Log In / Join Now

Your Love Life May Affect Your Taste in Wine

A recent study shows that long-term couples share similar smell and taste preferences
If you're worried that you and your lover can't agree on natural wines … just wait.
Photo by: iStock
If you're worried that you and your lover can't agree on natural wines … just wait.

Lexi Williams
Posted: February 13, 2018

It's not uncommon for a wine lover's tastes to change. Discoveries of new regions and changing trends can explain why the wines that you once preferred may be totally different from the ones you enjoy today—plus, as you age, so do your taste buds. Now, just in time for Valentine's Day, a recent study offers yet another explanation for why you might like the wines that you do: your significant other.

In the study, published last month in the behavioral science journal Appetite, researchers from Poland's University of Wrocław and Germany's TU Dresden tested the scent and flavor preferences of 100 heterosexual couples whose relationships ranged in duration from three months to 45 years. They found that the longer a couple had been together, the more similar their preferences were.

Each participant was asked to smell 38 scent samples, which included fragrances such as eucalyptus, butanol, grapefruit, smoked meat and caramel. Researchers also dissolved samples of each of the five basic tastes—sweet (10 grams d-saccharose), sour (5g citric acid), salty (7.5 g NaCl), bitter (0.05 g quinine hydrochloride), and umami (10g Na-glutamate)—into spray bottles, and sprayed the solutions onto each participant's tongue. The participants were asked to rate each scent and flavor sample from 1 ("I like it a lot.") to 5 ("I don't like it at all.").

"Although numerous studies showed that romantic partners tend to become more similar in various characteristics over time, none have explored a shift in chemosensory perception related to relationship duration," the study's text states. "Here, we show that both taste and smell preferences are more similar in couples with longer relationship duration."

The study looked not only at how preferences might be affected by a relationship's longevity, but also at how it could be influenced by how happy the couple was. Away from their partner's prying eyes, each participant also completed a nine-question survey about their happiness in their relationship. Interestingly, happy couples did not have more similar preferences compared to those who were less satisfied, though higher relationship satisfaction did have a slightly negative correlation to similar smell preferences.

It makes sense that the more years—and meals and bottles of wine—a couple has shared together, the more likely it is that the partners will adapt to each other's preferences. Even in an unhappy relationship—especially if the couple lives together—partners are likely still smelling and eating the same things out of habit, necessity or convenience.

The study also suggests there could be a biological explanation for why higher relationship satisfaction might relate to conflicting scent preferences. Referencing previous studies, the researchers write that preferences for similar odors may indicate a lower level of genetic compatibility, which may, in turn, lead to lower relationship satisfaction.

Clearly, there's still a lot of research to be done in order to fully understand why couples' tastes align, but for now, why not use it as another great reason to spend time with your loved one over your favorite bottle of wine?

Want to learn more about how wine can be part of a healthy lifestyle? Sign up for Wine Spectator's free Wine & Healthy Living e-mail newsletter and get the latest health news, feel-good recipes, wellness tips and more delivered straight to your inbox every other week!

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 365,000+ ratings.