Previously — On Probaway I wrote, How to taste wine, which explored how to move the food or beverage about in one’s mouth to extract the flavors and odors. It mentioned some temperature experiments with wine where the wine was adjusted to various temperatures from 40° F to 80° F to determine the best tasting temperature.

I did some blind taste-tests with some friends while on vacation last month, keeping all the bottles of wine in numbered brown paper bags and pouring small amounts of the various wines out into small glasses which were sitting in a pan of water. By controlling the temperature in the water I was able to control the temperature of the wine which was measured with an accurate photo developing thermometer. The various people’s verbal responses were quite varied but everyone basically agreed that wine at 40° F was cold and refreshing but if you drank it quickly didn’t have much flavor. At that temperature you couldn’t drink very much quickly without it being unpleasant from the cold sensation. Wine at 60° F was pleasant to drink but tasted better if it was allowed to warm up for several seconds before swallowing. Wine at 75° F could be downed quickly but unless you let it sit in the mouth for a few seconds the pleasure didn’t last very long. Warmer than that and it started to have unpleasant odors of excess alcohol. So … the starting point for drinking wine is to get it to 70° F sip some into the mouth and slosh it around there for several seconds and exhale and inhale through the front nose time or two while chomping the jaw before swallowing, all the while paying close attention to the mouth flavors and the nose bouquets.

See a further discussion of earlier wine and temperature tests at, Wine and Temperature – A live test on Cabernet Sauvignon, which were my solo tests of a commonly available Cabernet Sauvignon.

Charles Shaw's Cabernet Sauvignon hoisted into the California sky

Charles Shaw's Cabernet Sauvignon hoisted high into the California sky

In a reverie about those experiences I was trying to generalize how taste tests might be better performed for improving the perceptions a given product. The tests above were just attempting to find the best tasting temperature for a wine and so the strategy was to go first to too low a temperature and later to too high a temperature and choose the intermediate temperature which tasted best. That’s okay but the new thoughts are slightly more discriminating.

The idea and method is to explore the  peripheries of the eating domain — too cold, too hot, too concentrated, too dilute, too many bubbles, too few bubbles, too much color, too little color, too bitter, not bitter enough, too sweet, not sweet enough — etc.- etc. ad nauseum. And it is very important to keep notes on what was unpleasant about that extreme outlier from the normal consumption ideal because in qualitative perceptions it is impossible to remember judgements with an unbiased mind.

The intention is to clearly identify what is too much of a given quality is so an adjustment may be made later when nearer to the middle value. It isn’t until you can perceive and identify the cause of a particular unpleasantness or lack of perfection that you can consistently make changes which are improvements. If an intended  improvement is only a guess the change will probably not be much of an improvement and because there are so many variables to be considered a random change will probably be for the worse.

With the wines, for example, when they were too warm 80+° F they became raw and had an unpleasant alcohol generated overtone. When they were too cool 40-° they were pleasant but slid down without much to be remarked about, just a cool refreshing drink. Once the palate can discern the particulars of these sensations it become something to be avoided.

Using this avoidance of the negative technique can help to hone in on the approaching of the positive. When one gets too near the ideal positive it may be very difficult to discern what a greater positive is without having experienced and identified what is negative. There may be lessons for one’s personal life and behavior outside of eating in these observations.

Learn what to avoid by being able to identify the bad qualities.