A New and Hidden Code of Wine Tasting

TasteglasswinesmellAlmost all of my wine tasting education has been practical. That is to say, what I know about evaluating wine and how I evaluate wine has resulted from tasting wine a lot. Beyond that, my inquiries into the practice of wine tasting and evaluating wine has been done on a philosophical and aesthetic level. That is to say, I've done a good deal of reading and thinking about the epistemology of wine or what it means to embrace a "position" concerning what is "good" wine or "better" wine.

These guys however have introduced me to something quite new in the world of wine evaluation. But hang on. What Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser wants to explain to you from his work with Tim Hallbom of the Everyday Genius Institute may seem daunting at first given the way it is described via the Sommelier Journal's headline on the story:

Olfactory Memory and Submodalities: Unlocking the Hidden Code of Tasting

It would be a little foolish of me to attempt to re-explain what Gaiser lays out in the above article. It's pretty complex stuff that requires you think about the connection between aroma, taste, memory and a form of mental image retrieval and manipulation that connects it all

That said, consider this:

"Olfactory memory is triggered by internal visual images….The structural qualities of these images, or submodalities, are of critical importance….Professional tasters can keep multiple images of different aromas in mind at the same time. Once we create an image, we quickly move it to another location in our inner field of vision to make room for more. When we’ve found all the aromas we can, we mentally step back from the montage of images we have created to assess them collectively, identify or evaluate the wine, and, ideally, enjoy it."

The article in Sommelier Journal give concrete examples of how this method of wine evaluation works by looking at the visual image field that wine experts Karen McNeil and Evan Goldstein create in evaluating wine. It's a fascinating perspective on wine evaluation that holds great potential not only for the wine professional and wine aficionado, but also for marketing and education.

This article is highly condensed version of a much larger explanation of how we can evaluate wine more successfully using this approach that is laid out in The Everyday Genius Institutes's educational module, "Taste Wine Like a Pro: Think Like a Genius Wine Taster"

The subject of how to taste and evaluate wine is gargantuan and takes into account not just the neurological processes that are discussed in this article, but also issues of judgement, terroir, the philosophy of aesthetics and, for some, cultural palate preferences. What's outlined here, however, is a method of undertaking critical evaluation of wine that I've not seen explained before. That fact that it is modeled out by Tim Gaiser along with the behavioral scientist Halborn is what gives the technique the kind of authority you ought to consider more than enough to drive you to at least read through the article, if not investigate further.

10 Responses

  1. Taryn Voget - May 1, 2012

    Tom – thanks for mentioning the Everyday Genius Institute and the groundbreaking article in the Sommelier Journal on your blog! It was wonderful to see this shared with your audience today.
    Tim Gaiser recently did a guest post on my blog about his wine tasting strategy. You might find it interesting too: http://tarynvoget.com/2012/04/23/how-to-taste-wine-like-a-pro/
    If there are any questions you or your readers might have for Tim Gaiser or myself, feel free to reach out and ask!
    Taryn Voget
    CEO, Everyday Genius Institute

  2. SAHMmelier - May 2, 2012

    Great piece. It puts into words a process that I use all of the time, but have never articulated. I am blessed (and cursed ;)) with a great memory that I knew aided in identification, but had never fully processed the connection. Really enjoyed your piece and look fwd to stealing some time to read the original article.

  3. Mark Cochard - May 3, 2012

    Tim Gaiser will be presenting this topic in a session at The Society of Wine Educators conference on Wednesday July 25th. I’m signed up for it so will be very interesting to hear Tim.

  4. Tim Gaiser - May 3, 2012

    Hi Tom, thanks for taking a look at my article in SJ and great comments all around. Taryn’s and my work centers around answering big questions about tasting; questions that have always been overlooked and/or taken for granted: how do professional tasters like us do what we do? What triggers smell memory? How do we organize so much complex information from a glass of wine so quickly and be able to remember it? In working with Tim Hallbom and Taryn, we discovered that submodalities are a major key and frankly the link to a commonality in the thought process that allows us to communicate about our inner experience and memories in meaningful and relavent way. The SJ article and DVD I did with Taryn and Tim are the first steps to what will be a long-term project of modeling the best tasters in wine and other fields where olfactory memory is the sole criteria for expertise. Stay tuned!
    Thanks again for your insightful comments—-much appreciated.
    Tim Gaiser, MS

  5. Greg - May 5, 2012

    People have been using imaging techniques to enhance performance for millenia. Let’s call it Ars Memorativa, and we can refer to Aristotle or Cicero for “direction”.
    Buddhist monks and athletes, for example, use imaging techniques for self-control and to enhance performance. The art of memory can improve wine tasting performance as well.
    For further insight, we could analyze the hidden code of olfactory memory and neuro-linguistic submodalities vis a vis wine tasting in the context of Elizabeth Loftus.
    For example, in the first linked article, MacNeil and Goldstein did not detect the same components in the shiraz. MacNeil perceived oak and spice, Goldstein did not. Eyewitness testimony can be very unreliable, as Loftus demonstrated.
    Regardless, applying the art of memory to wine tasting is a good idea.
    The first linked article is pretty thin on any history, philosophy, or science underlying these valuable techniques. The article was pretty thick with big words. Therefore, after following the second link, I was not surprised to see the phrase ‘BUY NOW’. Become a Genius. Meet the Genius. Smell the Cheese.

  6. Greg - May 5, 2012

    Bogus Alert. And Acronym Alert. Beware of Acronyms.
    According to the linked article under discussion, Tim Gaiser MS works with “renowned behavioral scientist Tim Hallbom”.
    Tim Halbom is not a scientist. He is a coach.
    From Wikipedia:
    In 2009, Tim Hallbom was granted a Diplomate by The International Academy of Behavioral Medicine, Counseling, and Psychotherapy, Inc. (IABMCP) for the field of coaching. Tim Hallbom was also the past President of the National Association of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NANLP), which later became the International Association of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (IANLP), and is a founding member and past President of the Institute for the Advanced Studies in Health (IASH), a non-for-profit NLP research organization. He currently is an adviser to IASH. He is a member of the International Coach Federation.
    Smell the Cheese indeed. Caveat Emptor.

  7. Paul Moe - May 6, 2012

    “Hidden Code” of Wine Tasting, or the Emperor and His New Clothes? The reason the vast majority of American
    consumers shy away from wine is the exact gobblydegook prattered on above. How about something along the lines of “It tastes good, therefore I like it”? You’re all talking to each other here, reminds me of a college circle jerk.

  8. Tom Wark - May 6, 2012

    The ideas examined here are not for the average drinker. They are for those who happen to be very interested in the paychology of taste. This doesn’t make it a “circle jerk”. It makes it an examination.

  9. Paul Moe - May 7, 2012

    Oooh, not for the average drinker. Good Lord, man, who do we want to drink wine? The average drinker, or those more interested in the “paychology” of taste? As a 30 year pro in the business selling of wine, it’s obvious to me that you have probably not been in the trenches. I invite you to leave your tower, spend a few days with me in south Florida calling on accounts to see what the real world is about, and then discuss the “Hidden Code”.

  10. Tom Wark - May 7, 2012

    Were it my job alone to increase wine consumption or if this blog were founded and written with the purpose of increasing wine consumption, then your suggestion I write about more popular subjects that the average wine drinker cares about would resonate with me. That however is not what I’m interested in. I’m interested in what I’m writing about.
    Now, for the fee of $5000 per month, I will write about whatever you think is relevant. Let’s talk.

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