What kind of wine drinker are you? Do you lean towards sophisticated reds, or are you more prone to enjoy a fresh white? Wine aficionados might tell you that it depends on the food they’re pairing with, and we can appreciate that. But, everyone has a favorite flavor. You might think that the way you interpret flavor has everything to do with the evolution of your individual palate. The greater variety of foods and wines that you’ve been exposed to in a lifetime says something about the depth of your palate and intricacy of your tastes. But have you ever considered that it might have something to do with your personality? We go around calling gentle people ‘sweet’ or prickly people ‘bitter.’ Is that just a fun way to express personality within language, or is there something more to it?
Studies would suggest that there’s actually way more to it. In fact, the link to personality and taste goes beyond just individual palate growth and has its reach in evolution as a whole. It goes back to what taste meant to humanity during prehistoric times. If something was bitter, it was most likely poisonous. The bitter taste would obviously serve as a warning sign against eating it. Today, not every bitter thing we taste is going to kill us, which means we relate to ‘bitter’ in a different way. Some people, like those who love black coffee or a glass of Nebbiolo, prefer that bitter taste. Some studies suggest this shows signs of psychopathy, alluding to the idea that eating something bitter is playing with fire from an evolutionary perspective. And speaking of fire, a love for spicy foods shows a tendency to take risks. Meanwhile, those who have a sweet tooth might be more childlike because back in the day, a sweet tooth protected vulnerable children from poison. We don’t believe it’s that black and white, but there could be some validity to the idea. We’re not suggesting that you’re Hannibal Lecter if you enjoy a bitter glass of wine. When it comes to wine, experience is also a factor in how a person interprets the taste. But for the sake of the argument, here’s an evolutionary take on why you enjoy the types of wines you enjoy:
- Spicy (Like American Merlot): You enjoy risk and a slight amount of pain. The journey and experience of tasting the wine is just as much a part of the taste as the spice.
- Sweet (Like Kabinett Riesling): Sweet people are more inclined to like sweeter foods. It shows the registration of positive and safe reward and an affinity for the agreeable.
- Bitter (Like Barolo): You’re a seasoned wine drinker who leans towards antisocial tendencies or at least has a lot going on upstairs that you might not be vocal about.
- Smoked (Like Syrah): Enjoying a smoked flavor might indicate a sense of pragmatism. Historically, smoking food was a way to kill bacteria.
- Floral (Like Viognier): There’s sort of a poetic familiarity to flowers that people of all types can enjoy, but to actually want to ingest it suggests a closeness to nature.
- Acidic (Like Sauvignon Blanc): Tolerance and enjoyment of sour-tasting things suggest an open-mindedness. It’s believed that those who have a strong aversion to things that are sour are picky, closed-off, and very skeptical.
- Citrus (like Italian Pinot Grigio): Citrus is calming with tons of health benefits. To enjoy citrus suggests a preventative nature towards anxiety.
- Creamy (Like oaked Chardonnay): A creamy taste in wine often makes people feel like they are enjoying something decadent. It shows a lover for the finer, more satisfying things in life.
- Nutty (Like Sauternes): A semi-sweet nutty flavor introduces themes of enjoying sweetness and fullness. It indicates a person who is kind and giving while remaining practical and self-sufficient.
As aforementioned, this is not definitive. And, this is especially true for wine drinkers. As you develop your own palate, try new wines, and become aware of how the aroma of the wine is interacting with your experience, you may begin to conceptualize the taste differently. What is bitter might mean something different to you, thus making it enjoyable in a unique way.