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While there are some dimensions about wine taste that seem consistent across wine tasters and that can be scientifically measured, many of the dimensions and terminology used seem suspiciously impressionistic and are described using adjectives in wild metaphorical usage.

Ratings on certain dimensions of wine taste can only be accurate if there is consistency across time (for a single taster) and consistency across different tasters.

Are (some) wine tasters proven to give consistent judgements ((a) across time for themselves or (b) across wine tasters)? If so, on what dimensions has such consistency been demonstrated?

Furthermore: Consistency on a certain dimension is only possible if that dimension has some scientifically describable correlate (such as acidity or tannin levels). Even though we might not be able to identify the scientific correlate for a particular dimension (just like we might not be able to generally name which exact substances or chemical reactions or combinations thereof cause a "smell of roses"), this ought to be possible in principle. So if we could scientifically prove that a particular dimension of wine judgment can be identified with a particular scientifically describable property of the wine, all the better. If such a thing has been attempted or done, I would be curious to hear about such results.

  • I've removed all references to science. There is no claim that wine tasting is scientific, although there's a clear expectation that it is consistent. – Sklivvz Jun 13 '12 at 6:36
  • @Sklivvz: I do appreciate your edits, though I believe you might have accidentally edited away part of the original thing I was trying to get at. I've expanded on this in my recent edit. If you would like to further improve on that, please do feel free to do so. – Lover of Structure Jun 13 '12 at 9:19
  • As regards your update, my final year project at school was to analyse the tastes of certain wines, and there were just too many factors to get any meaningful results (with the kit we had) - for example there are a number of ways to get a particular element of taste or smell. Acidity and tannins are easy to measure, so the hard work for the sommelier is to identify the finer notes. – Rory Alsop Jun 13 '12 at 9:55
  • With the number of comments rising, this might be better in chat... just a thought – Rory Alsop Jun 13 '12 at 9:56
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    Related Question: Are different prices in wines justified by taste? – Oliver_C Jun 14 '12 at 8:57
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Not sure this is provable one way or the other - there are some wine tasters whose opinion I would trust, and others who seem more about the sensationalism. Standards also vary between testers.

That said, the industry has done a lot to add consistency, at least at the higher levels:

The Court of Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine and the International Sommelier's Guild do have consistency and standards built in to their requirements. The Court of Master Sommelier's top level certification, the Master Sommelier Diploma includes these two requirements (amongst some other very interesting ones - follow the link)

  • Discuss menu content and wine list, recommending wines to accompany a wide range of foods; displaying a sound knowledge of the products, their vintages and characteristics.
  • Identify, where appropriate, grape varieties, country of origin, district and appellation of origin, and vintages of the wines tasted.

And the Masters of Wine exam require an extensive knowledge of wines and incorporate blind taste tests to identify wines, as well as descriptive sections to list the wine's make-up.

  • A Master of Wine (MW) is someone who has demonstrated, by way of rigorous examination,a thorough knowledge of all aspects of wine and an ability to communicate clearly.
  • The Practical exam comprises three papers of 12 wines each, tasted blind.
  • Thank you. The next step would now be to identify (in a list as exhaustive as possible) the dimensions of taste that can be "rated" by such wine tasters. The existence of the exam is strong evidence for some dimensions being fact-based. (I always have wondered, though, about the odd fact that dimensions on which wines are being described seem to vary so much from country to country.) I do know that wine tasters can be very good at detecting alcohol levels in a wine. (This might in fact be one of the most quantifiable dimensions.) What would other such dimensions be? – Lover of Structure Jun 13 '12 at 9:24
  • Yet another question (not clearly articulated in my original post) would be to what extent wine judgments on such dimensions matter at all. If wine ratings for an alcoholic beverage (such as wine) mattered that much that one would see such a wide variation in pricing of wines, why would that not be so for non-alcoholic beverages? On what scientific basis would the presence of alcohol make such a difference that one couldn't in principle also pair fruit juices with foods? (And, if we have a mispairing, to what extent would people care or even notice?) – Lover of Structure Jun 13 '12 at 9:27
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    From my brief stint working as a cellar manager, and doing my best to learn, I am of the opinion that while the concept of white wine with fish, red wine with red meat make sense, a lot of the 'which wine for which meal' decisions are of little interest to the non-afficionado, but critical to the experienced lover of wine. Once the palate has been trained to identify all the notes, you want them to fit together well. – Rory Alsop Jun 13 '12 at 9:32
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    As we know that the human sense of taste is very high-dimensional, there could in principle be lots of dimensions to describe wines on. I guess we are in agreement that this might be to a good extent an "acquired sensitivity", though I (as a layman) would still be curious about which dimensions would be the highest-ranking (most described or talked about) ones, and to what extent there is consistency across time and tasters. – Lover of Structure Jun 13 '12 at 9:42
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    Please move this discussion to the chat, comments are only to discuss how to improve the answer, not for general discussion on the topic – Sklivvz Jun 13 '12 at 17:17

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