Effect of culture and familiarity on wine perception: a study with spanish and british wine experts

AIM: Wine perception results from the interaction between the wine and its intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics and the experience [1], background and beliefs of the consumer [2,3]. Among all of the factors affecting wine perception, in this study we focused on culture and cognitive processes, working under the hypothesis that higher familiarity with wines would induce higher perceived quality. Furthermore, we hypothesised that culture would influence the verbalisation of wine properties associated with the different experiences of consumers from different cultures. 

METHODS: A total of 18 white wines from two countries and four different grape varieties (Vitis vinifera cvs Bacchus and Ortega from the United Kingdom and Vitis vinifera cvs Verdejo and Albariño from Spain) were sensorially assessed by 32 wine experts (16 from La Rioja, Spain, and 16 from East Sussex, England). In each country, all participants were invited to describe the wines according to a labelled free sorting task and to evaluate wine quality using a categorisation task with five pre-established quality categories viz; very low, low, average, high and very high. The order of presentation of tasks was randomized in each country.

RESULTS: Two-way ANOVA with the country of origin of experts (CO) and wines (W) as independent variable showed a significant interaction effect (CO*W) for quality judgements (F = 2.019; P < 0.01), suggesting that quality scores of wines depended on the country-of-origin of experts. It was observed that only four out of the 18 wines evaluated showed significant differences in quality scores. Three of them were Spanish wines that were perceived to be of higher quality by Spanish experts, and the fourth wine was a British wine perceived to be higher in quality by British experts. These results could only partially confirm our initial hypothesis related to the impact of familiarity on increasing the perception of quality.

With regard to the groups formed through the sorting task (non-verbal strategy), both groups of experts used a similar strategy with the wines mainly separated by grape variety. Regarding the differences in the description of the wines overall, they used similar terms. The only difference observed was associated with increased use of the term “floral” by Spanish experts, while the term “flat wine” appeared more constantly in British descriptions. 

CONCLUSIONS: The present work improves our knowledge of the cognitive factors and cultural aspects influencing wine perception. Familiarity with the product can affect perception of quality and the verbalisation of sensory properties among wine experts.

Authors: Alejandro Suárez – Instituto de Ciencias de la Vid y del Vino (CSIC-UR-GR), Spain,Heber RODRIGUES, UK Centre for Excellence on Wine Education, Training and Research, Plumpton College, United Kingdom  Samantha WILLIAMS, UK Centre for Excellence on Wine Education, Training and Research, Plumpton College, United Kingdom  Nicolas DEPETRIS-CHAUVIN, HES-SO Haute École de Gestion de Génève, Switzerland  María Purificación FERNÁNDEZ-ZURBANO, Instituto de Ciencias de la Vid y del Vino (CSIC-UR-GR), Spain  Gregory DUNN, UK Centre for Excellence on Wine Education, Training and Research, Plumpton College, United Kingdom  María-Pilar SÁENZ-NAVAJAS, Instituto de Ciencias de la Vid y del Vino (CSIC-UR-GR), Spain

Email: alejandro.suarez@unirioja.es

Keywords: cross-cultural; quality; sensory; categorisation; labeled sorting task

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