Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Drinking wine gives your brain a good workout

As you relax over the Bank Holiday weekend avoid the fizzy drinks that shrink your brain, stick to wine and give your brain a workout.

Doesn’t matter if its red or white. Either will do the job and make your brain work harder.

According to a neuroscientist drinking wine “engages more of the brain than any other human behaviour“.

Professor Gordon Shepherd has spent ten years developing a science of neurogastronomy and researching this subject at the Yale School of Medicine (I wonder what their wine bill has been?) and has now published his findings on wine drinking in a book; Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine.

One of his findings is that spitting out the wine at wine tastings prevents you fully appreciating the wine. (I always thought they spat it out so they wouldn’t get drunk before they’d sampled everything).

Swallowing the wine is a key process and vital for “obtaining the most information possible about the quality of the wine”. Well I always thought wine was for drinking so that’s good advice – if a bit obvious.

More seriously he has shown that it is our psychological, sensory and physical response to food and drink that combine to create flavours in objects that don’t inherently possess it.

Taste is an illusion created by the brain largely influenced through smell. The movement of the wine through the mouth and of air through the throat and nose are key, especially the movement of molecules released in the mouth when we breathe out. So sniffing in advance may be a waste of time.

Wine drinking engages more of the brain than listening to music or solving a maths problem apparently. “The molecules in wine don’t have a taste or flavour but when they stimulate our brains our brain creates flavour the same way it creates colour”.

Moving the wine inside the mouth engages intricate muscles that control the tongue as well as stimulating thousands of taste and odour receptors. That is then processed through a frame of reference that is “heavily dependent on our own memories and emotions and those of our companions” as well as the composition of our saliva and our age and gender.

Research in the UK at Oxford University also demonstrated how complicated our relationship with food can be and how our enjoyment of it is influenced by environmental and other factors.

But back to the wine. Once you’ve had a few you’ve saturated the system which perhaps proves the point about having the good stuff first and then moving on to the plonk when everyone’s had a few.

And while you’re digesting this science – and hopefully testing it out in a real world laboratory – you can get rid of your long-stemmed glasses.

Now the only way to drink your wine – and any other serious booze – is from a tumbler. It’s the new relaxed ambience according to those who claim to know these things.

“Formal stemmed glasses feel quite traditional … don’t be afraid to have mismatched selections on your table

This is part of the Polpo aesthetic, the tumbler style of drinking showcased by the award-winning Venetian restaurant as a reaction to the exhausting “sleek, chic” protocol of the early Noughties.

Gosh I sound so pretentious even writing this stuff!

But it’s also a response to the recession, social media and the “democratisation of food” or what a famous chef called “elbows on the table kind of food“. It might also be about wanting to be more relaxed at home where we feel more secure (maybe the Danish Hygge influence?).

Also traditional glasses are breakable, not dishwasher friendly and take up lots of room on your shelf.

Well I have to say I’ve been drinking wine out of a tumbler for a couple of years now. I bought some small wine glasses when I was on medication so I could easily control how much I drank and the habit stuck when I came off the meds.

But eventually the glasses broke and rather than grab a large long-stemmed glass I used a tumbler. Any tumbler from a whisky glass to a coloured cheapy from Tesco that reminds me of those unbreakable Duralex glasses we use to have at school.

More importantly, I’m a big fan of Inspector Salvo Montalbano, the cool Sicilian detective that appeared on our screens a few years ago. And he always drinks his wine from a tumbler!

Cheers!

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Author: mikethepsych

He says he's a psychologist but aren't we all?

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