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wine judgingThe best evidence that tasting expertise is real and that some dimensions of wine tasting are objective is the fact that, each year, many people past the rigorous Master of Wine and Master Sommelier exams. If wine tasting is not a genuine skill what explains their ability to pass the exam?

But it also helps to have real world experiments like this one conducted by Christian Wolf, the organizer of the European wine competition Mundus Vini.

Twice a year, MUNDUS VINI brings more than 280 international judges together to taste in groups of six or seven. For the summer edition in 2019, Wolf created eight special groups: there was a table of women; a table of men; a table of Germans; a table with older jurors; a group of younger jurors; people drawn from the wine trade; a table of sommeliers; and a table of wine writers.

Each group was presented with a flight of wines that was also given to another table, while individual wines were doubled and given to different juries.

Regardless of age, gender or nationality, the wines received the same scores.

Wolf was testing the hypothesis that there are cultural, gender, or age differences in how professionals judge wine. Apparently that hypothesis is not warranted.

Wolf attributes the consistency of these results to the method of scoring he uses for his competitions. Called the OIV judging system, it requires judges to focus on one wine at a time, rather than as part of a line up. The score is determined by summing subscores on a variety of specific attributes.

Truth be told, not all competitions show this level of consistency. Wolf might well be right that the discipline of assigning scores for various dimensions of a wine is the key to consistency among tasters.

Wolf intends to replicate this test with a much larger sample size.