Wine Ratings May Be Meaningless for Most
TUESDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to wine, a
new study suggests that the ratings and reviews of experts may be
lost on many consumers.
The professionals seem to have a much more sensitive sense of
taste than most people, researchers from Penn State University
explained. As a result, wine experts are able to tell the
difference in a wide range of flavors that other people just can't
"What we found is that the fundamental taste ability of an expert is different," John Hayes, an assistant professor of food science and director of Penn State's sensory evaluation center, said in a university news release. "And, if an expert's ability to taste is different from the rest of us, should we be listening to their recommendations?"
For the study, the researchers asked 330 people who attended
wine-tasting events in Ontario to sample an odorless chemical,
called propylthiouracil, PROB or probe, which used to measure
reactions to bitter tastes. People with an extra sensitive sense of
taste will find this chemical very bitter, the study authors noted.
Those with a normal sense of taste, however, will find the chemical
only slightly bitter or tasteless.
"Just like people can be color blind, they can also be taste blind," Hayes explained.
After using a short questionnaire to distinguish the wine
experts from the wine consumers, the investigators found that wine
experts were much more likely to find PROB bitter than
"Statistically, the two groups were very different in how they tasted our bitter probe compound," said Hayes.
The study, published in the March issue of the
American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, suggested that expert recommendations may be based on tastes that are too subtle for the average person to notice, such as grapefruit, grassy notes or the balance of sugar and acid.
Experience may have something to do with it, but the authors
pointed out that previous research has shown that biological
factors may explain the very sensitive taste of experts.
"It's not just learning," concluded Hayes. "Experts also appear to differ at a biological level."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
wine and heart health.
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