Can the taste of a wine be affected by the weather?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Does the weather—or more specifically, atmospheric pressure—influence the taste of wine? Is humidity a factor? I've had wines that have tasted completely different when the weather changes.

—Reg H., Calgary, Canada

Dear Reg,

There does seem to be some anecdotal evidence that atmospheric pressure and even humidity can affect the perception of wine, but it's nearly impossible to pinpoint this effect. First off, we know that everyone's perception is unique, so while you and I might notice the difference, we can't "prove" it to someone who doesn't notice these differences. Secondly, even if we were able to do tests, how does one measure relative yumminess, especially to people with different personal preferences? And thirdly, when you start looking at wine perception at that level, you really also need to factor in an almost infinite amount of static that may or may not affect how a wine tastes: lighting, background noise, our diets, and good old-fashioned bottle variation.

That said, the consensus is that pressure affects your sinus cavities, and the sinus cavities are where we perceive wine (in that what we "taste" is mostly what we smell). Because of this, it's suggested that wines taste better with higher atmospheric pressures. Incidentally, it's also believed that the pressurized atmosphere of airplanes in flight also affects the way wines taste; that tannins and acids might seem harsher. This both affects the decision of wines to serve on airlines, and explains why I only like salted peanuts when I'm flying.

—Dr. Vinny

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