In a move that is feared to displace the roles of sommeliers across the country, The Drinks Business has announced scientists from the University of South Australia have developed an electronic ‘tongue’ that can taste and determine the quality of wine. Its developers are certain it could be the next big thing in wine tasting, allowing experts to sort a large number of varietals almost instantaneously, and without much chance of human error.
Thanks to Wine Folly for this one.
But there are some things that are best left to human taste buds and our individual psyches. After all, there are a whole lot of factors that shape the way we taste, and they can’t all be mechanical. Beyond pop culture telling us that fun-loving party animals tend towards a glass of sparkling, while deeper thinkers prefer Pinot, there are a few other factors that determine our tastes.
At Burch Family Wines, we’re big believers in the psychology behind wine tasting and of the individual characteristics that give each bottle its heart and soul. In industry contests especially, it’s pivotal that a sommelier’s subjective tastes determine the result. With that said, let’s delve into a few of the things that determine someone’s preferences.
Time for a blind taste test
According to Maria Konnikova from The New Yorker magazine, our wine preferences are embedded deep within our brains – and this isn’t just if we have a preference for sweet or dry. Our taste for wine transcends what’s in the glass itself, and includes a whole host of factors such as our personalities, histories, moods and where we’re tasting. If you’re in a beautiful, serene environment, it’s likely you’ll appreciate the wine a lot more than if you’re amongst chaos, because of the negative perception transferred onto the flavours.
Social psychology can be the deciding factor when it comes to determining our preferences. In a blind taste test that Maria Konnikova, the New Yorker author, attended, participants had to choose between red wine ‘A’ and red wine ‘B’ without any further knowledge of what was in the glass. It was pure personal preference why some participants chose one over the other – but it was clear that there was an even split between the two varieties, with neither coming out victorious.
We're loving this nifty infographic from Wine Wankers.
The dollar factor
What is interesting in this experiment is that, even though the jury was out on which wine was better, everyone rated their favourite wine as more expensive than the other one. They were sure that, if they chose wine A, everyone else would too, which would make for a great bottle at an exclusive price.
While this isn’t often the case, good wine is more often determined by region and variety than by the dollar value, says the team at The New Daily. It’s important to keep in mind that price shouldn’t sway our perceptions. A less expensive bottle of wine might offer an innovative flavour, while a more expensive bottle might not be to our tastes.
Marketing is everything
Likewise, the branding and bottle itself can have an enormous impact on our tastes. While it wasn’t the case in the above blind test, where the wine was presented label-free it’s clear that the brand story around the wine goes a long way to shaping our perception of it. We’ve gone a bit deeper into the concepts behind brand perception in a previous blog post – read up on our thoughts.