactile stimulus drawn across the tongue and not the point where the taste stimulus itself happens to have been transduced on the receptor surface, the fact that people localize the flavor of food to their mouth, despite the fact that the majority of the information concerning flavour comes from their nose i.e. smell. So smell is likely to attribute in large part to the tactile stimulation that they experience in their oral cavity while eating”
There is also a connection between temperature and taste. Researchers found that simply by raising or lowering the temperature at various surface points on a person’s tongue, temperature changes elicit sensations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter – that is, the four main basic tastes.
Gray778_TrigeminalTouch sensation and information regarding food or liquid in the mouth are transferred to the brain by means of the Trigeminal nerve (trigeminal pathway), which projects directly to the primary somatic sensory cortex. This projection carries information concerning touch, texture (mouth-feel), temperature, and proprioception (not to mention nociception or oral pain, and chemical irritation) from the relevant receptors in the mouth. All appear to be represented in the Orbito frontal cortex as well as in several other brain areas.(from: Food Texture and Viscosity: Concept and Measurement M. C. Bourne 1981)
Tactile Sensations
The entire oral cavity has various degrees of the sense of touch, but the parts most sensitive to the “tactile impressions” of wine are the upper, centre part of the tongue and the soft areas of the palate, the inner upper lip, the pharynx, the larynx and the gums. The centre of the tongue contains the filiform papillae (singular: papilla) are one of the four types of lingual papillae (see: ), they are small prominences on the surface of the tongue.

FILIFORM COMPOSITEThe Filiform papillae are thin, long (upside-down) “V”-shaped cones that don’t contain taste buds but are the most numerous, covering most of the dorsum (upper surface). These papillae are mechanical and are not involved in taste sensation, but tactile sensation only. Swirling wine in the mouth is a second stage (after sniffing) which helps to pinpoint the sensations of wine texture, temperature, astringency, body alcohol content and the “touch” from carbon dioxide in sparkling wines.
IMG_5562Wine Body: is a tactile term which expresses the feeling of weight of a wine in the mouth. At times the impression of full-body is almost like that of a solid substance even thought we are concerned with a liquid. It is created mainly by alcohol sensation which may lean to the “heavy” side due to higher viscosity than the water constituent of wine the higher the alcohol content the “fuller bodied” the wine . Wine dissolved solids (sediments before settling) also contribute to the sensation of “body” in the mouth.
IMG_5531Wine Texture: this refers to the touch of a wine, how it feels in the mouth. It includes sensations such as smoothess, viscosity; watery or rich dessert wines and is with high combination of sugar, glycerin or the “touch of alcohol.
Wine Astringency: caused by high concentration of phenolic substances in young red wines, responsible for the “dry” sensation caused mainly by the tannins present in the wine at this stage. The ageing process reduces astringency due to oxidation, and will be less evident in mature or older wines.
Temperature: refers in this context to the sensation of warmth created by ethyl alcohol, which increases with the wine’s strength.
champs bubbles

Fizziness: a prickly sensation is caused by the presence of carbon dioxide bubbles.
Mechanical characteristics are subdivided into the primary parameters of hardness, cohesiveness, viscosity, elasticity, and adhesiveness, and into the secondary parameters of brittleness, chewiness, and gumminess. Since popular terms are used to describe texture they often point only to a degree of intensity of these characteristics rather than an objective description.

Studied showed that: The in-mouth “chalk-like” texture of wine was strongly associated with anthocyanin grapes2concentration and was negatively associated with alcohol level and acidity. The astringent sub qualities of “velvet-like” or “emery-like” roughing were mostly related to polyphenol levels. Wines that elicited a “puckery” sensation were characterized by relatively low anthocyanin levels, high acidity, and high pigmented polymer and tannin concentrations. So both acidity anthocyanin and alcohol concentrations affect tactile sensitivity and perception.  As currently defined, wine taste sensations fall into four, or possibly five categories: sweet, sour, salty, Phenolic compounds include several hundred chemical compounds that strongly influence taste, color, and mouthfeel. Tannins and anthocyanins pigments. Some of these are naturally present in the fruit and some are created during the winemaking and aging processes. Phenolic compounds such as Resveratrol have been linked to many of the health-beneficial properties of grapes and grape products.
In the case of wine or juice, mouthfeel combines sensations related to the product’s viscosity as well as sensations related to the product’s chemical properties, such as astringency
250px-Sulfur-sampleSulfites are sulfur-based compounds occur naturally during wine fermentation, but are also often added before, during, or after fermentation as sulphur dioxide (SO2), to protect wine from oxidation and the activity of undesirable microorganisms, particularly bacteria. Sulfites are added at higher levels to white and/or sweet wines to prevent browning and/or pepper
Methoxypyrazines are a class of chemical compounds that produces herbaceous odors (e.g,. green bell pepper, leafy, or vegetative). In white wine, the odors can be desirable. However, in red wines high levels of methoxypyrazines are very undesirable. Although this is an element of “flavour” it has an influence on our mouthfeel of wine touch…

Press play to hear music, music by Daphne Sarnat –

earTo include all 5 senses in the experience of wine drinking or wine tasting the sense of Hearing is added in the form of the hearing ringing sound of glasses touching at the raising of a glass, wine glasses toasting is a very closely observed part of drinking culture. In company, no one should drink a sip of alcohol before having toasted every other person at the table by touching each others glass with intention a look into each other’s eyes… the talk around the table about the wine being drunk or tasted, sound of a popping champagne bottle, wine being poured into a wine glass, and the sound of a wine glass or God forbid… a wine bottle shattering in the background. All thought the ear our hearing sense organ with it’s center and specialty sense receptors in the Middle ear connected to our brain via the Auditory nerve – Cranial nerve Number 8.
All of our 5 senses take part during wine drinking, appreciation, and wine tasting. All of these arise in the head area; they all have specialty sense organs which are connected to our brain via one or more of the 12 Cranial nerves sometimes simultaneously by several cranial nerves. What a wonder our body is, what a wonder wine is…it is indeed a symphony of senses (see: )
Drink, Sense, Enjoy.

Taste of wine, Flavour (Part 2)

Taste Compounds, Chemistry, Anatomy & physiology of the sense of Taste in Wine continues..

Taste compounds- tastants, have smaller molecules than those of odors and, unlike odors, must be water-soluble (hydrophilic) to cause sensation. Fortunately wine is liquid and the taste components in it are already dissolved in the product. Our oral cavity senses taste and touch.

afp20000115p427-f3                                                          gustatory-pathway-cortex-in-insula-facial-and-glossopharyngeal-nerve-in-medulla-oblongata

Some interpretations of the sense of touch, like: Austerity of tannins, or burning of overpowering Alcohol, oiliness of glycerin etc. that have texture (affecting the touch sensation) and other physical features such as temperature, all related to the sense of touch are many times confused with the actual sense of taste. While there may be many aroma nuances within the wine Aromas categories, as arranged on the Aroma wheel, there are only four tastes considered in wine: salty, sour, sweet and bitter.
(The section below, aided by: Taste: Compiled by Tim Jacob, Cardiff University, UK : )
photos 009Salty tastes, very seldom are present in wine because most vine rootstocks are known to restrict the uptake of salt (maybe in Jerez and some western Australian wines). But minerality can sometimes be mistaken as salty. Salty is the most common of tastes, these come from sodium chloride (table salt), sodium nitrite, sodium bicarbonate (as in baked foods), and sodium benzoate (in various beverages). Salt (sodium chloride (Na+ Cl-). Affect the taste receptors by Na+ ions entering the receptor cells via Na-channels. The entry of Na+ causes cell depolarization, transmitter release occurs and results in increased firing in the primary afferent nerve, thus salty sensation is interpreted in the brain. But as mentioned there are very few wines that are salty or give rise to real salty sensation.

Sour tastes come from acids citric acids in citrus fruits, malic acid in apples peach or pears, tartaric acid in wine and lactic acid inlemons milk products.Sour taste is acid which are protons: (H+). Some new evidence suggests that there is an acid-sensing channel. This channel is from the transient receptor potential channel (TRP) family and is a non-selective channel. The activity is gated by pH (H+ ion concentration). Apart from wine, acids are found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and foods products such as baked, soft drinks, sweets, jams, jellies, milk products, processed meats and even oils.
Raw_cane_sugar_DemeraraSweet tastes comes from sugars, primarily sucrose and others like, glucose, fructose or lactose There are special proteins in the taste receptor membrane that bind glucose and other carbohydrates like sucrose and fructose that activate intracellular messengers, that transmit impulses through the primary afferent nerve to the brain, sweetness is sensedquinnine

Bitter tastes come from alkaloids, such as contained in coffee and quinine (tonic water). Bitter substances bind to T2R receptors activating the G-protein and causing activation of PLC. The elevated Ca2+ causes transmitter release and this sends electrical messages of bitterness to the brain.
Although taste buds were noted to be of different sizes and shapes, depending upon their location, subsequent investigation proved that all of them contain the same kinds of taste receptor cells (papillae) that supply the sensations of taste. The entire top surface of the tongue can sense all of the various tastes.

taste_receptors4Taste receptor cells do not have an axon. Information is relayed to terminals of sensory fibers by transmitter. These fibers arise from the ganglion cells of the cranial nerves Vll (facial) – a branch called the Chorda Tympani and cranial nerve lX (glossopharyngeal).
We already established that taste is mainly smell (a combination we describe as Flavour). Without smell we cannot tell the difference between food or drink products. After all orange is sweet and sour with orange smell and melon is also sweet and sour but with melon smell etc. same goes with red or white wines.taste buds anatomy
When a tasty product enters the mouth, its chemicals are dissolved by the saliva, and the free-floating molecules enter the taste bud through a pore in its center. If the molecule binds to the tip of a receptor cell, it will excite that cell into issuing a series of chemical and electrical signals. For example, sweet and some bitter taste stimuli activate a chemical messenger known as Gustducin, from the G-family of proteins. That send the data relayed to the brain (to the gustatory cortex) and a sensation of “sweet” is interpreted in the brain/mouth.
Salty and sour molecules do not require the receptor tips. Na Ions enter the taste cells directly through special channels in their walls.

