New research from Michigan State University shows that a person’s wine preferences may actually stem from their “vinotype.”

Mike Pomranz
November 08, 2017

Though many foodies and oenophiles alike love to talk about wine pairings, actually executing pairings successfully can be trickier than experts make it sound. At the heart of the problem is that though certain flavors of wine and food make sense together, preconceived pairings don’t take into account the person you’re pairing for. Maybe one diner loves big bold reds despite heeding the doctor’s advice to eat less red meat; maybe another is celebrating a new job and only wants to drink bubbly and eat filet mignon. Whatever the reason, traditional wine pairings likely wouldn’t work for these fictional people – and new research from Michigan State University says that’s okay: Pair food with their personality instead.

For the new study, published in the International Journal of Wine Business Research, MSU hospitality scholars examined a theory proposed by Master of Wine and chef Tim Hanni that wine preferences are actually determined by a person’s “vinotype.” Hanni outlines four different vinotypes, each of which is personality-driven and correlates to different wine preferences, which he suggests are influenced by both genetics and environment and can change over time.

To test the vinotype theory, researchers looked at “novice wine consumers” – aka college students – surveying them on their food and beverage preferences as well as having a group rate the food and wine selection presented at 12 different stations in a controlled lab setting. As Hanni suggested, researchers were able to predict what wine people would prefer based on this information – ostensibly better than they would by simply sticking to traditional pairings.

“The palate rules – not someone else’s idea of which wine we should drink with our food,” said Carl Borchgrevink, the study’s lead author. “They shouldn’t try to intimidate you into buying a certain wine. Instead, they should be asking you what you like.” Alan Sherwin, a culinary expert who was also involved with the study, agreed. “At the end of the day it’s going to be the consumer that has the final say,” he said. “They’re going to be the arbiter.”

This study is actually the first to academically dive into the idea of “vinotypes” – and only looked at college students, a notoriously unrefined group of wine drinkers – so plenty of work is left to be done. But if you’ve been searching for some research to throw in your wine snob friend’s face when you order a red wine with fish, well, consider this your starting point.

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