Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

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Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Jul 04, 2006 4:38 pm

Professor Michael O’Mahoney, a professor of food science at Davis, organized a test for attendees at the Master of Wines seminar recently. The taster puts a strip of paper soaked in a key compound identified as a taster marker to see if they are hypo-tasters, normal tasters or hyper-tasters according to whether it tasted of nothing, slightly bitter or unbearably bitter.

One purpose of taking the test would be to show me how unreliable our sensory perceptions are -- there's no doubt from my own experience that people vary greatly in the way they taste wine and I suppose other foods as well. I would hope that I was a normal taster -- that might give a bit more validity to my tasting notes for other people.

But, it occurs to me that it would be useful to know what type of taster the authors of tasting notes are when reading their notes. It might help explain some of the extraordinary differences I've found when actually tasting a wine recommended to me by someone else.

Jancis Robinson took the test and wrote on the Purple Pages:

I had never done this test but hoped I was, like most of the population, a normal taster as this would be most useful professionally. I discovered I am a hyper-taster (‘supertaster’ is a rather misleading alternative term) which may explain why I go for more subtle flavours than those who are, for instance, hypo-tasters who need lots of everything to make an impression.

Her conclusion: The main point of the session was to suggest that there are all sorts of populations of people who will perceive wine differently, thanks to our own sensitivities and preferences, and that the wine business is crazy to act as though one message, or even one sort of wine, suits all.

In any event, if anyone knows where I could get a kit to take the test I would be very grateful.

Regards, Bob
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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Robin Garr » Tue Jul 04, 2006 4:59 pm

Bob Ross wrote:In any event, if anyone knows where I could get a kit to take the test I would be very grateful.


Don't know, Bob, although if you find out, I wouldn't mind getting one too, just to find out.

That being said, I've always argued that the "super-taster" (or "hyper-taster") concept is profoundly flawed as an indicator for wine evaluation, because it measures taste, not smell, and I don't think there's any doubt that smell constitutes 90 percent of the wine-"tasting" experience. An individual with a gazillion taste buds isn't going to be a competent judge of wine if he or she can't smell.
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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Jul 04, 2006 5:06 pm

That's exactly my impression, Robin, although there's a large part of the tasting experience -- mid palate, back palate, finish, which doesn't seem to rely on aroma at all.

At least not for me, especially on the finish. I can continue to taste the wine in my mouth for a number of seconds -- I actually used to count them -- and smelling the wine in the glass doesn't seem to change my impression of the finish at all.

Curious to know which category I'm in, and even more curious to see if the aroma/taste business is considered by the researchers. I have a vague memory of learning about some of these researches at a course at the Culinary Institute a few years back, and perhaps we discussed the issue then and came to the same conclusion we've reached today. :-)

I'll poke around in any event and let folks know about availability of the kits.
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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Victorwine » Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:13 pm

Hi Bob,
I think you will find the following web-site interesting

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2880471.stm

Happy 4th of July

Salute
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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:58 pm

Thanks so much for the link. I tried to count those one time, and found that there was quite a bit of variability depending exactly where I touched down.

I've got the numbers around here somewhere, but not sure where. (I suppose I've got the same tongue, though, and could duplicate the census.)

The beauty of this new test is that there are only three possible outcomes -- if I understand it correctly.

Happy Fourth. regards, Bob
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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Victorwine » Wed Jul 05, 2006 12:17 am

Dr Marian Baldy (of UC Davis) performed this test at a AWS seminar a few years back.
I bet a lot of wine tasters are going to be walking around with blue tip tongues!

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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Dan Smothergill » Wed Jul 05, 2006 6:08 am

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2880471.stm


Linda Bartoshuck is recognized as among the best, so I wouldn't doubt the research. The important question for us though, in line with Robin's comments, is how these categories map onto some objective measure of wine perception. I don't know. Does anyone? It wouldn't surprise me if some folks with lots of little taste buds weren't very good wine perceivers. For one thing, there is a learning component to tasting wine apart from whatever the hardware you come equipped with. For another, sensitivity to smell, which often masquerades as, and has a compex relation to, "taste", probably has little to do with the Bartoshuck categories.
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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Wed Jul 05, 2006 10:18 am

I did this test with six or seven others in a tasting group a few years ago. I think we had one hypo-taster, two hyper-tasters, and had everyone else in the middle. My impression was that this could predict certain aspects of one's preferences in wine (mostly related to bitterness perception) but that it was only one of many factors. For instance, acid balance was something we all had different ideas on that did not relate to one's classification in the paper strip test. For another example, although I was a hyper-taster, I am totally insensitive to TCA. You can open a bottle that will gag most people with its corkiness and I won't notice any off-aroma whatsoever.

