The Travails of Wine and Food Criticism

According to a recent study, when loud music is playing, alcohol tastes sweeter and we more easily misjudge alcoholic strength.

If you have spent much time in a bar you already knew that.

But this research is interesting for anyone who depends on the objectivity of their sensory experience—such as wine critics. The linked article refers to “previous studies that indicate how heightened senses of bitterness/sourness can be achieved by playing specific types of sound (i.e. squeaking metal makes things taste more bitter).”

Our taste perceptions are powerfully influenced by our environment which makes it difficult to give objective evaluations of wine and food.

Wine and food tasting is already challenging enough because flavors and flavor memories often lack definition, we lack the semantic categories that would help with identification and recall, and we all have different thresholds for the detection of various chemical substances that trigger flavor sensations.

There is also substantial evidence that we are easily influenced in our judgments by price, reputation, and other contextual factors. Now we can add environmental influence to the list of influences that make evaluative tasting very difficult.

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