What Science Says About How Men And Women Taste Wines Differently

Gender equality is a basic and vital human right, per the UN Global Compact. But equality isn't identicality, with men and women being different — on average — in myriad ways. For example, more men (63%) report drinking alcohol than women (57%), according to a 2021 Gallup study.

Even bigger gender differences arise with regard to the types of alcohol men and women enjoy drinking. That same Gallup study revealed nearly half of all U.S. women prefer wine over beer and liquor. Conversely, only a fraction of men — 15% — prefer wine. Nor was this dramatic difference a fluke specific to 2021; according to Wine Industry Advocate, that 15% figure for men was consistent with the results of the previous year's study. 

The conclusion to be drawn, it would seem, would be that men are just not that into wine. But is that really true? Or is there something else perhaps at play? According to Daily Mail, a 2017 survey of 1500 British men and women revealed 91% of men enjoy a glass of vino; it's just that they'd prefer doing so in the comfort of their own homes. In other words, at least for this particular demographic, it would appear that drinking wine in public is the sticky issue. 

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, speculated these results reflect cultural pressures, notes Daily Mail. But science suggests another possibility — and it has to do with actual differences in how men and women respond to the wines they taste.

Some men may let their emotions get in the way of their wine enjoyment

In 2018, scientists from Madrid set out to determine how gender impacts wine preferences. For their resulting study, published in the Journal of Food Quality and Preference, they assembled 208 wine consumers, giving them six different wines to sample, all of them deemed distinct from one another. The consumers were made up of men and women of varying ages. 

What the researchers found was that upon tasting the various wines, the men tended to report "higher scores on significant emotions" than the women did. The women, by contrast, were more focused on the differences among the wines. The researchers further found that the women were not only better able to discriminate between one wine and another, but also better at identifying those differences linguistically. In other words, it would appear that while men may register a more significant emotional response to wine, women may be more equipped to express those differences using colorful, emotive language. 

Or to put it another way, women, overall, may simply be more proficient wine tasters than men, notes The Drinks Business. And since wine tasting can leave even the most confident among us feeling flummoxed, per Wine Spectator, perhaps men would just as soon do their tasting outside of the public gaze. Psst ... here's what to do when you don't know which wine to order.