How Wine Tastings Stimulate Your Brain
Need another reason to raise your glass? Wine tastings really stimulate your brain like algebra!
Everybody knows that keeping the brain active is vital for staying sharp as we get older. But that doesn’t mean your only option is breaking out a Sudoku puzzle. It turns out there’s a fun (and delicious) way to engage your brain: wine tasting.
So, why is tasting wine a neurologically complex activity?
Even though a math problem may be tricky, solving it only actually requires a limited amount of brain activity. Wine tasting, on the other hand, involves multiple sensory and motor systems.
This is, of course, in addition to the antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and other health benefits that wine has to offer.
Feeling curious? Take a look at how a casual wine tasting gives your brain a workout and how you can maximize your sensory experience.
How Wine Tastings Engage Your Brain
Neurologically speaking, tasting and appreciating wine is a pretty complicated activity. This is because the brain has to take in a bunch of sensory information, synthesize it, and translate it into an experience we can understand.
Basically, wine – or any kind of food – doesn’t have an inherent taste. The brain creates the flavors we taste, the colors we see, and all of our other sensory experiences.
“Tasting” wine is complex because it involves all of the senses:
- We see the color of wine, and the darkness, lightness, and opacity tells something about it.
- We feel the texture on the tongue. Wine will actually feel different in the mouth depending on whether it’s light-bodied or full-bodied.
- We smell the aromas in wine both from sniffing through the nose and from retronasal olfaction – the smelling that happens inside the mouth.
- And, of course, we taste the sweetness or bitterness on the tongue.
In addition to all of this perception, the memory becomes involved to help you recognize flavors you’ve tasted before.
When a particular glass of wine sparks a memory, you may even have an emotional reaction to sipping it. For instance, if it’s the same bottle you had on the last night of your vacation in Paris, or on your honeymoon, the hormonal systems become activated and send a pleasure response – aka dopamine – to the brain.
Finally, let’s say you’re tasting wine with friends and you want to tell them what you notice or why it reminds you of another wine varietal you’ve had. The part of the brain that controls language and communication is activated when you’re communicating your experience to others.
Maximizing Your Sensory Experience
You may have noticed that the one sense we left out is sound.
The sound of a cork popping out of the bottle is certainly a pleasurable noise to wine lovers. But, if you’re looking to engage the fifth sense, listening to music – Beethoven, for instance – while you sip wine will amp up your overall brain activity.
Finally, tasting wine in the company of friends will allow more parts of your brain to fire up. This is, of course, not the only reason to drink wine with friends.
Sipping wine while talking to other people encourages you to slow down. That’s important because studies show that the health benefits of wine only take effect when you drink in moderation.
Plus, sipping wine in good company is simply more pleasurable. Scientists posit that this may be why people in European countries – where drinking wine socially is an important part of the culture – are generally healthier than Americans.
So, for maximal benefits, you might call up some friends and get some snacks lined up before you pop open a bottle.
In Vino Finito
Interested in learning about the other health benefits of wine? Take a look at how red wine has been linked to heart health.
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