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.
FIRST TASTING PHASE: APPRECIATION OF THE WINE’S ROBE.
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.
SECOND TASTING PHASE: THE SWIRLING OF THE WINE.
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.
THIRD TASTING PHASE : THE SMELLING OR SNIFFING OF THE WINE
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)
FOURTH TASTING PHASE : THE OXYGENATED SIPPING AND SUBSEQUENT SWISHING OF THE WINE
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”
FIFTH TASTING PHASE: THE DRINKING OR DOWNING OF THE WINE IN THE DIRECTION OF THE GASTRO-INTESTINAL TUBE
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.
REFERENCE AND COMMENT NOTES
(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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Disclaimer: Nothing in this educational blog should be construed as strict medical advise
Christian is presently working on a new book on Holistic Medicine and Biogerontology, whose content invokes the compelling evidence that supports the following assertion: humans have been genetically designed to live a happy and healthy lifespan to at least 120 years. On this age limit, both evolution-based Science (Cf the Hayflick's limit) and the Bible (Genesis 6:3) concur. The “Joie de Vivre” Vibe that can eradicate today’s chronic disease epidemics and un-necessary suffering is thus within reach. See link on mission for more details.