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Palate Calibration Exercise 2007

by Tom Cannavan

This is the third Palate Calibration Exercise (PCE), a mass tasting of the same wine by visitors to For these events, each participant buys exactly the same wine, tastes it, and feeds back their comments plus a score out of 20. The end result is a taste sketch each participant can use to "calibrate" their palate against others.

the wine

A very high priority is placed on choosing a wine that is widely available and reasonably priced, so that the broadest range of people can take part. In truth, the Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from Chile turned out to be less than ideal, as a lot of shops were still on the 2005 vintage and many people could not track down the 2006 needed for the PCE. Beneath are some summarised statistics, though you can also go straight to the tasting notes from all 49 participants (there's another link at the bottom of the page).

the scores

In total, 49 people bought the wine and took part in the PCE. The scores awarded for the wine ranged from 11/20 to 18/20. The graph below shows how many people awarded a particular score to the wine:

The grouping of scores - from 11 to 18, with a heavy clustering around 13/14, is more condensed than the Beaujolias tasted in the previous PCE in 2004, where scores ranged from 7 ro 18, with a more even spread of votes.

average score

Lowest score given 11
Highest score given 18
Average score 13.78

Despite the different scoring pattern, the average score of 13.78 is not too far removed from the average score for the 2004 PCE Beaujolais, of 13.31.


Average score males 13.76
Average score females 13.87
Average overall score 13.78

The highest score of the entire PCE (18) was awarded by two people, one male and one female. Overall, the 41 men marginally prefered this wine to the 8 women who took part.


Average score UK participants 14.02
Average score overseas participants 12.00
Average overall score 13.78

The 6 overseas visitors who participated scored the wine considerably lower than their UK counterparts, with the highest overseas score being 14, and three of the six awarding the lowest score of all, 11. Is this a wine designed with the 'UK palate' in mind?

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:

Would you buy again? 062419
Was it value for money? 151024
Did it improve with food? *122809

Whilst only six people out of 49 would buy the wine again, 15 thought it was good value for money. This suggests some thought the wine was good for the price, but was not to their taste. Also, prices seemed to vary between £4.66 on promotion and £7.49 in different merchants, which would obviously affect this judgement. Several people in their detailed notes commented on how the wine improved after initial tasting ("24 hours later and the palate was much more together with deeper and darker spicy elements with a much more pleasant and lingering aftertaste," "By the 2nd glass seems to have settled better and more in balance," "2nd night: More integrated").

* 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. 12 people thought the wine improved with food, whilst 28 either didn't taste it with food or didn't comment. This suggests this wine is marginally better with food.

commonly occuring key words

descriptive: black fruit (34 tasters); vanilla (19); green/herbal (14); cherry (11); spice (12); plum (9); raspberry (7); tobacco (6); jammy (4); smoke (5)

positive: long finish (9); rich (6); sweet (6); balanced (4)

negative: green (13); over alcoholic/hot (15); too dry (7); astringent/bitter (4); short finish (6)

some final thoughts

This turned out to be a pretty poor choice of wine in the final analysis, not just because the lack of availability of the 2006 vintage frustrated many people who wanted to participate, but because pricing was widely varied (there was £3 between cheapest and most expensive bottles) making value judgement difficult. There also seemed to be significant bottle variation: I tasted two bottles, sourced from different places, six months apart. The first bottle was a richer, more balanced and better wine than the second.

This was still a truly fascinating experiment and I would like to thank everyone who bought the wine and took part.

Read the full suite of 49 tasting notes returned from the PCE.

Copyright 2007 Tom Cannavan. All rights reserved..