Consumer wine preference is an oft-studied topic, as understanding wine preference is paramount in determining how to market and sell any given wine.  It can also help wine marketers not only observe what consumers like, but also how these preferences can change over time and between different segments.

Often, wine preference is determined via the hedonistic scale, or how much a consumer says they like a particular style of wine. However, research in food and other industries have found that the role of emotions may provide an extra level of understanding in regard to consumer preferences and that this type of analysis may be very useful in wine as well. For example, studies have found many associations between certain flavor types and emotions in various foodstuffs: in dark chocolate, studies have linked “powerful” and “energetic” with cocoa flavor; and in beer, studies have linked herbal flavors with “sadness” and citrus flavors with “disappointment.

According to the authors of a new study, available online in late December 2017 and to be published in print in June 2018 in the journal Food Quality and Preference, there have been no studies linking specific wine sensory characteristics with emotional responses, nor is there a dedicated lexicon for such relationships in wine products like there are with food (i.e. the EsSense Profile). In this new study, the researchers aimed to analyze the associations between sensory characteristics of wine and elicited emotional responses of consumers, further subcategorized by gender and age.

Brief Methods

This study had two parts:  a sensory evaluation of the wines by a trained panel (11 total: 5 women, 6 men; faculty and researchers from the School of Agricultural, Food and Biosystems Engineering at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in Spain), and a consumer evaluation of the wines with an additional emotional response analysis.

6 commercially-available wines were used in the study: 2 whites, 1 rosé, and 3 reds.

For the sensory evaluation by the trained panel, each wine was scored for various aromatic and sensory attributes using an unstructured 15-cm line scale that had labels “low” and “high” on the ends (with variation throughout the line that could be translated to a specific intensity level of any given attribute).  Wines were presented in random order.

For the consumer evaluation, participants were first asked to complete questionnaires on demographics and wine consumption habits. Next, they participated in a “warm-up” or “practice” tasting session with 7 wines presented [blind] at the same time.  Finally, after the warm-up, they were presented with the sample of 6 test wines briefly mentioned above.

After tasting the wines (which were presented in random order), participants were asked to rate their liking of each wine (using a 9-point hedonic scale), and what emotions were elicited by each wine (using the EsSense 25 software). Emotions were rated using a 10-cm line scale with the labels “very low” and “very high” at the ends (and everything in between).

Participants were recruited from the School of Agricultural, Food and Biosystems Engineering at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and were required to consume wine at least once per month. A total of 208 people participated in the study (48.5% male, 51.5% female).  Participants were categorized by three age groups (for studying potential age effects): young adults (18-35 years old; 44.9% of the total); middle-aged adults (36-55 years old; 29.3% of the total); and older adults (55 years old and older; 25.9% of the total) …

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