But the “taste of wine” is not governed solely by the 4 basic taste, Minerals Tannins and Alcohol are also important factors in what we call: “the taste of wine”. Sweetness and alcohol are round in their “touch” while acidity and tannins are harsh or sharp cornered, rigorous to the touch (austere). When the rounded and sharp edge components balance each other to a “new” completion, a wine can be described as balanced.

brix meterin BarrelSweetness In wine most the sugars turn to alcohol during fermentation. Wines may have some residual sugar, and according to the amount of sugar in Grams per litter wines may vary from Brut (totalt dry) to dry up to 4 g/l, medium dry up to 12 g/l, medium sweet up to 45 g/l, to swee more than 45 g/l. In the wine industry sugar is measure either by portable brix meters in the vineyard or others at the winery .Degrees Brix (°Bx) is the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution. As the wine’s alcohol level depends on the sugar content (brix multiplied by 5.5= the future wine alcohol level). A measurement of the sugar content of grapes, must and wine, indicating the degree of the grapes’ ripeness (sugar level) at harvest. Most wine grapes are harvested at a level of between 22 and 25 Brix depending on the grape variety and winemaker preferences (apart from climate ripeness restrictions)
Acidity. Wines contain mainly tartaric acid (from the grapes); which gives the wine a fresh fruitwine phy touch on the palate and tongue, sort of a “crisp” feel, mainly felt on the sides of the tongue. Wines with insufficient acidity may taste dull or even jammy or “tired”. In white wines, which have less tannin than reds, acidity is important to the body and feel of the wine.
Bitterness in wine is elicited primarily by flavonoid phenols in red wines, which are bitter and astringent, and by ethanol. Monomeric flavonoid phenols are primarily bitter. The difference between red and white wine phenol monomers produces a significant difference in brain perception of bitterness. Ethanol enhances bitterness intensity and duration, whereas varying wine pH has little or no effect on the perceived bitterness. (from Bitterness in wine by Noble AC. Physiol Behav. 1994 Dec;56(6):1251-5)
grapeberry_diagram_and_flavorzonesTannins – bitterness in wine is mainly attributed to Tannins, are a family of natural organic compounds: flavonoid phenols that are found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. Aging wine in oak barrels transfers oak tannin into the juice which affects the touch and flavour. Tannins are also act as natural preservative to wine and introduce important antioxidants to our body. They take a major part in establishing wine structure and texture. The longer the grape skin contact with the fermenting wine, or in relation the crushing method of grapes, tannins concentration is affected especially in Red wine where it affects taste, touch sensation At times Tannins may feel a bit overpowering, that leaves our mouth dry. and the depth of colour. Tannic wines affect the touch sensation in the mouth and back of the throat. Tannins also contribute at times a bitter aftertaste.

Alcohol – Alcohol is another important component of the wine taste. It may contribute a burning sensation on the palate and throat when excessive, but It has a major role in achieving the overall balance of wine by softening the “edge” of over acidic or tannic wines. Alcohol affects the feel of “body” to wines. A wine with high alcoholic content will always feel full bodied.

fossil_in_handMinerals – Soil minerals travel into the grape with water. Grapes, must and wine contain dissolved non-organic salts. These salts are local soil minerals or metal elements, and occur naturally in grapes, minerals attach to berry surfaces as a result of vineyard treatment methods, and enter the wine during the wine making process. The concentration of potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium and calcium can range from 200 to 2,000 mg/l in grape juice. Potassium is an important factor in defining wine pH and tartrate stability. Its concentration in wine ranges from 200-2000 mg/L High level of potassium in wine has great nutritional values. (from Minerals are often felt stronger in white wines grown on chalky soil, described in French as: goût de fossile (the taste of Fossils), sensed in Chablis and Bourgogne whites.
Change of taste in aging wines
Oxidation is the most important part of wine maturation. These changes include the change in colour of red to brick brown red duringOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA aging, loss of primary flavour varietal character and the development of secondary and tertiary aromas. These changes appear in white and red wines, but they are more noticeable in white wine. The rate of oxidation depends on pH, temperature, concentration of dissolved oxygen, and the phenolic composition. Oxidation is faster in lower acidity and high temperature conditions, in the barrel and later in the bottle. Oxidation also depends on the phenolic composition of the wine.
Careful storage of aging wines, will help wines become smoother, rounder with well incorporated tannins, as through polymerization of phenolic compounds causing them to become less bitter and reduction in acidity which should not affect the fruitiness of the wine. Further polymerization of phenols, enlarges their molecular size causing them to precipitate and sink as sediments the bottle. This leads to a smoother wine with reduced astringency and a rounder taste. The rest is really down to your “taste” or “flavour” my tarte tatinvocabulary,coffe which in wine is governed by association: cinnamon, coffee, chocolate, tobacco, saddle soap, vanilla, toasted bread, tarte Tatin etc. are all picked from past exposure and association.
All of these and some more… contribute to what is called the TASTE OF WINE, and if you got all the way to here, You do deserve a wine that tastes good whatever that means, after all taste is a personal preference.

The Sense of Taste and wine

Anatomy and physiology of the sense of Taste (Gestation), in wine tasting (Part 1)

noah planting grapes       bacchus      IMG_3384

Wine, the most pleasant of drinks, whether we owe it to Noah who planted the vine, or whether it is due to Bacchus, who Jean_Anthelme_Brillat-Savarin booksqueezed the juice out of the grape, dates from the infancy of the world.

(Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, writer of: “The physiology of taste”, French gastronomer- the “father” of Food Writing. (1755-1826)

image066Taste is another sense which communicates knowledge of our surrounding to the brain. Multiple cranial nerves, including cranial nerves VII, IX and X, transmit taste information from the mouth and pharynx to the brain via the brain stem. Cranial nerve V is responsible for the oral sense of touch which with the sense of smell are complimentary to the overall sense of flavour.
The sense of taste is one of the five senses. Taste is the sensation produced when a substance of certain chemical properties reacts chemically in the mouth with the chemo-receptors of the taste buds on the tongue.
Wine like any other food or beverage, consumable product, affects our sense of taste and smell through the chemical effect of its constituents on the chemoreceptors of the smell and taste sense organs. The sense of taste is basically our ability to sense and react to soluble molecules and Ions called tastants –or taste emitting products.
Although there are five different types of taste receptors known: salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and Umami, Since there are very few salty or savoury, (Umami) wines tastes, wine is manifested taste wise, only as one of the 3 primary tastes: sour, sweet, bitter. Or their combined tastes.

All of our taste receptors are located in the oral region and most of those, are on the tongue. These receptors are known as taste cells, and they are contained in bundles called taste buds, which are contained in raised areas known as papillae. They are located on the upper surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus and epiglottis.

There are four types of papillae present in the human tongue:
Fungiform papillae – these are mushroom-shaped protrusions that make up most of the coating of the dorsal surface of the tongue, aspapillae___tastebuds well as at the sides contain taste receptors and Innervated by the Facial nerve (cranial nerve 7)
Foliate papillae – these are ridges and grooves towards the back part of the tongue on both sides. They contain taste receptors and are Innervated by facial nerve (front papillae) and glossopharyngeal nerve (papillae at the back).
Circumvallate papillae – there are around 12 of these papillae in most people, and they are present at the very back of the tongue, and form the far border of our tongue. These papillae are associated with the ducts of Von Ebner’s glands, contain taste receptors and are innervated by the glossopharyngeal nerve.
Filiform papillae – these are thin, “V”-shaped cones, elongated papillae that do not contain taste buds and are not involved in gestation, but are the most numerous. These papillae provide mechanical reception (sense of touch). They are characterized by increased keratinization contributing to the roughness of the tongue surface and probably an evolutionary remnant that allows “scraping meat remains” off bones (highly evolved in the Cat family)
Each taste bud houses gustatory cells that control the function of taste sensation. Soluble food particles dissolved in the saliva, flow into the taste bud and the cells react. Nerve signals are sent to the brain and reach the gustatory section of the sensory cortex, the so-called taste center.
gustatory-pathway-cortex-in-insula-facial-and-glossopharyngeal-nerve-in-medulla-oblongataThe primary gustatory cortex is a brain structure responsible for the perception of taste the: anterior insula on the insular lobe and the frontal operculum on the inferior frontal gyrus.
There are some 10,000 little taste buds on our tongue that perceive the taste of food and wine. Once signals reach the taste center, the brain interprets the food by its tastes as good or bad. Chewing food also sends volatile molecules of food via the Nasopharynx to the olfactory center in the nose which is interpreted as smell. Taste and smell receptors send signals to the brain, which simultaneously is translated as flavour (combined smell and taste) in the brain. Nasal congestion may diminish the sense of taste (inability to smell essentially obliterates the sense of taste).
The cerebellum, or the forebrain, controls taste buds. Sensory neurons from the tongue send electrical impulses to the brain to determine a substance’s taste. The “primary gustatory region” is located just behind the temporal lobe.
Cranial nerves associated with taste are: Cranial nerve VII – Facial nerve controlling the front 2/3 tongue , Cranial nerve IX – glossopharyngeal nerve the back 1/3 of the tongue , Cranial nerve X – Vagus the Epiglottis
Taste unlike the sense of sight (Optic nerve), or hearing (Auditory nerve) which are large, visible bundles of neurons with all sensory information carried through them to one center in the brain (sight or hearing), utilizes several cranial nerves to take part in transforming the stimuli none of which is doing so as its primary function.
Taste (gestation), along with smell (olfaction) and trigeminal nerve sensation of touch (the sensation of texture, pain, and temperature), determines flavors, the sensory impressions of wine or other substances.
Taste_bud.svgTaste Buds Structure:
The bud is formed by two kinds of cells: supporting cells and gustatory-taste cells.
The supporting cells form an outer envelope for the bud. Some are found between the taste cells.
The gustatory (taste) cells are spindle-shaped, and each possesses a large spherical nucleus near the middle of the cell, with a chemoreceptor, that occupies the central portion of the bud.
Each cell ends up at the gustatory pore (hole) in a fine hair filament, the gustatory hair. Soluble chemicals in the saliva affect the receptors and give rise to a certain taste sensation.
Wine is a special drink in the sense that it is revealed taste wise in layers of exposure, it contains 3 of the 4 tastes whether directly sweet, sour and bitter or in case of very dry wine (there are still 4gr of sugar /Liter) sweetness can often be felt by association.

