Can our wine tasting experiences change? Yes. If you try the same wine on three different occasions, can you have three different opinions about it? Yes. A lot of factors go into how we judge what we eat and drink. In this article, I will focus on our ever-changing wine tasting experiences.
Great Article on the Subjectivity of Wine
I came across a wonderful 2007 article by Jonah Lehrer, contributing editor at Wired. The article is called “The Subjectivity of Wine.” In the article, Lehrer talks about three very curious experiences.
In the first, a panel of wine professionals was asked to select their top red and white picks from 25 pre-selected wines under $12. The tasting was blind, and there was almost no consistency among the critics. Only one of the 25 wines managed to make the list of every critic.
In the second, wine experts were asked to give their impressions of what looked like a glass of red wine and a glass of white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, with one tinted red. The experts described the “red” wine in language used to describe red wines. Not a single expert noticed it was actually a white wine.
In the third, the same wine was served in two different bottles, one fancy and one ordinary. The experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings.
According to Lehrer, “when we taste a wine, we aren’t simply tasting the wine… Our…subjective brain…brings to the moment its entire library of personal memories and idiosyncratic desires.”
Focusing on Tasting Fundamentals
That is why it is so much fun to hone in on the fundamentals of wine tasting:
- What do you smell and taste?
- What does the wine feel like in your mouth?
- What does it look like?
At the end of the day, you will still decide whether you like or dislike a wine. But when you approach a tasting from a more analytic standpoint (smell, taste, feel, look), you are more likely to be influenced by what you are actually experiencing. It becomes a true wine tasting experience rather than a purely emotional experience.
Blind Tastings Often Improve Wine Tasting Experiences
I love doing blind tastings where you compare different priced wines. For example, line up six California Cabernets ranging in price from $10 to $60, ask participants to write notes about their wine tasting experiences, and have them rank the wines. After reading Lehrer’s article, I’m motivated to do many more of these blind tastings.
Have you been surprised by the results of blind tastings you’ve participated in? Do you have any recommendations for best practices? Do you have any other thoughts about the subjectivity of wine? I would love to hear what you have to say.