Some of you reading this might be lucky enough to have a girl who doesn’t like wearing panties; far fewer of you will know that the lack of those panties gives you a good indicator of what kind of wine she likes.

So says Tim Hanni, a Master of Wine (the wine world’s equivalent of a PhD). Hanni doesn’t drink, but he knows wine, and whatever he lacks in vino imbibing he more than makes up for in iconoclastic impact: for the last several years, Hanni has been slowly turning some of the wine world’s most staunchly embedded prejudices on their grapey little heads, conducting myth-busting research about how human beings actually taste.

In his new book Why You Like the Wines You Like, Hanni funnels years’ worth of that research into a new way to categorize wine drinkers based on their overall food and drink preferences (called Vinotypes) and helps explain scientifically why your pantyless girl digs on sweet Moscato (more on that in a minute) while you can’t get by with anything less than a high-octane Malbec.

We caught up with Hanni to talk about the undies/sweet wine linkup and other important implications from his research (full disclosure: Hanni gave this author a short but favorable mention in his new book): In Why You Like the Wines You Like, you say that how we’re wired genetically, such as the number of taste buds we have, combined with experiences all impacts how we taste food and wine. So, like those missing undies, one size doesn’t fit all, does it?

Tim Hanni: A “vinotype” of wine drinker is defined exactly like a phenotype. There is a genetic aspect of it that is physical, that is your hardware: what you are capable of sensing and at what intensity. For example, if you are colorblind, you are colorblind; if you are male you are male, etc. Your sensitivity is determined genetically and doesn’t change all that much. The thing that is malleable is the neurological part. So if you start hanging with the crowd that only drinks red wines, for example, then you may gravitate towards those wines. This accounts for our change of taste over time; it isn’t our palate changing or becoming more sophisticated, it is just a neurological rewiring.

Model: Amateur Woo Woo According to your Vinotypes, if your girl doesn’t like wearing underwear (because tags and seams bother her bottom), she is probably a very Sensitive taster and likes sweeter wines. Interestingly, this goes against the prevailing belief that a taste for sweeter wines is somehow “uncultured” versus liking big, bold, dry wines, doesn’t it?

Hanni: The funny thing is that with “wine people,” the more that we get neurologically rewired from tasting wine, our brains become scrambled about wine. And there is this idea that sweet is “bad,” even to the extent that we try to convince the people that like sweet wine that they’re wrong, so much so that they do not even consider themselves wine drinkers! The first step should be asking where that person would like to go with a wine choice, and if she seems hesitant or she defers that she doesn’t like most wines but does like sweet wines, then that probably means that she actually has the most taste buds. Okay, and that she doesn’t wear underwear; she is probably cutting tags out of her clothes. But don’t forget, a lot of guys are this way, too; about 30 percent of the people in that Vinotype category are guys. This research you cite in Why You Like the Wines You Like suggests that since people actually taste wine differently, not every wine critic is going to taste the same wine in the same way. Doesn’t that turn the conventional “ivory tower” style of wine criticism on its head?

Hanni: No, there are different systems and different Vinotypes, and it is really finding the Vinotype that matches your system. There are people out there that just want to pair wine with food, and they may get pissed off that I put it into this neurological framing instead of an artistic one, but that is what it really is—just an imaginary process in our brains. And there are people who love to do food and wine pairing; keep doing it, just don’t expect that if you are sitting over there having this thing going on in your head that anyone else is having it or should be having it. What it also means is that you should probably have different point systems or ratings for the various Vinotypes, like a different rating for somebody more sensitive, etc. Most “tolerant” Vinotypes, if they are truly genetically tolerant, tend to like big wines, tend to be be linear thinkers, and they have a way of looking at end results versus details of getting there. Their decision-making process is very linear and the 100-point system works great for them. Any practical advice for the folks who are reading this and probably thinking, “I’m one type of taster, but my girl is definitely the opposite?”

Hanni: It is interesting to see the resistance and where things come up. The centerpiece in a relationship where Vinotypes collide is usually the thermostat in the house; Hypersensitive people want it warmer and the Tolerant types want it colder. A tolerant person won’t go shopping for bedding with a hypersensitive person, because it will seem as though it’s taking forever for them to pick something they like. The volume of the TV is another one; there are all these places where these things show up in a relationship. You could probably build a greater intimacy in a relationship by understanding more about your partner and making sure that you are not assuming that because the wine got 93 points that they are going to love it, and accommodating them and making sure they like wine on their own terms.

About the Author:

Want to learn more about maximizing your wine pleasure? Visit Joe Roberts’ award-winning website, where you can find him regularly roasting wine’s sacred cow (and pairing it with robust, obscure red). Joe is a certified wine geek and has been called “an original” by media maven Gary Vaynerchuk, “provocative” by the Seattle Times and “a Robin Hood in the exclusive world of vineyards and corkings” by The Urban Grocer. His wine knowledge has been tapped by the L.A. Times, New York Times,, Mutineer Magazine, and Washington Post.