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How your cultural heritage defines your love for wine

Our family traditions and the culture we grew up in build the foundation for our food and beverage preferences. What about wine?


Published January 29 2020, Revised August 3, 2022

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:

  1. intrinsic wine qualities, i.e., sensory qualities of the beverage
  2. extrinsic wine qualities, including the bottle label, price, and other information you could read on the bottle
  3. conceptual understanding of wine appreciation, considering factors like production method (organic, conventional), or how different consumer demographics differed in their wine understanding.
  4. emotional responses to wine, i.e., how certain wine qualities make people feel emotionally.


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.


Does cultural heritage define the perception 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.


Does cultural heritage define the impact of extrinsic wine qualities

The authors report several studies comparing wine appreciation in western and eastern cultures.

For example, they found that:

  • Australian consumers placed flavor/taste as their top reason to choose a wine, whereas Korean consumers placed health benefits first.
  • Chinese and American consumers tended to agree on the types of glassware appropriate for serving white or red wines.
  • Wine knowledge played a stronger influence than culture in evaluating wine quality from extrinsic characteristics when French and Spanish consumers chose wines.


Perspectives on how cultural heritage defines our wine appreciation

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.



Further reading

These five elements influenced your journey as a wine lover.

Reference:

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





Categories: Tasting education, Wine Language


Isabelle Lesschaeve

Principal, Blog author, and Wine Tasting Coach

Internationally renowned wine sensory scientist, Isabelle demystifies wine tasting and helps serious wine lovers sharpen their tasting skills and tasting notes in a supportive community.

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