Oral sense of Touch… (and a bit of Hearing)
from LIFE THE SCIENCE OF BIOLOGY 2007
We’ve been through most of the important 5 senses taking part on wine tasting: Sight, Smell, Taste, including a light “touch” on the sense of Touch, since touch plays a key role in experiencing taste it “deserves” a separate chapter.
Oral touch sensations, include those generated by pressoreceptors, mechanoreceptors and thermoreceptors sensory cells of the oral cavity.
The bodily sense of touch is the first sense to develop. It supplies, major means of information from the proximal environment. The human hand is one of the most important adaptations in our evolutionary history, mainly because we are the only primates able to perform opposition between our thumb and the fingers allowing us the ability to perform minute highly accurate digital manipulations.
The Oral somatosensation plays a crucial role in many aspects of our multisensory perception of food wine and flavour sensation. The tactile stimulation we receive in our mouth supplies informs of food and beverage from the temperature of a food through to its texture. Food texture has been defined by Bourne as: ‘the response of the tactile senses to physical stimuli that result from contact between some part of the oral cavity and the food’. Other researchers included the contribution from other senses, like olfaction, vision, even hearing, and kinesthesia in their definitions, (Kinesthesia is the awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body using sensory organs). In terms of describing texture of food or wine, these may appear sticky, grainy, sandy, smooth, creamy, harsh, spicy hot or temperature changer (hotter or colder than our body temperature), all of these are felt in the mouth.
When it comes to the tactile experiences associated with the consumption of food and drink, they are obviously important. Oral-somatosensation is recognized as taking a major role in our overall experience of food and drink.
The multisensory aspects of texture
It is, however, not always so easy to ascertain exactly which sense is actually doing the work in terms of giving rise to specific aspects of our multisensory experience of food and drink. We assume that the experience of bursting bubbles of fizzy drinks in the mouth is due to the CO2 bubbles popping in the oral cavity, it turns out that sensation of carbonated or fizzy bubbles on our tongue is not solely tactile but rather a result of the stimulation of the sour taste receptors on the tongue. The perception of fattiness in a food or drink is sensed by tactile receptors, However these sensations do not solely come just from the ability of the oral-somatosensory receptors to sense texture of food or drink consistency, but an accumulation of perception from the olfactory and gustatory receptors. Wine astringency or phenols in fruits and vegetables like brewed tea leaves, squeezed pomegranate or tannins of young red wine, is actually a tactile sensation, although many think of it as part of the wine taste and flavour.
Oral touch sensation is also responsible for the sensation of what we call “mouth-feel”. A menthol candy may evoke a cool mouthfeel sensation, a bite on a hot chilly evokes a burning sensation, alcohol evokes heat sensation etc. Jowitt defined mouth-feel as: “the textural attributes of a food or beverage responsible for producing characteristic tactile sensations on the surfaces of the oral cavity.” (Jowitt, R., “The terminology of food texture”. Journal of Texture Studies, 5:351-358, 1974)
“The tactile stimulation of the oral cavity is also very important for another reason: it turns out that where we localize a tastant follows the location of the tactile stimulus drawn across the tongue and not the point where the taste stimulus itself happens to have been transduced on the receptor surface, the fact that people localize the flavor of food to their mouth, despite the fact that the majority of the information concerning flavour comes from their nose i.e. smell. So smell is likely to attribute in large part to the tactile stimulation that they experience in their oral cavity while eating”
There is also a connection between temperature and taste. Researchers found that simply by raising or lowering the temperature at various surface points on a person’s tongue, temperature changes elicit sensations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter – that is, the four main basic tastes.
Touch sensation and information regarding food or liquid in the mouth are transferred to the brain by means of the Trigeminal nerve (), which projects directly to the primary somatic sensory cortex. This projection carries information concerning touch, texture (mouth-feel), temperature, and proprioception (not to mention nociception or oral pain, and chemical irritation) from the relevant receptors in the mouth. All appear to be represented in the Orbito frontal cortex as well as in several other brain areas.(from: Food Texture and Viscosity: Concept and Measurement M. C. Bourne 1981)
The entire oral cavity has various degrees of the sense of touch, but the parts most sensitive to the “tactile impressions” of wine are the upper, centre part of the tongue and the soft areas of the palate, the inner upper lip, the pharynx, the larynx and the gums. The centre of the tongue contains the filiform papillae (singular: papilla) are one of the four types of lingual papillae (see: https://wine4soul.com/2013/03/16/sense-of-taste-and-wine/ ), they are small prominences on the surface of the tongue.