I think the strip test is interesting and fun to do, but it relates to only one piece of a very big puzzle.

Mike

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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby wrcstl » Wed Jul 05, 2006 10:40 am

Bob Ross wrote:That's exactly my impression, Robin, although there's a large part of the tasting experience -- mid palate, back palate, finish, which doesn't seem to rely on aroma at all.


Bob,
Somewhat related to how good (probably a bad choice of words) a taster you are is what kind of taster you are. Over the July 4th holidays we went to three parties, mostly with the same group of wine geeks and opened an obscene amout of wine, approx 50 bottles. I am convinced that different people react differently to the same flavors. I am sensitive to green flavors and for that reason have given up on Loire CF. I have tried many of these wines both young and 10-15 years old and all I ever taste is green peppers. Others in the group love the stuff, just not my cup of tea. Also oak is a big problem with me, particularly with white wines. Had two white Burgs over the weekend that I could not drink due to the oak both on the nose and on the palatte but others thought they were good wines. On the other extreme I have a very high tolerance for TCA and only recognize the worst of the bottles. The point I am making is that along with being a regular of super taster is what do you taste and what tastes turn you off or for that matter turn you on.
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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Bob Ross » Wed Jul 05, 2006 11:13 am

This subject has led to a fascinating discussion on Jancis's Purple Pages. On the narrow point that Robin and I discussed, her position is consistent with ours:

Ross:

I've thought for some time that identifying the type taster one is flawed as an indicator for wine evaluation, because it measures taste, not smell. It seems to me one can be a wonderful taster, but have no ability to evaluate wine if they can't smell.

Did this subject come up at your conference?

me:

As I have pointed out, this PROP taste affects only the sense of taste, which is of course much more crude than the sense of smell. And certainly the sensorial scientists did not ignore the importance of smell. And no-one should think that his hyper-taster business is anything more than a ranking of how many tastebuds you happen to have – which is, as you point out, quite unrelated to the sense of smell. See below. I will try to find out from Tim Hanni where once can find these PROP strips.


After the full discussion dies down, I'll post a short summary of the key points -- one of the most interesting was that cultural differences make an enormous difference in how people taste wine.

Regards, Bob
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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Victorwine » Wed Jul 05, 2006 12:07 pm

I think it’s only fair to note that individuals with specific odor blindness can teach themselves to recognize that specific odor. According to Dr Marian Baldy (The University Wine Course), a study and investigation done at the Monell Chemical Senses Center an individual with specific odor blindness can develop a modest degree of sensitivity to that specific odor if they are exposed to it repeatedly and frequently.

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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:24 pm

Victorwine wrote:I think it’s only fair to note that individuals with specific odor blindness can teach themselves to recognize that specific odor. According to Dr Marian Baldy (The University Wine Course), a study and investigation done at the Monell Chemical Senses Center an individual with specific odor blindness can develop a modest degree of sensitivity to that specific odor if they are exposed to it repeatedly and frequently.

Salute


Interesting! I have a pure standard of TCA. I will see if I can train myself to at least begin to pick it up in wine.

Mike

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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby Bob Ross » Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:36 pm

I did that years ago, Mike. It was very easy for me to learn the aroma, and it's never left me. I urge any wine lover to smell TCA as a sample. Unfortunately, it will come in very handy.
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Re: Does anyone know how you can take the taste marker test?

Postby James Roscoe » Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:44 pm

Bob Ross wrote:I did that years ago, Mike. It was very easy for me to learn the aroma, and it's never left me. I urge any wine lover to smell TCA as a sample. Unfortunately, it will come in very handy.


Yech! I suppose you might be correct though.
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