Conference Preview: The Chemistry of Wine Tasting

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It’s pretty typical for a wine lover to approach a glass of wine, take a sniff, take a taste and then…watch out, because here it comes: all this talk about acidity, freshness, structure, body, aroma, flavor, and that’s just for starters. We’ve all done it, and will continue to do so!

But what does all that mean?  Really, how did we get to those categories just by sipping wine?

The truth is that tasting wine is a multifactorial issue with the human body. (That means “involving or dependent on a number of factors or causes” for the non-scientists among us.)

For starters, there is the visual which sets the stage for the anticipated gustatory pleasure, and upon tasting, all these sensations get a fast trip to the brain where the information gets jumbled around until we decide to vocalize our thoughts, which involves another part of the brain.   I am tired just thinking of it.

What scientists have learned is truly startling when it comes to breaking down the process by which we actually perceive—and describe—wine. It involves a precise series of physiologic changes in the mouth and nose.  These changes affect specific areas in the brain that in turn establish objects that form memories, and when this happens……voilà!  We have an experience and new-found knowledge that we are just dying to let out to whomever will listen.

We are all trained this way, and wouldn’t it be nice if we understood how we all got here?  Well hopefully, during this year’s conference session titled “The Chemistry of Wine Tasting,” which will include a brief lecture and some examples you can experience for yourself, you’ll be able to see just how this process comes about.

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Mike Cohen will offer his session on “The Chemistry of Wine Tasting”” as part of the Society of Wine Educators’ 41st Annual Conference, to be held August 10 to 12, 2017, in Portland Oregon. Mike’s session is scheduled for Saturday, August 12, at 10:00 am.

Mike Cohen, CO, FAAOS, CWE, is an orthopedic surgeon who has retired from a surgical practice into a consulting practice and has found a passion in wine.  He has been involved in wine almost as long as he has been involved in medicine, beginning in medical school where he found himself the “designated sommelier” of his study group. This led him to multiple Napa Valley visit, which led to certifications from the American Sommelier Association and The Society of Wine Educator (he’s a newly-crowned Certified Wine Educator [CWE]).  Currently , he teaches wine, beer, and spirits  from a business and a scientific point-of-view at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC.