Psychology of tasting

You probably know color influences your appreciation of a wine.

Studies show exact same wine colored with neutral food coloring so it appears to be white, rosé, and red evokes evaluations that track with how we think white, rosé, and red wine should taste.

The “rosé” is scored as more fruity and less complex; the “red” scores for complexity and dark fruit. Wine experts do better than non-experts, but experts too are influenced by the color even when the taste is identical.

Why stop with wine color? How about weight? How about room color?

Studies show consumers think wine from heavier bottles is higher in quality; at the same time they believe wine consumed from lighter, thin-lipped stemware tastes better.

Weight psychology doesn’t only apply to wine. A study in the peer-reviewed journal “Flavor” showed people perceived yogurt eaten with a lightweight spoon was of higher quality and more expensive than the exact same yogurt eaten with a heavy spoon.

The color of the room makes a difference. German researchers found tasters preferred riesling more when ambient lighting is blue or red, less when lighting is white or green.

To keep it complex, in blue or green lighting, subjects said riesling was spicier. In blue or red lighting, they said riesling was less fruity. Testers speculate room color affects emotions, which affects how we perceive wine.

Wine tasting for notes in this column are done in room lit by white halogen; stemware is middle-priced Riedel. If your perception of the wine differs markedly from mine, now you know the reason.

Tasting notes:

• Fetzer Zinfandel 2009. Smooth, everyday easy-drinker; dark berries, spice, everything nice; bright; pleasing tannins; excellent value pour. $7

• The Original Darkhorse Chardonnay 2011. Wow value chard; fresh apple, pear, toasty oak, caramel, spice; smooth, rich, long; significantly over-delivers for price. $8

• Reata Pinot Noir 2011. Deliciously smooth silky easy drinker; cherry, raspberry, spice, earth; gentle tannins, lush, balanced; decanting brings out full character, depth. $30

Last round: Some people like to pair a bottle of wine with food. I like to pair a bottle of wine with another bottle of wine.