taste centers tongue
Although each bud contains receptors to all tastes there are zones on the tongue sensitive to one of the 5 tastes in particular.
Sweet sensation is located mainly at the tip of the tongue (front).
Salty sensation are around the sweet zone.
Sour sensation: acidic foods like vinegar or lemon are located along both sides of the tongue
Bitter taste: alkaline foods like quinine or unsweetened coffee are located at the base of the tongue (far back)
Sweet sensation is produced by the presence of sugars. At least two different variants of the “sweetness receptors” must be activated for the brain to register sweet sensation. The average human detection threshold for sucrose is 10 millimoles per liter. For lactose it is 30 millimoles per liter.
Sourness is the taste that detects acidity. The sourness of substances is rated relative to dilute hydrochloric acid; Sour taste is detected by small groups of cells that are distributed across all taste buds in the tongue. The most common food group that contains naturally sour foods is fruit, such as all citrus especially lemons, tamarinds, grapes. Wine also has a sour tinge to its flavor, and if not kept correctly, it will spoil and attain the sour taste of vinegar.
Saltiness           salt
Saltiness is a taste produced primarily by the presence of sodium ions. Other ions of the alkali metals group also taste salty.
Bitterness is the most sensitive of the tastes, and many perceive it as unpleasant, sharp, or disagreeable, but it is sometimes desirablebittergourd and intentionally added via various bittering agents. Common bitter foods and beverages include coffee, unsweetened cocoa, olives, citrus peel. Quinine is also known for its bitter taste and is found in tonic water. A large number of natural bitter compounds are known to be toxic. The ability to detect bitter-tasting, toxic compounds at low thresholds is considered to provide an important protective function. Taste receptors, type 2, also known as T2Rs coupled to the G proteingustducin are responsible for the human ability to taste bitter substances.
roast meatUmami
Umami is a savory (appetitive) taste described as meaty taste. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), produces a strong Umami taste It can be tasted in cheese, soy sauce, meats and in many other fermented and aged foods. Some say that Umami taste buds respond specifically to glutamate in the same way that “sweet” ones respond to sugar. Glutamate binds to a variant of G protein coupled glutamate receptors.
Others say that Umami is not one of the primary tastes but rather a “taste” evoked by conditioning and is a result of a learning process. When we eat proteins they are broken through digestion into amino acids one of which is Glutamate. Glutamate receptors in the “in our intestine” sense glutamate and send signals to the brain regarding Protein consumption which is connected to the meat, cheese, eggs we have just consumed and since proteins are required as body building materials the brain “makes us like” them through glutamate receptors in the gut and not on the tongue – taste receptors. We learn to like body builders essential to our body, same goes with fats, fats are tasty because our body needs them not because they have taste.
The sense of taste and olfaction are connected to our emotional state as well as their chemical effect on the chemo receptors and their proximity to the “emotional and memory centers” in the brain.
On Gustation and wine tasting in particular on my next anatomy and physiology post

The Flavour of wine- Scent (Part 2)

Anatomy and physiology of smell in wine tasting.

The sense of Smell in wine tasting

Two of our five senses respond to the chemical stimuli from our surroundings: taste and smell. Both depend on chemical interaction, known as chemoreception. Taste is: contact chemoreception, because to sensing the taste of anything requires contact with it. Smell is: remote chemoreception, it is airborne, and can be sensed from a distance.

The Sense of Smell – press to watch Video  

(from The Sense of Smell (Brief Overview for Primary/Secondary Grade Students)

jilly goolden In 1990 BBC books published a small (soft cover) book, by Jilly Goolden, titled “The Taste of WINE, for me it was one of the basic ABC’s to wine tasting. It meticulously described all the “Smells of wine”, not TASTE (divided by country of origin, grape variety, local blends etc.). Semantically, it follows the title of the reference book by Emile taste of wine E PPeynaud: The Taste of Wine: The Art Science of Wine Appreciation (1984). Both books are titled mistakenly: The taste of wine. But it is by the aromas of wine (the sense of smell) that wine is “tasted”. It occurs mainly by accumulating information from smelling the wine in the glass before tasting and retro-nasally through the back of the mouth as the wine is swirled in the mouth, It is here that vapors of wine smells travel via the Nasopharynx to the olfactory bulb, and finally translated in the form of flavour by the brain. The human tongue (sense of taste) is limited to the primary tastes perceived by taste receptors on the tongue: sour, bitter, salty, sweet and savory (Umami). The wide array of fruit, earthy, floral, herbal, mineral and woody flavours perceived in wine derive from aroma notes which are interpreted in our brain through chemical information obtained by the primary receptor cells in the olfactory membrane.

.In professional wine tasting,  a distinction is made between wine odors:  “aromas” and “bouquet.

grapes3Aroma is used to describe the smells of a young wine, or of fermenting wine must, and represent odors mainly from the fruit, vegetable and mineral families.

The term Bouquet refers to the smells that arise from the chemical reactions of fermentation and aging of the wine in the bottle as part of the wine aging process, these are more complex kind of smells, combined together to induce an odor from our memory bank of smells (ground coffee, cigar box, leather, Tarte tatin, toasted bread, compost, caramel, toffee, mint etc.)

strawberry    prune    blackberry   Grannysmithapple

Apart maybe from wines made from the Muscat grape no wine smells like the juice of the grapes variety it is made from. Aroma refers to the smells unique to a certain grape variety, and is most readily demonstrated in varietal wines–such as Raspberries and blackcurrants with Cabernet Sauvignon, exotic fruits and canned Leeches with Gewürztraminer or Gooseberries and freshly cut grass in Sauvignon Blanc. These are smells that are commonly associated with a young wine.

As wine ages chemical reactions between the acids, sugars, alcohols and phenolic compounds, create “new smells” that are known as a wine’s bouquet. These can include honey in an aged Sauternes or mushrooms even truffles in a Pinot noir, and others listed above. The term bouquet can also be expanded to include the smells derived from fermentation and exposure to oak. Wine aromas are sub-divided into three categories-primary, secondary and tertiary aromas.

Primary aromas are those specific to the grape variety itself. Secondary aromas are those derived from alcoholic fermentation and oak aging. Tertiary aromas are those that develop through bottled aging.

Wine contains volatile and non-volatile compounds that contribute to the overall wine aroma. The majority of volatile compounds responsible for aroma combine with sugars in the wine to form odorless glycosides. Through the process of hydrolysis, caused by enzymes or acids in the wine, the odorless compounds revert into an aromatic form, thus the act of tasting wine is essentially an act of smelling vaporized aroma compounds

 Of the human senses, the sense of smell is the most precise, with high sensitivity to minute amount of odorant. It is also the most fragile. Most of us have experienced detecting an aroma of bread baking, even from a long distance and certainly in the bakery, yet after a fairly short but continuous exposure of just a few minutes, that same smell is less noticeable. This “fatigue” is really an accommodation process of the sense of smell by means of sensory adaptation and occurs in other senses as well.

image088                                    pl-dans-vignes

Since olfaction is connected directly to the Limbic system in our brain that supports a variety of functions, including emotion, creativity, long-term memory, and olfaction. Being primarily responsible for our emotional life, the formation of memories and smells in the same brain center facilitates connection of certain emotions that were evoked with a certain odor “background” a memory of that smell will be unconsciously related to an emotion. A connection between emotion memory and smell is created in our brain. The memory/olfaction connection plays a major role in the ability to relate (by association) wine odors to groups of smells fruity floral vegetal etc. which is a basic requirement in wine tasting. In fact of all our senses, the sense of smell is the most intimately connected with the brain.

The amount of odors in wine and their inner intricacies present a huge vocabulary from which to choose when coming to describe a wine.  Ann C. Noble of University of California, Davis, formulated an aroma aid called the “Aroma Wheel”. It divides the various wine aromas to groups and sub groups within them covering the most commonly aromas encountered in table wines this was a means to try and “standardize” terms used to describe wines to a point that wine tasters, wine journalist, wine novices and readers of wine articles will “know” what was meant by a certain description:

The Aroma Wheel provides a visual graphic of the different categories and aroma components that one can encounter in wine.

