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Does the pop of a cork affect our perception of wine quality?

‘The Grand Cork Experiment’ was launched last night in London to find out whether the pop of a cork really does affect our perception of wine quality.

Does the pop of a cork affect our perception of wine quality?

Employing ‘sensory architects’ Bompas & Parr, and funded by the The Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR), a space in Soho was transformed into a laboratory to test whether the pop of a cork had a more positive impact on the wine tasting experience than the click of a screwcap.

In a room lined with red felt, visitors were placed in a chair and given headphones, before being asked to rate four wines according to their quality, intensity and how much they invoked a feeling of celebration.

Importantly, the wines were served in pairs, and before each one was sampled, the taster was played either the sound of a cork popping, or a screwcap being twisted open.

With 300 people due to pass through the Soho-based cork experiment, it is hoped that collating the test results from each one of them will provide an indication as to whether the sound made by opening a wine sealed with cork makes a wine taste better, and your mood more celebratory.

Or, in the words of APCOR chairman, João Rui Ferreira, who was present at last night’s launch, “We hope to bring some science to the preference for wines sealed with cork from consumers all over the world.”

In a room lined with red felt, visitors were asked to rate four wines according to their quality, intensity and how much they invoked a feeling of celebration

Continuing, he told the drinks business that he wants to prove that the pop of a cork improves your drinking experience. “We think the sound of a cork popping makes you perceive that the wine is better,” he said.

Also in attendance last night was Carlos de Jesus from Amorim, which, as the world’s largest cork producer, was a further sponsor of the experiment.

Speaking to db at the event, he stressed the powerful and positive impact of cork on the wine drinker, not just due to the sound it makes when the stopper is removed from a bottle, but also because of “the haptic qualities of cork”.

He also highlighted the benefit of this for the wine industry.

“You see drinks companies spending millions to create something special at the time of consumption, but the wine industry has that embedded in the packaging, and we want to draw attention to the positive impact of wines sealed with cork,” he said.

Continuing, he urged db to consider “the cultural weight” that comes with the pop of a cork, which, he added, was a sound that “permeates western and eastern cultures”, while also being one that’s universally associated with “happiness”.

In short, he said, “That pop means a lot more than we give it credit for”.

He then commented, “We spend a lot of time discussing the negatives of cork, but not enough time discussing the positives, and unless we consider these too, we are not getting the full picture.”

The Grand Cork Experiment is influenced by research from experimental psychologist Professor Charles Spence, of Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory, which looks at how our senses of touch, sound and sight influence our experiences of food and drink.

Bompas & Parr has taken this research a step further at the temporary installation, by using state-of-the-art brain activity monitors to test how visitors’ senses are triggered by the rituals associated with wine drinking.

TheGrand Cork Experiment began last night, where 100 drinks professionals and press were said to take part in the research, which took place at 15 Bateman Street in Soho.

The experiment will continue throughout the weekend, and the London-based venue plans to see 200 pre-registered people pass through its doors.

The Grand Cork Experiment is part of a €7.8 million global project to promote cork by APCOR, with these funds being spent on a range of initiatives running from January this year until mid-2018.

As much as €1m has been committed to marketing cork in the UK because the country is “a big wine influencer”, according to APCOR’s Ferreira.

The UK has been granted the second largest promotional budget by the organisation after the US, where €2m is being spent on raising awareness of cork’s special properties – although APCOR is not planning to take The Grand Cork Experiment across the pond.

To see inside The Grand Cork Experiment, click here.

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