Yes, I’m sure we all taste lovely, but actually, I’m talking about the way that we taste and how our biology and our expectations can affect it in a major way. I recently read two interesting articles on the subject.
One, in the San Francisco Chronicle, discussed Tim Hanni’s theory that our tastes in wine are determined by the number of taste buds on our tongues. That number slots us all into one of three categories: Hypersensitive, Sensitive, and Tolerant. There’s no “better” category, Hanni claims. Rather, people with similar taste bud make-up (those in the same category) are likely to prefer similar flavors, black coffee versus cream and sugar or salty versus unsalted food, for instance. The categories also give a sense of the types of wine we’re most likely to find pleasurable.
My favorite part of the article is when Hanni discusses the implications of his theory. Wine stores, he says, should be organized on a scale of intensity, not by varietal or country. And instead of presenting you with a War and Peace-sized wine list, Hanni suggests that your restaurant sommelier should ask you a few basic questions to determine your taste category, and then recommend wines accordingly. Goodbye notes of sun-ripened huckleberry and honey-colored leather, hello “it’s ok to like what you like and taste whatever you taste.”
The second article, from the Boston Globe, is all about expectation. Apparently, some scientists at Caltech and Stanford ran a study in which subjects were presented with tastes of Cabernet Sauvignon. When they were given fake prices for the wines (ranging from $5 to $90), the tasters consistently rated the more expensive wines higher, even though they were actually faux expensive. When they conducted the same taste without mentioning prices at all, the researchers found that the tasters had opposite preferences.
From a business standpoint, this is very interesting, indeed. If I take expectations into consideration, a higher price point might mean more sales and more enjoyment. How much would you factor expectation into the price of your wine?