Why We Can’t Tell Good Wine From Bad

David McRaney in The Atlantic:

ScreenHunter_04 Oct. 30 10.45The Misconception: Wine is a complicated elixir, full of subtle flavors only an expert can truly distinguish, and experienced tasters are impervious to deception.

The Truth: Wine experts and consumers can be fooled by altering their expectations.

You scan the aisles in the liquor store looking for a good wine. It's a little overwhelming — all those weird bottle shapes with illustrations of castles and vineyards and kangaroos. And all those varieties? Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet — this is serious business. You look to your left and see bottles for around $12; to your right you see bottles for $60. You think back to all the times you've seen people tasting wine in movies, holding it up to the light and commenting on tannins and barrels and soil quality — the most expensive wine has to be the better one, right?

Well, you are not so smart. But, don't fret — neither are all those connoisseurs who swish fermented grape juice around and spit it back out.

Wine tasting is a big deal to a lot of people. It can even be a professional career. It goes back thousands of years, but the modern version with all the terminology like notes, tears, integration, and connectedness goes back a few hundred. Wine tasters will mention all sorts of things they can taste in a fine wine as if they were a human spectrograph with the ability to sense the molecular makeup of their beverage. Research shows, however, this perception can be hijacked, fooled, and might just be completely wrong.

In 2001, Frederic Brochet conducted two experiments at the University of Bordeaux.

More here.

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