Why you like the wines you like


Why you like the wines you like, Is the title of a great book by a fellow named Tim Hanni, one of the first Americans to be awarded the title of Master of Wine by the acclaimed Institute of Masters of Wine based in London. [Tim, by the way, also has family who lives in northeast Ohio and when he visited a couple of years ago, spoke at our License to Steal Conference at the Lodge]. He is now teaching at Sonoma State and is credited with introducing the taste phenomenon of umami, the fifth palate component [in addition to sweet, sour, salty and bitter] to wine tasters lexicons.

The subtitle of the book is changing the way the world thinks about wine. And that is the intent of this publication: to make people comfortable with their personal wine preferences. For dozens of years, people SERIOUS about wine always insisted they drank DRY because that was what they were supposed to say.even if they personally may have truly preferred sweeter wines. Winemakers have long talked about their consumers propensity to talk DRY but drink SWEET. Sweet became synonymous with less than sophisticated. 

Hannis research, supported by that from several experts at Cornell University, has shown that there are ACTUAL physiological differences among people. Tim identifies four major vinotypes among those who drink wine. In the 250 page book, he states upfront that the descriptions of the vinotypes are grossly oversimplified, so for this column, they are truly superficial, but here goes: 

Sweet vinotypes are physiologically the most sensitive: they change the thermostat often [its too hot or too cold], they are irritated by tags in their clothes, seldom or never drink black coffee and use salt to blunt the bitterness in many foods. They like the sweetness in wine, in part because it mutes the taste of the alcohol. He also shares that it is likely their mother had morning sickness or heartburn during her pregnancy and that they have more than the average number of taste buds and nerve endings close to the surface of their skin. About 21% of women and 7% of men are sweet vinotypes. 

Hypersensitive vinotypes have excellent memories when it comes to taste, smells and light. When certain aromas are recollected from a prior situation, Hypersensitives will vividly recall even minute details of the place or event. They love fruity, fresh wines. Very high alcohol wines would be described as bitter and unpleasant and thus this group is drawn most to the off dry wines like Sauvignon blanc and low alcohol Rieslings vs. the much sweeter wines preferred by the sweet vinotypes. In reds, they prefer lighter and less tannic wines. They most often talk dry and drink sweet [in part because they think they must talk dry]. About 36% of men and 38% of women can be classified as hypersensitive.


Sensitive vinotypes are more middle of the road: sometimes they like black coffee, but also enjoy a frappuccino topped with whipped cream. Their palates are adventuresome and exploratory, but like to go along to get along. They enjoy a huge range of aromas and flavors. In their personal lives, they are often the ones who mediate family and business disputes. They easily approach and often appreciate tannins, oak, complex reds and dry varietals at the beginning of their journey toward ever increasing wine appreciation and then often move toward more robust and intense wines with lots of oak. Complex is a wine descriptor that usually fits their preferences. This group accounts for about 25% of the overall population.

Tolerant vinotypes like things bigger, stronger faster, louder [even the TV] which they define as better. They are linear thinkers, decisive and concerned with bottom line issues. To make a point, they even speak more loudly than many others. As sweet vinotypes drink sweet wines with everything, even steak, Tolerants like huge and intense wines, even with seafood. This group gravitates largely to big red wines. They do not reactive negatively to lots of oak bitterness and tannin. They likely drink scotch as the spirituous beverage of choiceand may even smoke a cigar or two occasionally. Sweet is an offensive wine component. About 32% of men and 16% of women are considered Tolerants.

The bottom line to all of this: much of your preferences in wine are determined by your personal chemistry . So Tims suggestion: drink what you like and enjoy it!.

A parenthetical note: the marketing genius behind the iconic Mondavi Winery was Harvey Posert. When Posert read Hannis research, he was both personally amazed and validated: all those years as he promoted the great Napa reds like Opus, he never enjoyed drinking them.but did not have the courage to say so aloud. However, once he learned that he was actually a Sweet vinotype, he smiled and shared a back cover quote on Why You Like the Wines You Like. It is a fascinating read. 

For additional information: dwinchell@ohiowines.org 

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About the author:

Donniella Winchell, Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association...


Donniella Winchell