Visual Wine Tasting

5x6 ms jessup willVISUAL WINE TASTING, Explorations into Senses and Structure

Shaping Taste, Tasting Shape

sondra saltyGet in touch with your deeper wisdom, imagination and sense abilities.

The Core Program explores what shapes our tastes of wine and food from molecules to imagination and includes an engaging, educational powerpoint presentation and experiential exploration of wine.

A Customized version of a presentation and tasting adds the photographic expressions of your wines  developed into a tasty multi-media event for your winery, party, customers, and special occasions. Presentations have been delivered for the American Wine Expo, Napa Valley Museum, Lawrence Hall of Science, Copia, Grgich Hills, Rudd Oakville Estate, Black Stallion Winery, WineSpirit, Society of Wine Educators, and Institute of Masters of Wine.

IMW handout final.pages


At a recent program for the Institute of Masters of Wine in San Francisco Jan. 2016, along with the visual story of structure and changes as a wine ages and the molecules of taste, I photographed three distinctly different wines,  a chardonnay,  sauvignon blanc, and syrah. The participants (about 100) tasted the wines and then used their insight and sensory experience to match the wine to its photo.  In this way, they discovered more about the structure of wine and their intuition, where words fail. What would you guess?


Quintessa heart with glassCan a Wine Taste of Love?  

At a recent seminar in California, Sondra Barrett, Ph.D., spoke to Masters of Wine hopefuls on photographing the guts of the fermented drink. As if this cadre of connoisseurs hadn’t already been accused of joylessly stripping this liquid pleasure down to its bare essentials, Barrett, a onetime cancer researcher turned photographer and author, took it one step further by employing a microscope to capture wine’s molecular structure.

Turns out her photos are a lot more compelling than any MW tasting note. From droplets on a slide, the magnified liquid revealed striking colors and shapes reminiscent of our macro world, from dragonflies to emeralds. The artistic images were surprisingly illustrative of wine’s perceptible taste attributes. Sharply acidic sauvignon blanc evoked a spiky sea urchin, while an aged merlot spread in a soft blob across the film. Barrett shared the story of a perpetually irate winemaker. She said his wines, jagged at the molecular level, reflected an angry energy.

Which brings me back to love. If a wine can reflect anger or peace (myriad studies have tested the response of plants to human touch, tone, musical genres), could a wine made with love reflect it, too? What would it look or taste like?


Dr. Sondra’s microscopic discovery was like an adventurous journey that was so eye-opening.  It provided us with an entirely different perspective to look at the unfamiliar side of our familiar wines.  Surprisingly, these pictures are not merely a feast to eyes, but also scientific indications regarding the various status and quality of a wine.  It is so amazing to be led by Sondra’s presentation to connect our taste senses and the knowledge at the microscopic level.

Young Shi  AIWS   施晔  Co-Founder |TasteSpirit Wine Academy is a leading Chinese online wine magazine partnering with Le Figaro. We are dedicated to providing Chinese wine enthusiasts with comprehensive and authentic wine culture and knowledge and building mutual understanding between wine producers and Chinese wine consumers.

The past 6 days I spent at the Masters of Wine Residential seminar in San Francisco. There were about 100 students there (a mix of Stage 1, Stage 2, and those only re-taking the Practical Tasting exam).  Other than the first day, every day started at 7:30am with a 2:15 hour timed blind tasting exam of 12 wines – white, red, or mixed bag of sparkling/fortified/dry. This was followed by another hour of feedback and review of all the humiliations we suffered during the exams. 

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Sauvignon blanc

Afternoons were blessedly filled with lectures on the costs of owning a vineyard, digital marketing in the wine world, historical origins of wine, and many other compelling topics. One of my favorites was by Sondra Barrett, who takes pictures of wine drops (and human cells) under a microscope. Not only were the pictures strikingly beautiful, they oddly resembled what you might mentally conjure up as how a particular wine might look if visually displayed. For example, think about the taste of Sauvignon Blanc – how would you illustrate its lean acidity, tart grapefruit, and grassy flavors in a diagram? Probably something with angled or jagged edges right? That’s exactly what it looked like. Check these pictures out here, they’re stunning.

Thank you so much Sondra for presenting to our MW group today. What a fascinating presentation and such beautiful work and context. It’s such a pleasure to get to hear you speak and see your work.


This video for Sonoma State Wine Business Program was adapted from the IMW presentation.