The wheel breaks down wine aromas into 12 basic categories and then sub-divides them into different aromas that fit those main categories:

    Fruity – Aromas like blackcurrant, apricot, apples and plums

    Vegetative – Aromas like Green pepper, asparagus or artichoke       Aroma wheel inner circle

    Floral – Aromas like rose, acacia, or Jasmine

    Spicy – Aromas like cloves, cinnamon or anise

    Microbiological – Aromas like yeast and lactic acid

    Nutty – Aromas like pine nuts walnut and hazelnut

    Caramelized – Aromas like butterscotch and molasses

    Woody – Aromas often imparted by oak like vanilla and coffee

    Earthy – Aromas such as mushroom compost and mildew

    Chemical – Includes aromas like sulfur and petroleum or nail varnish

    Pungent – Aromas like alcohol and vinegar                                                  

    Oxidized – Aromas like Sherry or acetaldehyde                                                                    

Aroma Wheel: property of Aromaster wine aroma kits

A drawback of the wheel is that it does not contain terms used to describe the sense of touch on the palate, like texture or astringency, which affect the overall “tasting experience” and are a major factor in determining a wine’s quality, balance.


 Prior to tasting the wine, a good swirl of the glass releases wine odorants into the glass bowl. Some glasses are specifically designed to enhance aromatic qualities and characters of different wines, these assist in capturing more aromatic compounds within the glass for the taster/sniffer, to detect. Wines served at warmer temperature will be more aromatic than wine served cooler due to heat’s ability to increase the volatility of aromatic compounds in the wine. Swirling aerates, the wine and increases available surface area, increasing the amount of volatilized aromatic molecules. Some subtle odors can be hidden by a more dominant smell that arise after swirling, so most professional tasters will sniff the wine briefly first before swirling.

sejour-degustation selosse

The deeper our nose is stuck inside the glass, the greater the chance to capture the specific wine aromas.  Our nose can detect and distinguish between thousands of different smells, which increase by means of training through exposure.

When wine is sipped, it is warmed in the mouth and mixes with saliva to vaporize the volatile aroma compounds. These compounds are then inhaled “retro-nasally” through the back of the mouth to where it is received by the millions of nerve receptor cells in the olfactory bulb. An average human can be trained to distinguish between thousands of smells but can usually name only a handful at a time when presented with a wide variety of aromas. Professional wine tasters will use their vast “library” of memorized aromas, for those with a lesser collection of memorized odors a visual aid like the aroma wheel.

Detecting an aroma is only part of wine tasting. The next step is to describe or communicate what that aroma is verbally. In this step subjective nature of wine tasting is most prominent. Different individuals have their own way of describing familiar scents and aromas based on their unique smell experiences, memories and “smell vocabulary”. Furthermore, there are varying levels of sensitivity and recognition thresholds among humans of some aromatic compounds. This is why one taster may describe different aromas and flavors from another taster sampling the very same wine.

le nez du vinIn 1981, as a result of his research into vocabulary used to describe wine, Jean Lenoir created Le Nez du Vin®, a unique and learned combination of written works and collection of bottled aromas covering a large array of odors which form a part of the scents of wine.

“Le Nez du vin is a The 54 Aroma Master Kit has been the reference for wine aromas vocabulary. Our sense of smell is very delicate and highly sensitive. Practice through daily training allows us to recognize and identify the 54 aromas most commonly present in wine; thus, improving our appreciation and enjoyment of wine. These are the typical aromas found in red and white wine (including Champagne) from France and around the world. They give us an indication of the wine’s origin, the grape variety as well as the vineyard, the winemaking techniques used and the aging conditions. Memorizing these aromas provides an accurate and coherent vocabulary to further stimulate our appreciation of fine wines”

The 54 Aromas of Le Nez Du Vin are:

23 Fruit Aromas, 6 Floral Aromas, 10 Vegetal Aromas, 5 Spices, 3 Animal Aromas and 7 Grilled Aromas (full list could be found in:

IMG_0171 IMG_0172

“It is widely accepted that sensory interactions can, and do, occur during wine consumption. To this concern, many studies have dealt with aroma-taste interactions which have been attributed to physicochemical interactions in the product itself, interactions at the receptor level or cognitive interactions. Although the understanding of these interactions has grown during the years and it has been demonstrated that they are strongly product-dependent, investigations have seldom gone beyond that of model solutions with a reduced number of components (volatile and/or nonvolatile molecules). Recently some investigations carried out in this field have been conducted with more complex matrices in an attempt to simulate interactions in real wine samples. The aim of this chapter is to review these latest advances in the research of wine sensory interactions, and to highlight the magnitude, relative importance and qualitative nature of such sensory effects.” (From: Sensory Interactions in Wine: Effect Of Nonvolatile Molecules on Wine Aroma and Volatiles on Taste/Astringency Perception  Authors:  (María-Pilar Sáenz-Navajas, Eva Campo, Dominique Valentin, Purificación Fernández-Zurbano, Vicente Ferreira).

The “correct” scent of wine can quite easily be reached at the winery level but the quality of wine starts at the flavour’s level which is a combination of taste and smell add to those the sense of touch on our palate and the balance of the wine can be judged to give a complete view of the wine’s quality.

Next post of the sense of taste continues “our” journey through the symphony of senses in relation to wine tasting.


The scent of wine (Part one)

The Anatomy and physiology of Olfaction-(smell) in Wine Tasting,

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The sense of Smell – Sense No. 2 in wine tasting.

Cranial nerve No. 1 the Olfactory nerve.

      smelling wine 4                 tasting whites                         smell YH

Smell refers to 1: Olfaction, the actual act of smelling an odor, or 2: odor, as simply the smell that is being emitted by vaporized molecules of a volatile material.

It is through the aromas of wine that wine is tasted. The human tongue is limited to the 5 primary tastes perceived by taste receptors on the tongue: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and Umami, so if an orange is sweet and sour and a strawberry is also sweet and sour, it is the “sweet and sour” with an orange or a strawberry aroma that distinguishes between the two. Taste and aroma together – Flavour, is the final interpretation of consumed food or beverage in our brain. Of the five senses, smell is of the highest sensitivity, approximately 10,000 times more sensitive than the sense of taste. The part of smell in what we define as flavour is 75% smell (olfaction) and 25% taste. Since smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than taste it requires that amount less Chemical Stimuli to be manifested clearly in the brain.

rose pomme140 mushroom lychee Hazlenut2 Grannysmithapple blackberry

The wide array of fruity, vegetal, earthy, floral, herbal, mineral woody and other flavours perceived in wine are derived from aroma notes interpreted by the olfactory bulb. In wine tasting, wine is often smelled before being drunk in order to identify some components of the wine that may be present. Different terms are used to describe what is being smelled. Aroma can be referred to as “pleasant” even alluring smell as opposed to odor which is referred to as unpleasant or repelling smell (mainly found in wine faults). The term aroma maybe further distinguished from bouquet which generally refers to the smells that arise from the chemical reactions of fermentation and aging of the wine as it ages in the bottle (tertiary aroma).

Smell (or Olfaction) allows humans and other living organisms with smell receptors, to identify their food, mating partner and warn against approaching enemies, it provides both sensual pleasure (the odor of the opposite sex, flowers and perfume) as well as warnings of danger from spoiled food, nearby predators and chemical hazards: toxins and poisons. It is a means by which all living creatures communicate with their surroundings and environment.

The sense of smell is a direct chemical sense, but in order to smell any product, it must be Volatile so that vaporized molecules from it penetrate through the nose, and reach the center is the odor in the nose, the olfactory bulb.

image088   IMG_0359   olfactory bulb

Everything we “smell”: from flowers, vegetables, fruit, baking odors fragrances, perfumes, to even putrid chemicals, are volatile chemical molecules i.e. molecules dissolved as gas vapors in the air. These come to “contact” with the smell center in the upper roof of our nose. Only highly volatile materials are distributors of smell that affect the olfactory bulb our smell center.

General Physiology of Olfaction: The smell sense organ and the OLFACTORY NERVE (Cranial Nerve No.1)

Olfactory_nerve cross sec             800px-Olfactory_system.svg

 Odorants are volatile chemical compounds that are carried by inhaled air to the Regio olfactoria (olfactory epithelium) located at the roof of the two nasal cavities of the human nose. The olfactory region of each of the two nasal passages in humans is a small area of about 2.5 square centimeters containing in total approximately 50 million primary sensory receptor cells. This is not so many in comparison to a rabbit : 100 million of these olfactory receptors, or a dog: 220 million. Humans are nonetheless capable of detecting certain substances in dilutions of less than one part in several billion parts of air. An odorant must possess certain molecular properties in order to provide sensory properties. It must have some water solubility, a sufficiently high vapor pressure, low polarity, an ability to dissolve in fat (lipophilicity), and surface activity (these are all physical terms) The sense of smell is able to distinguish among a practically infinite number of chemical compounds at very low concentrations .

Nasal ciliaThe olfactory region consists of CILIA (Tiny, hair-like structures) projecting down out of the olfactory epithelium into a layer of mucous which is about 60 microns thick. This mucous layer is a fatty-rich secretion that bathes the receptors at the outer surface. The mucous layer is produced by special glands which are present in the olfactory epithelium. The mucous lipids (fats) assist in transporting the odorant molecules, as only volatile materials that are soluble in the mucous can interact with the smell receptors and initiate the signals that our brain interprets as smell. The olfactory cilia are the sites where molecular reception with the odorant occurs and sensory transmission starts.

