Curious about the outcomes of wine-tasting competitions, winemaker Robert Hodgson collaborated with the organizers of the California State Fair:
Each panel of four judges would be presented with their usual “flight” of samples to sniff, sip and slurp. But some wines would be presented to the panel three times, poured from the same bottle each time. The results would be compiled and analysed to see whether wine testing really is scientific. The first experiment took place in 2005. The last was in Sacramento earlier this month. Hodgson’s findings have stunned the wine industry. Over the years he has shown again and again that even trained, professional palates are terrible at judging wine.
“The results are disturbing,” says Hodgson from the Fieldbrook Winery in Humboldt County, described by its owner as a rural paradise. “Only about 10% of judges are consistent and those judges who were consistent one year were ordinary the next year. Chance has a great deal to do with the awards that wines win.”
Alex Mayyasi recently reviewed research on wine-tasting:
[W]hat these studies really tell us is that our idea of taste as a constant, even if appreciated in subjectively different ways, is a fiction. Due to the complicated way that we experience taste – as an amalgamation of information from all 5 senses, our expectations, and how we think about what we are tasting – taste is easily manipulated.