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About the logical error in tasting

by Mark

Question: Hello,
Could I please bother you for some more information regarding 'Logical Error'? I am compiling a presentation on
'Stimulus and logical error' focusing on the effect it has on wine tasters. I would appreciate any further information or direction you may have available to you. Thank you.

Isabelle's Answer:
The logical error is one these tasting errors that insidiously invites itself at the table of a structured wine tasting.

The logical error is a psychological bias, meaning that the taster will use his or her mind rather than his/her senses. For example, if she perceives a lemon aroma, she will tend to “perceive” some acidity, because in her mind the two perceptions are linked. A lemon has an acid taste, logical isn’t it?

Another example? the logical association of color and aroma. I have already discussed the fact that visual perceptions can bias aroma or taste perceptions. If she sees a red wine, with orange hues, she starts to think of an aged wine, then comes to her mind all the attributes that old red wines may have: prune, leathery, tar, etc...Makes it logical because she has learned from past experience that these associations could occur....but they do not always occur.

Other examples of logical errors I have noticed from practice:

  • Toasted oak-vanilla: They are often associated although the first evokes more the toasted bread and the second the vanilla spice. However, vanilla aroma is imparted through toasted oak barrels.

  • Peach-Apricot: Similar aromatic notes especially between the yellow peach and the apricot, however, the white peach has a more floral aroma and is then quite distinct from apricot.

  • Sweet taste- (therefore) not acid: not always, think icewine, they have some acidity.

  • Astringent-bitter: These are quite different sensations, the first one is a feeling that dries out your mouth and the second one is a taste perceived by receptors on the tongue and larynx. This is an association that is often made by less experienced tasters who have some difficulties in distinguishing the two perceptions.

How to prevent logical errors? Follow these 3 steps.

1- Acknowledge that logical error exists and can trick you unconsciously. I believe the more you know the more you are susceptible to the logical error.
2- Adopt rigour in your tasting procedure. Remove any visual cues that may lead your mind to tell you what to smell or taste.
3- Train your senses to decompose objectively your wine perceptions. For example,

  • Learn the differences between toasted oak and vanilla, using aroma standards.

  • First use them pure, then diluted in water, and finally diluted in wine.

  • Taste a series of wines that have been aged in oak barrels and try to identify these two aromas, especially try to find examples of wines that has either one or the other attribute, but not both.

It’s not an easy training and it needs constant refreshers. Sensory panelists need to be reminded as soon as we notice a drift in their performances.

The secret is to keep trusting your senses and stop tasting with your mind as if you had to be “right”.
Good luck!

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