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Wine-Food Pairings: Done The Right Way At The Lenox Club

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Posted on 06 April 2019 by Elliott Morss, Morss Global Finance IntroductionGoldstein et al analyzed data from 6,000 blind tastings - a lot of blind tastings! I quote from their findings:"Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. ...we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less...."Lecocq and Visser analyzed the numbers from three data sets totaling 1,387 observations on French Bordeaux's and Burgundies. They report similar findings:"When non-experts blind-taste cheap and expensive wines they typically tend to prefer the cheaper ones."The Lenox Wine Club has done a number of tastings. They confirmed this earlier

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posted on 06 April 2019

by Elliott Morss, Morss Global Finance

Introduction

Goldstein et al analyzed data from 6,000 blind tastings - a lot of blind tastings! I quote from their findings:

"Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. ...we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less...."

Wine-Food Pairings: Done The Right Way At The Lenox Club

Lecocq and Visser analyzed the numbers from three data sets totaling 1,387 observations on French Bordeaux's and Burgundies. They report similar findings:

"When non-experts blind-taste cheap and expensive wines they typically tend to prefer the cheaper ones."

The Lenox Wine Club has done a number of tastings. They confirmed this earlier research. In fact, the results suggest the opposite. In 9 tastings since 2012, the Club rated a 3-liter box wine as the favorite six times, 2nd twice and 3rd once. The 3-liter boxes cost $16, equivalent to $4 per regular sized bottle (.75 liter). And these tastings included bottles costing as much as $85.

However, like all the "great" tastings, i.e., The Judgment of Paris, these tastings were done without food. And this, despite the fact that most wine is consumed with food. I am glad that wine and food parings have become quite popular. But how they are done troubles me: the wines paired with each course are chosen for you.

Question: Why not let those attending choose what wines they prefer with each course?

The Lenox Club Pairing, March 30, 2019

To remedy this problem, the Lenox Club held a pairing that presented four courses of Chinese food with four wines - Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. For the selection of the food, we were assisted by Karen Christensen, the owner of the Berkshire Publishing Group. Karen is an expert on Chinese food and this will be part of a project she is doing on wine and Chinese food.

To insure some consistency in the wines, the four wines served were all Bota Boxes. And unlike other wine-food pairings, the four wines were available at the outset so they could be tasted as each food course was served: Bok Choy, Flounder, Spicy Tofu and Spare Ribs.

Each taster was asked to fill in the following rating sheet.

Wine-Food Pairings: Done The Right Way At The Lenox Club

A total of 37 people were involved in the tasting and 32 returned scoring sheets of which 21 were complete. The results reported on below are from the 21 complete sheets.

What Was Learned

Table 1 provides the results of the tasting. When wines were consumed without food, the tasters preferred Cabernet Sauvignon with a 3.50 rating, followed by Pinot Noir (3.05), Chardonnay (2.95) and Riesling (2.45). Of course, these numbers are per se of little interest. They will change depending on the tasters. As an aside, Nielsen data indicate that in the US, the largest selling varietals are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, White Zinfandel, Malbec and Riesling, in that order. Riesling was chosen for our tasting because rumor has it that sweet wines go well with Chinese food.

Table 1. Overall Wine/Food Ratings

Wine-Food Pairings: Done The Right Way At The Lenox Club

Back to the question at hand: how do the foods affect these ratings? Table 2 provides the answer. It shows the percent change in each wine rating when consumed with each of the four foods.

  • For Bok Choy, Chardonnay enhanced the wine taste by the most, with Pinot Noir registering some improvement. Cabernet and Riesling did not taste as good.
  • For Flounder, the common wisdom is that white wine goes best with a white fish. The Chardonnay was the loser here with Riesling gaining the most.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon was the clear winner with tofu.
  • Spare ribs were interesting: one thinks a heavy red wine with a red meat. Not at our tasting. Our heavy red, the Cab, did not do well with the ribs.

Table 2. Change in Ratings When Wine Consumed With Food

Wine-Food Pairings: Done The Right Way At The Lenox Club

The "Hodgson" Spread

I said we tasted four wines but we had five glasses of wine to taste. What was up? Robert Hodgson is a West Coast vintner who was troubled by the different ratings his wines received from "judges." So he developed a method to rate potential judges. It involves including one or more glasses of the wines being judged to the tasting. And the spread on how the two glasses of the same wines were rated gives an indication of the taster's ability to distinguish between wines. We adopted a modified "Hodgson" test: a second glass of one of the wines being tasted. So at our tasting, two wines were the same: a Bota Box Pinot Noir. Giving them the same rating signifies an ability to distinguish between wines. Those rating them differently, not so much! As the table below shows, it appears we had six attendees with exceptional tasting abilities. We also had 16 tasters who rated them quite differently - a rating spread of two or more!

Wine-Food Pairings: Done The Right Way At The Lenox Club

Conclusions

Drinking wine while eating food changes tasters' wine preferences.

Our findings:

  • Relatively speaking, Chardonnay tastes better with Bok Choy while Cabernet Sauvignon's rating falls.
  • Flounder and Riesling do well together while Flounder detracts from the Chardonnay.
  • Spicy Tofu and Cabernet Sauvignon are a good match while Pinot Noir and Tofu are not.
  • And quite surprisingly, the Cab does not do well with Spare Ribs. In fact, Pinot Noir was the only wine to be enhanced by consuming it with ribs.

I would hasten to add that these outcomes are influenced by the recipes that were used for the four foods.

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Wine-Food Pairings: Done The Right Way At The Lenox Club

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