Our family traditions and the culture we grew up in build the foundation for our food and beverage preferences. What about wine?
I understood how our cultural heritage defined people's love for wine when I moved to the US 20+ years ago. I arrived in a new world of wine where no wines tasted as they tasted back home.
Over time, I learned to appreciate the bolder flavors of Californian wines; however, I always find some comfort when I go back to the cool-climate wine types that I learned to understand early on my wine education journey.
Wine is loved across continents, and our cultural heritage should define what people like or don't like in a wine style.
Is this true?
H. Rodrigues and W. Parr summarized the current knowledge on cultural influence in a publication entitled: "Contribution of cross-cultural studies to understanding wine appreciation: A review."
The two researchers looked for scientific articles tagged with the keywords "wine and culture." They organized their review into four categories based on the article focus:
Our cultural heritage can define how sensitive we are to particular flavors, regions of origin, price, how we consume wine, and on what occasions.
The big question the review tries to answer is: to what degree does our culture influence our perceptions about wine, how we interpret our wine experience, our wine language, or the representation of good and bad wine?
Let's understand more about the cultural influence on wine appreciation, especially on our appreciation of wine qualities.
It is natural to think that we will like more the wines we taste most often.
As I shared in a previous article, our wine preferences developed from our different exposures and experiences with particular wine styles. I grew up on cool-climate flavor profiles, which have been my go-to wines.
To my surprise, Rodrigues and Parr found no consistent findings to support the role of wine familiarity or availability on our appreciation of wines.
Several studies showed that the appreciation of wine quality differed more by our level of expertise than by our cultural influence.
The authors reported a study comparing French and Spanish tasters in terms of their descriptive language.
The study showed that trained wine tasters tended to describe wine aromas in similar ways; however, their description of sourness and wine balance differed, suggesting a possible cultural influence in describing in-mouth perceptions.
The authors report several studies comparing wine appreciation in western and eastern cultures.
For example, they found that:
The two scientists concluded that cross-cultural research on food and wine appreciation is still in its infancy. However, several studies in their review showed the importance of our previous experiences in how we understand and appreciate wine. Several results showed that developing our wine knowledge and expertise tends to diminish the possible cultural influence on our wine appreciation.
The findings shared in this article reinforce the importance of practicing and tasting different wine styles. The more you become knowledgeable, the less your culture will influence your evaluation.
That may be why I finally identified several qualities in Californian wines that I truly enjoyed.
Heber Rodrigues, Wendy V. Parr. Contribution of cross-cultural studies to understanding wine appreciation: A review. Food Research International, 115, 2019, 251-258, ISSN 0963-9969, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2018.09.008