How blind tasting does not make recognising a wine easier, at least immediately

Thursday June 21 2018 by Vitisphere

“A little noble rot in suspension, the impurities slowly fall. This wine is 23 years old. Wine is all about soil. This one is slightly gravelly, it’s a Médoc. Wine is also about sunshine. This wine enjoyed an excellent South-West aspect on a good sloping hillside. It’s a Saint-Julien. 1953 Château Léoville Las Cazes!” proclaimed famous French actor Louis de Funès in one of the most famous blind tastings.“A little noble rot in suspension, the impurities slowly fall. This wine is 23 years old. Wine is all about soil. This one is slightly gravelly, it’s a Médoc. Wine is also about sunshine. This wine enjoyed an excellent South-West aspect on a good sloping hillside. It’s a Saint-Julien. 1953 Château Léoville Las Cazes!” proclaimed famous French actor Louis de Funès in one of the most famous blind tastings. - Photo credit : L'aile ou la cuisse

Blind tasting is not a myth. Trained tasters get better results than random responses” claimed researchers Qian Janice Wang and Domen Prešern from the Experimental Psychology and Chemistry departments at Oxford University. Recently published by the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE), their study takes a lot of precautions, allowing them to more effectively debunk the idea that blind tasting alone can improve proficiency. The reality is obviously more complex.

With experience, "tasters increase the accuracy of their grape variety predictions. But their assumptions about origin remain stable, while those about vintages decrease in accuracy. [As if] the tasters gained in confidence and made more mistakes by proposing more and more vintages”, summarised the English researchers. They came to the conclusion that “acquiring blind tasting expertise is probably a long-term process, which takes more than 4 weeks. Therefore, it is possible that although grape variety recognition can be quickly acquired (at least to some extent), learning to correctly deduce a country and a region of origin is a task that requires more training and experience”.

The results are based on the scores of 15 tasters from the Oxford University Blind Tasting Society, gathered together in autumn 2017 for 18 pre-competition preparation sessions with their Cambridge counterparts.

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