The olfactory pathway of wine from bottle to brain

18 Sep

I was doing some reading in my old textbook for my wine tasting class, Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, and came across this interesting description of what happens during the process of smelling wine. The steps are below, enjoy!:

  • We open the bottle, in happy anticipation.
  • We pour the wine into a proper glass.
  • We swirl the glass to release the wine’s aroma.
  • We inhale the wine’s bouquet deeply and repeatedly.
  • Chemical components-esters, ethers, aldehydes, etc.-in the wines swirl upward through the nostrils on currents of air.
  • Midway up the nose, millions of olfactory receptor neurons (olfactory epithelium), with their specialized protein receptors, bind the odorants that form the components of the specific wine profile.
  • Interaction of the specific odor molecules matched with the right receptor causes the receptor to change shape. 
  • This change gives rise to an electrical signal that goes first to the olfactory bulbs and then to the areas of the brain that convert the electrical signal to the identification of a smell, or group of smells.
  • The brain associates the smell(s) with perception, impressions, emotions, memories, knowledge, and more. 
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