Wine Experts' Palates 'More Sensitive than Others', Study Finds

Results suggest expert opinions may be irrelevant to consumers


March 6, 2012 — A new study found that wine experts might be more sensitive to taste than average wine consumers, according to Penn State Live.

According to John Hayes, director of Penn State University’s sensory evaluation center, an average wine consumer’s biological inability to pick up on the subtleties tasting experts can easily identify might make expert recommendations irrelevant to the masses.

In the study, both wine experts and non-experts tasted an odorless chemical called propylthiouracil, used to measure one’s reaction to bitterness. Researchers found that wine experts were much more likely to identify the chemical as bitter than the non-experts. Hayes said this difference in tasting ability could be attributed to biological factors.

From Penn State Live:

“Hayes said that previous studies have shown that biological factors may explain the acute taste of experts. Many wine experts may be drawn to careers in the wine industry based on their enhanced ability to taste. While learning plays a role in their expertise and other factors matter, such as how they communicate their thoughts and opinions on wines, some wine experts may have an innate advantage in learning to discern small differences in wine.”

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Photo courtesy Jenny Downing

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