Wine packaging, glassware, ratings

A fair amount of b.s. around all that? Sure looks that way.

This article from Gourmet Magazine about wine glasses is pretty interesting reading if you’re convinced that there are physical explanations for wine tasting ‘better’ when consumed in expensive glassware vs. a Flintstones jelly jar: Shattered Myths.

Also, boxed wine vs. bottled: most people can’t seem to tell which is which, from the little bit of reading I’ve done on that.

None of this should surprise us. At least, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Our sense of taste is subjective, and therefore subject to biases. And one of those biases, it appears, is that we expect things to taste better when we believe we are ‘pampered’ with higher-quality utensils and packaging. And there’s really nothing wrong with that, as long as we understand it is actually more about our individual senses and biases than the wine itself.

And just today, this from the Wall Street Journal: A Hint of Hype, A Taste of Illusion, about wine ratings and judges. Apparently, they aren’t all that.

According to a series of studies done by Robert Hodgson, a retired math professor and winemaker, when you point the harsh light of double-blind studies at wine judging, the wheels start to come off. For instance, even when tasting the same wine, individual judges are all over the map, depending on all kinds of uncontrollable factors like when they ate last, the time of day, the other wines in the competition, etc. And wines that win gold medals at one competition get dismissed at others, which seems unlikely if there is a truly objective hierarchy that we can decipher accurately with our individual senses of taste and smell.

Again, unsurprising. I’ve long been openly antagonistic to the whole idea that if Robert Parker rates a wine a 94, then by golly, we’re all going to like it, too! Here’s why. If I don’t like it, I don’t care what the number is on the label. A rating from somebody who is not me is useless. And likewise, if I do like it, I also don’t care what the number is. I already know that I like it, so what other info do I need, exactly? Ratings might be useful in some situations, but they can never be more useful than your own taste buds telling your brain “this tastes good” and “this doesn’t”.

So, my advice is: Drink what tastes good to you, poured from boxes or bottles into jelly glasses or fine glassware, without regard to price or awards or ratings, and ignore everything else. It’s all good. It is wine, after all.


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