Hoby Wedler has one of the best noses on the planet. The PhD chemist, who has designed wine tasting programs for the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and the Culinary Institute of America, also happens to be blind.
The irony that every single wine label in the world is inaccessible – and walking down the wine aisle in a store is absolutely fruitless without arduous technology or a willing enthusiast at your side – doesn’t daunt Hoby. He’s made wine, food and now, the whole world of multi-sensory design, his career.
In the most recent episode of the Be My Eyes Podcast we sat down with Hoby to explore the possibilities of bringing touch, taste, and smell back into the experiences that have been audio-visual for far too long.
As a chemist, Hoby understands the intricacies of the chemical reactions and uses them to impact how our senses interpret a beverage. He utilizes this knowledge of sensory reactions to create unique wine tasting experiences, suggesting that his blindness, however coincidental with his love for wine, is an undeniable strength in its appreciation.
Francis Ford Coppola picked up on this potential, and asked Hoby to create a blind wine tasting experience for his winery. Even if the taster isn’t distracted by the actual presence of the wine, sight can create distractions by focusing on cell phones or looking around the room. By removing sight, the senses can really do their jobs and indulge in tasting the wine distraction free.
The Be My Eyes team got so excited about all of this (and sure, maybe a little bored with all this indoors time) we decided to try it out – learning how to taste wine without our sight.
We’ve designed a way for you to enjoy a multi-sensory tasting along with us. So open up your beverage of choice, be it wine, juice, coffee or tea, and taste along with us! Or, if you need some help choosing which beverage to try, call up a Be My Eyes volunteer and taste along with them.
Start by pouring yourself a glass of your beverage. Feel the texture of the cup against your fingers. Is the cup smooth or rough, heavy or light?
How does the cup feel when you pour the beverage into it? Take note of the sounds while pouring your beverage. Does it sound bubbly and light, or more flat and heavy? Think about how the sounds you’ve noticed will affect the taste later.
Next, hold the cup just under your nose and breathe deeply. Most of our taste comes from smell, so this is an important step. Notice the aroma and different scents hitting the back of your palette. Does it smell sweet, floral, fruity, or nutty? What certain tastes do those smells remind you of?
Move the cup out from under your nose, use your hand to lightly cover the lid of the cup and begin to swirl the contents of the cup lightly in a circular motion. This will trap the aroma as the beverage swirls around in your cup. Bring the cup back up to your nose and give it another deep breath. Has the smell changed at all?
Now for the good stuff: bring the cup up to your lips and finally take a small sip. Does it feel velvety or bubbly? Swish the beverage around your mouth, coating your tongue and palette. Swallow, and take a moment to think about how it tastes.
On the next sip, swish around your beverage as if you were chewing it. We’re all social distancing so don’t be embarrassed by how silly you may look chewing a beverage. How has the taste changed?
The goal of all this is to create an experience that goes beyond the simplicity of sight and taste. To develop a more full-bodied appreciation for the beverages we enjoy, it’s important to notice and appreciate each of the five senses when tasting something. This example of a multi-sensory experience can be applied to so many areas of our daily life, and wine tasting is just the beginning of the possibilities for enjoying things from all of the senses.
To learn more about multi-sensory experiences, give a listen to the Be My Eyes Podcast with Hoby Wedler, or check out Senspoint Design to learn more about how experiences and the five senses can help innovate a brands image.