Talking Wine – June 2017

You may well have read a most interesting article in The Times recently concerning the fact that flavour perception when tasting wine is created in the brain. Our sensory response to food and wine combine to create what we think of as flavour in things that do not inherently possess it. Gordon Shepherd, a professor of neuroscience at Yale, says “the molecules in wine don’t have taste or flavour but when they stimulate our brains, the brain creates the flavour the same way it creates colour”. He goes on to explain that nosing a wine is less important than swilling it around the mouth but that swallowing the wine just causes more confusion. This saturates the brain and makes it harder to process information. We are heavily dependent on our own memories and emotions when analysing wine as well as additional factors like the composition of our saliva as well as age and gender. All very complicated but perhaps us wine tasters have got it right. Sniff, swill but don’t swallow. I know a few novice wine merchants who don’t always get that right!

An extraordinary one million vines were planted in the UK this year alone. This would roughly fill about 625 acres and is likely to yield in the region of an additional 2 million bottles. This just shows the confidence in the English wine industry which really ought to be supported by the government with a drop in duty rates. I imagine this has not been possible with us in Europe but with Brexit looming who is to stop the chancellor doing something to encourage our local farmers and entrepreneurs from taking our wine industry even further. After all, surely he will only be answerable to the electorate and no longer a body of European bureaucrats?

As if we have not had enough to cope with recently I now hear that heavy frosts across northern Europe have badly affected potential harvests with young buds being wiped out. Champagne is badly hit (any excuse for a price hike!) as well as areas of Germany and Austria. What happened to global warming? Only last week I read that scientists believe that the south of England will be too hot for grape growing in the year 2100.