Odorant receptors:

415px-Early_Olfactory_System.svgFor a long while it was thought that there are specific receptors for different odorant molecule and smell is initiated only when the right receptor is affected. An interesting feature of the physiology of smell was discovered by the 2004 Nobel Prize winners Linda Buck and Richard Axel. In contrast to the simple but specific key-lock model that governs taste, smell is dictated by a whole set of sensory cells. One type of fragrant molecule interacts with more than one receptor type, so the overall sensation is created by the combination of activated receptors and not a specific receptor as thought prior to their study.

Humans are able to distinguish between around 10,000 different odors. There are a combination of specific odor-sensing receptor cells that are capable of perceiving o it and the accumulation of the mixed information of these  receptors pass the information of the “smell” of the specific odorant, on to the brain for their final disclosure. Although all people can identify most of the smells, some people trained as professionals “sniffers” in the fragrance/ cosmetics industry or professional food and wine tasters are considered to be in the high-end image080of this sensual ability they are more focused in distinguishing between the different odors and subsequently poses higher ability to describe the smell verbally, mainly by association.

Aroma refers to any volatized odor that reaches the olfactory bulb at the top of our nose. This odor can be sensed either through the nose or retro-nasally through the back of the mouth in the form of flavour. When the brain combines the taste stimuli with the aroma stimuli, flavor is perceived. (Tactile sensations such as the astringency from tannin or alcohol also play a role in flavour. Partially from:

Groups of Odors:

the Primary odor groups that appear in wine are: Fruity: ethyl acetate, Floral: flowers scent jasmine, roses, Spicy: ginger, pepper, Minty – Herbal: either from the mint family or fresh herbs, Resinous: resin, smoke, Burning:  tar, toasted wood, Pungent: vinegar ,formic acid, acetic acid. There are Other Odor groups such as: Ethereal : Dry cleaning chemicals : Musky:  muscone, Camphor – the smell of mothballs, eucalyptus oil, Rancid: smell of decomposition (isovaleric acid, butyric acid), Putrid: Foul rotten egg. Many esters have distinctive fruit-like odors, and many occur naturally in the essential oils of plants.

Ethyl acetate is the most common ester in wine, being the product of the most common volatile organic acid — acetic acid, and the ethyl alcohol generated during the fermentation. The aroma of ethyl acetate is most vivid in younger wines and contributes towards the general perception of “fruitiness” in the wine. Excessive amounts of ethyl acetate are considered a wine fault. Exposure to oxygen can exacerbate the fault due to the oxidation of ethanol to acetaldehyde, which leaves the wine with a sharp vinegar-like taste. (from Wikipedia)

Ester Name s and their Odors: Allyl hexanoate :  pineapple, Benzyl acetate : pear, strawberry, jasmine, Bornyl acetate :  pine, Butyl butyrate: pineapple, Ethyl acetate : nail polish remover,  model airplane glue, Ethyl butyrate : banana, pineapple, strawberry, Ethyl hexanoate:  waxy-green banana, Ethyl cinnamate : cinnamon, Ethyl formate: lemon, rum, strawberry, Ethyl heptanoate :   apricot, cherry, grape, raspberry, Ethyl isovalerate: apple, Ethyl lactate: butter, cream, Ethyl nonanoate: grape, Ethyl pentanoate: apple, Geranyl acetate: geranium, Geranyl butyrate: cherry, Isobutyl acetate: cherry, raspberry, strawberry, Isobutyl formate: raspberry, Isoamyl acetate: pear, banana, Isopropyl acetate: fruity, Linalyl acetate: lavender, sage, Linalyl butyrate: peach, Linalyl formate: apple, peach, Methyl anthranilate: grape, jasmine, Methyl cinnamate: strawberry, Methyl pentanoate (methyl valerate): flowery, Octyl acetate: fruity-citrus, Pentyl butyrate (amyl butyrate): apricot, pear, pineapple, Propyl hexanoate: blackberry, pineapple, cheese, wine.

The sense of smell (or olfaction) is our most primitive sense. Scent messages pass directly through the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain), on its way to a conscious identification in the cortex. The Limbic system, supports a variety of functions, including emotion, behavior, creativity, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction. It appears to be primarily responsible for our emotional life, and has a great deal to do with the formation of memories.

Since wine only very rarely possesses the tastes of the juice of the grape it is made of, Professional wine tasters use associations and analogies to everyday materials to describe aromas. Wine tasters Experts practice and use their sense of smell very frequently and they in fact “train” their sense of smell to improve, by methodical exposure to specific smells of a known origin. Accumulation of memories from known smells increases the smell vocabulary to a point that wine taste will “provoke” an association to other memorized smells from the Brain’s library of thousands of smells.

The sense of smell is one of the few senses that can be improved by training. It is possible to train our nose (and brain) to distinguish better, between smells. This can be achieved by sniffing something with a strong odor for a period several times a day. If we add new odors at set intervals continually for some time, our “vocabulary” of different odors will increase and we will be able through learning and memory to distinguish between larger arrays of the 10,000 or so existing odors. Our sense of smell, will also get stronger and association to known odors emitting materials will get faster.

bread nuts blueberryIMG_0029lavendervanilla

People list smells which “make them happy. These are all part of their top 20 smell vocabulary: Freshly baked bread, Clean sheets, Freshly mown grass, Fresh flowers,   Freshly ground coffee, Fresh air after rain fall, Vanilla, Chocolate, Fish & Chips, Bacon frying, Roast Dinner, Babies, Lemon zest, Lavender, Petrol,  Apple and blackberry crumble in the oven, A freshly lit match, Roses, Party poppers, Rubber tyres. Apparently smell emotion and memory are interrelated in the brain as they originate in the same Limbic system

Next post on the specific scents of wine… soon.


Wine colours and the Brain, Anatomy and Physiology of Vision in Wine Tasting – Part 3 The Brain

Reality is an illusion that occurs due to a lack of wine.

Anatomy and Physiology of wine tasting as appeared in part 2: continues… How We See Colour?

retina-layers              orientation-map        rods and cones

There are millions of colour photoreceptors; cones in the retina, and three different types of cones, each type of cone is sensitive to a different wavelength of light. Different wavelengths correspond to different colours. When light strikes a photoreceptor it releases a chemical that begins a process that enables the brain to recognize the “right” colour. In order to see colour properly, all three types of cones must be present, or the person’s eye will not have the photoreceptor that reacts to that particular wavelength, and colours are a combination of a variety of wavelengths. The chemical stimulus, from the cone to the brain that enables colour vision is facilitated through a chemical reaction of the reflected light with a light-sensitive protein called: Rhodopsin, which is present in the disk membranes of rod cells, and causes a reaction that acts as a trigger inside the cell. Rhodopsin requires the help of an intermediary chemical called the G-protein (I guess this is complicated enough). The human eye and brain together translate a certain reflected light into colour. Light receptors within the eye transmit messages along the optic nerve to the vision center in the brain, which produces the “recognition” of a certain colour.

The brain’s neural mechanisms also uses “memory” and experience to help with speedy identification, of which colour belongs to what object, so we do not mistakenly see a translucent wine in a red glass.

Without the neural processes of the brain, we wouldn’t be able to understand colours of objects any more than we could understand words of a language we hear but don’t know,” said Steven Shevell, color and vision specialist .
The surface of an object reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors. Thus, red is not “inside” red wine. The surface of the wine reflects the wavelengths we see as red and absorbing all the rest.
800px-Modern_Color_Vision_Model.svgThe immediate process of judging a colour begins in the retina, which has three layers of cells. Signals from the red and green cones in the first layer are compared by specialized red-green “opponent” cells in the second layer. These opponent cells compute the balance between red and green light coming from a particular part of the visual field. Other opponent cells then compare signals from blue cones with the combined signals from red and green cones.
The human eye can perceive more variations in warmer colors than cooler ones. This is because almost 2/3 of the cones process the longer light wavelengths (reds, oranges and yellows).

Rose wine displayed above exhibit hues of Pink, a pale tint of red. Pinks can range from:
Onion outer skin,
Salmon hue,
Raspberry Rosé,
Coral pink,
Pinkish Orange colour.
All the above depend on their grape origin and variety, plus the wine making method. Although they may exhibit exquisite colour array, these wines are rarely suitable for keeping more than 2 years beyond their vintage year. Their colour is not as stable as most reds and quality white wines.

The Colors of Red Wine:
cabernet1Blue & red Anthocyanins which are present in the grape skin dissolve into the grape juice while crushingCopy (2) of pinotnoir3 than before the fermentation process, the juice and skins are moved into the fermentation tanks, and because anthocyanins are soluble in alcohol they tint the liquid RED. The style and “depth” of the pressing process facilitates their dispersal into the wine. The dissolved Antocyanins are the contributors of the red / purple color of red wine. The aging process of wine in oak barrels and in the bottle tie these dyes to tannins to form long and heavy tannin molecules become less lively, loses a little from the purple shade and develops into shades of Red that vary, depending on the grape variety, region of origin, exposure to oxygen, climate/fruit ripeness before harvest etc.. Within a few years these molecules get “older” in a bottle and turn to rusty shades of red to maroon or even brown.


