An enlighting new tasting protocol released

Laurent Fresnet, cellar master at Perrier-Jouët, neurobiologist Gabriel Lepousez from the Pasteur Institute and designer Octave de Gaulle have developed a tasting protocol that is both confusing and enlightening.


Lockdowns give ideas. Thus, Laurent Fresnet, appointed in January 2020 head of cellars at Mumm Perrier-Jouët, decided last spring to plunge into a detailed exploration of his new kingdom. "Here we have great terroirs and a heritage of great wines from historic terroirs. "His idea at the time: to get to know all these juices better. To the classic tasting method, he adds a twist, however: Fresnet will begin research into the brain's reaction to aromas. To help him in his task, he called on Gabriel Lepousez from the Perception and Memory Laboratory in the Neuroscience Department of the Pasteur Institute.

"Every time we taste, we have to look, smell, touch... We appeal to all the senses at the same time. The brain, faced with this ocean of information, will sort it out," explains the neurobiologist. With Mumm's team, the idea was to reveal the hidden side of champagne, helping the brain to understand what it did not perceive, understanding its cognitive biases. Because each person, depending on his or her culture and genome, directs the tasting in his or her own way. "

To illustrate the theory, the scientist and the cellar master developed a precise protocol which it can be very pleasant to play the guinea pig.
We are first made to feel the contents of a small bottle. "Can't you feel anything? It's normal, 50% of the French population does not identify this aroma," comments the researcher. "In the same way, about a third of the population does not recognise the peach smell." He could continue the demonstration, for the same conclusion: "A taster only talks about his own tasting."

To help the champagne lover bewildered by the first experience, Gabriel Lepousez offers to smell the contents of another bottle. This time, like most common noses, we recognise the aroma of fresh butter. We then smell the contents of a glass of Cordon Rouge champagne. Immediately, we find this aroma among the 800 or 1,000 aromas in the beverage. The experience is repeated with a linden flower aroma, with the same success.
"Man has about 400 sensors. Man's limit is not the capacity of his nose, it lies in the memory of recognition and in the words associated with the aromas," comments Lepousez. A second lesson.

Next step: a Grand Cordon rosé champagne is poured into two glasses of the same shape: one is a transparent glass. The other, much heavier, is a red-tinted glass. Both were designed for the purpose of the experiment by the designer Octave de Gaulle. "By changing the weight and color of the glass, the approach to wine changes," he says. He's right again: the light, clear glass brings out red fruit aromas. With the dark, heavy glass, black berry aromas are highlighted. Simple views of the mind.

In the same way, in a glass with an angular base, a 2013 vintage will seem much more acidic, livelier, more tense than it will appear in a classic glass. "In a wine there are elements that we don't necessarily identify at once. This experiment shows that we can observe a vintage from different angles. A series of tastings of the same wine, which we look at in different ways, gives breadth and depth to the vision we have of it. We can underline some of its hidden faces by relying on mental representations, shapes, colors", concludes Laurent Fresnet.