The Filiform papillae are thin, long (upside-down) “V”-shaped cones that don’t contain taste buds but are the most numerous, covering most of the dorsum (upper surface). These papillae are mechanical and are not involved in taste sensation, but tactile sensation only. Swirling wine in the mouth is a second stage (after sniffing) which helps to pinpoint the sensations of wine texture, temperature, astringency, body alcohol content and the “touch” from carbon dioxide in sparkling wines.
Wine Body: is a tactile term which expresses the feeling of weight of a wine in the mouth. At times the impression of full-body is almost like that of a solid substance even thought we are concerned with a liquid. It is created mainly by alcohol sensation which may lean to the “heavy” side due to higher viscosity than the water constituent of wine the higher the alcohol content the “fuller bodied” the wine . Wine dissolved solids (sediments before settling) also contribute to the sensation of “body” in the mouth.
Wine Texture: this refers to the touch of a wine, how it feels in the mouth. It includes sensations such as smoothess, viscosity; watery or rich dessert wines and is with high combination of sugar, glycerin or the “touch of alcohol.
Wine Astringency: caused by high concentration of phenolic substances in young red wines, responsible for the “dry” sensation caused mainly by the tannins present in the wine at this stage. The ageing process reduces astringency due to oxidation, and will be less evident in mature or older wines.
Temperature: refers in this context to the sensation of warmth created by ethyl alcohol, which increases with the wine’s strength.
Fizziness: a prickly sensation is caused by the presence of carbon dioxide bubbles.
Mechanical characteristics are subdivided into the primary parameters of hardness, cohesiveness, viscosity, elasticity, and adhesiveness, and into the secondary parameters of brittleness, chewiness, and gumminess. Since popular terms are used to describe texture they often point only to a degree of intensity of these characteristics rather than an objective description.
Studied showed that: The in-mouth “chalk-like” texture of wine was strongly associated with anthocyanin concentration and was negatively associated with alcohol level and acidity. The astringent sub qualities of “velvet-like” or “emery-like” roughing were mostly related to polyphenol levels. Wines that elicited a “puckery” sensation were characterized by relatively low anthocyanin levels, high acidity, and high pigmented polymer and tannin concentrations. So both acidity anthocyanin and alcohol concentrations affect tactile sensitivity and perception. As currently defined, wine taste sensations fall into four, or possibly five categories: sweet, sour, salty, Phenolic compounds include several hundred chemical compounds that strongly influence taste, color, and mouthfeel. Tannins and anthocyanins pigments. Some of these are naturally present in the fruit and some are created during the winemaking and aging processes. Phenolic compounds such as Resveratrol have been linked to many of the health-beneficial properties of grapes and grape products.
In the case of wine or juice, mouthfeel combines sensations related to the product’s viscosity as well as sensations related to the product’s chemical properties, such as astringency
Sulfites are sulfur-based compounds occur naturally during wine fermentation, but are also often added before, during, or after fermentation as sulphur dioxide (SO2), to protect wine from oxidation and the activity of undesirable microorganisms, particularly bacteria. Sulfites are added at higher levels to white and/or sweet wines to prevent browning and/or spoilage.
Methoxypyrazines are a class of chemical compounds that produces herbaceous odors (e.g,. green bell pepper, leafy, or vegetative). In white wine, the odors can be desirable. However, in red wines high levels of methoxypyrazines are very undesirable. Although this is an element of “flavour” it has an influence on our mouthfeel of wine touch…
Press play to hear music, music by Daphne Sarnat – http://daphodil-music.co.uk/
To include all 5 senses in the experience of wine drinking or wine tasting the sense of Hearing is added in the form of the hearing ringing sound of glasses touching at the raising of a glass, wine glasses toasting is a very closely observed part of drinking culture. In company, no one should drink a sip of alcohol before having toasted every other person at the table by touching each others glass with intention a look into each other’s eyes… the talk around the table about the wine being drunk or tasted, sound of a popping champagne bottle, wine being poured into a wine glass, and the sound of a wine glass or God forbid… a wine bottle shattering in the background. All thought the ear our hearing sense organ with it’s center and specialty sense receptors in the Middle ear connected to our brain via the Auditory nerve – Cranial nerve Number 8.
