The Happiness Medicine Institute’s Five Phases of Wine Tasting

To benefit from wine’s nutritious and health properties, oenologists and wine therapists have distinguished five wine tasting phases, each of which helps to enhance a healthy wine experience.
First off, the issue of the wine’s quality and “terroir” should be examined. In this perspective,  the wine should be based on organic methods of viticulture and vinification (wine making). Next, the choice of the glass is also important as shape does influences odorant perception.
To get a sense of the wine’s robe or color, one holds the glass of wine against a white background or behind a candle or source of light, as that helps to see the hue of the color more easily. The wine’s robe not only excites the visual senses, but informs the drinker of the age, quality, health, whether it was optimized in oak barrels and, among other elements, the time of grape skin was in contact with the grape juice.
Once the visual senses have been satisfied, the next step in tasting is to swirl and agitate the wine. Everyone has their own unique technique for swirling wine, but the most classical way of swirling in France is by holding the bottom of the wine glass and swirling the contents with a flick of the wrist. Some tasters also hold the glass from its bottom while firmly planting it on the table and make a few circles with the base. Whatever technique is used, the goal is oxygenate the wine by getting it to move.
This second phase is called the “opening up” process. As the wine opens, it gives off its aromas and mellows out. However, the wine should not be exposed to  the air for too long, say overnight,  because the oxygen will oxidize the wine, ruining it and leaving it with an unpleasant taste that can be flat and even bitter.
Human olfactory system. 1: Olfactory bulb 2: Mitral cells 3: Bone 4: Nasal epithelium 5: Glomerulus 6: Olfactory receptor neurons: Picture licensed under CCLynch.
When the wine taster smells the wine, the olfactory receptors are activating feel-good molecules as well as triggering the gastric juices to start their secretions. (1) As the Happiness Medicine wine workshop shows, the sense of smell has a profound affect on the way the  brain processes flavor. Most flavors depend on retronasal stimulation of the smell receptors (2)
To sip then, one can gently stick the nose all the way into the glass and close the  eyes and take a deep breath.  As the taster smells the wine, one should imagine what odorants are captured, for example a white wine may invoke the smell of lemon rind, pineapples, vanilla or chanterelles while a red wine may register the smell of  cherries, strawberries, cacao, peppers or a deep forest. The brain tends to pick up scents that are have already been memorialized, that have been  smelled before or smell often. Although there are objective olfactory elements, there are also lots of sujective ones that depends on each person’s genome, experiences and sensitivities. (3)
After the sniffing comes the swishing. The taster carefully takes a sip from  the wine glass by aspirating it. This allows the wine to get more enlivened via subtle oxygenation intake, the chemical impact of which helps with the wine’s aromatic expression. This phase is called the oxygenated sipping phase, after which we have the swishing of  the wine process. This process consists in spreading the wine all over the oral cavity, but without any swallowing,  thanks to which the wine activates the mouth’s taste buds.
Top: The Matire de Chai in France examining the wine’s “robe”
Once the wine was been swirled and swished, it is time to start the drinking of the wine down the esophagus tube. Preliminarily though, it may be a good idea to allow the wine to linger in the mouth for a while so as to maximize the activation of different sensory pathways that contributes to the taster’s digestive juices secretions as well as  the expression of his or her  wellbeing and joie de vivre.
When this “vino interruptus” experience is fully felt, depending on the taster, it may be interesting to figure out what are the perceived aromatic compounds that have been picked up along the way. For example, if the mouth feels dry and there is a puckering sensation, that usually means the the wine is quite tannic and has most likely been aged in oak barrels. Ellagitannins in wine also have an impact on the roundness and amplitude of the red wine while the wine’s ethanol and polyphenol compounds activate many health pathways that gives the taster a sense of wellbeing and warmth.  (4)
Thereafter, when ready, the downing or swallowring process of the wine can begin, at which point we speak about the “descente” and the “après-goût”, (the after taste), which is another wine chapter by itself and which will be examined in the Institute’s wine workshop.
Quality wine has been fermenting in a bottled anaerobic milieu usually for many years, sometimes many decades. As a consquence, once it is freed from this “bonification” aging phase, it is exposed to light, oxygen, the atmosphere’s volatile chemicals and human desire. Because humans have nearly 400 potentially functional olfactory receptor genes (OR genes, making this gene family one of the largest in the human genome), wine aromatherapy and tasting is a way to better express these genes and therefore, one’s human potential. With moderate usage of quality wine via these five “dégustation” (tasting) phases, the oenophile is better able to maximize the conditions for a full blown healthy wine experience.


(1). Physiologically, the olfactory senses aid in normal digestion by triggering gastrointestinal secretions. Cf.  Mattes RD. Physiologic responses to sensory stimulation by food: nutritional implications. J Am Diet Assoc. 1997;97:406–13.
(2) Flavor perception is acheived via the synergy of complex pathways. For example, by holding the nose and putting a piece of ripe fruit in the mouth and chewing on it as the nose hold is released, the taster will immediatly notice an intensity in flavor and taste. Many nerves are responsible for transmitting taste information to the brain. Because of these multiple taste pathways and thanks to the olfactory system, the maximazation of flavor enjoyment is produced. However, an ensemble of rigor, method and praxis is needed.
(3)  Sometimes a wine is corked or polluted with heavy metals and pesticides. Smelling the wine before drinking it is also a way to determine it’s quality.
(4). French oak, for example is laden with  furfural, eugenol and other molecules while the grape is rich in thousands of compounds, from ethanol to many different types of  healthy polyphenols.  Wine is endowed with a little over 30,000 genes from which many proteins and therapeutic properties are produced. See the Intitute’s wine therapy workshop for a few pieces of evidence that substantiate this claim.

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Copyright (c) 2016. Happiness Medicine Institute. All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: Nothing in this educational blog should be construed as strict medical advise

Professor Joubert teaches in different parts of the world how to extend a healthy Lifespan to 120 years and beyond. Working on a Documentary and book that redefines Medicine in light of new discoveries, ancient wisdoms, innovative research and holistic science, he can be nonetheless available to coach patients back to homeostasis, wellbeing & Joie de Vivre. On occasion, Pr. Joubert can also coach health professionals to better protect their holistic practice when they must deviate from outdated and irrational mainstream “standards of care”. See links on “Contact” and “Mission” (under the “About” link) for details.

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