I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research, your relationship might actually change your taste in wine. It seems that when we’re in relationships, our taste and smell preferences evolve over time — and the longer couples are together, the more similar their likes and dislikes become.
The study itself, which was published in Jan. 1, 2018 edition of the journal Appetite, actually looked at the wide range of tastes and smells that exist in the world,rather than focusing specifically on wine; Wine Spectator, however, surmised that the results might have some interesting implications when it comes to the kinds of wines people in long-term relationships like to drink. Indeed, previous research discovered that couples who drink alcohol together are generally happier in their relationships than those in which one person drinks, but the other doesn’t — so, a logical next to question to ask is this: If couples who drink together, stay together (or something), what effect might your partnership have on the kinds of things you drink together?
For the current study (which you can read for free online if click through), the researchers recruited 100 heterosexual couples who had been together for a minimum of three months and a maximum of 45 years. Their relationship satisfaction was evaluated using a nine-item version of the Marriage and Relationships Questionnaire (MRQ), which asks participants to answer questions like, “Are you proud of your [partner]?” and “Do you enjoy doing things together?” via a five-point scale. Higher scores indicate greater satisfaction with the relationship.
Then, the main experiments were implemented: First, participants were asked to smell a wide range of scents for about five seconds before rating each scent on a five-point Likert scale (a score of one meant, “I like it alot,” while a score of five meant, “I don’t like it at all). They weren’t told what they were smelling; nor were they asked to describe the scents beyond rating how much they liked or didn’t like them. Scents included options such as rose, peach, white chocolate, cedar, leather, onion, and coconut. For a second task, participants tasted each of the five kinds of tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami — via spray bottles, rating each one according to how much they liked it on the same five-point Likert scale they used to rate the smells. Between each taste, the participants rinsed out their mouths with water; they were also permitted to take breaks if needed.
The researchers found that, although relationship satisfaction didn’t seem to have a significant bearing on smell and taste preferences, couples in long-term relationships tended to have similar preferred tastes and smells. The researchers theorize that this might be at least in part due to the fact that, when you live with someone else, as many people in long-term relationships do, you’re usually eating and drinking the same things (because, y’know, you share a fridge) — which might also account for the fact that relationship satisfaction seemed to be unrelated. Interesting, no?
So: What does this have to do with wine? Well, consider the fact that drinking wine isn’t just about drinking wine — it’s about the whole experience: Swirling it in your glass, watching the legs crawl down the sides of the glass, smelling its bouquet, and then tasting — really tasting — it, paying careful attention to how it evolves from the moment it hits your tongue all the way through the full drink.
As Wine Folly’s guide to properly tasting wine notes, there’s a whole mélange of smells and tastes you experience while you’re drinking a good wine. When it comes to scent, you’ve got the primary aromas, which come from the grapes out of which the wine is made; the secondary aromas, which come from the actual practices and techniques used to make the wine; and the tertiary aromas, which come from the aging process. Then, you’ve got the various tastes a wine might have, the dominant notes of which vary depending on a whole variety of factors.
The research found that long-term couples’ preferences when it comes to both scent and taste are often very similar — and since drinking wine is such a scent- and taste-heavy sensory experience, it stands to reason that long-term couples might also prefer the same wines. And honestly, that’s actually been my own experience. Anecdotally, I was never much of a red wine drinker in my early adulthood — but now, it’s pretty much the only kind of wine I drink. My husband, meanwhile, is also exclusively a red drinker when it comes to wine. We’re both fond of full-bodied reds with berry-esque notes. Coincidence? Maybe not, according to this study.
Of course, the study does have one glaring issue: It only examined heterosexual relationships. I do not understand why research about relationships still focuses solely on heterosexual pairing. According to Gallup data from 2016, 10.052 million people identify as LGBTQ in the United States alone, to say nothing of the figure worldwide; as such, studies about relationships and the habits we develop within them will never be truly representative of the population for as long as they limit their data pool to just one orientation. It’s truly baffling.
As such, I’d be really, really interested to see some follow-ups to this piece of research: Does the same phenomenon occur with non-heterosexual relationships? What about roommate situations? Or families? There’s so much here that just hasn’t been explored yet, and so much more to uncover. Our knowledge is far from complete, but at least we know more about what we don’t know right now.
Who knew a glass of wine could reveal so much?