jamie goode's wine blog: PROP tasting and the 'supertaster' hypothesis questioned

Thursday, January 15, 2009

PROP tasting and the 'supertaster' hypothesis questioned

Some of you will be familiar with the PROP/supertaster story, which I've written about a fair bit in the past. It's the intriguing observation that people can be split into three groups by their ability to taste a bitter compound called propylthiouracil (PROP), and that this separation is genetic in its origin. The idea goes that we live in rather different taste worlds, and that while this result is specific to PROP and bitter tasting chemicals such as quinine, it also affects taste intensity more generally. Thus there are non-tasters, supertasters (or hypertasters) and then the group in the middle.

I've tried to apply all this psychophysical work to wine - in fact, this was a theme in the first ever feature I wrote for Harpers, when I was starting out as a paid wine writer in 2002.

But new research is calling into question the general significance of PROP taster status. It may be that this is more accurately seen as a specific aguesia (inability to taste). You can read the abstract of a recent study here.



At 10:39 AM, Blogger peter.sidebotham said...


Thanks for posting this - really fascinating (if rather impenetrably written). It makes a lot of sense to me that there would be genetically determined "gaps" in our ability to taste - that could be evolutionarily beneficial !

A great example if the confusion about the "green/chemical" taint in 2004 red Burgundies. There are many good tasters who just don't understand what the fuss is all about - they just don't "get it".

At 12:30 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

That's a good point, Peter.


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