Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Review: The One Minute Wine Master


I recently read The One Minute Wine Master by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Master of Wine.  The book aims to help all of us – beginners to professionals – quickly identify our wine preferences and find new wines we will like.  This is accomplished by an 11-question (1 minute) quiz about our food and drink preferences.

People differ in how many taste buds are physically present on their tongues.  This accounts (at least in part) for why some of us can tolerate spicier and/or more bitter flavors.  Supertasters/hypertasters have the most taste buds, are very sensitive to strong, spicy, or bitter flavors, and make up about 25% of the population.  Tasters are in the middle, making up about 50% of the population.  Non-tasters have the fewest taste buds, can tolerate the strongest, most bitter, most spicy flavors, and make up about 25% of the population. 

The quiz works by asking questions that reveal our tolerance for various characteristics in our food and drink.  If you like dark chocolate and black coffee, you can tolerate a good amount of bitterness.  If you love lemon on your fish, you like a lot of acid.   If you add sugar to your tea and prefer apple juice, you probably like things mild and sweet.  And so on… 

You used to be able to take this quiz online, but the link given in the book no longer works, so I’ve reproduced the quiz here:


The Quiz
Question
3 Points
2 Points
1 Point
0 Points
1. How do you take your coffee or tea?
Black (nothing added)
A little milk or cream
A lot of milk or cream
I don’t drink coffee or tea
2. How much sugar do you add to your coffee or tea?
None
A teaspoon
Two or more teaspoons
I don’t drink coffee or tea
3. What type of chocolate do you prefer?
Dark, bitter chocolate
Milk chocolate
White chocolate
I don’t eat or like chocolate
4. How often do you put lemon on your fish?
Never
Sometimes
Always
I don’t eat fish
5. What is your favorite juice?
Apple
Orange
Lemonade
I don’t drink juice
6. How spicy do you like your food?
Extremely hot
Medium
Mild
None
7. If you compare the body of a white wine to the body of heavy cream, whole milk, or skim milk, which would you prefer?
Heavy cream
Whole milk
Skim milk

8. If you compare the body of a red wine to the body of heavy cream, whole milk, or skim milk, which would you prefer?
Heavy cream
Whole milk
Skim milk

9. What type of perfume or cologne do you like?
Spicy/intense
Sweet/candied
Floral/fresh
I don’t like perfume or cologne
10. What type of gum do you prefer?
Spicy (cinnamon)
Bubble gum or fruity gum
Fresh (mint, violet, etc.)
I don’t chew gum
11. What is your favorite snack?
Something rich, like chocolate or a candy bar
Something savory, like chips or crackers
Something light, like a piece of fruit or carrot sticks
None of these

And I made a quick chart to show you the recommendations based on your quiz results.  (There's a nifty graphic in the book which I didn't try to reproduce.)

Results and Wine Recommendations (color coded by wine color)
SPRING 
(1-13 points)
SUMMER 
(14-19 points)
FALL 
(20-25 points)
WINTER 
(26-33 points)
Riesling
Soave
Primitivo / Zinfandel
Zinfandel
Sauvignon Blanc
Chenin Blanc / Steen
Garnacha / Grenache
Merlot
Pinot Grigio
Torrontes
Syrah / Shiraz
Touriga Nacional
Albarino / Alvarinho
Viognier
Pinotage
Aglianico
Gruner Veltliner
Dolcetto
Sangiovese
Amarone
Marsanne / Roussanne
Bonarda
Tempranillo
Petite Sirah
Anything Rosé
Monastrell / Mourvedre
Carmenere
Malbec
Beaujolais
Nero d’Avola
Pinot Gris
Nebbiolo
Barbera
Cabernet Franc
Gewurztraminer
Tannat
Pinot Noir
Merlot
Chardonnay
Cabernet Sauvignon


Does the quiz work?  This quiz was not very helpful for me personally, since I like most kinds of wine, so I asked some of my friends to take it.  Here are the non-scientific results of my survey.  I highlighted/grouped people based on their reactions to their results.

Responder
Quiz Result
Do you think the quiz works?
Person #1
Fall
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #2
Fall
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #3
Fall
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #4
Fall
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #5
Fall
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #6
Fall
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #7
Fall
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #8
Fall
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #9
Fall
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #10
Fall / Winter
“My quiz results made sense, based on wines I know I like.”
Person #11
Fall
“My quiz results DIDN’T make sense.  The quiz recommended wines I know I DON’T like.”
Person #12
Winter
“My quiz results DIDN’T make sense.  The quiz recommended wines I know I DON’T like.”
Person #13
Summer
“I don’t like wine.”
Person #14
Summer
“I don’t like wine.”
Person #15
Summer
“I don’t like wine.”



Here are some observations:
  • Most people came out as Fall.  I don’t know whether this is a coincidence or whether the quiz skews toward a Fall result.  Or maybe the majority of people really are Falls.  Perhaps Fall is the most likely place for average tasters (50% of the population) to land?
  • Most people found that the quiz worked for them (though a few didn’t).
  • All the people who don’t like wine came out as Summer.  Perhaps Summers are the least tolerate of typical wine characteristics?  

Overall, the quiz seems to work.  However, it’s based on the assumption that what people like for coffee/tea/chocolate/fish/etc. will be the same as what they like in wine, and I’m not sure that’s always the case.  For example, there are plenty of people who have “learned” to drink black coffee, but still want a sweet wine.  And I think a person’s tolerance for bitterness, acid, spice, etc., can vary from food to food and drink to drink.  For example, I love tomatoes and spice, but I’m not crazy about Bloody Marys because I don’t want those flavors in a cold beverage.

Also, most people I surveyed found the 2 questions about skim milk vs. cream to be confusing.  If you’ve had much wine training, you’ll be familiar with using this comparison to talk about light-bodied wines vs. full-bodied wines.  But most casual wine drinkers are unfamiliar with this idea.

I encourage you to take the quiz, and if your results seem promising, definitely buy the book.  It includes lots more information and full descriptions of each recommended wine.  For $11 it's a good value.  And please post your results and what you think of them in the comments.  I’d love to hear how you came out!


3 comments:

  1. Dear Joanna,
    Thanks posting about my book! I mention in the book specifically that the reason many people may end up as a "Fall" is because they may like Summer Whites & Winter Reds. It's a mathematical equation, like a Cosmo Quiz. I try to provide some wisdom and some connections to preferences, but it's difficult to dive deep into preferences in less than a minute :) It's not rocket science...although it sounds like you know about rocket science (which sounds so cool!).

    Best,
    Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan MW
    www.jennifersimonetti.com
    Twitter: @JediWineMaster

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    1. Oh my goodness, I just spent a full minute squealing and pointing at my computer monitor, which is to say, I’m so flattered you read my review and commented! I have your Great Courses DVD and I’ve learned a lot from it!

      Thanks for clearing up my question about the Fall results – that makes perfect sense. I must have read that part too fast.

      If you’re ever in the Houston area, I’d be happy to show you some rockets! :)

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