Palate Calibration Exercise 2017 Results

The Palate Calibration Exercise (PCE) is a mass tasting of the same wine by visitors to This is the fourth time we’ve run the experiment since 2002. Each participant buys exactly the same wine, tastes it, and feeds back their comments plus a score out of 20. The end result is a taste sketch that each participant can use to ‘calibrate’ their palate against others.

The wine

A very high priority is placed on choosing a wine that is widely available and reasonably priced so that the broadest range of people can take part. In this case, the Côtes-du-Rhône 2013 from Guigal was selected. In total 50 people tracked down a bottle to join in, and five more could source only the 2012 vintage, so I have included their results as a ‘mini-PCE’ on that vintage. Beneath are some summarised statistics from the 50 participants, though you can also go straight to the tasting notes from all participants (there’s another link to the tasting notes at the bottom of this page).

The scores

In total, 50 people bought the 2013 vintage of the wine and took part. The scores awarded for the wine ranged from 3/20 to 18/20. The graph below shows the distribution of points: how many people awarded a particular score to the wine. Note that to show the pattern of distribution more easily, one person who used a half point in their score has had their score rounded down:

PCE results

The clustering of scores from 13 to 15 (these three scores accounted for 60% of all participants) is similar to our previous PCE in 2007, but overall the scores cover a much wider range: for the Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon in 2007 scores ranged from 11 to 18, whereas here scores ranged from 3 to 18 – six participants, or 12% of all participants, scored lower than anyone did in 2007.  On the other hand, looking at high scores of 15 and above, this wine did considerably better than the Errazuriz in 2007, with 36.0% of all participants scoring in that range, as opposed to 28.6% in 2007. Interestingly, had the scores of the five people who tasted the 2012 vintage of the Guigal been included its percentage would rise to 40% of all participants, as the 2012 did rather well with an average score of 15.2.

Average score

Lowest score given 3
Highest score given 18
Average score 13.46

Despite the different scoring pattern, the average score of 13.46 is not too far removed from the average score for the 2007 PCE of 13.78.


Average score males 13.23
Average score females 14.08
Average overall score 13.46

Both the lowest and highest scores of the entire PCE (3 and 18) were awarded by males, whereas the scores of female participants spanned 11 to 17. Overall, the 12 women preferred this wine to the 38 men who took part.


Average score UK participants 13.22
Average score overseas participants 14.86
Average overall score 13.46

The sample was small with only seven overseas visitors participating, but interestingly they scored the wine considerably higher than their UK counterparts, with no score below 13. This is the reverse of the 2007 PCE which tasted the Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon, where the overseas participants where a full two points lower on average than UK tasters.

Other scores and ratings

Tasters were asked whether they would buy the wine again, whether it represented good, average or poor value for money, and – if they had it with food – whether the wine improved or not. The data returned is:

Yes/Good Average No/Poor
Would you buy again? 19 31
Was it value for money? 13 26 11
Did it improve with food? * 27 14

In the 2007 PCE only six people said they would buy the wine again, so in that respect this wine has performed much better than the similar average scores between this and the previous PCE would suggest. Whether or not the wine improved with food was a comment field rather than a yes/no, so I have interpreted the data as best I can. Nine people either didn’t taste it with food or didn’t comment. Again the positive vote for ‘better with food’ is much higher than in 2007, when only 12 people thought the wine improved with food.

Commonly occuring key words

descriptive: black fruit (36 tasters); pepper (16); herbs (12); spice (11); cherry (10); plum (9); raspberry (8); liquorice (7); strawberry (6); bramble (5); leather (5); earth (3); pine (3).
positive: balanced (10); good value (5); good food wine (4); serious (3); smooth (3).
negative: astringent (10); over acidic (8); over alcoholic (8); dumb/flat (7); short finish (5); green (4)

Some final thoughts

This turned out to be a decent choice of wine for this exercise, with 50 out of 55 participants managing to find the correct vintage, though pricing was widely varied which changes perceptions and makes the value judgement difficult. It seems clear that the 2013 is not as good a vintage for this wine as the 2012: though only five people submitted notes on the 2012, one scored it 12, but the other scores ranged from 15 to 17 with an average score that was two points higher than the 2013.

Of course there are many factors which mean this experiment was fun and interesting, but would not claim to be rigorously scientific. The bottle is closed with a natural cork, the wines were purchased from different sources, so their history and storage conditions would vary, and people were not asked to drink at a specific temperature or from a specific glass. In other words, 50 people tasted the same wine, but there could have been significant variation in the wine, not just the perception of the tasters.

This was still a truly fascinating experiment and I would like to thank everyone who bought the wine and took part.  Do feel free to add comments in the comments section below, or on the UK Wine Forum.

Go to all 55 tasting notes from the PCE 2007.



    1. Glad you enjoyed it Matthieu and thanks for joining in: securing the correct vintage is always a problem in different markets around the world, but glad it was still fun!

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