A New Zealand researcher has put paid to claims that wine tastes different throughout the lunar cycle, saying the controversial philosophy is no more valid than a range of other reasons why people think wine changes its taste on various days.
Dr Wendy Parr from Lincoln University and colleagues from France and Australia investigated the notion than wine tastes different on days determined by the moon, using 19 New Zealand wine professionals who blind-tasted 12 Pinot noir wines.
The tastings were undertaken at times determined as being favourable (fruit) and unfavourable (root) within the biodynamic calendar for wine drinkers, a guide first published around 50 years ago in German but now available in English and as a phone app.
The calendar provides days when the moon’s rhythms suggest that a wine will taste its best. These ‘days’ are temporal intervals categorised according to star constellations and the movement of the moon in terms of ascending and descending cycles, Parr says. There are four – fruit, flower, leaf and root.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that some professionals in the wine industry, in particular wine producers and retail outlet and wine distribution company staff, appear to accept that the moon may exert some sort of influence over how a beverage tastes on a particular day, despite the lack of scientific evidence,” she says.
The controversial philosophy has steadily increased in influence within the international wine industry. “For example, a wine may be perceived as tasting different across two successive tastings of the same wine, or ‘not showing well’ on a particular day,” Parr says.
The blind-tasters rated each wine four times – twice on a ‘fruit’ day and twice on a ‘root’ day, using 20 experimenter-provided descriptors. The wines were perceived as different in a variety of ways, but the specific day on which they were tasted did not affect how they were rated, Parr says. The testing was completed at the sensory facilities of the Marlborough Wine Research Centre in Blenheim.
Wine descriptors spanned a range of varietal-relevant aroma, taste and mouthfeel characteristics, and were selected with the aim of elucidating both quantitative and qualitative aspects of each wine’s perceived aromatic, taste and structural aspects including overall wine quality and liking. A post-experimental questionnaire was completed by each taster.
Of the 12 Pinot noir wines, eight were from the 2012 vintage and four from the 2013 vintage; all were from conventional, organic or biodynamic producers; all were sealed with screw-cap closure and sourced directly from producers; four came from Marlborough, three from Central Otago, two each from Martinborough and Nelson, and one from Canterbury; priced between $30 and $50.
Differences were observed for green notes, bitterness, astringency, sweetness, tannins, oak integration, harmony of components, overall structure and expressiveness. Parr says researchers thought that Pinot noir wines would be reported as tasting different on days determined by the biodynamic calendar – wines would be deemed to be more aromatic, fruity, concentrated and flavoursome on ‘fruit’ days and less balanced, more aggressive in terms of tannin influences, green or leafy characteristics, over-oaking and faulty on ‘root’ days.
However, there are no published, soundly empirical data to support the notion, even though wine industry media suggest that some wine industry professionals accept that the moon may exert some sort of influence over how a beverage tastes on a particular day.
“For example, in the United Kingdom, several major supermarkets and wine retail outlets such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer have been reported as organising their wine tasting sessions around ‘good’ days and ‘bad’ days as dictated by the lunar calendar,” the study says.
Parr says there are many reasons that could underlie such perceived differences, including wine composition factors, weather and atmospheric pressure and human perception factors, including memory and mood of the taster. The findings highlight the importance of testing experimentally practices that are based on anecdotal evidence, Parr says. The study does not investigate or “debunk” biodynamic agriculture, but merely tests the central tenet of the published wine drinkers’ calendar.