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,

IMG_0358                                IMG_0360

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.


Hands off, my 330,000,000 wine bottles!!!

I beg to differ, Aged wines? Yes please!

Thoughts on Matt Kramer’s recent essay:  Is It Worth It to Age Wines Anymore? (Subtitled: Wines have changed and so have our palates).

matt_kramer2On January 8, 2013 Matt Kramer; an American wine critic since 1976 and a regular contributor to Wine Spectator Magazine, who has been described as “perhaps the most un-American of all America’s wine writers” “HAD AN ENLIGHTENMENT “, an insight to the true nature of reality. (As far as I know, He is not a practicing Buddhist)

He rushed to write an article titled: Is It Worth It to Age Wines Anymore? Wines have changed and so have our palates. This was posted in his column drinking out loud in the wine Spectator web site, read it on:

winespectator  , It goes:

IMG_3220“My greatest wine dream, was a wine cellar, so full that I could easily forget about whole cases of wine for years at a time, the better to let them age to a fantasized perfection. That dream came true… I was motivated, obsessed even, by a vision of what might be called futuristic beauty. How soaringly beautiful it would be in 15 or 20 years! I wasn’t wrong—then. But I wouldn’t be right for today. What’s changed? Surely me of course.(He says), I’ve had decades of wine drinking to discover that my fantasized wine beauty only rarely became a reality. But I had to find that out for myself. And I’m glad I did…. In recent years it’s become obvious that an ever greater number of wines that once absolutely required extended aging no longer do”

Really?  And if so, I am quite sure that if only one odd GREAT wine on his “list of grandeur”, it was still worth it. I bet you that this is the only wine he really remembers most, a memory that focuses on the finest, minute detail of taste, flavor, aroma and even appearance, from all the other hundreds even thousands of wines he had since 1976. After all, he had all the great wines of the 60’s 70’s 80’s and 90’s of the 20th century to sample and enjoy. He continues in saying: “Simply put, most of today’s fine wines—not all, mind you—will reach a point of diminishing returns on aging after as few as five years of additional cellaring after release. Stretch that to a full 10 years of additional aging and I daresay you will have embraced fully 99 percent of all the world’s wines, never mind how renowned or expensive”.

aged wines

I agree that less than 1 percent of world wines are really Great, but how many bottles of wine is 1%? Well, in 2011 248 million hectoliters of wine were produced, 1 hectoliter = 100 liters, that is 24 trillion 800 million liters of wine, more than 33 trillion bottles, one percent of which is 330 million great bottles! each year!  That is a lot of great wines (if 1% is an accurate measure according to Kramer). Between us 1% of excellence in anything is reasonable, when counting the number of wine writers or any other group of professionals who really know what they are talking about (1% would be just right). When excellence is the sought after, high quality of 1% is a very good starting point, and ultimately this is not such a small quantity. Allow me to beg to differ yet again, on the “5-10 years at the most will improve by aging” maybe this is the best American wines can get to (I am no expert on American wines so I will take Mr. Kramer’s word for it. Is it the trends in new world winemaking methods that initiated Kramer’s Enlightenment? Is it an American way of always looking at their own as a reference for the best of the rest? or maybe it is the odd, rather new “varietal taste” that had led to this horrific conclusion?

He continues: “Well, what about them old great Old world wines (he lists French, Italian from great wine regions). Yes, all of those wines and still others, such as German and Alsatian Rieslings, Napa Valley Cabernets and Hungarian Tokajis, reward aging. But let me tell you something: With only a handful of ultra traditionalist exceptions, the modern versions of even these wines don’t require anywhere near as much aging as their forebears.”

And I beg to differ again, after all these “ultra traditionalist exceptions”, are the reference wines for all “great wines” of the present and future, the summit all those “modern versions” strive to achieve, copy, imitate, taste like, feel like, affect our senses like… of course, most imitations are “groupies” of the real thing. They may succeed in each and every aspect of excellence separately but Alas fail to stand out as a complete product, lacking the overall balance that separates between the many: good, very good, excellent and EXTRAORDINARY wines.

