NEWSSynesthesia in the ballet of champagne pearls

Synesthesia in the ballet of champagne pearls

How to enhance a wine experience – in our current case, the enjoyment of a champagne? Purists shudder at the thought that a smorgasbord of colors, sounds, scents and haptics should be added to the pleasure, to the taste, to the experience of a wine in order to expand one’s own sensory system or to make it possible to experience it at all. Before was – the wine I like or I do not like – now the science speaks of synesthesia and means with it that our brain is capable of phenomena of sensory agreement which bring new undreamt-of experiences additionally challenged beside the profane drinking.


FRANCE (Paris) – One fixes a point on his glass to switch off very slowly: Under hypnosis, with scents, music or blindfolded eyes – in France, more and more unusual wine tastings are offered. “When you do a wine tasting, you are often influenced by automatisms,” explains neuroscientist Gabriel Lepousez at the Institut Pasteur, who developed a concept for somewhat different tastings in December with the Champagne house Mumm.

In a soundproof booth, the same champagne is tested in two identical glasses: Once with a crystal in hand and staccato music to feel the freshness, the second after touching a small red velvet bag and with a worn melody to enjoy the fullness. Both glasses of champagne are preceded by fragrances, one fresh, the other more flattering, and the color of the images projected on the walls changes from cold to warm.

This is intended to appeal to all five senses when enjoying champagne – sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing: “The brain has phenomena of sensory correspondence, synesthesia. Great artists had this ability; as soon as they heard a sound, they saw a color, like the poet Arthur Rimbaud,” the scientist explains. Lepousez is convinced: “We all have this ability”, and its implementation will lead the participants of the wine tastings beyond the simple judgment “I like this one, I don’t like this one”.

Black blindfolds versus snobbery

One of the pioneers of musical wine tastings is the Krug Champagne House. It currently offers a mailed experience consisting of a bottle of champagne, matching food, a QR code to a symphony composed specifically for the champagne, and a black blindfold to hear better.

There is no shortage of tastings in Paris and the wine regions. But a classic wine tasting with spittoons, notebooks for the wines, older connoisseurs in suits and ties can be rather intimidating to inexperienced wine lovers – after all, even some professionals find them snobbish and too technical.

Between pleasure plus and highly distorted reality

The idea of hypnologist Adrien Moulard and oenologist Juliette Combet, inventors of wine tasting under hypnosis, therefore aims to address feelings and “democratize the practice without popularizing it.” By eliminating “parasitic thoughts”, hypnosis allows concentration on the wine through the eyes, nose, mouth and hearing, to “immerse yourself in the melody, the ballet of the pearls” while drinking champagne, they explain.

Whether it’s erotic visions over a glass of Saint Amour, olfactory hallucinations of a buttery croissant while sipping a chardonnay, an imaginary bath in a champagne bottle, reveries of a boat trip or a walk through the vineyards, participants recount their sensations at the end of each session. “I bathed in the champagne bottle because I was microscopic, I talked to the wine,” reports Barthélémy Le Blan, who is in his mid-thirties.

Yoga instructor Flora Vidal compares the experience to a form of meditation. “It’s the same feeling as yoga, there are not so many thoughts going through your head anymore, you come to rest.” Hypnosis can be “very interesting to address the senses in another dimension,” neuroscientist Lepousez also explains. At the same time, he cautions, “Depending on how sensitive people are, it can distort reality a lot.”

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