Friday 25th November, 2011
4:30pm to 5:30pm
Psychologists and neuroscientists tell us that flavour is the result of multi-sensory integration of olfactory, tactile and taste impressions, modulated by tasting’s dynamic time course and the location of sensory stimuli in the mouth. According to this definition, the flavour of, say, a wine is a psychological construct that can vary from subject to subject as a result of different threshold sensitivities tasters have to acid, tannin, sugar, alcohol, C02 and sulphur. To this description we could add the hedonic values that get painted on to particular sensations. Lighting conditions, mood, and even sounds can affect our experience of tasting, and wines can be enhanced or distorted by accompanying food choices. All of this suggests that wine makers have very little influence over the resulting experience drinkers of their wines will have. However, we must distinguish between the experience of drinkers and the flavours of wines. The relationship between them is far from simple and in spite of the careful findings of psychologists and neuroscientists, and the wilder claims of wine writers, there is still room for the idea of flavour as a multi-dimensional, objective property of a wine that depends both on its chemistry and the needs and interests of those who make and consume it.
Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Institute of Philosophy, University of London
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