“… it’s that fine wines have universally changed, sometimes radically so. And our tastes have changed, too… Modern wine offers us a fuller, richer, more rewarding view sooner. Think of an old oil painting carefully and respectfully cleaned of an obscuring varnish, allowing both color and texture to leap out almost three-dimensionally, and you’ve got it.

                        340px-Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)      sphinx

Well, I think the beauty of an old painting is in the craftsmanship rather than it’s cleanliness. Please do not clean or fix Michelangelo’s or Da Vinci’s work, don’t fix the Sphinx’s broken nose and don’t tell me that modern wines can even be compared with the good old traditional wines of the old world made by hundreds of beacon bearers around the world, if that’s the wines you like fine just don’t tell me “our (my) palate have changed”

The bottom line: Today’s wines are far more drinkable, far more gratifying, far more rewarding when drunk younger than their counterparts of 20 years ago.Can they age as long? Yes, I think they can. But that’s not the issue. Rather, the key question is: Do they need to? I think not. Only a very small handful of even the best wines truly require more than five years aging—10 years tops—in a cool space.

I find most “modern wines” harsh, over alcoholic, lacking in Elegance, Finesse and Balance, still they are designed to fit a general taste those so called modern winemakers “brainwashed” their consumers to like, basically they are sales orientated and I expect respected wine critics not to fall in the same trap which is a PR stunt directed at wine novices rather than “wine experts”.    

Of course there are wines today that stubbornly withhold their favors, such as Vintage Port and those few white wines that do not go through malolactic fermentation, such as Trimbach Rieslings, Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay or the white Burgundies of Maison Louis Jadot.

How can you put in one sentence Wine Houses that make very few wines mostly single vineyards (Trimbach make only 4 different wines) to Maison Louis Jadot (with all due respect) that produces approximately 150 different wines each year many of which from the general area?

…I am now convinced that today’s wine lover is well advised to buy fine wines, cellar them in a cool space for five years—10 years, tops—and then drink them in secure confidence that the great majority of their full-dimensional goodness is available to you. After that, it’s all just fantasy—and the very real likelihood of an increasingly diminishing return on your already delayed gratification.

Kramer describes in one of his books how he began his career as a wine writer in 1976, then a food writer of a weekly paper, in a meeting with his publisher. As the advertising department had altered the food page contents to include a “wine of the week” column, to the advertisers’ approval, Kramer was told that he would write this new column. Kramer resisted, saying, “But I don’t know anything about wine”, but the publisher replied, “That’s all right. Neither does anyone else”. Kramer went on to become a respected wine writer yet I hope his publisher did not convince him, because I for one do know quite a few who know A LOT about wine! Most of who have a gift of extra sensitive sense of taste and smell and flavour, I envy them from time to time and know that they do poses a gift that make them better judges of overall quality of wine in a broader sense than I would ever achieve.

jancis-robinsonKramer once criticized wine critics in his New York Sun column, pointing to “almost desperate attempt by some of today’s wine tasting potentates to bolster their credibility by suggesting a physical superiority”. Kramer summarized that, “suggesting a linkage of taste buds to wine judgment is like confusing eyesight with insight”.  Robinson later addressed the issue in an article that suggested Kramer may not have read Robinson’s own account before publishing his column, stressing that to suggest physical superiority “was the last thing [she] was attempting” (from Wikipedia)

Since Jancis Robinson cannot suggest physical superiority herself, let me say that without a doubt she and a few others I know do poses it, they should not be ashamed with the gift they possess, it is a blessing, Kramer and I can only be envious!  Some people poses better sensibility in various sense organs you must admit you heard of people with absolute pitch, perfect pitch when it comes to the sense of hearing/sound, some people have a perfect sense of smell or taste and when combined with knowledge be it perfumes or wine or food, they are better judges! Their vocabulary is richer!

Thank God for wine writers like Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator, if only more and more people will be convinced in this assertive fallacy, more well aged and sublime wines will be left for us wine lovers (of excellent aged wines whose palates have not changed overnight) at more sensible prices. I for one, promise not to “touch” wines from their list, as long as they leave my 1% of suitable wines to enter the “aged wines” list alone. All the wines in my “top ever wine list” that I remember with pleasure and longing, are wines of well over 15 years of “aging”.

