How Experienced Tasters Process Wine

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Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser Unlocks the Hidden Code of Wine Tasting in Groundbreaking Article Published in Sommelier Journal

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Gaiser discovered that he and other experienced tasters would keep an inner mind map of these images, although everyone’s map is different, some strikingly so.

Experienced wine tasters trigger olfactory memories through internal visual images that form an inner mind map, Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser reports in an article published in the April 15, 2012, issue of Sommelier Journal. Gaiser also found that these images can be manipulated to change the experience of tasting the wine.

Gaiser spent four hours deconstructing his tasting process with behavioral scientist Tim Hallbom of the Everyday Genius Institute. In subsequent research, Gaiser confirmed that dozens of wine students and fellow Master Sommeliers processed wine in the same basic way.

The key to understanding how these experienced tasters process wine is the neurolinguistic term submodality. Modalities are the five senses, how we experience the world; a submodality is how the brain processes those senses. The first important way in which submodalities influence the tasting process is that olfactory memory is triggered by internal visual images, or even “movies.” Gaiser discovered that he and other experienced tasters would keep an inner mind map of these images, although everyone’s map is different, some strikingly so. Gaiser also found that professionals were adept at keeping multiple images in mind at once and being able to step back mentally and evaluate the entire picture.

The second key finding was that changing the structural qualities of these submodalities actually changed the way the taster experienced the wine. Changing the size, brightness, color, distance, and other attributes changed the way Gaiser and others would describe the wine. As Gaiser writes in the article, “If you stop and consider this for a moment, the implications are profound not only for wine tasting, but for other experiences as well.”

The other important implication of Gaiser and Hallbom’s findings is in education. As Gaiser explains, “I’ve completely changed how I coach students on tasting. I still explain my tasting strategy to a student, but I’m much more focused on discovering how their strategy for remembering aromas and flavors works and then making them aware of it so they can fully use it.” Gaiser promises to follow up with future articles in Sommelier Journal on how to use these findings to become a better taster.

A more detailed explanation, along with a test of the concepts with Karen MacNeil, ACWP, and Evan Goldstein, MS, can be read at http://www.sommelierjournal.com/articles/article.aspx?year=2012&month=4&articlenum=55.

Sommelier Journal is published eight times a year by a Boulder-based company with more than 40 years of experience in the magazine industry. Anyone interested in starting a subscription for as little as $29 a year can do so at http://www.sommelierjournal.com.

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