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Palate Calibration Exercise 2004

by Tom Cannavan

In 2001 a Palate Calibration Exercise (PCE) was devised by participants in the UK Wine Forum. Each person would buy exactly the same wine, taste it, and feedback their comments on the wine plus a score out of 20. The end result was a taste sketch participants could use to "calibrate" their palate against others. The success of this exercise led us to repeat the PCE in summer 2004.

the wine

As with the first PCE, choosing a wine was not easy. A very high priority was placed on a wine that was very easily and widely available and reasonably priced, so that the broadest range of people could take part.

Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages "Combe des Jacques" 2003 is the wine that was finally chosen. Beneath are some summarised statistics from the exercise. Participants were asked to write a note on the wine, but also to mark it out of 20 points. They were also asked to say whether they thought the wine was good value for money, whether they would buy it again, and how the wine changed if they drank some along with food.

Go straight to the tasting notes
(there's another link at the bottom of the page)
 

the scores

In total, 54 people bought the wine and took part in the PCE. The scores awarded for the wine ranged from 7/20 to 18/20. There was one score of 1/20, but that taster suspected his bottle was faulty. One other taster, who scored the wine 7/20, also suspected a fault in the wine. The graph below shows how many people awarded a particular score to the wine:


Lowest score given 07
Highest score given 18
Average score 13.31
(discounting the two scores where taster suspected a fault)

male/female

Average score males 13.54
Average score females 12.92
Average overall score 13.31

The highest scores of the entire PCE (18) was given by a women, yet overall the 38 men marginally prefered this wine to the 16 women who took part.

other scores and ratings

Tasters were asked whether they would buy the wine again, whether it represented good value for money, and - if they had it with food - whether the wine improved or not. The data returned is:

YesMaybe/
Average
No
Would you buy again? 141921
Was it value for money? 192510
Did it improve with food? *180804

Whilst 21 people would not buy the wine again, only 10 thought it was not good value for money. This suggests quite a few people thought the quality of the wine was good for the price, but it was not to their taste. Also, prices seemed to vary between 5.99 and 7.49 in different merchants, which would obviously affect this judgement.
* Whether or not the wine improved with food was a comment field, rather than a yes/maybe/no, so I have interpreted the data as best I can.

key words

descriptive: strawberry (22 tasters); cherry (19); raspberry (16); fruity (10); fresh (9); soft (7); black pepper (6); spice (6); bubble gum (6); banana (6)
positive: well-balanced (12); long finish (10); ripe (4); complex (2)
negative: acidic/bitter (9); short (6); bland/insipid (5); thin (3)

some final thoughts

I am certain the choice of a Beaujolais as the PCE wine certainly added to the huge variation in scores and reactions: Gamay is a very distinctive grape which makes an equally distinctive style of wine, and I am sure scores and reactions would have been somewhat more homogenous had we chosen a 5 Australian Chardonnay or Chilean Merlot instead. But of course that's what the excercise was all about - to see how different palates react to the same wine - so in many ways it was the ideal choice.

This was a truly fascinating experiment and I would like to thank everyone who bought the wine and took part, including readers of Richard Ehrlich's column in the Independent on Sunday.

Read the full suite of 54 tasting notes returned from the PCE.

Copyright 2004 Tom Cannavan. All rights reserved..