Putting the Budometer to the Test

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On March 4, Tim Hanni visited Washington to let us be the first to put his Budometer system to the test. Our panel, which we invited to gather at Phillips Seafood on the Washington waterfront, was made up of nine tasters divided into two groups: connoisseurs, two men and two women; and relative wine novices, two men and three women.*

Each taster filled out the Budometer survey, designed to assess what his or her preferences would be. The surveys were processed and each taster categorized as tolerant, sensitive, hypersensitive or sweet. Then, each tasted 11 wines selected by Hanni to see if the Budometer was accurate. The testers used a scaled-back version of the system that judges used at the Lodi International Wine Awards this week, sorting wines along a spectrum of "love," "like" and "don't like." (Lodi judges divide the wines between various levels of gold, silver, bronze and no medals. For results of this week's competition, visit http://www.lodiwineawards.com.)

Our panel proved that the Budometer worked, although as Hanni warned, it's geared for novices rather than experts. The connoisseurs generally followed the prescribed path but tended to reject wines that they "should" have liked based on quality. (For example, tolerant taster Tom Natan liked but didn't love an inexpensive Rodney Strong cabernet sauvignon.) The beginners hewed closely to expectation.

The tolerant tasters, as expected, favored the bigger, lusty wines: a Rosso di Montalcino, a malbec and an old-vine zinfandel.

The sensitive tasters preferred a range of medium-bodied, balanced wines.

The hypersensitive and sweet tasters preferred lighter, more delicate and sweeter wines including a Folie a Deux Menage a Trois, with its notes of sweet pears and citrus, and a Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, an aromatic, cool-climate wine with high acidity. (Karen McMullen, technically a tolerant taster, also preferred the Kim Crawford and a J. Vidal-Fleury Crozes-Hermitage from France that is medium bodied with hints of berry. But as a connoisseur with great experience, she let her emotional preferences prevail.)

*Connoisseurs panel: Adam Manson, co-owner, Veritas wine bar; Suzanne McGrath, owner, the Curious Grape; Karen McMullen, managing director, Washington Women and Wine; Tom Natan, partner, First Vine. Beginners panel: Tom Broughan, Alberto Cardalliaguet, Terry DelCasino, Chris Dragisic, Janice Iwama.

-- Jane Black

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