Main Shades:
1. Ultraviolet: Almost all young red wines of deep purple, purple color usually indicates age young wine or wine is
2. Purple- Crimson: Dark red color with a little blue. This is the color of most reds from all over the globe including those of Bordeaux and Bourgogne in their youth immediately after bottling.
3. Red Bordeaux: Bordeaux wine colour: colour that is colour of the majority of Bordeaux wines during the transition between shades and hues as they start to mature, as they approach readiness and full maturity, Scarlet.
The English used to call it CLARET a red wine from Bordeaux. Indicating it being also clear.
4.Cherry- Bright Red: The higher the wine’s acidity (low pH) amount of red pigment to a higher and more active radiating health and indirectly implies the ability the wine’s ability to preserve fruit flavors for a longer period, with chances of maturing in proper balance increasing. Cherry is also the colour of fresh Sangiovese, and Zinfandel.
5. Brown-Red Tile: The colour of the fully matured red Bordeaux wines. If this colour appears in a relatively young wine, it usually indicates exposure to intense heat in various stages of the wine-making process, including the period before the harvest (extreme heat wave), or over exposure to oxidation in the barrel.
6. Reddish Brown mahogany colour – milder than the above, less extrovert colour, is the shade of a typical high quality red Bordeaux wines aged 15-30 years or less, fully “ripe” and ready for drinking, or unfortunately wines from a lesser origin , beyond their peak showing signs of fatigue.
7. Orange-brown colour of wines more than 30 year of age that might have oxidized to oblivion. This color is missing a spark and suggesting the “death” of the wine we look at, wine gone bad?
Many terms are used to describe the main colors in red wines are:
Purple-red: the common shade for young, often immature wines. Purple is also the colour of Barbera, and Amarone
Ruby ; the color of the polished ruby gemstone: a more evolved but still youthful shade also the colour of young Pinot Noir, or Tempranillo.
Garnet: the color word for classic wines at the peak of their maturity
Lust: is a rich shade of red.
Crimson: is a strong, bright, deep red color combined with some blue, resulting in a slight degree of purple.
Rusty is red colour with brownish tints of rust – some Old Bordeaux’s of over 25 years of age exhibit this colour
Fire Brick color of oven fire brick. – Old Bourgogne wines of over 25 years
Redwood rose – the colour of the wood of the Sequoia/ redwood tree
Maroon – chestnut brownish red – Tawny Port
Blackish red – Shiraz, Vintage Port

Maturing wines tend to change to Brick red: paler shades associated with older but still healthy wine, sometimes Copper as in Aged Grenache, Brick red Mature Pinot Noir, aged Bordeaux, Garnet as in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo.
Depth of color

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Wine colour’s depth or opacity measure of how dark is the wine. In wine tasting, the depth of color results from the concentrations of color and the wine substance, the more deep the color the less light to passes through it and it will appear darker, or “richer” in colour. Wines with less depth may appear diluted, watery almost transparent.
Depths of wine colours vary greatly depending on the grape variety used to produce the wine, the vintage conditions, production process methods: fermentation steel or oak vats, aging methods before and after bottling.
Depth of color, when used as a measure of quality, typically applies to red wines, as they naturally contain more coloring, tannins, and other components that can alter the wine’s depth.
depth of wine colour is defined as: watery, pale, medium, deep, dark, or opaque.

Visible Defects
IMG_5582Various types of defects in manufacturing – affect Wine faults in clarity.
Wine with faint colors that do not sparkle may suggest a flaw, Light cloudiness such as milky appearance, reminiscent of the appearance of whole unfiltered apple juice.Some wine fouling is associated with air pollution or related to metal parts (iron or copper) or residual products in genetically engineered residual yeast and in wine that was not filtered or sank at the bottom of tank / barrel..
An old wine with sediment that was violently shaken prior to its opening, will introduce dairy cloudy effect even though it has no real fault, but it may tarnish the visual enjoyment from the wine and as we see this is an important introduction to our primary approach to the wine.oil contamination

Faded or dull colours in wine appearing “unpolished” might refer to a fault, surface of wine after pouring to the glass should appear shiny if it has “stains” reminiscent of oil floating on liquid, or as a soap bubble surface that reflects prismatic rainbow appearance all of these are an indication to a fault in the wine or contamination that is problematic. Small bubbles remaining for a very long time around the rim of very mature / old wines might refer to over maturity… the wine yielded to the “pressures of time” and is beyond its peak.

The hue of a wine color is the inner definition of colour description beyonf the basic colours: red, yellow, pink. Your own interpretation of what colour you see and how would one describe it?
When you describe what you see, association comes into mind and affect the semantic interpretation of what you actually see.In white wines the most common descriptions would be anything from transparent through greenish to yellows in varying depths to gold and amber. Rosé wines range from pink to salmon and orange. Red wines, from purple-red, ruby, to garnet brown and even black,. Take note if the color hue is consistent throughout the glass when tilted or does it form a rim of different hues. Some wines, particularly older wines will start to show color changes within the body of wine in the glass towards the outer edge – the rim or meniscus.
Clarity was discussed on the previous post, As a rule most wines are relatively clear sometimes sediments are present in the wine they are residual fruit that sank slowly in the bottle, these sediment are not harmful and perfectly safe to drink it but may add a bitter taste to the finish if chewed. If sediments are stirred while pouring wine it can give the appearance of a slight haziness.As a rule, severe cloudiness in wine is considered a flaw.

WineLegs1Viscosity: “Legs”

Wine “legs” are the stripes of translucent liquid that runs down the sides of the glass after swirling the wine. Sugar concentration is one of the several factors that influence wine legs. With higher sugar content, the liquid is more viscous. Therefore, dessert wines will always have much more pronounced legs. Another factor that influences increase in viscosity of wine is alcohol content. Since alcohol is more viscous than water wines with more alcohol will have more legs. Any compound that affects viscosity produces wine legs.
functional areas brainAll of these factors in wine Colour: shade, hue, clarity and depth are “met” by just the first sense in wine tasting: Vision and its sophisticated organ the Eye. And all these electrical signals that somehow are interpreted by our brain to what we call sight, It is a wonder, that is only partially understood (let alone explained) but that will have to do for now.
Next post we “move” to sense number 2 in wine tasting SMELL and the fun will continue…


Sight, Anatomy and Physiology of Wine Tasting – Part 2 Sight Receptors

Wine is sunlight, held together by water. – Galileo

 sense one in wine tasting – SIGHT, as appeared on continues…

Physiologically, sight is initiated when reflected light of different wave lengths: colour, hit the eye.

reds                             external-eye-xsection

We have the bottle before us, the glass is filled (no more than a third up), the reflected light in different colours hits the external surface of the eyeball: The Cornea, travels through the lens and inwards through the Vitreous Humor, to hit the Retina, the innermost layer of the eye ball. The Retina consists of nerve tissue, Photo-receptors that sense the light entering the eye, and start translating it as the images of our vision in the form of shape and colour in the brain.

The Physiology of sight

color sight

Photoreceptors are specialty cells in the Retina, they allow us to see shapes, colors and the combination of both, something we all take for granted.

How is it done? The retina contains 2 kinds of photoreceptors:

rods and cones1. Rod cells: These function only in dim light and are blind to colour. Only the highest-intensity output gets through; so contrast and visual definition are improved.

These receptors enter into function when we enter a dark cellar full of wine wonders, or when we stroll down the vineyard at night (with or without our lover, better with!)

2. Cone cells: The other kind of photoreceptor cell. There are three different types of cones, sensitive to different light wave lengths (Red Green & Blue). The cones operate in bright light and are responsible for high acuity vision, as well as ability to “see” colour.

Rods and cones form an uneven mosaic within the retina; there are 10 times more rod cells than cones. Rods are concentrated at the outer edges of the retina. There are approximately 130 million rod cells in the human retina. Rod cells are almost entirelyrod_and_cone_cells responsible for peripheral and night vision. They are 100 times more sensitive to a single photon than cones so rods require less light to function than cones and allow us to see in the dark. Single Rod cells collect and amplify light signals. However, this convergence comes at a cost to visual acuity / resolution, because the accumulated information fovea and receptorsfrom several cells simultaneously is less accurate than information from each rod cell individually. But that will have to do since we look at wine under good light conditions and not in the dark.

In the retina’s center – fovea, cones are highly concentrated 5-10 times more than on the rest of the retinal surface, this area is described by Nobel Prize winner Jeremy Nathans as: “the most valuable square millimeter of tissue in the body.”


 The first kind of cone responds to red colour (light of Long wavelengths – L around 564–580 nm); The second type responds to green colour (Medium wavelength – M, 534–545 nm), The third type responds to blue colour (Short wavelength – S, 420–440 nm), The difference in the signals received from the three cone types in varying degree of stimulus strength which allows the brain to perceive all possible colours.  The brain combines the information from each type of receptor to give rise to different perceptions of different wavelengths of light and ultimately the correct colour.

sweet wineWine comes in a wide variety of colours shades and hues. It is these receptors and the wonders of the final interpretation of these signals into what we call sight, in our brain, will allow us to distinguish between different grape varieties, wines from different regions, wines in different state of evolution and wine making methods just by mere sight, with no other senses involvement.

Several theories explain the mechanism of colour vision, Helmholtz’s trichromatic theory & Hering’s opponent process theory, they differ on the exact point colour processing actually begins, either within the800px-Modern_Color_Vision_Model.svg receptor cells in the retina or slightly behind it, at the level of retinal ganglion cells and beyond. Visual information is then sent to the brain from retinal ganglion cells via the optic nerve to the optic chiasm: a point where the two optic nerves meet and cross each other. Information from one visual field crosses to the other side of the brain to the visual cortex.

Cone cells allow us to stabilize the colour constancy of an object, so when we look at red wine we preserve an ability to see the true colours of our object for instance red wine in different hues and shades.


The wine clarity is wine easily examined at a slight tilt under clear light conditions either with the background of a white paper or a well lit background. And brightness is reflected from it. Fresh wine should have a clear spark ‘sneaky’ kind of wink and it looks sleek and shiny.

