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Sweet wine drinkers can be best tasters, claims US report

Published:  19 October, 2010

Sweet wine drinkers can be amongst some of the best tasters and judges of wine, according to a new US report released today.

A consumer study claims physiology plays a major role in determining wine preferences and that white Zinfandel drinkers are often the most sensitive tasters.

Tim Hanni, Master of Wine, who carried out the report said: "We have uncovered a glaring error and misunderstandings by the wine industry that has lead to the disenfranchisement of millions of consumers and a significant loss of market share to other beverages."

His study claims to show a major disparity between expert and industry opinions about wine quality and wine consumers. According to Dr Virginia Utermohlen, MD, Associate Professor at Cornell University, individual differences in taste and smell sensitivity relate to a number of different aspects of personality, personal preferences and behaviours - including wine choices. Utermohlen and Hanni developed a way of segmenting the wine market into four basic phenotypes based on physiological and behavioural criteria.

"My passion is in finding the scientific reasons behind our personal preferences," said Dr. Utermohlen.

"To date, the industry message to consumers who prefer light, delicate and sweet wines is that they need to become more 'educated' and 'move up' to 'higher quality wines' such as dry wines. Our study demonstrates that physiological differences in human sensory anatomy are the driving force behind our wine choices and that the people with the greatest taste sensitivity may well indeed be sweeter wine drinkers and not the consumers of highly rated less sweet wines. The industry is guilty of alienating a large segment of consumers who frequently opt for other sweet beverages or even stop drinking wine altogether."

The Wine Consumer Preferences Survey Summary can be accessed at