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One thing that keeps coming up in my line of work is people’s expressed anxiety when it comes to tasting wine. People want to know how to taste and what to taste. They read glowing reviews about a particular wine with words like acacia and elderflower and want to understand how to be on that level feeling that if they just had the same ability then they would truly be able to appreciate wine.

You do have the same ability. You have a nose. You have an olfactory bulb. You have an orbital frontal lobe. You have a passion for wine. You are ready to go.

There are three categories of tasters. There are non-tasters, medium tasters and super-tasters. These categories have nothing to do with training or profession but science. Everyone has a different amount of taste buds spread across their tongues. It is all about genetics. You will fall into one of the three categories based on your genetic makeup.

According to The Science of Wine From Vine to Glass by Jamie Goode (wine guru, plant biologist and wine geek extraordinaire) says that about half the populations are medium tasters, 25% are non-tasters and the other 25% are the super-tasters.

Point system be damned.

And now medals…

I just came across an article about a four-year study on wine judges abilities to be consistent at wine fairs. Along with the tarnished 100-point system we often read that such a wine received a silver medal or a gold medal at a tasting.

This was, “a four-year study of judging decisions at the California State Fair Wine Competition by retired Humboldt State professor Robert Hodgson.”

Mr. Hodgson has a small winery himself and was perplexed that wine was sent off to fairs one fair would give it medals and others nothing, “It seemed like a gold medal was just a matter of luck.”

Check this out:

“In a study published Wednesday by the Journal of Wine Economics…only 10% of the judges were able to consistently give the same rating, or something very close, to the identical wine sampled multiple times in a large blind tasting.”

It really is a bit obvious but the media has done such a great job of telling us what wine is good and what wine is inferior to the good wine that we are still trying to figure out what we as individuals like.

How can we expect to believe a bottle deserves a gold medal when that wine is the judge’s 100th contestant. Can you say palate fatigue?

Wine is more popular than it ever has been. I have a wine club that I talk to once a month and the numbers of the club are getting bigger. Not because of the East Village Wine Geek (we have a so much fun) but because there is a thirst out there for more knowledge of this amazing, ancient craft. If that thirst, that need is still there after all these years then the point system has failed us in a one blaringly major way. It has not allowed us to think for ourselves.

You might read a review about a bottle that sounds great but when you pop, pour, swirl and sip is not as satisfying. The person writing the piece is a taster on a level you do not know. You could be a different type than them. They could be medium and you could be super. If this is the case then you are more sensitive to the subtleties of the wine and are therefore do taste more than the reviewer and as a result you might not enjoy it as much because of your amplified ability to taste wine.

In the end it is not very realistic.

What is real is human interaction. Someone looking you in the eye and saying with confidence this is the bottle for you based on what you are explaining to me.

Also, blogs are real. Not the major publication blogs but the people that are spending their hard earned money on the wine themselves and taking the risk for you.

I wish I could climb to the top of wine lover’s mountain and scream at the top of my lungs with passion and confidence:


Find people that want to share their wine knowledge with you not the people that are going to tell you all they know and then give a score and walk away. Demand to walk away with knowledge.

No question is stupid. If you don’t know what cinsaut (pronounced “san-so) is you have a right to ask and not looked down upon. Wine merchants are there to guide you in the right direction. I mean you are fuel their business for chrissakes they better being throwin’ down some serious respect by truly expressing what they think about a particular bottle.

Try to ignore the medals and the points. It is really all about hand selling. The proof is in the pudding…or in the bottle. Cheers.

4 responses to this post.

  1. We put the original article on our website. You can access it free of charge.

    Karl Storchmann
    Journal of Wine Economics


    • Posted by evwgnyc on February 1, 2009 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks man. Interesting findings. This helps wine enthusiasts come lcloser and closer to making their own decisions. Baby steps.



  2. we must find out what kind of tasters we are!
    i’m so curious.


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