 Wine is a live commodity, it keeps changing in time and the ones that change for the better are worth all the patience and endurance, they are the hope of every winemaker, the completion of his aspirations and his expression as an artist of wine making and not simply a maker of wine.

Kramer by the way is the guy who wrote: “How to Really Taste Wine, The six most important words in wine tasting” He very sensibly lists: Complexity, Texture, Midpalate Density, Proportion, Finesse and Balance as his “six pillars of wine tasting wisdom”…quite a good reading (and writing) , I do not know what came over him recently but when one has many followers/readers, they should be careful with the effect of the written word on the less informed.

I beg to differ is: a polite way of saying that you disagree with something that someone has said (from the free dictionary dot com) and so my friends, allow me to BEG TO DIFFER! (I hope Mr. Kramer will take it in the polite way it is intended), I agree to disagree!



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

IMG_5533                                        IMG_5562

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

To Aÿ & back to Epern-Ay

Champagne visit Day 2 PM

By the time we finished our meeting at Moet, we missed our scheduled meeting at Perrier Jouet (Chef de cave Herve Deschamp is busy till late afternoon), but don’t despair Yair Haidu has rescheduled the meeting for 5pm so we’re all sorted out, more or less. Now our next meeting is a good 2 Hours away in Aÿ at Champagne Deutz so he’s calling Bollinger to see if they have a regular “tourist tour” this afternoon… and… “Lo and behold” there’s one starting in 10 minutes time, so we rush over, through the narrow streets of Aÿ and park across the road from the gateway to one of my favorite champagne houses BOLLINGER.


We’ve done the Blanc de Blancs, and here at “Boly” they proud themselves on the fact that Pinot Noir is the Base of the Bollinger Blends 60% in the Special Cuvée NV, and 65% in their Grand Année (vintage) champagnes. And they use for these blends for the NV 80% grapes from Premiers and Grands Crus and for the Vintage Champagne 100%! For all their wines they utilize only the “Cuvee” (the cuvée refers to the best grape juice from gentle pressing of the grapes. In Champagne, the cuvée is the first 2,050 liters of grape juice from 4,000 kg of grapes ), the remaining 500 liters called taille (tail), or pressed juice is sold to other champagne Houses… Impressive! But you knew all that right?


The guide and the group of 3 from Australians and us are led to a small vineyard, a lot of less than half an acre vineyard “the only non phylloxera affected vineyard in the whole of champagne”, still blooming and looking healthy.

The winery tour starts at the Destemming and Crushing area and passes on, to the Oak barrels room, all Bollinger’s wines undergo first fermentation in Oak Barrels (a great pride) and so we are given the important “tour of the Barrels workshop”,  where the in-house barrel maker makes new barrels, fixes old barrels and prepares used barrels by scraping off the crystal sediments that accumulate and cover the barrels yearly. This guy is quick, showing his expertise to the onlookers.


Now we go down the stairs to the cool cellars 8Km long!!!! under the streets of Ay, (you enter in one place and come out somewhere else), with more than half a million Magnums and many more 75cl size bottles all resting in one position or another on their racks or pupitres. A pupitre is a wooden rack made of two hinged heavy boards. Each of the boards has 60 holes that are cut so that a bottle can rest, by the neck, in any position between horizontal and vertical. At first, the bottles lie horizontally, and gradually, through a process called remuage, they are hand “riddled.” This is an arduous process where each bottle is rotated and tilted very slightly each day so that the yeast loosen and finally accumulate into the neck of the bottle.


The Bollinger wines:

    Special Cuvée (non-vintage):  A Champagne blend that uses grapes from a given year, with a balancing addition of up to 10% reserve wines, from the last fifteen years. The blending gives the special cuvee the complexity and structure on every year. I love it. (60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier.)

