A wine expert's acute sense of taste may mean that expert ratings and recommendations are irrelevant

Wine experts' ratings may be a wash for many consumers
- by -
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Not all wines are created equal; neither are all wine tasters.

A wine expert's acute sense of taste may mean that expert ratings and recommendations are irrelevant to wine consumers who were not born with the ability to discern small differences in a broad range of tastes, according to a team of international researchers.

"What we found is that the fundamental taste ability of an expert is different," said John Hayes, assistant professor, food science, and director of Penn State's sensory evaluation center. "And, if an expert's ability to taste is different from the rest of us, should we be listening to their recommendations?"

In a taste test, wine experts showed more sensitivity to tastes than average wine consumers.

Hayes said that the participants sampled an odorless chemical -- propylthiouracil -- that is used to measure a person's reaction to bitter tastes. People with acute tasting ability will find the chemical -- also referred to as PROP, or prope -- extremely bitter, while people with normal tasting abilities say it has a slightly bitter taste, or is tasteless.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the current issue of the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, said that wine experts were significantly more likely to find the chemical more bitter than non-experts.

"Just like people can be color blind, they can also be taste blind," said Hayes. 


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