Find the best wine expert to guide you in selecting your next bottle

You may find yourself wandering the aisles in a wine store, trying to decide which wine you should buy. You can ask a wine expert to help you choose the right bottle. It’s not a bad thing that many people who don’t consider themselves wine experts seek the advice of wine experts.

Which expert? How much do wine experts agree on their assessment of wines? What is the importance of where and how an expert was trained?

Recent research examined the answers to these questions. The study analyzed the wine evaluations of two groups from different regions of Canada, Quebec, and British Columbia. Both groups had been trained in other wine-tasting traditions: British and French. You may be surprised by what we discovered.

Two wine tasting sessions were held with 14 wine experts from British Columbia’s Okanagan valley and 8 wine experts from Montreal. Each session consisted of blind tasting the same seven red wines. The wines were a variety of vintages and varietals.

B.C. Quebec and B.C. tasted seven red wines Shutterstock

The experts then evaluated the wines. The experts assessed the wines using seven different aromas, including spicy, berry, or oak. Experts also assessed the wines based on nine flavors, such as length of finish and acidity. The wine experts also evaluated overall quality.

The same, but different

Experts from both regions have a few things in common, but there are also significant differences.

There were significant differences in the evaluation of wine flavor and aroma. Comparing the Montreal group to Okanagan’s wine experts, they reported significantly higher levels of green bell pepper, oak, and spicy aroma. The Montreal wine experts’ assessment also revealed higher levels of acidity, bitterness, balance, and off-flavor.

The two groups of experts in wine were in agreement in their assessment of the overall quality of the wines despite the differences between them in the evaluation of aroma and taste.

B.C. wine tasters gave high marks to Apothic 2015, a California blend. Quebec wine tasters were not as impressed by the Apothic Red 2015 blend. LCBO

One exception was made. The Okanagan Valley experts found that the 2015 Apothic red, a blend from California of zinfandel syrah cabernet sauvignon merlot, was of higher quality than the group from Montreal. This could be due to the preference of this group for blended wines, which is a new-world winemaking tradition.

The overall quality judgments of the two groups were similar. Still, the differences in aroma and flavor assessments raise the question of why experts from different geographic regions have divergent views when it comes to wine assessment.

British system versus French

These findings can be explained by the diversity of wine expertise in both geographical regions.

The Okanagan wine experts were trained in the Wine and Spirit Education Trust system, which was established in 1969 in the U.K. Winemakers and employees of wineries made up the Okanagan Valley wine experts. Some of the assessors were affiliated with British Columbia’s Vintner Quality Alliance program. This program ensures that wines are made to meet minimum quality standards.

Due to their professional roles, it is possible that the Okanagan panel was more concerned about the overall quality and consistency than the sensory attributes of the wines. These wine experts, who have spent years evaluating the quality and consistency of wines, mostly from the Okanagan, may also be less inclined to notice differences in sensory characteristics.

Montreal’s group was made up of wine journalists, educators, and sommeliers. Wine journalists are particularly interested in independent evaluation of wine styles and descriptions of wines. The Montreal wine experts have undergone sommelier training rooted in French traditions that are concerned about wine characteristics and matching wine with food.

Montreal’s experts were used to giving wine descriptions and suggestions to customers and consumers. This may have led them to pay more attention to the sensory characteristics of the wines.

The Montreal wine experts are trained in the French tradition of pairing food and wine. Shutterstock

While wine experts in different geographical locations differed in their assessments of wine characteristics, they did not differ in their overall reviews of the quality of wines across tasting sessions. The wine experts used the same standards in their evaluation.

What does it mean to consumers who are looking for advice?

The study reveals that wine experts in both regions have similar opinions about wine quality. Wine experts can provide valuable information about wine quality regardless of their geographic location, experience, or training.

When it comes to preferences, consumers should consider the training, background, and role of the expert winemaker whose opinion they are relying on.

This study can be a great way to discover other sources of wine knowledge, like blogs, websites, or media reports. The study may be a way for consumers to compare their perceptions of wine’s sensory attributes with those of experts who have been trained and are in professional roles.

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