How to transform the odor of a white wine into a red wine? Color it red!

Does a white wine smell like red wine if you color it with red food coloring? A study by Morrot, Brochet, and Dubourdieu (2001, Brain and Language) suggests so. Subjects perceived red wine odors when tasting white wine that had been colored red. The perceived odor profile of the colored white wine became similar to that of a red wine. However, the forced-choice procedure used by Morrot et al. has some methodological shortcomings. Here, we used an alternative method (a rating procedure) to evaluate the presented wines. A white wine (Scheurebe) was presented a) in its original color and b) colored red by odorless food coloring. In addition, c) a red wine (a cuvée of pinot noir and dornfelder) was presented. In order to investigate the cause of the expected shift of the odor ratings for the red-colored white wine into the direction of a red wine profile, the three wines were additionally presented in black glasses, in which the color of the wine was not visible. This provided odor ratings uninfluenced by the color of the wines. We expected these ratings to show that some red wine odors are present in the white wine, but less intensely than in the red wine. As expected, the data showed that red wine odors were perceived more intensely in red-colored white wine than in uncolored white wine, compatible with the results by Morrot et al.The results also support the more general form of the hypothesis that an odor is enhanced by congruent colors and attenuated by incongruent colors. Additionally, the odor ratings of the wines presented in black glasses showed that some red wine aromas were present in the white wine, but less intense than in the red wine. We propose that the results can be understood in terms of attentional focusing. Numerous olfactory components are present in wine, some of them in red wines as well as in white wines. If a white wine is colored red, odors typical for red wine are perceived more intensively than in the uncolored white wine, because the red color directs attention to odor components associated with red wine. Selective attention could thus be an explanation for the influence of color on odor perception.

Authors: Twistel Gabriele1, Von Castell Christoph1 and Oberfeld-Twistel Daniel1

1Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Department of Psychology

*corresponding author: gtwistel@gmail.com

Keywords: sensory analysis, psychology, odor, experiment, color

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