Behind the Wines: Sensory Symposium Consumer Research Results

A sold-out crowd attended the inaugural sensory symposium, sponsored by Okanagan College, and created by Terroir Consulting, Silk & Coupe and Sirocco Insights. This unique one-day event included three sessions where attendees listened to winemakers discuss hot topics in the wine industry while blind tasting their wine. Throughout the day, guests heard from nine different winemakers and sampled 13 different wines.

While debating and discussing, attendees also filled out some research questions about each wine to provide insights on their personal preference and aesthetic appraisal.

Sensory and consumer research can be a great tool to understand what consumers like or don’t like about a wine. More specifically, it can be a useful exercise to understand what segment of the population prefer a certain wine, and the sensory profile that is driving it. 

Analyzed by Terroir Consulting’s Darcen Esau, the results provided some interesting insights into how these wines were described and which segment of the population may be most likely to enjoy them. Below is a break-down of how attendees answered the research questions about all 13 wines featured at the event.  

Seminar 1: Women in Wine

2015 Dames White 

Mireille Sauve from Dames Wines sampled a white blend that is 80% Pinot Gris, 10% Riesling, and 10% Gewürztraminer. The wine is noted for its lively acidity and attendees picked up on this during the blind tasting by describing the wine as having fresh acidity and good finish. The most common flavour notes identified were minerality and grassy. The most likely people to enjoy this wine were females under the age of 35 years old as well as wine drinkers that are not as familiar with natural wines. 

2017 Liquidity Pinot Noir

Alison Moyes from Liquidity Wines brought her Pinot Noir that is aged for 10 months in 27% new French oak. The results from the research indicated the Sensory Symposium attracted some fine-tuned palates as the most common attributes to describe the wine were earthiness and red fruits, which is how Alison also describes the wine. Additionally, attendees thought it was well balanced, had good fruit, and a nice nose. While the wine was not featured in the Natural Wine seminar, it was most popular among wine drinkers that are familiar with drinking natural wine, a testament to the small lot fermentation and hand punched wine produced at Liquidity.

2015 Echo Bay Synoptic

Kelsey Rufiange from Echo Bay Vineyard featured her signature red blend made with estate grown Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carmenere, and Petit Verdot. Attendees frequently commented on the interesting oak flavours from this wine that is aged for 19 months in French oak. Additionally, respondents felt the wine exhibited good red fruit flavours and balanced acidity. This wine stood out during the day as one of the most preferred wines among people that indicate they drink wine every single day. 

2017 Le View Pin Syrah Cuvée Violette

Winemaker Severine Pinte from Le Vieux Pin Winery & LaStella Winery brought three wines to be sampled by guests and she discussed topics on all three seminar panels. Severine describes this wine as having red bramble fruits and the respondents agreed while adding black fruit and jammy notes in the wine, which had nice tannins and a strong finish. This wine was enjoyed by respondents and was one of the top-rated wines of the entire day across all segments.

Session II: Natural Wine

2017 Rigour & Whimsey Pinot Blanc

Costa Gavaris from Rigour and Whimsy brought this Pinot Blanc that uses whole berry, natural fermentation on the skins for 5 months in stainless steel. Respondents loved the tropical notes, apple aromas, and quality fruit. 

Else Wines Pet-nat

Kelsey Rufiange also brought her pet-nat that she creates under the Else Wines label. This zero-addition wine was loved for its amazing mousse, fruity nose, nice bubbles, and “funky” palate. This wine most likely to be enjoyed by females over the age of 35.

2018 Winemaker’s Cut Pinot Noir

Michal Mosny from Winemaker’s CUT brought two wines to be sampled and shared his insights on two different seminar panels. The Pinot Noir was used in the natural wine session and is skin fermented for 15 days in an open-top fermenter with gentle press, full malolactic fermentation. Respondents felt it had a nice floral nose with cherry flavours and a strong finish. This wine was most likely to be preferred by those over the age of 35 that self-identify as a wine expert.

2016 Corcelettes Merlot

Charlie Baessler from Corcelettes Estate Winery brought his Merlot that comes from self-rooted plants on three different blocks and is aged for 18 months in French oak vats. Respondents found this wine to exhibit good tannins and was well balanced. The most common flavours identified were cherry, spicy, and chocolate. This wine was the most preferred wine of the symposium among respondents that self-describe as a wine experts and among those that are familiar with natural wine. 

2017 Le View Pin Artakam Syrah

For the seminar on natural wine, Severine Pinte featured the Artakam Syrah. Respondents felt the wine exhibited good fruit, had a nice finish, and notes of blueberry and pepper. While this wine was rated highly by most respondents, it notably was the most preferred natural wine among people that were unfamiliar with natural wines. 

Session 3: Sustainability and Sensory Diversity in B.C.

2018 Winemaker’s Cut Sauvignon Blanc

The second wine from Michal Mosny was the Sauvignon Blanc that is cold soaked, gentle pressed, and allowed to spontaneously ferment in stainless steel. Respondents felt this wine had great acidity, was clean and crisp, with notes of both floral and citrus. Like the Pinot Noir, preference for this wine was driven by those in attendance that self-describe as wine experts. 

2016 Tightrope Pinot Noir

Graham O’Rourke from Tightrope Winery brought a Pinot Noir that is cold soaked for five days before it begins wild fermentation on the skins for 21 days. The wine is then aged in French oak for 10 months. Respondents thought this wine had good fruit and a long finish, with flavours of cherry, strawberry, and earthiness. This was the most preferred wine among those over the age of 35 years old and was one of the top wines among females in attendance. This wine was rated as being balanced between the two descriptors of oak and fruit.

2016 Hester Creek Merlot

Rob Summers from Hester Creek Estate Winery brought a merlot that uses ganimede fermenters for 8 to 12 days and then full malolactic fermentation. Both French and American oak are used for six to eight months. This wine stood out to respondents as having notable meaty and smoky flavours as well as good tannins. It was one of the most preferred wines among males and respondents that are not familiar with natural wine. The sensory profile of the Hester Creek Merlot was rated 76% oaky and 45% fruity by respondents on a sensory scale.

2016 LaStella Fortissimo

The third wine provided by Severine Pinte was the Fortissimo made under the LaStella label. This red blend is primarily Merlot, with some sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Respondents loved this wine as it was the most preferred wine of the symposium. With good fruit, nose, and finish, respondents identified cherry and black fruits that made this wine stand out. This wine was rated as being balanced between the two descriptors of oak and fruit.

Future Events

This unique and successful event was created by Laura Milnes of Silk & Coupe, Darcen Esau from Terroir Consulting, and Karine Lawrence from Sirocco Insights.

Given the positive response of the first Sensory Symposium in Penticiton, a second event is being planned for Vancouver in the Fall of 2019. You can follow the Sensory Symposium on Instagram and Facebook for updates as they are released!