By Becca Yeamans-Irwin of The Academic Wino. 

There are a lot of factors that can influence the way wine tastes to someone.  From the lighting in the room, to the music you’re listening to, to what you’re eating, or to how you generally feel that day, there are a lot of outside stimuli that can change your experience with a given wine.

Some more recent research has focused on the sensation of physical touch, and has found that the flavors and overall acceptability of various food and beverages can be influenced by the texture of the packaging itself. For example, one study found that biscuits taken from a bowl with a rough surface tasted crunchier and harder than those taken from a smooth-surfaced bowl. Additionally, for a beverage example, another study found that hot chocolate and coffee tasted from a round cup tasted sweeter and “less intense” than the same drinks tasted from a cup with more angular features.

Dubbed as “sensation transference” in the 1950s, the theory is that someone’s feelings about a particular extrinsic characteristic (i.e. the texture of the packaging) can influence their rating of the actual product itself. In 2011, another study further defined this theory as “affective ventriloquism”, when sensation transference affects someone’s rating of a product (like food or beverages).

Touch itself is known to alter emotional responses in general.  Specifically, one 2013 study looking at blood flow in the brain found that touching fabric samples led to a calming response (decreased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex) compared to touching a sample of metal.

While research on sensation transference and affective ventriloquism is growing, according to a new study just accepted into the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, there isn’t a lot of research done on how these theories impact perception of aromas, and specifically aromas in wine.

The overall goal of this new study was to examine how touch might influence the wine tasting experience, or more specifically, how touch may or may not influence both the taste of the wine as well as the aroma and mouthfeel …

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