One of the major criticisms some have with wine tasters is that their tastes are hopelessly subjective. Recently, many studies have indicated that even the same wine critic can have significantly different perspectives on the same wine even over the course of a few minutes. And the label can have a big influence on this difference:
French academic Frédéric Brochet tested the effect of labels in 2001. He presented the same Bordeaux superior wine to 57 volunteers a week apart and in two different bottles – one for a table wine, the other for a grand cru.
The tasters were fooled.
When tasting a supposedly superior wine, their language was more positive – describing it as complex, balanced, long and woody. When the same wine was presented as plonk, the critics were more likely to use negatives such as weak, light and flat.
So researchers from Arhaus University have begun doing research on a new kind of wine critic—a robot:
The research, first published in ACS Nano, claims that an optical nanosensor based on surface plasmon resonance (SPR) can discern how you experience the sensation of dryness in wine. And they say this nanosensor can judge the way the tannins will hit your flavor sensors better than the finest wine critic can.
But dryness is only one component of wine. So it may be a few years before a nanosensor wine critic replaces its human counterparts.
And then there may be more to a wine critic than just the sensory capacities of his tongue. People like wine for different reasons. It may be psychological that a more expensive bottle of wine tastes better to us. But is that psychological effect necessarily illegitimate? All sorts of factors, from what we’re eating that night to or moods to our general tastes to the company we’re with, will have a substantial effect on how we enjoy a bottle of wine. And it seems to me that those things are peculiarly human. And to determine those things takes a human wine critic. Right?