These four sensory perceptions are the most important „inputs“ for something what we commonly call „taste“.
Talking only about „taste“ is far too inexact in order to understand which parts of food or wine actively shape our perception.
4 main focuses of taste perception - sensory analytics
To see: visual presentation, colors, shapes, structures
To smell: definition of aroma (volatile smellable substances)
To taste: sweet, sour, salty, herb, umami, grease
To feel: non-olfactory and non- gustatory perceptions (tactile experiences)
Smell indicates the perception of aroma. Aromas are substances of volatile nature. They rise to the nose with the air or rather said with the wine bouquet and dock on the receptors of olfactory bulb (Bulbus olfactorius). This released stimulation reaches the olfactory memory via nerve paths and is linked with different brain areas from there.
Aroma makes up to 95 % of the „taste“. This means that a meal, olive oil or wine are mainly recognised due to their individual aroma. Approximately 50 different wine aromas, out of range of roughly 1000, are enough in order to classify the stylistics, type, and origin of wine.
Taste relates to the four known taste qualities on the tongue: sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
In addition we can recognise Umami („delicious“, „fleshy“) and taste modifier Kokumi (same density like Umami) in our mouth and on our tongue. This is also proved that receptors which are able to perceive fatty food are existent.
Feel (haptics) describes for example the differentiation between warm and cold, soft and hard or astringency which means so-called „shrinking“ feelings which are triggered by certatin tannins.
Sensory differentiation of various astrigent perceptions belongs to the most important and at the same time most difficult challenges of the wine sensory.
From my point of view the way how tannins (phenols as secondary plant substances) develop in the grape and influence the winemaking belongs to the high art of taste dynamic. Furthemore tactile perceptions also relate to irritations caused by various acids. Malic and tartaric acids are the best known acids in wine. The acids affect the trigeminal and vagal fibres and cause the shrinking of oral mucosa, often described as „pricking“ through to „juiciness“as a reaction to salivary glands (see below). The combination of salt and acid induces especially „tight“ haptic experience.
The „tequila effect“ cancels the salty and sour taste and causes a „tight“ and at the same time tender mouthfeel in the front oral area. Especially the volume and concentration of various gustatory substances are transferred via trigeminal nerve paths (these are located in the front part of face and mouth), stimulations caused by them are often called „prelude“, and vagal nerve paths responsible for stimulations described like „the finish“.However the roof of the mouth which is supposed to be highly sensitive can grasp only „warm“ and „cold“.In this way generated „mouthfeel“ affects especially the emotional field of a person. It is particulary the mouthfeel which makes heavy red wine so attractive, not to mention the deep kiss. Many of the sensorily active substances trigger several perceptions. Like for instance acid has two effects – it tastes sour and shrinks mucosa in the mouth. For example various acids can be distinguished, recognised and assigned by means of such effect pattern.
Seeing: since we are able to think only in pictures, all components of the „taste“ create mental images which we link to certain events. For instance we are not able to think „sour“ however we can link the term „sour taste“ to a lemon or sour apple. Lemon flavour itself is not sour but visual association and experience of the lemon's taste help us to percept it like „sour aroma“ .
Our brain is always trying to provide us with solid and finished picture. This can never completely correspond to the documentable and objective reality because all sensory „inputs“ are closely linked to what has been just seen in this moment. Due to this fact, „seeing“ influences our cognition by a factor of 80. We should alsways bear this in mind.
Packaging, labels or food presentation are very important issues for the assessment of smell and taste. It has a huge impact on it!
We work very intensively on such phenomena in our seminars.