When Pieter Walser (Cape winemaker from the BLANKBottle label) found himself on a plane sitting next to Mark Drummond (director of NeuralSense), the two began chatting about their work. During that two-hour flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, they decided to collaborate on a project. A few meetings later, the NeuroWine initiative was conceptualised.
“At Neural Sense, we are always looking for new and exciting applications of our various neuromarketing and biometric technologies,” Drummond says. “Our goal is to build a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour and how individuals experience the world around them.”
The company then applies this knowledge within a marketing context to assist its clients in developing products and marketing communications that are optimised, evoke emotional engagement, and enhance memorability of the experience of their brands, products, and services. Their belief is that if something can be experienced, it can be optimised with the science of neuromarketing. The NeuroWine project is a prime example of this
“The winemaker is influenced by his own preconceived ideas of each varietal when he begins the winemaking process, and these conscious processes have a major influence on the final product as they influence his decision making when choosing which varietals he should blend together,” Drummond explains. “By uncovering and allowing his subconscious to determine this, he was able to sidestep these perception biases.”
The best emotional and cognitive response
The project began with two rounds of experiments in which Walser did a blind taste test of white and red wines from a number of different vineyards across South Africa. The goal was to explore the differences in ‘emotional arousal’ and ‘emotional valence’ (the intrinsic attractiveness or averseness of an event, object, or situation) in both olfaction (smell) and gustation (taste). Electroencephalography (EEG) and Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) technologies were used together with Walser’s own subjective self-reporting of the taste test experience.
“For each wine that was tasted, we had four sequential experimental conditions: eyes closed, eyes opened, wine tasting, and spitting and wait,” Drummond explains. “We identified the top five performing varietals that appealed to Pieter’s subconscious: those taste profiles that elicited the best emotional and cognitive response during his wine tasting experience. These top varietals were selected based on analysis of EEG and GSR data, which were then rated on the emote index for cognitive processing of affect, memorability, and emotional arousal. Pieter then blended the top varietals in the same proportions to their corresponding performance during the taste test to create a new blend, the NeuroWine.”
Conscious versus subconscious
Walser admits that he’s someone who likes having fun in life and went into the project with that intention. But he also felt unsure and a bit nervous when it all began.
“Maybe I had no subconscious,” he laughs. “But I was relieved when they detected something there. After the tests were done, I made a blend in the winery that I liked the most; one using my conscious mind as a sort of control. When the results came back both wines were different so I bottled both. We now have both wines to taste together: my conscious (Orbitofrontal Cortex) versus my subconscious (Limbic).”
Limbic is a blend of Wellington Chenin Blanc, Darling Chenin Blanc, Hemel en Aarde Pinot Gris, Swartland Clairette Blanche, and Stellenbosch Viognier. Orbitofrontal Cortex is a blend of Piekenierskloof Grenache Blanc, Swartland Clairette Blanche, Swartland Fernão Pires, Elgin Semillon and Voor Paardeberg Verdelho.
“At the moment the Limbic drinks easier than the Orbitofrontal Cortex, which makes perfect sense,” Walser explains. “My subconscious wants to be pleased immediately but my conscious mind blends something that would age better.”
NeuroWine will be launched this month and will be available from Pieter directly as both a red and a white wine varietal.
“Pieter has already received rave reviews of the NeuroWine during events in Europe,” Drummond says. “And given the interest that the South African public has shown to date, we will definitely develop more NeuroWines in the future. This is only the beginning.”