Don’t be caught out by wine stimulus errors

My upcoming book Wine Sense describes what a wine stimulus error is and how to avoid them. A wine stimulus error occurs when conditions around us play a significant part in our assessing a wine’s taste and quality. This is especially true when our sense of sight is involved as it is so predominant over our gustatory senses of smell, taste, and feel. We are so confident in what we perceive through sight that it overrides what we experience through our other senses. Sometimes people selling wine intentionally create stimulus errors to entice us to purchase more or pay a higher price than we should. (This topic is discussed in detail in Wine Sense, Chapter 17: Buying and Storing Wine.) Typical visual stimulus errors you should be aware of and consciously avoid include:

  • Assessing wine sealed with cork as being better than wine sealed with screw cap
  • Assessing wine in a box being worse than wine in a bottle
  • Viewing a fancy or imported label as containing better wine than those with simple label
  • Being tricked to believe white wine with red wine dye tastes like red wine
  • Dark, aesthetic settings (cellar door tasting rooms) for tasting wine we are considering buying increases our perception of higher quality wine
  • Providing leniency and over-rating a wine when we are in the presence of the winemaker, other winery staff or so-called ‘experts’ who are proclaiming the wine excellent when it is not

Up until about five years ago, these last two points above have caused me to buy wine or overpay for wine which did not taste nearly as good when I opened a bottle under different circumstances a few months later. I had been deceived by the surrounding ambiance and ‘expertise’ of those with me. While conducting research for this book, I was surprised how much research I found on designing wine labels. This is an extremely large field of study and there appears to be more courses on wine label design than there are on wine making and vineyard management. The industry knows how important wine label design is on wine sales and they work hard at getting labels right. Some people cannot bring themselves to drinking a cleanskin wine (bottle of wine without a label affixed) even if they have confidence they know what wine is in the bottle. They have a preconceived notion that cleanskins are made from low quality grapes (otherwise, why would it be a cleanskin?). I know people who have dismissed extremely fine wines out of refusal to drink anything without a label affixed to it even when the provenance supports the wine in the bottle to be of high quality.

wine dude

Is the wine in the glass in the photo above any better because it is being served by some good looking dude in a fancy jacket in the vineyard? No, but you probably will taste it and think it is better than it really is! With more experience and practice, you develop more confidence and can avoid getting caught out by wine stimulus errors. Have confidence in what you are tasting, not what the label, the color of the wine or those around you are saying!


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2014.  Steve Shipley.  All rights reserved.
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Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub

Creating, retaining, and reliving wine memories

For me, drinking a great bottle of wine is like being at the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art and seeing an original painting.  It is an exquisite experience and even though I may never be able to experience it again, I want to retain and relive the memory.

That would seem quite easy to do in these times of social media with Instagram and Facebook.  We can take pictures of our drinking and eating experiences and immediately post them into a variety of public clouds to share with others and to retrieve whenever we want to.  But while those pictures provide great memories of the experiences we have had and the great friends and relationships we have, they do not focus on ‘the wine!’

I currently do four things currently to create and relive wine memories, and am about to add a fifth which I learned about from my good friend Dave who also has a place in the Hunter Valley.  The four I already do are:

Every time I look at an empty bottle, or a cork, I remember the experience and relive a bit of the wine drinking that went on that evening.  It also invokes memories of the friends and experiences we shared while drinking that wine.

The new thing I am going to do, is to create a wine map of the Hunter Valley and pin the wineries we have visited and plan to visit.  Dave has made one up, hanging in his hallway and we will be doing similar.  It’s a great idea.  Dave used a laminated map of the Hunter Valley, added some information regarding wineries and numbers to locate them, and pins with the coding for if they had visited them already or they were on the list to visit soon.  The back is cork board and he made the frame out of other wine corks cut in half.  This will provide more opportunity for me to use the good corks I have as my two Corkhaus boards will only hold about 110 corks and I certainly have more than that!

These activities are similar to keeping a photo album, but take a little more real estate, especially for the wine bottles.  However, it is not much of a difficulty and helps to reinforce and relive the great memories we have had. I am glad I do these things and recommend that some of them may enhance your wine drinking experiences and lifestyle.  I love having the constant reminders to prompt pleasant memories!

Pinterest for sharing the wine lifestyle

I have slowly been adapting to social media over the years, probably at a slower rate than I should have.  It started with LinkedIn and then Facebook some four or five years ago.  Then about six months ago, I started blogging and using Twitter.  And now I use Pinterest.

Pinterest is a ‘pin board’ or scrap book where you pin pictures into various albums.  My bride loves to pin great looking guys (even though I have not been able to find my picture there yet!), her cooking recipes and other things.  I have created two wine boards, one for ‘Wine Labels’ and the other for ‘Wine Humor.’  As I find new wine labels and humorous posts on wine, I save and then pin them in Pinterest.  (I also have a few other non-wine boards.)

I like the concept in that I can find a home and quickly add related items if they are a picture of some sort.  I have about 25 Wine Labels and about 40 Wine Humor pins so far and it grows every week.  And it is possible if you have a picture in a blog post or an article that you can actually pin the blog post by attaching it to the picture you are pinning.  Therefore, it can be used as another channel to introduce people to your blogging.  Each board and each picture can also be captioned.

Feel free to follow me on Pinterest if you like.  Or just check in every now and then to have a wine laugh or see what new labels I have added.  Many of the labels are of wines I have recently drank or have drunk previously and want to remember.  I also plan on starting a board on ‘Wine Decanters’ and ‘Other Wine Paraphernalia’ very soon, maybe as soon as this weekend.

I am less interested in building a following for Pinterest than I am for other aspects of social media I use, but it is fun and and an easy way to share new dimensions of the wine lifestyle.