All of our 5 senses take part during wine drinking, appreciation, and wine tasting. All of these arise in the head area; they all have specialty sense organs which are connected to our brain via one or more of the 12 Cranial nerves sometimes simultaneously by several cranial nerves. What a wonder our body is, what a wonder wine is…it is indeed a symphony of senses (see: https://wine4soul.com/2012/05/11/symphony-of-senses/ )
Drink, Sense, Enjoy.
A post with Culinary Thoughts, Tips for cooks, not a cooking lesson.
Pescetarianism is the practice of diet that includes seafood and fish, but not the flesh of any other animal.
Apart from eating from the harvest of the sea, pescetarians eat from the harvest of the land and their diet is essentially vegetarian and includes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, eggs, and dairy products.
Pescetarians in Action from the BBC
One of my special guests for the summer (my daughter Daphne, fresh from London on her summer break) is “pescetarian” and prior to her arrival she requested on a mobile message, to me: “…Crabs in herbs for me pls! XXX “. What a Joy! Who can reject such an opportunity to give Joy to a person you LOVE, through a skill you acquire through the years and people around you “grew” to appreciate and love. That is what food and cooking is all about, each time you present the people you like/love with a “present” they remember in color, presentation, smells and taste. These memories are long lasting in your heart and head although they are totally consumed (and gone) by the end of the Meal. It is the pride of any cook or chef when nothing is left on the plate, and a certain “smile” of contentment appears in the eyes not the lips of your guests.
Cookery is a “sad” kind of ART, for it is consumable and short lasting, still it involves all the 5 senses including touch smell and taste and thus is judged by a more scrupulous set of senses than any other of the arts.
At first I could not get the Mediterranean Blue Crabs I needed to fulfill her request but I went on a Journey (Quest) to find what was required and indeed found it at one of the fishmongers in Jaffa “fresh from the sea”.
Blue Crab – Portunus pelagicus
This one was made into: Blue Crabs in corona beer and Lemon, Saffron & chilies butter, a delightful easy recipe taken from his cookbook Fish & seafood of my friend and one of the best chefs in Israel Jonathan Roshfeld, it is slightly hot and a good appetizer for the meal to come.
Corona beer Saffron and chillies The Chilly Butter From Blue to Orange
I cooked the remaining crabs separately in water vegetables and cooking fresh tomatoes taken out all the white and claws meat added several diced shrimps to it, and separated the Crustaceans meat from the liquids, to make the “filling” for the open ravioli and the liquids as a base for the sauce.
Through the years we had many “own” version on great chef’s recipes from Fredy Girardet (Cuisin Spotanée) – Lobster with Cream of Sweet Peppers, Joel Robochon‘s Giant Shrimps wrapped in Zucchini and champagne Saffron sauce (instead of langoustine), Gordon Ramsey‘s Halibut with or without smoked Salmon and sauce Albert with its wonderful fresh horseradish touch, my own poor versions of Sashimi’s, Sushi’s Carpaccio of AKAMI of Tuna with Takuan, Ginger, and wasabi sesame, Nori & Penko crusted Tuna, sashimi style soy and wasabi sauce, Black Cod (Nobu style, I wish…) with Pumpkin noodles, caramelized Pumpkins sauce. Sea food Pasta and risotto dishes and many more.