    Grand Année (vintage): Whenever there is an exceptional harvest, Bollinger will produce their prestige Champagne Grand Année (“great vintage Year”), it is aimed to express best the character of the vintage. Only the best wines from the different crus are selected for this purpose. This Champagne is also available as a Rosé. The wine spends five years on its lees and is aged in bottle under cork. (65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay)

    R.D. (vintage): récemment dégorgé (“recently disgorged”). This is the “Reserve” Grand Année blend. R.D. spends eight years on its lees, aged under cork R.D.  The disgorgement date is given on the back label. The different disgorgement dates are noticeable in aroma and flavor and touch between R.D. Champagnes of the same year. Only 19 vntages since Inauguration in 1952 (first RD) to date where made in the RD format (one of which is my birth year 1953 I wish I could lay my hands on one magnum for my 60th birthday next year).

    Vieille Vignes Françaises (vintage): Bollinger’s prestige cuvee, this blanc de noirs is made in small quantity with wine from two small plots of un grafted rootstock planted in low density (3000 vines per hectare). These two low-density and yield vineyards, Clos St-Jacques in Aÿ and Chaudes Terres in Aÿ, are severely pruned, and thus produce 35% less juice per vine.

We tasted                             

Special Cuvée Brut and  Special Cuvée Rose wonderful wines on all counts!

Bollinger Grand Année 2002 even on its 9th year it is still a youngling very fresh and fruity mainly citrus; with strong grapefruit notes and a faint touch of white tropical fruits. Great balanced acidity and fruitiness. This is a keeper for quite a few years, so… WAIT!

The Best Bollinger I had lately was without a doubt the 1995 Grand Année, The complexity and depth was tremendous, smooth with aromas of ripe white fruits and bursting fig aroma roasted hazelnuts and toasted butter cinnamon brioche with hints of vanilla, a smooth gentle touch on the palate with exceedingly long finish on palate and nose Excellent!!!

We left with a DVD disc of the Various James Bonds ordering Bollinger RD 1961….. My name is B O N D, James Bond!

We’re headed to the neighbors Deutz, another small family champagne house in Aÿ (since 1838), also in for a scheduled meeting with Jean Marc Lallier-Deutz,

we pass the Courtyard Statue of Cupid, the Roman god of desire, love and affection He is often portrayed as the son of the goddess Venus, His Greek counterpart is Eros. Cupid is also known in Latin as Amor (“Love”). Undoubtedly the spirit of Amour De Deutz.

We are, in yet another small and gracious looking estate built in the traditional Champagne style, we sit for a casual wine chat with our host in the drawing room the furniture and surroundings are all original pieces with a very homey feel. We move to the tasting room facing the gardens and champagne glasses are laid down on the glass top modern dining table.


We taste:

Deutz Brut Classic: This is a lovers champagne charming accessible and well balanced for a couple who are about to get acquainted. The classic is affordable champagne that has all the element of style and elegance, but make no mistake this is not the “Amour de Deutz” Millésimé Deutz Brut, The more sophisticated multilayered yet fresh and lively champagne suitable for the private engagement party and a pure Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

Deutz Blanc de Blanc 2004, The 2004 Brut Blanc de Blancs is full of exotic tropical fruit flavours, very rich and elegant mufti-layered Champagne complexity,  and a very sharp clean finish. The Deutz Blanc de Blancs is made principally from vineyards in Avize and Mesnil, with 20% coming from vineyards in Villers Marmery, Oger, and Cramant .disgorged July, 2008.


Cuvee William Deutz 1999

The wine is a crystal clear champagne with lovely small bubbles and a pale lemony golden hue. The nose is fully opened with rich aromas of ripe apples baked in butter, and some hints sweet spices of anis and nutmeg. It has a rich fully ripped, spiced long finish.

 Deutz, formerly known as Deutz Geldermann, based in the Aÿ region of Champagne since 1838. It was run by successive generations of the Deutz and Geldermann families. Today, under the leadership of Fabrice Rosset, the passion for terroir and tradition is at the fore front of the production attitude, the 3 F’s : Finesse, Freshness & Fine.

I could have stayed in the lovely garden sipping away the Cuvee William but “duty calls” we still have our last visit of the afternoon (in Epernay) before parting Champagne and back to “Old Paris”.

