“Consistent” Ratings: It’s Hard!

One day it’s a B-, a week later it’s a solid A.

Rating wine, spirits, and just about anything else is a dicey affair, and assigning consistent scores day in and day out is nearly impossible. That’s not just anecdotally true, the science backs it up:

A four-year study published last week in the Journal of Wine Economics revealed that only 10 per cent of judges were able to consistently give the same rating, or something very close, to the identical wine sampled multiple times in a large blind tasting.

And frankly, those 10 percent were probably just lucky.

Julianna Hayes writes about how difficult it is to remain objective and consistent when tasting wine — sometimes 100 wines in a sitting — how the tastebuds get tired, how you grow weary of the process, and (I’d add) even if you’re spitting, alcohol can take its toll.

I find invariably that the first wines of a tasting never taste that good to me, as my palate needs warming up. I now start out at wine events with something I’m not all that interested in or that I already know fairly well.

Bottom line: Tasting all this stuff is a tough job, really it is… but someone’s got to do it, right?

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One Response to “Consistent” Ratings: It’s Hard!

  1. *swings in from a random Google link* Hi!

    As a bit of an amateur connoisseur and mixologist myself, not to mention an overly analytical person, I hear you on this. I think part of what makes it so tough is that our perception of flavor is linked so strongly to emotional response – we mostly perceive flavor through our nose, after all, and (this is one of my favorite pieces of trivia) the olfactory bulb is located directly underneath the memory-processing center of the brain, which is why a strong scent can bring back a memory, and the emotion associated therewith, very strongly. The problem being, of course, that emotional response is a huge set of variables, and there’s just no way to account for all of the factors involved – what mood you’re in, what thoughts are closest to the surface of your mind, what your expectations are. And then, this being booze, there’s also the “how much alcohol has been absorbed into your bloodstream from previous tastings” issue to think about.

    That said, I’m right there with you – somebody’s got to do it, so we might as well do our best and have fun. Cheers!

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