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How Your Brain Is Cheating You Out Of Wine You Might Love

At BOXT, we do things a little differently. We make our wines based on taste profiles and if you’ve ever been to one of our tastings, you know we don’t give away which BOXT profile we like best.

We do that because every time you have an experience, your brain gets to work making decisions about how you feel about that experience. It files that data away and pulls it out later when you have a similar experience – it’s a shortcut our brains take to help us get through life without having to re-decide everything over and over again. It’s a great thing our brains do – we’d be hard pressed to function without it – but that experience bias hinders our ability to take in a new experience with all of our senses. 

With wine, and BOXT especially, it is all about the experience  – the color, the sound of the wine hitting the inside of your glass and swirling around as you pour, the aroma, the taste, sharing it with others. When we go to taste a new wine, if we know what varietal it is, or that someone we trust likes or doesn’t like it, our brains will cut us off from letting all of our senses chime on on what we really think about the experience.

Most Wines Are Blends

Most wines we drink have a blend of grapes, even if the label says sauvignon blanc or merlot or cabernet. In the US, winemakers must use at least 75% of a single varietal to label a wine by that type of grape. The other 25% is up to the winemaker, which leaves them a lot of room to craft a distinct taste to their wines by adding more or less of this or that varietal – even 1% or 2% can make a huge difference in the final product. That’s partly why one label’s varietal can taste so different from another’s.

Terrior – soil, weather, climate, growing region – also has a huge impact on each year’s crop of grapes. Every year a varietal will taste different, even from the same vineyard, because of variations in weather, soil conditions, water, heat – all the things that make up the grapevine’s environment – and varietals from different areas will taste significantly different from one another. So to say we like chardonnay is like saying we love all sports cars. But a 2022 Tesla Roadster is a very different animal than a 1958 Corvette, and it’s the same with wine. Just because you didn’t like a particular chardonnay or even several chardonnays, doesn’t mean you don’t like chardonnay at all, ever. But your brain will take over if you hear that varietal mentioned and tell the rest of your senses you don’t like it. 

Just take the infamous vodka blind taste tests. If you haven’t heard about these, they’re fantastic examples of our brain’s proclivity for experience and influence bias. There have probably been dozens over the years, but we like the one from New York in 2005 as reported by ABC News

Which Vodka Was Number One

Participants gathered in Blue Fin Bar in Times Square to blindly taste Ketel One, Belvedere, Hangar One, Stoli Elit, Grey Goose and Smirnoff. Grey Goose was the favorite of four of the six participants with Ketel One and Belvedere favorites of the other two. 

According to ABC, “Most of the testers thought they would be able to recognize their favorite brands. After a half hour of sniffing and sipping, five of the six testers agreed on one thing: They all hated vodka No. 1.” 

Which was vodka No. 1? You guessed it, Grey Goose. 

And this is what we mean when we say what your brain thinks you like takes over what you really like. That’s why when we host a tasting, we don’t immediately offer up what our own favorite profiles are, and it’s why our profiles are numbered, not named, and not labeled by varietal. 

Because if your brain already thinks you like or don’t like chardonnay or pinot noir or zinfandel, or malbec, we don’t want you predisposed, we don’t want to mess with the good thing that is a wine tasting. We want to let your senses take over and enjoy the real-life experience of our wine. 

We are out to change the way we all enjoy a glass at home and the perception of what good wine is – how it’s packaged and how it’s delivered. We want people to be free to like what they like, without pressure from trends, labels, the people they drink with – or themselves. 

Permission to like what you like. That’s what we’re about. Be proud of it and decide on it with all of your senses, not just your brain.

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