What is the role of memory in tasting?
Memory is fundamental in tasting. Without it, each sip tasted would be a novelty.
When you taste a wine, your memory is immediately required to carry out a recognition task. Every time I smell an aroma, my brain immediately gets to work so as to try to recognise it. That is to say, to “know again”: I will compare the information that comes from my sensory organs with the information that I have stored in my memory. In the tasting profession, our past experience engraved in our memory allows us to better analyse the present and anticipate the future.
Neuroscience has shown that emotions and memory are intertwined. What is their link?
Emotions, whether positive or negative, are extremely powerful in engraving a memory. The more emotionally charged a fact is, the more it will be remembered. For example, everyone remembers what they were doing when they heard about the events of 11 September 2001, whereas we can’t remember what we were doing the day before. In other words, a memory will be all the more lasting if it is associated with a strong emotion.
As far as olfactory information is concerned, this is even truer, because the sense of smell has the particularity of activating both the memory and the emotional centres in the brain. This explains why smells are so likely to bring back memories: they trigger emotions, and emotions are related to powerful and persistent memories.
This is the strength of the olfactory system: it awakens both the rational and emotional systems.