The most frequent logical error you must avoid when tasting wine

Logical error occurs when your mind associates two or more sensory perceptions together. Like "only red wines express red fruits aromas."

Published May 6, 2021

For the last lesson of the course curriculum, the students and I chose to practice aroma descriptions on two sparkling wines, one vintage, and one non-vintage. This session was the apotheosis of their 8-week at-home practice; thus, describing a chilled sparkling wine was a challenge they could take on with confidence. 


As we were sharing our respective perceptions, Steve started to laugh and told us. 

"I've learned I can't be wrong, right Isabelle? There is this faint lingering after-taste that reminds me of strawberry jam. Is it real?"

Some samples chosen by a student
Some samples chosen by a student

Why not? 


Because you learned at your wine school that you can ONLY perceive red fruits in red wines, that's logical, right? Red wine with red fruits and dark flowers, white wine with white/yellow fruits and flowers.

Hmm… is it so? 

A logical error

It is so logical that it becomes a bias, and sensory scientists call it a logical error.

The logical error occurs when your mind associates two or more sensory perceptions together... because it's logical. 


"You can ONLY perceive red fruits in red wines."

Other logical errors

Lemon aroma and acid taste: 

I read or hear this mental association a lot in the world of wine. People may not say acid but will say crisp or lively. That's true; lemons and citrus, in general, have an acid taste. But a wine with a lemony aroma doesn't have to be acid. And wine with a lively acidity doesn't always smell like lemon.

Grapefruit aroma and bitter taste: 

I read a wine described as having a grapefruit aroma and a "bitter sensation on the palate." Aroma compounds responsible for lemon or grapefruit aromas don't impart a taste like sugar (sweet) or tartaric acid (acid) do. They are not detected by your taste buds but by your nose and its olfactory receptors. Again this is a logical error. Grapefruits are bitter. Therefore a grapefruit aroma is bitter, nonsense.

Tea aroma and tannic, astringent perception:

I read about this association recently in a wine review. The writer described the wine as with robust tannins and also with a black tea aroma. Guess what? Black tea is astringent, and "robust tannins" means very astringent. 

These associations are cognitive, based on independent facts. Thus, it seems logical to match them together.

The most frequent logical error: Wine color + aroma

Many wine tasters use the wine color as a cue to describe wine aromas and tastes. With practice, they build a mental framework of what they should perceive and what they should not perceive, based on the wine color. 

Remember the infamous study of Gil Morrot? 

He tainted a white wine with a tasteless/odorless red coloring. Then he asked wine experts to describe it and the same white wine without color. Experts didn't know about the trick played on them. 

Results? The wine experts described the white wine with white wine aromas and the red-white wine with red wine aromas. Logical!

The experts should have described the two wines similarly because they were the same, except for the color. But their mental association of "red color=red wine characteristics" overwrote their actual sensory perceptions. And it was the framework experts learned at wine school.

Red berry aromas are primary aromas, originated from the grape varieties used to make the wine. Beta-ionone is the compound responsible for the raspberry aroma and also violet. Strawberry aroma compounds are esters produced by yeasts during must fermentation. 

Those "red aromas" might be dominant in red wines, but they are not exclusive to red wines. 

How can you avoid making logical errors? 

It would be best if you revised what you've learned at the wine school.

Follow these 3 principles.

  1. Adopt rigorous and consistent testing procedures. Taste blind and remove any visual cues that may lead your mind to tell you what you should smell or taste. 
  2. If you can't evaluate blind, at least have an open mind and be conscious of these logical errors. Acknowledge that they exist, and they can trick your senses unconsciously. 
  3. Train your senses, especially your nose, to identify aromas in wine. Students enrolled in my course practice at-home aroma identification using references, diluted in wine. Smelling a typical red wine aroma presented in a white wine standard can help overrule the logic of red color=red wine aromas. It is one way you can practice at home too.

I believe the more you know about wine and winemaking, the more you are susceptible to logical error.

Going back to Steve's strawberry jam experience

Steve was tasting a non-vintage sparkling wine made of a blend of white and red grapes. Pinot Noir is the red grape variety used in the Methode Champenoise process. It has a red skin grape with white flesh. 

Winemakers only use the white juice without allowing contact with the red skin to make the wine. Raspberry, dark berries and violet aroma are typical of Pinot Noir and could be perceived in sparkling white wines. 

Note that the Sparkling wine aroma wheel includes a Berry category with the specific terms of Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, and Black currant.

And the Comite Champagne in France also displays red fruit aromas in their Champagne aroma menu.

Champagne Aroma from Pinot Noir grapes

So, yes, Steve. I believe you; it was real. 

And it became more real to us when you shared these vivid details of your experience. Yes, we could almost taste the strawberry jam spread on a muffin served at Denny's restaurants. 

That was how accurate you were! It is an excellent example of your progress since taking the course. It demanded commitment and dedicated practice. But it paid off!

Your turn

Now that you learned about logical errors,

Is there one logical error that you should be aware of when you taste wine? 

Let me know in the comment section below.

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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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