Perhaps you imagine doing complex math problems, listening to classical music, or solving word puzzles are among the best ways to neurologically stimulate your brain.
You would be wrong according to Gordon M. Shepherd, a neuroscientist at Yale University and author of the book Neuroenolgy: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine (Columbia University Press).
Shepherd argues “creating the flavors of wine engages more of the brain than any other human experience.” Math, music, and puzzles intensely use some areas of your brain, but do require integrating as many different areas of your brain as tasting wine.
Your brain builds its perception of taste through your eyes seeing the wine, fluid biodynamics in your mouth, flavor receptors on your tongue, and movement of air through the throat and nose. Shepherd agrees with wine experts that smell is the most important component, then explains how smell coming into your nose is important, but retronasal smell—what you perceive when the odor goes the opposite direction as you breathe out through the nose when the wine is in your mouth—is even more important.
The motor activity you use to move wine around in your mouth also is essential. “One of the most important motor actions, swallowing, exposes the wine to the greatest possible extent to internal smell.”
As the book title implies, the key to the neurological magic of wine is your brain creating taste by pulling together information from various parts of your body which are connected to various areas of your brain. There is a “tremendous range of sensory, motor and central brain systems involved in a wine tasting,” according to Shepherd.
Interviewed on National Public Radio, Shepherd advised: “The next time you’re enjoying a glass of wine, take a moment to appreciate what’s going on in your brain and marvel at its abilities!”
• St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Selection Urban Riesling Mosel 2017: Attractive, approachable, affordable. $11 Link to my review
• Zonin Cuvée 1821 Prosecco Spumante Brut NV: Solid “every day” prosecco, hint of sweetness. $11 Link to my review
• Duchman Family Winery Montepulciano Oswald Vineyard 2015: Excellent example of Texas montepulciano. Versatile, complementary for rich-flavored foods. $30 Link to my review
• Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne Réserve NV: Delivers plenty of fizzy fun for the money; best-selling Champagne in France. $35 Link to my review
• The Farm Winery The Big Game 2014: Intense without being overpowering; big fruit, tasty tannins, splendid exemplar of Westside Paso Robles fruit. $72-75 Link to my review
Last round: Hocus-pocus, tonight I’m going to need wine to focus.