Blind Taste Research Confirms Consumer Preference For Cork

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Results Based on a Study in the International Journal of Hospitality Management

"This research project proved statistically true as participants rated wines that they were told came from bottles with natural cork as superior when in reality both wines used in the experiment were dispensed from wine kegs."

A recent study published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management found that wine drinkers in a blind taste test rated the same wine 10 - 13 percent higher for appearance, taste, aroma, and overall quality, when they were led to believe by visual cues that the wine was closed with a natural cork as opposed to a screw cap or a synthetic cork. The 310 participants did not know they were actually tasting the exact same wine. The aim of the study was to investigate the association between wine bottle closure type and consumer perceptions of intrinsic wine attributes.

"This research project proved statistically true as participants rated wines that they were told came from bottles with natural cork as superior when in reality both wines used in the experiment were dispensed from wine kegs," says Dr. Dennis Reynolds, Dean of the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management and author of the study.

The study concluded that restaurants, bars, wineries, and cellars can “better please customers” by serving wines with natural corks instead of screw caps or synthetic corks closures because “closure type can influence perceptions of taste, bouquet, appearance, and overall quality.” Moreover, the researchers suggest that wine manufacturers should “resist shifting to alternatives to natural corks.”

“It’s no coincidence that 70 percent of all wine stoppers are made of cork, including the overwhelming majority of the world's best wines,” says João Rui Ferreira, President of The Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR). “The study’s findings are in line with what we’ve been seeing for many years. This natural, sustainable, and recyclable product is not just superior in terms of its environmental aspects and its ability to preserve wine and aid in its development, but superior in terms of consumer perception as well.”

Participants were given a written survey which asked questions related to experience with wine, consumption habits and wine preferences. The tasting included two wines that were disguised as four wines. The wines used in the study were Bordeaux blends.

The survey results mirrored the results of a blind taste test conducted in 2017 by Oxford University Professor of Experimental Psychology Dr. Charles Spence, in which participants rated the same wine after hearing the sound of a bottle being opened - either the twist of a screw cap or the pop of a cork. In that study, the perception that the wine was closed with a cork led participants to rate the wine 8 percent to 15 percent higher. While the Oxford study was funded by the Portuguese Cork Association, the current study was independent of any connection to the cork industry.

This 2018 study was co-authored by Dennis Reynolds of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston, USA, Imran Rahman and Shaniel Bernard of the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Hospitality Management at Auburn University, USA, and Amy Holbrook of The Boeing Company, USA.

For more information about APCOR, visit http://www.apcor.pt/en/ and http://www.100percentcork.org. You can follow APCOR on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For further questions about APCOR or the study, please contact Krisna Bharvani of Colangelo & Partners.

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Krisna Bharvani
Colangelo & Partners
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