The basic idea with cooking in general and fish/seafood cooking in particular is the freshness and quality of the products. After that you don’t really have to be a genius, you need though, good reference points (eat at the best restaurants and try to “analyze” the food), look at chefs working in their kitchens, read good cookbooks and pay attention to the “tips” and of course LOVE messing about in your kitchen / atelier. When eating at a good restaurant for those dishes you like try getting to the bottom of the different spices used in a dish, read between the lines of the description on the menu. You MUST learn well basic cooking techniques and principles of basic stocks and sauces, this is where you learn the basic principles of combinations of herbs, spices, and product be it Vegetables, fish, meat etc. You also have basic knowledge of Gastronomy: The study of the relationship between culture and food. The art of cooking (Culinary art), is only a small part of your Gastronomy studies. When culture, food, artistry, and good senses meet in one place you transcend to a different level of cooking achievements but… beware! There’s no going back from this route, it pulls you deeper and deeper into new heights of achievement you aspire to (that is what separates great chefs from just cooks, and I am by the way just a cook)
A few weeks ago a very polite French foodie and the owner of a well known Alsatian winery, Etienne, tried and succeeded in giving me a great compliment, which although not true was the most polite thing to say at that moment during a dinner in his honor cooked by me at my house (must be read in French accent): “Are you trying to give French CUISINE a bad name”? Hinting that my cooking is of great quality (of course I had my cock-up’s and falls- literally), he saw me sweating over the oven for each dish and maybe felt sorry for me when in fact that was my double Joy the actual act of cooking, for good friends and family, with the best available wine trying to make it original and interesting and I thought I succeeded reasonably well on all counts (including the fall…)
Cock-up is a British Slang noun meaning: A blunder or a mess.
Cock-up’s in cooking are a daily occurrence for cooks, but for Chefs they are completely forbidden! Inexcusable!! A Disaster!!! The trick for cooks is not only to taste often but also to have some tricks under your hat for much needed corrections. As you know Taste comes in 6 traditional Forms : Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Umami and Piquance (The latter 2 added as the need was formed)
Piquance (hotness, spicyness, burning) was considered a sensation rather than a taste. Since piquance is sensed by taste buds and other nerve endings on the tongue and palate and is created by addition of certain spices, Piquance should be recognized as one of the basic tastes.
Your basic blunders in the kitchen are of the TOO kind: Too Sweet, too Sour, too Salty, too Bitter, and too Piquant too hot, the trick is how to bring you food back to the balance which has no TOO’s in it, dilute your sauce, add a dash of cream or even cream of coconut, a bit of wine, a dash of salt in a sweet dish or a dash of sugar in a salty dish. Make sure the balance of pairing / combining your ingredients is right pairing is not just for taste it is also for color, arrangements etc. as time goes by you improve…
It also MUST look right IF IT DOES NOT LOOK RIGHT IT IS PROBABLY NOT RIGHT, BUT if it looks right it is not necessarily tasty and food MUST be tasty!
For Fish Seafood in detail including voluptuous recipes may I refer you to the Mul-Yam Seafoodpedia an amazing cookbook of the BEST seafood restaurant in Israel– Mul-Yam,, chef Yoram Nitzan. glimpses can be followed in http://dan-alexander-blog.com/tag/mul-yam/
Amazing photos by the legendary food photographer Clay McLachlan edited by Yair Yosefi
As for the WINES anything goes from beer to Champagne and anything in between pairing is not an impossible task I’m sure you can work it out. Need help? Just ask!
Thank you Daphne and Udi, for giving me the joy of cooking, for challenging and encouraging me at the same time and being such good invitees.
Miss you already but C U soon
Aba, The wineguide
P.S Thanks Judy (Soledad Bleu Etoile) for the Fish market photos
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. Olfactory- sense of smell
- 2. Optic- Sense of sight
- 3. Oculomotor – eyeball and eyelid movement
- 4. Trochlear – downwards and sideways movement of eyeball
- 5. Trigeminal –chewing touch & pain of the face and palate
- 6. Abducens – eyes side movement
- 7. Facial – mimic muscles, tear glands, salivary glands sense of taste
- 8. auditory– Hearing and body balance
- 9. Glossopharyngeal– sense of taste and carotid arteries blood pressure
- 10. Vagus– Aortic pressure, initiator of digestive system,sense of taste
- 11. Accessory swallowing action and neck muscles
- 12. Hypoglossal –Tongue 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 Nerve – Controls 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 Nerve – mimic 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 Nerve– sense 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 Nerve– sense 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 Nerve– Aortic 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 Nerve – swallowing 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 Nerve – Tongue 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