The book Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine by Gordon Shepherd says that tasting wine engages the brain. In fact, the neuroscientist from Yale University notes that the activity “engages more of our brain than any other human behaviour”.
Shepherd’s book is essentially an extension of his previous work on neurogastronomy, a thorough discussion of how the brain identifies and creates flavours and why the said process matters. The previous publication includes a discussion about fluid dynamics and how it is applied when wine is manipulated in the mouth as well as how its smell, appearance, and mouthfeel affects the brain. In his first book, the neuroscientist also discusses how the human brain processes all the information it gets from tasting wine.
Shepherd suggests that unlike other activities such as solving a mathematical problem where the brain uses specific knowledge, wine tasting is more engaging.
In an interview with NPR, Shepherd explained that even the most basic steps of wine tasting can be quite complicated. “You don’t just put wine in your mouth and leave it there,” he said. “You move it about and then swallow it, which is a very complex motor act.”
However, the neuroscientist notes that the complexity of the activity is not just based on the motor skills needed to move it around the mouth followed by actually drinking the wine. “The objects we see don’t have color themselves, light hits them and bounces off. It’s when light strikes our eyes that it activates systems in the brain that create color from those different wavelengths. Similarly, the molecules in wine don’t have taste or flavor, but when they stimulate our brains, the brain creates flavor the same way it creates color,” he said.
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