Betty's Wine Musings
Our Changing Wine Tasting Experiences
Our Changing Wine Tasting Experiences

Can our wine tasting experiences change? Yes. If you try the same wine on three different occasions, can you have three different opinions about it? Yes. A lot of factors go into how we judge what we eat and drink. In this article, I will focus on our ever-changing wine tasting experiences.

some rights reserved by maveric2003

Great Article on the Subjectivity of Wine

I came across a wonderful 2007 article by Jonah Lehrer, contributing editor at Wired. The article is called “The Subjectivity of Wine.” In the article, Lehrer talks about three very curious experiences.

In the first, a panel of wine professionals was asked to select their top red and white picks from 25 pre-selected wines under $12. The tasting was blind, and there was almost no consistency among the critics. Only one of the 25 wines managed to make the list of every critic.

In the second, wine experts were asked to give their impressions of what looked like a glass of red wine and a glass of white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, with one tinted red. The experts described the “red” wine in language used to describe red wines. Not a single expert noticed it was actually a white wine.

In the third, the same wine was served in two different bottles, one fancy and one ordinary. The experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings.

According to Lehrer, “when we taste a wine, we aren’t simply tasting the wine… Our…subjective brain…brings to the moment its entire library of personal memories and idiosyncratic desires.”

Focusing on Tasting Fundamentals

That is why it is so much fun to hone in on the fundamentals of wine tasting:

  • What do you smell and taste?
  • What does the wine feel like in your mouth?
  • What does it look like?

At the end of the day, you will still decide whether you like or dislike a wine. But when you approach a tasting from a more analytic standpoint (smell, taste, feel, look), you are more likely to be influenced by what you are actually experiencing. It becomes a true wine tasting experience rather than a purely emotional experience.

Blind Tastings Often Improve Wine Tasting Experiences

I love doing blind tastings where you compare different priced wines. For example, line up six California Cabernets ranging in price from $10 to $60, ask participants to write notes about their wine tasting experiences, and have them rank the wines. After reading Lehrer’s article, I’m motivated to do many more of these blind tastings.

Have you been surprised by the results of blind tastings you’ve participated in? Do you have any recommendations for best practices? Do you have any other thoughts about the subjectivity of wine? I would love to hear what you have to say.

As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

Related Posts


  1. Great article thanks Betty so true what is good is quality wine regardless of the tag. I must say my top ten would be 5-6 expensive wines and 4 value wines. I thought about this after I read your blog and appreciate the story quite a bit. My mantra I like what I like

  2. Now I understand better why there are times when I like a particular wine and other times when I am not that thrilled with it. It makes a lot of sense that what you have going on around you and in your mind influences your experience. Every wine I had in Italy tasted phenomenal, and I bought imported Italian wine when I got home…it just wasn’t the same. I am sure what I bought was probably not what I drank in Rome, but nonetheless, I am guessing that because I was so prepared to enjoy everything in Rome when I was there and was having such a wonderful time, my enjoyment of the wines was enhanced. That is so interesting about the two white wines with one tinted that people described the tinted one in terms of red wine! Wow, the power of our minds! Love your articles, Betty!

    1. I love the way you describe your experience in Rome. Everything was magical. It would be great if, when we get home from our trips, we could recapture the magic just by sipping some of the wine that we bought there. Our minds definitely play games with us.

  3. There is a very interesting book on the subject by a Yale psychologist named Paul Bloom, called “How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like”. Bloom’s theory is that human enjoyment depends as much or more on our beliefs about a particular thing than about that thing’s actual physical properties.

    1. That is so interesting. It doesn’t really surprise me. But it throws the notion of fair judging out the window. Of course, I would assume that judges are just a little bit less subject to subjectivity. Who knows?

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts