Drinking wine is the ideal workout for your brain, engaging more parts of our grey matter than any other human behaviour, according to a leading neuroscientist.
Dr Gordon Shepherd, from the Yale School of Medicine, said sniffing and analysing a wine before drinking it requires “exquisite control of one of the biggest muscles in the body”.
When the drinker swirls the liquid around their mouth, the tongue’s intricate muscles are put to work along with thousands of taste and odour receptors.
The overall process engages the brain more than listening to music or solving a difficult maths problem, he claims.
Dr Shepherd has spent years studying how the human brain processes flavour, and says his research shows that taste is a lot more subjective than previously thought.
He said more attention should be paid to the drinker than the wine, because everyone uses their own frame of reference to process taste, which is “heavily dependent on our own memories and emotions and those of our companions” at the time.
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Additional factors are also involved, such as the composition of the drinker’s saliva, as well as their age and gender.
In his new book Neuroenology: How The Brain Creates The Taste of Wine, he concluded: “The taste is not in the wine; the taste is created by the brain of the wine taster.”
And while it’s typical during wine tasting sessions to spit out wine into a bucket, Dr Shepherd said swallowing is a key part of the tasting process.
But he cautioned against overdoing it, saying after a few sips “people are just downing the stuff. If you take too large a sip, you’ve saturated your system.”
Drink too much of the stuff and your brain will be strained in a whole different way – by an awful hangover.