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How to Determine What Makes Your Wine Region Unique

wine route

Based on requests from clients, there is a growing interest to understand what makes a micro wine region unique from a sensory perspective. The main reasons cited were

  • Educating consumers and buyers on what they can expect from the region
  • Directing the winemaking practices that are best suited to the potential of the grapes

The goal of the exercise will drive the sensory evaluation approach. In the often repeated words of our Managing Director – Dr Leanie Louw:

The result of a sensory test is only as good as the panel that you use and the questions that you ask.

With this in mind we strongly caution against trying to glean this information from an informal benchtop tasting resulting in inconsistent tasting notes and biased discussions. There are much more powerful and effective tools available that doesn’t break the bank and the costs of which can easily be split among participating wineries.

With a well thought out experiment design, sensory best practices and a suitable tasting panel one can generate reliable outcomes with the necessary gravitas that will answer the question asked.

Some notes on panel choices

The decision of which panel to use depends on the desired outcome. The two options available are trained sensory panels and wine professional panels. Here’s how we used the two panels to profile micro wine routes.

Trained sensory panel for wine marketing purposes

In one case where the information was specifically going to be used to educate consumers, we decided to go with a trained sensory panel. The reason for this was that a non-industry professional trained panel typically uses a lexicon that are more easily understood by untrained consumers. Furthermore, because the trained panellists use descriptors in exactly the same way, it was easier to identify those individual descriptors that are more commonly used to describe wines from the region.

Wine professional panel for strategic winemaking decisions

In another case that had a more strategic objective, we used a panel of winemakers and wine professionals to evaluate the wines according to a very specific sensory evaluation methodology that expressly allows for the fact that wine experts don’t always have agreement on how wine descriptors are used. Using this approach we could communicate the factors behind the uniqueness of the region using terms that are more conceptual and encompassing than what a trained panellist would typically use, for example “integration.” These help winemakers to make strategic decisions based on concepts that they are very familiar with.

Contact us for assistance in profiling your wine region