Corks Make Wine Taste Better, According to the Results of This Experiment
Almost exactly two months ago we reported on an experiment that was intended to test if the sound of a cork pop makes wine taste better. Called "The Grand Cork Experiment," this research definitely needs to be presented with a disclaimer: It was funded by the Portuguese Cork Association. That said, it was led by Charles Spence, an Oxford University-based professor who has an impressive resume of food and beverage research under his belt including delving into topics like how listening to pop music can change the flavor of food and how packaging can trick your taste buds. Still, the cork industry was unlikely to fund a study if they didn't have an inkling it would turn out in their favor and, indeed, the results of "The Grand Cork Experiment" have finally revealed that, yes, corks make a wine experience better.
In the experiment, participants were given a couple different tasks. First, they were asked to rate two wines, one after hearing the sound of a cork popping and the other after hearing the sound of a screwcap being opened. Then, they were again asked to rate wines after opening one with a corkscrew and the other simply by twisting off the cap.
In both cases, the wines were identical. According to The Drinks Business, overall, drinkers rated otherwise identical wines as being 15 percent better when being associated with a cork as compared to a screw cap. Wines with a cork were also rated as being 20 percent more appropriate for a celebration and 16 percent more likely to incite a celebratory mood.
"Our senses are intrinsically linked—what we hear, see and feel has a huge effect on what we taste," Spence was quoted as saying. "The sound and sight of a cork being popped sets our expectations before the wine has even touched our lips, and these expectations then anchor our subsequent tasting experience…. These results emphasize the importance of closures for wine and the clear association between cork and quality in our subconscious."
Of course, though there's certainly something fun about popping a cork, the inherent flaw in this argument is that, if the distinction is all in "our subconscious," then the cork isn't actually doing anything beneficial at all; it's just a sound-producing safety blanket. But hey, don't worry about that: Just play the sound of a cork popping and you'll instantly feel more celebratory.