05 July 2013 - by -
Victoria Moore gives her opinion on wine tasters and awards.
Here we go again. “Even experts can’t judge wine accurately,” ran a headline in a paper at the weekend. I rolled my eyeballs. They swivelled again yesterday when the Today programme took up cudgels, citing an American study published (five years ago, but don’t let that get in the way of giving wine connoisseurs a good hosing) in the Journal of Wine Economics. “Experts are accused of being random in the awarding of gold stars [for bottles of wine],” said Justin Webb crisply. “Are they just making it up?”
Forgive me for displaying a touch of sensitivity here. There is nothing the British public relishes more – except, perhaps, a story about an estate agent being gazundered or a criminal negligence lawyer losing a claim – than a study that seems to show so-called wine experts haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about.
So I will hold up my hands and say there is a tremendous variability when it comes to tasting wine.
My tasting ability fluctuates according to the time of day; it’s much sharper in the morning, which is a nuisance because tasting 100 wines before lunch leaves me foggy for the afternoon. I taste better on an empty stomach; hunger seems to sharpen the senses. Eating food also affects how a wine is perceived. Just try drinking a dry red after eating chocolate, or a delicate white after a curry and you’ll see what I mean.
And don’t put me in a bad mood or wind me up ahead of a tasting, because if you do I’m going to experience a surge of cortisol, the stress hormone, and every red wine I put in my mouth is going to taste tinny and thin and horrid.
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