When Taste Trumps Data

I recall a conversation with Eric Fry, winemaker at The Lenz Winery on Long Island. Eric was talking about science and winemaking. He asked, “If the data indicates there is something off with the wine, but the taste is good, will you do anything to the wine?” He then contrasted with, “If the data indicates that the wine is fine, but the taste is off, will you do anything to the wine?” Eric relies on his palate to make decisions. In his case taste trumps data.

Winemaker DJ Leffin at Vint Hill Craft Winery had a similar reaction to adding tartaric acid to our barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon. Although data from Virginia Tech indicated that the acid level was too high, deciding how much acid to add was based on taste rather then data. We added one gram of tartaric acid at a time to a liter of the wine and noted the taste. It was decided to add three grams per liter of tartaric acid. However DJ explained that he would add two grams, then taste again before adding the third gram.

With the first two batches of wine I made from wine kits I relied entirely on the directions that came with the kit. I didn’t make any other decisions. Currently I am thinking of getting some mother to turn my first wine kit wine into vinegar. The second wine I made from a kit was a sweet dessert Riesling. The sugar really helps to mask faults, so I’ll let that be. With gaining experience at Vint Hill Craft Winery and Tin Lizzie Wineworks, I feel more comfortable in collecting data. However, I too like to taste the wine and perhaps rely on the taste.

What do you think? Does taste trump data?

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