There's the common presumption that the more expensive a wine is the more exciting and delicious it is. That might be true in theory, but your enjoyment of it all depends on your ability to taste it. And, according to a new study, that's determined by your physiological makeup. If you don't possess the necessary heightened sense of taste, you won't be able to get the full thrill from a pricey bottle, and so you might as well go for the cheaper stuff that tastes perfectly wonderful to you.
Apparently wine experts have something that most of the rest of us don't have, which is what allows them to be able to appreciate the subtle differences in wines. John Hayes of Penn State, who conducted the research, told NPR, "What we found is that the fundamental taste ability of an expert is different." Some of it has to do with experience and refining one's palate, but a lot of it comes down to the physiology in their mouths and their brains. To test this, Hayes had hundreds of wine drinkers taste a chemical that measures a person's reaction to bitter taste. Here's what he found:
"[W]ine experts — people such as wine writers, winemakers and wine retailers — were about 40 percent more sensitive to the bitterness than casual consumers of wine. They have a more acute sense of taste."
This matches up with the research that shows some people are supertasters when it comes to tasting the saltiness or sweetness in foods. But certain wine experts quibble with the idea that it all comes down to your sense of taste. Dave McIntyre, who writes for The Washington Post, says it's all about taking the time to try lots of wines and learn about them. That no doubt helps, but if you don't have a super acute sense of taste to begin with you, it's possible that you might always be missing something.
Anyway, the point for most of us here is that if you don't have an educated palate and an acute sense of taste, you probably won't be able to taste the subtleties that make a $150 bottle—or even a $40 bottle—of wine worth buying. If you think you have an sharp sense of taste and love getting all geeked out on wine, by all means, bottoms up. But for those of us who have trouble telling the difference between a berry undertone and a mossy overtone, this information lets us off the hook. No longer do we have to wander the aisles of the wine store looking for the most impressive bottle of Pinot Noir available. Instead, we can walk into Trader Joe's and grab a few reasonably priced bottle of whatever tastes good to us and call it a day. After all, there's no reason to buy super pricey wines if you find more affordable version just as tasty and satisfying.
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