Clarity is graded to 3-4 levels:

Brilliant or Crystalline: perfect transparency; the surface of the wine reflects the light with a sparkle.

Clear: normal state of clarity

Dull: a partial lack of luster

Cloudy or slushy: with or without suspended particles visible to the naked eye


Wine, whatever its category should be clear, perfectly transparent and free of foreign deposits or suspended particles, most suspended particles are wine deposits and are not associated with wine faults. Signs of cloudiness may indicate a defect. A fine wine of any color at its prime should be not only clear but also bright with a luminous quality.

Type of Wine – Obviously, different types of wines will have dramatically different wine colour..White wines tend toward the more clear yellow and gold end of the spectrum while red wines can vary from light red to deep purple. Rosé wines are somewhere in between. Additionally, your expectation of what a wine should look like depends on the type of wine in question. For example, while many Cabernet Sauvignon, JPEG Image (31024)based wines will be dark purple or even close to opaque, Pinot Noir-based wines tend to be lighter with less depth of color and a lighter hue.

Is the color of the wine appropriate for the type of wine you taste? You will learn this as you go along and get more experience with different types of wines.


Colour is simply light of different wavelengths and frequencies that we can actually see and is made up from photons, reflection of light from the wine (as our object) is what we see in form, shape, and colour with its inner diversity of different hues and shades.  .

Wine colours, originate from the grape’s skin. Grape juice from red or white varieties is usually transparent (clear to cloudy). Anthocyanins are the chemical compounds that give wine white or red its colour, or pigment.

Different “exposure” to grape treatments like: amount and type of crushing, which exerts colors into the liquid. Changes in temperature, contact of broken skin with the juice, exposure to oxygen, fermentation with or without the skins (lees), length of fermentation, type of tanks: barrel or steel, etc. All of these factors change and affect the wine’s colour, which keeps changing even after bottling, as aging affects the depth and hue of the basic color of each wine. Different grape varieties contribute different hues of white yellow or red as described below.



chardonnay1Polyphenols contribute to the yellow colour of white wines, phenols concentration in different grapeCopy (2) of muscat_blanc variety varies: level of phenols in the Riesling grape is very low hence they appear almost transparent, Chardonnay on the other hand due to high phenolic concentration will appear darker : yellow lemony colour. Apart from phenols, maturity level of the grape will also affect the colour. The riper the grape, the darker shades of yellows in white wines.

 The colors of the wine can vary strongly depending on age, concentration and wine making techniques. Colour of white wines deepens with age, tending toward full straw or pale gold. More mature dry wines, particularly if aged in wood, take on rich golden tones, sometimes even with hints of copper or brass. Brown hues are a sign of over oxidation, (a defect in wine), but in certain fortified wines such as Marsala, it is a normal feature. Hints of red in a white wine are usually indications of a fault.

White Wine Colours:

The grapes and wines below, usually exhibit the listed colors.

Clear with a greenish tint-: Indicative of young wines with residual chlorophyll, mainly from cold growing regions: Chardonnay from Chablis, German Rieslings, and young New Zeeland Sauvignon Blanc    .wine_color_white_01

Greenish yellow: Sauvignon Blanc from slightly warmer growing regions    wine_color_white_02

Pale yellow – Straw: Colombard, Grüner Veltiner, Gewürztraminer               wine_color_white_03

Light gold-Gold : Chenin Blanc also characteristic of great wines in their mature state  wine_color_white_04

Golden yellow: Older Bourgogne Chardonnay, Viognier, Sémillon               wine_color_white_06

Gold: Dessert wines                       wine_color_white_07

old white wine colourBrownish yellow: Sherry, over matured white Burgundy   wine_color_white_08

Amber: Vin Santo, Tokaji            wine_color_white_09

Amber Tawny: typical of OLD dessert or wines made from partially dried grapes. Also the unhealthy shade of oxidized wine.wine_color_white_10

Brown: Marsala

These colours are an indication to the content of the glass on the eye level, well before our nose or taste buds go into wine tasting action! Wines exhibiting colours beyond their expected, ordinary hue may already be “suspected” of a fault of some sort either in the winemaking process, or more likely in their maturing state. Above is the colour of the 1962 Maison Noemie Verneaux Mersault Charmes, we opened (a magnum) the wine forty years old now!!! was slightly oxidized but still drinkable! This was its colour, (between us from now on I will photo real wine colors and exchange the colours above, with them!), I would say it falls between deep “old gold” and Amber what a delightful robe adorns these wineglasses.

Wine colour and state of clarity are mentioned as old as the New Testament (Proverbs 23:31):

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed) Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.

New American Standard Bible : Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly;

Holman Christian Standard Bible : Don’t gaze at wine because it is red, when it gleams in the cup and goes down smoothly.

International Standard Version: Don’t stare into red wine, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.

Next post will continue re: Rose’ and Red wines their colours and the way we see and perceive them

You’ll SEE


Vision, anatomy and physiology of wine tasting – Part 1

 Symphony of senses – Sight – sense 1 in wine tasting

Symphony of the senses (as started in the “cranial nerves and wine” post)  continues. This time not by order of the cranial nerves (from 1-12), but rather by the way we approach wine.

Appearance is in the eyes of the wine beholder.

The first thing we see when we approach wine, is a bottle it has a shape and color which already holds a few general clues, down the puzzle road of solving a wine’s origin before sniffing or even tasting the content.


 Once we open the bottle and pour wine into a glass, the fun part begins!

The amazing connection within our brain between outer sense receptors, sense organs, nerves leading to and from our brain. Either by direct stimuli: sound, sight, smell, taste and touch, or by pure brain interpretation, imagination and a game of associations, meaning that we do not really see everything that our brain says we “see” but rather interpret parts of vision to a picture which is an accumulation of actual vision on one hand and our “experience” or memory of objects, on the other.

The visual cortex in our brain is organized into primary and secondary regions, in each occipital lobe (at the very lower back of the skull). Direct visual signals are directed into the primary cortex, which is located in that (occipital) region. The fovea part of the eye, (the region of the retina with the highest visual components), sends signals directly into the primary cortex, where general concept of vision is initiated.

The secondary visual cortex receives later signals, they are transmitted to these areas for analysis with respect to, shape, depth of field and motion.. Different regions of the secondary cortex are responsible for different types of classification and analysis; and depending on the “conclusion” of the brain, vision is personally perceived.

Yes each one of us has a slightly different perception of the same object in shape, color, depth and clarity and different ways of expressing them in term of describing what we see to a third party.Sensory interpretation and verbal description of sensation is extremely personal. In fact, almost all higher order features of vision are influenced by expectations based on past experience and memory. This characteristic extends to color and form perception, leading to recognition of objects. Our brain awareness facilitates the ability to see or respond to what we see almost instantly.

The Game of looking at wine

Hold the wine glass by the stem or base and not the neck or the bowl. Start by holding the glass toward a light source or a white background and tilt it around at an angle.

When looking at wine, we look for three main characteristics: color, depth and clarity

In wine we will see different shades and hues of Reds Yellows or Pinks, (in red white or rose’ wines), these may appear either diluted or deep, they may appear radiant or dull, even cloudy or hazy, all of these are indicative of the wine age and quality and will be discussed later in details.

For now, in general, when we look at red wines for instance, a brilliant red color usually indicates a wine in its prime, a purplish hue may indicate a very young wine and a brown hue may indicate that a wine is slightly oxidized or been lying down for quite a while, or even past its prime.

Isaac Newton, in his theory of color, observed that color is not inherent inside objects, but rather, the surface of an object reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors. So, red is not “inside” the liquid of red wine. It is the surface of the wine that reflects the wavelengths we see as red and absorbing all the rest. (An object appears white when it reflects all wavelengths and black when it absorbs them all.)

Cranial Nerves associated with wine tasting

Our first encounter with wine is through the sense of sight.

Cranial Nerve II – The Optic nerve is a pure sensory nerve which supplies the photoreceptor cell of the retina at the back of the eye ball, basically it allows us to see shapes, colors, hues, clarity and depth, all perceived through the eyes (as far as the wine in the glass goes). You will also be able to see the bottle, shape and color, the label with all the information regarding the wine, region, even sub region, pedigree, wine maker, vintage year etc. You can “scan” your company and the surrounding of your wine experience. Sight gives us only certain clues regarding the wine before us they are mainly initial clues regarding the wine’s condition, age, freshness (according to the grape variety), some of these “clues” will have to be reassessed in combination with the other senses smell, taste and touch.

In order to see sideways, up or down, you need to “use” another 3 of the cranial nerves which are pure Motor nerves they initiate voluntary movement of the eye and lids. Cranial nerves III, IV and VI, which together, control the six muscles of the eye, the eyeball and eye lid movement.

Together these 4 (out of 12 Cranial nerves) facilitate vision.

 Seeing is believing, the neurophysiology of Vision

Cranial nerve II: Optic nerve

The optic nerve is composed of axons of the ganglion cells in the eye. It carries visual information to the brain. This is a pure sensory nerve fiber. This nerve travels from the back of the eye ball, entering the brain through the orbit at a small “hole” (the optic canal) in the skull bone. The 2 Optic nerves one for each eye, meet & cross each other to form the optic chiasm. (Right eye vision is partially perceived on the left side of the brain and vice versa.  The brain does not receive signals from each eye unilaterally. Half of each optical field is directed to the opposite part of the brain. This occurs when the bundled fibers of the optic nerves meet and cross at the optic chiasm (cross road), located just a few centimeters inside the brain. It runs to the vision center of the brain – the Visual Cortex, here, information is interpreted and true vision is formed.

