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The nose knows: influence of colour on perception of wine aroma

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The mental processes that enable a wine connoisseur to identify a favourite vintage have received little systematic study. Two experiments explored wine expertise by investigating perceptual processing in judgements of wine aroma. Specifically, we investigated olfactory perceptual bias, a cognitive construct concerned with how what we already know influences what we smell. Colour-induced olfactory bias was investigated in wine experts (Experiment 1) and in social drinkers (Experiment 2). We hypothesised that colour-induced perceptual bias was more likely to occur in wine experts than in social drinkers, leading experts astray. The task simulated a wine-evaluation situation where colour and aroma were open to evaluation by visual and olfactory senses. Experts were able to discriminate white wines that had been masked with colour to simulate an aged white wine and a red wine, although they did succumb to a degree of colour-induced olfactory bias. That is, experts' aroma judgements on the white wine that was coloured red were more accurate when the wine was presented in opaque glasses than when presented in clear glasses. Social drinkers found the task extremely difficult, demonstrating indiscriminate behaviour in some conditions. The data suggest that wine experts do indeed differ cognitively from novices in their approach to evaluating wine aroma. Theoretical and applied implications are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2003

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