How sensory taste profiling stops short of individual recommendation accuracy

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My Club W selections. Right-click photo to view a larger image.

I continually shop for new wines like an average consumer.

I do this to get put of the “wine bubble” that keeps reality at an arm’s length for so many wine geeks, fans, enthusiasts, spectators, aficionados, and members of the trade.

I keep doing this hoping to find an easy, low-friction and — most importantly — accurate way to find wine I will like.

But after 40+ years of drinking wine, studying it, writing about it, judging major competitions and even owning an importer/wholesaler/distributor in Los Angeles, that goal remains elusive.

Wine is not alone in this.

Books, music, movies and other “products of taste” suffer from the same inherent issues. I’ve written extensively about this over at Recommendation Insights.

Club W got me into the right ballpark (sort of)

The taste questionnaire used by Club W, however, seemed like it might have made some progress.

Club W begins with a series of questions linked to how how you like your coffee, fruit juice and other taste preferences. Indeed, its method is very, very closely linked to the techniques pioneered by Tim Hanni and incorporated in his Wine Personalization Engine.

Here are the Club W questions with my responses:

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Here are Club W’s top recommendations based on my responses

In general, SauvBlanc is way far down my list and way too much Merlot these days is insipd. I like Zinfandel, but that — and the other two preedictable wines — are far from being “adventurous.”

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But these “also rans” below, had were in my ballpark

Garnacha (Grenache), Carignane and Monastrell (Mourvedre) are among my favorite varietals. So, I signed up for the club and ordered those three — at $13 /bottle — all squarely in my ballpark.

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Quelle bummer!!!!

In much the same awkward way I described in My $100 Wine Lesson: Sometimes Rogue Wine Calibration Bites You In The … Palate that these are probably very nice wines … for someone else.

I found these three wines watery, lacking varietal character, and unbalanced by being over acid and tannic. But this is a style that someone else will like.

Correct varietal (ballpark), wrong style (team)

So, Club W’s test identified some of my favorite varietals. But every varietal has many styles and it stumbled over that.

As with my experience in My $100 Wine Lesson I found all three consistent in this paste perception.

Meaning that I got calibrated to the wrong wine buyer again. It’s important to recognize that this disconnect is most likely to the way my palate works, not that these are horrible wines.

Kudos Club W! (But….)

Kudos to Club W for putting all of these wines in my ballpark. But I wouldn’t buy another ticket to see these particular teams play.