The eye is the sense organ with all its part Cornea Lens Iris Retina and behind them specialty receptors sending chemical and electrical signals to the brain for interpretation through a pipe called the Optic nerve.

Cranial nerve III: Oculomotor nerve

The Oculomotor nerve is composed of motor axons. This is a pure motor nerve. It provides somatic motor innervations to four of the eye muscles which allow movement of the eyeball. It also innervates the muscles of the upper eyelid and the inner eye muscles that control the amount of light that enters through the pupil. (The pupillary eye muscles)

Cranial nerve IV: Trochlear nerve

The Trochlear nerve provides somatic motor innervations to one of the upper eye muscles it controls the downwards and sideways movement of eyeball, helps you see where your wine glass before you pick it up or alas spill the above wines (and many others) on the white table cloth!!. It is also a pure motor nerve fiber.

Cranial nerve VI: Abducens nerve

The Abducens nerve carries somatic motor innervations to one of the outer eye muscles, it controls the eyes side movement, careful who’s sitting next to you, who sneaks a hand towards you glass during conversation with the person next to you!!! It is another pure motor nerve fiber.

 The anatomy of the eye


The Cornea: The cornea is a round, transparent dome that acts as the outer window of the eye. It is the structure that focuses the light that enters the eye. It comprises five parts. All the parts work together to protect the eye and help in the proper working of the cornea as a whole.

The Lens: The lens is that part of the human eye that is located immediately behind the iris. It is transparent, elastic and crystalline. Its role is to focus the light and move towards the retina.

The Iris: The colored part of the eye is known as iris. It is present in the eye in the form of a thin diaphragm. The iris lies between the cornea and the crystalline lens. The color is due to the presence of a pigment. It is the iris that gives your eyes a particular color. The basic iris colors are blue, green and brown. Majority of humans have varying shades of these colors. It is composed of connective tissues and smooth muscle fibers. The composition of the iris enables it to dilate or contract the pupil, which in turn controls the amount of light that falls on the retina.

The Pupil: The hole in the center of the eye through which the light passes, is called the pupil. The pupil gets bigger and smaller depending on the amount of light falling on the eye.

The Sclera: The sclera is the whitish, opaque part of the eye, which is connected to the cornea. Its role is to provide protection and meet the purpose of attachment for the muscles that enables eye to move.

The Vitreous Humor: It is the jelly like substance that is present within the interior chamber behind the lens. It is that part of the human eye whose role is to provide pressure inside the eye and keep it inflated

The Retina: The retina is the innermost layer of the eye. It consists of nerve tissue that senses the light entering the eye. Its function is to send impulses through the optic nerve back to the brain, where it gets translated into the images that we see. There are four types of light-sensitive receptors present in the retina.. The retina is considered to be part of the brain itself, it is covered by millions of light-sensitive cells, some shaped like rods and some like cones. These receptors process the light into nerve impulses and pass them along to the cortex of the brain via the optic nerve.

The Fovea: The Fovea is a part of the eye, located in the center of the macula region of the retina. The fovea is responsible for sharp vision which is necessary when visual details are most important.

The Optic Nerve: The continuation of the axons of the ganglion cells in the retina is known as the optic nerve. It connects the eye with the brain. The optic nerve emerges from the back of the eye, travels through the skull and stops inside the skull bone, and ends up at the back of the brain. This part of the brain is known as visual cortex. It is responsible for receiving information from the eyes and interpreting it.

Now we can see, next post I’ll try to figure out how we can actually see, what we see and why????????????


some images from

SYMPHONY OF SENSES The Anatomy and Physiology of wine tasting

 The Cranial Nerves

The Scent of wine A Neuro-physiological study of wine perception

Part 1 The Brain

Wine making production, creation, becomes an art when all elements in the finished product are totally balanced. This of course, requires a set of strict and precise actions in all minute details from the vineyard to the winery, through the barrel to the bottle stages, which result in a refined and balanced drink with unique taste, smell and color qualities which cause the consumer, even at the glass stage a profound experience beyond a mere quench thirst.

Drinking wine can be an act meant to quench thirst: just tilt your glass and gulp. On the other hand the art of wine tasting is a challenge, an enigmatic quiz with all the clues stored inside the bottle behind the cork. To solve the quiz one needs specialized tools, all of which are “stored” in our cranium (the part of the skull that contains the brain) our 5 senses: Smell, Sight, Hearing, Taste and Touch for wine tasting you also need good memory and a colorful imagination.  Between us this quiz is a game of associations.

I know that tasting wine adds an extra dimension to the basic daily function associated with eating and drinking. It turns the act of consuming food and drink for sustenance, as a source of strength and nourishment into an act of pleasure a celebration of our senses combined in an intellectual act.


Cranial nerves are nerves that emerge directly from the brain and not from the spinal cord. In humans, there are 12 pairs of cranial nerves. Only the first and the second pair emerge from the upper part of the brain, the remaining 10 pairs emerge from the brainstem the lower connection of the brain to the spinal cord.

The Cranial nerves all have specific task to execute and are highly specialized (unlike other motor or sensory nerves that emerge from the spinal cord). Although their function is diverse and spans on many different tasks along our body,


All of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves take part in the process of wine drinking and wine tasting


List of the 12 Cranial Nerves and their function

  1. 1.                      Olfactory- sense of smell
  2. 2.                      Optic- Sense of sight
  3. 3.                      Oculomotor – eyeball and eyelid movement
  4. 4.                      Trochlear  –  downwards and sideways movement of eyeball
  5. 5.                      Trigeminalchewing touch & pain of the face and palate
  6. 6.                      Abducens – eyes side movement
  7. 7.                      Facial – mimic muscles, tear glands, salivary glands sense of taste
  8. 8.                      auditory– Hearing and body balance
  9. 9.                      Glossopharyngeal– sense of taste and carotid arteries blood pressure
  10. 10.                   Vagus– Aortic pressure, initiator of digestive system,sense of taste 
  11. 11.                   Accessory swallowing action and neck muscles
  12. 12.                    HypoglossalTongue movements



The Cranial Nerves and wine tasting


Nerve No. 1  Olfactory Nerve – sense of smell well this one is too obvious. Without it you’re a goner where wine in concerned. This is one of the easier senses to “train” and improve. The smell center although small (around 2cm2), contains ten million neurons (sense cells), and can detect around ten thousand different smells. You think this is a lot? A German Sheppard dog has one billion neurons within the same size smell center.  Still as far as wine is concerned it does the Job!

Nerve No. 2  Optic Nerve The first encounter with wine is through sight. Colors, hues, clarity and depth are all perceived through the eyes, as well as your company and the surrounding of your wine experience

Nerve No. 3  Oculomotor Nerve  – Very important during wine drinking. Who knows who’s after the last sip in your glass of Richebourg 1929 DRC or Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1982 or 1945, it’s always handy to have the capacity to look around discreetly.

Nerve No. 4  Trochlear Nerve – downwards and sideways movement of eyeball, helps you see where your wine glass is before you pick it up or alas spill the above wines (and many others) on the white table cloth!!

Nerve No. 5  Trigeminal Nerve – chewing muscles touch and pain of face and palate. Very important nerve to on all aspects of food and wine, apart from chewing it controls our ability to sense Touch which is important to our taste sensation. This is where we try to feel the wine on the palate the texture, body, temperature, astringency, aftertaste, finish, and length of a wine are all things we feel on our palate cheeks and lips.  Wine’s weight (light, medium, full) or texture (silky, austere coarse, chewy velvety). Palate sensation or perception is the scales with which we judge the BALANCE of Wine.

Nerve No. 6  Abducens NerveControls the eyes side movement, carefulwho’s sitting next to you, who sneaks a hand towards you glass during conversation with the person next to you!!!

Nerve No. 7  Facial Nervemimic muscles, tear glands, salivary glands and parts of the sense of taste. It’s not always useful that everyone knows (by the expression on your face) what you really think of a wine especially if the tasting is in the winery. But what would we do without the sense of taste where would flavor be if smell and taste would not combine?

Nerve No. 8  Auditory Nervesense of Hearing and body balance. The chatter of people the clutter of cutlery and dishes the clinging of glasses the heavenly echoing sound of the perfect handmade glass of wine, cobined with the ability to keep your balance inspite of having a glass or two too many…

Nerve No. 9  Glossopharyngeal Nervesense of taste and carotid arteries blood pressure. Controles most of the sense of taste all 4-5 basic tastes. Also controls the proper pressure of freshly oxygenated blood to the brain keeping the brains analytical capacity intact.

Nerve No. 10  Vagus NerveAortic pressure, initiator of digestive system,sense of taste . This one basically keeps us alive (very important to wine tasting) not to speak of its importance in digestion of food and parts of the sense of taste.

Nerve No. 11 Accessory Nerveswallowing action and neck muscles. Without swallowing we would have to spit wine all the time and it is nice to swallow wine from time to time for some wines spitting is a obligatory some wines swallowing is a MUST. As for the neck action it’s nice to be able to nod yes to an extra top up or to nod nay if you had one too many.

Nerve No. 12 Hypoglossal NerveTongue movements, There’s no swirling of wine around the mouth without the tongue moving folding and caressing the wine. We sense we taste we smell better with the tongue moving. Needless to say we will not be able to let the “world” know what we think of the wine we have all just tasted or drunk. Speech is nonexistent without tongue movements.

Combination of bits of information provided to us through observing, looking, smelling, tasting wine Touch by tongue palate will be used as a means of helping to solve a riddle: What wine is before us?

That’s it for now , anatomy and physiology of all the different senses: vision smell, taste and touch in future Posts