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Elaborate wine descriptions improve taste – study

Critics and producers have fresh ammunition to back some of their more flowery wine tasting notes after new research suggested that elaborate descriptions really can help people to enjoy wines more.

Researchers in Australia found that more creative and vivid wine descriptions on bottle labels, including the back-story to a winery, can encourage people to spend more money and increase their enjoyment after popping the cork.

But, there was a sting in the tail, too.

Wines that didn’t live up to their descriptions ran the risk of turning drinkers away, according to the study, conducted by the University of Adelaide in South Australia and published in the Food Reseearch International  journal.

There is an ongoing debate in the wine world over what makes a good tasting note.

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Researchers asked 126 ‘regular white wine drinkers’ to assess Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc wines with three levels of information:

  • A blind tasting with no information
  • The provision of a basic sensory description
  • Provision of an elaborate/emotional description.

‘These findings have important implications for wine producers and the hospitality industry in that descriptions require more than just wine tasting notes,’ said Dr Lukas Danner, post-doctoral research fellow and first author on the study.

‘Companies could even consider involving consumers in label description optimisation.’

Tesco, the UK supermarket, experimented with this in 2014 after announcing it would allow members of its online wine community to devise tasting notes for 100 of its own-brand wines. It subsequently turned those descriptions into word clouds to use as marketing.

Tesco’s online wine community has since been closed.

Several critics take the view that wine descriptions always have a personal edge to them.

Decanter.com columnist Andrew Jefford identified three main elements that should be apparent in a good wine description.

First, a tasting note must convey the reviewer’s tasting skills. Second, it must communicate with enthusiasm and, third, there must be some ‘genuine literary skill’.

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