This one is at Perrier Jouet with chef de cave Herve Deschamphas.

First the House’s jewel in the crown La Maison Belle E’poque at the historic house of the Perrier family at 11 Ave. de Champagne. This a most amazing living collection of Art Nouveau pieces of furniture, architectural pieces, objects d’art, paintings all from the era known today as La Belle Époque “The Beautiful Era”. This was a period in French history starting in 1890 and ending as the first World War began in 1914. It was a war free period of optimism, a time for scientific inventions and discoveries: Louis Pasteur developed the Pasteurization (or pasteurization)process, antibiotics and the rabies vaccine. Mathematician and physicist Henri Poincaré made important contributions to pure and applied mathematics. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Her study of radioactivity, led to discovery of polonium and radium, winning the Nobel Prize Twice!! for Physics in 1903, and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. New technologies such as the invention of the motion picture (Film), The Lumière Brothers held their first private screening of projected motion pictures in 1895. Peace and prosperity in Paris allowed the arts to flourish, and many masterpieces of literature, music, theater, and visual art gained recognition.

The Term Belle Époque was coined in retrospect, when it began to be considered a relative “golden age” in contrast to the horrors of the World Wars that ensued.                                                       (click on the photo to enlarge)


We are honored with a guided visit of the House of Belle Époque with Herve Deschamphas who will be with us throughout the whole tour and of course the tasting. This is almost unreal, the gateway and the splendid doorframe, the furniture, the decorations, the art on the walls (some Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec and others all originals and of best quality) even the double bed, the basin, faucets and the Loo all original Art Nouveau from the best artists of their trade! Inspiring and heartwarming (The house special guests from around the world get to stay the night there, it has its own kitchen and chef!). What a delight!!!


We go down to the Labyrinth of cellars (Its really cold 8-11 degrees) with some caged doors behind which stored bottles of great importance or age tucked in safely. There’s also an area for keeping wines bought by clients and celebs for special occasions arranged separately in niches in the wall and lots more…

We sat down to our Tasting with chef de cave Herve Deschamphas


first he opened the Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV. This is a Fresh champagne with some delicate bouquet of ripe white fruits like white peach with a touch of Smoky Oak and spiced melted butter biscuits. It contains all the elements to make it alluring to all the participants in for instance a public function or a party.

Belle époque 2004:  (50 % Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5 % Pinot Meunier.  A very elegant wine that hits you with strong aromas of wild flowers in the spring, quit reminiscent of the bottle’s artwork, (designed by Emile Gallé in 1902). On the palate, ripe tropical fruits: Annona and  pineapple flavors very open and spiced. Still fresh and elegant with a nice touch of minerality that extends the length.

Belle époque Rose 2002 The orangey pinkish color radiates through the translucent bottle in sensual colours (the usual Belle époque blend the Rosé is made by adding red wine rather than the saignée method). It is all about  finesse and delicacy without the show off of concentration or strength, very good balance.

Belle époque Blanc de Blancs 2000 :  The most prestigious of the Perrier-Jouët Belle époque series. A show off of the house terroir coming exclusively from Cramant and just from two parcels, Bourons-Leroy and Bourons du Midi, at the heart of the Cramant Grand Cru in the Côte des Blancs. Responsible for this 100% Chardonnay wine grown on pure chalk soil, on the south, south-east slopes. Again we are introduced to the floral aroma touch a characteristic sign, this wine, of more fragrant flowers like honeysuckle freesia and acacia, and very sweet spices like vanilla scented toffee delicate and easily approachable.

Thank you Herve.

Perrier Jouet  28 avenue de Champagne, 51201 Épernay

Telephone: +33 (0) 3 26 53 38 00.  www.perrier-jouet.

As the days grow longer, towards the year’s longest day on June 21st ,  we started on our way back to Paris the clouds started to gather again, but the sun rays pierced through the clouds in an heavenly manner, to end up 2 glorious days in champagne .

Thanks Yair for arranging this unforgettable tour.

Your Wine guide

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