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Jan 14, 2008 01:37 PM

Costlier equals tastier?

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  1. Thanks, that confirms something that's long been observed, though it did seem weird that the wines were sipped through plastic straws.

    Here's one of Bob Johnson's famous wine world cartoons you might enjoy,
    from his blog,

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Great cartoons!

      I would be very interested to see how the experiment turns out with people who are in the field. What do they mean by "mild experts"? I am sure there is some element of truth to this. But I do think a lot of people drink wine very casually, and are more likely to be swayed by things like price. I include myself in this group, as I am definitely an amateur. But I would be hope that people who are more discerning, who think about wine and have studied wine would have a bit more expertise and be less influenced by price.

      1. re: moh

        Yes, you'd hope prices, labels, advertising, etc., would have no effect on perceptions. On the one hand, there was the famous Paris tasting of 1976:

        Blind tasting is good to deflate pretensions.

        On the other hand, there are wines and restaurants and automobiles and other things you spend money on whose high prices clearly do not relate to quality.

        1. re: moh

          Read an abstract of the article, not the original, and it clearly stated that the test was run on "college students, with no particular experience in wine... " (or very similar). The editorial writer, who put the piece together for the local daily, even noted that there could well be a different conclusion with wine folk.

          I'd like to see this done with good glassware, and with people, who have a bit more, than a casual interest in drinking wine.

          I am not saying that perceived cost (also could be stated as "value" here) would not play into it. I've cited Bob Johnson's cartoon on many occasions. Friends, who claim to NEVER look at ratings numbers, are very quick to point out every rating that their wine received.

          I've also had so very many folk tell of someone bringing a US$5 Cab to a tasting with "real winos," and it was the hands down winner, over 1er Cru Bdx. So far, none has been able to tell me the names of any of these, so I file it the "urban ledgends" bin.

          It might make for an interesting event at the next International Wine & Food Society tasting. I'd want to keep it double-blind, so even the person pouring did not know what was what. In similar, I've had US$50 wines show higher, than some very "heavy-hitters," but that is to be expected, based on personal tastes.

          As I recall the local article, there was a super cheap wine, with two very different prices noted, and then a ~US$60 bottle, with the correct price, and one much lower, plus a third wine out the five. Gotta' go and read the Bloomburg piece, as the local guy might have misrepresented it a bit.

          Side note: I'd not do the test "through straws." What, in the bloody-hell, does that tell one about any wine? OK, the brain waves went up, when the price tag was evident, but enjoying wine is about more than some neuro-science project, or, at least, it should be.

          Hunt, color me skeptical, at best

        2. re: Melanie Wong

          One of the few of Bob's cartoons that was actually based on a true story . . .

        3. "In a follow-up experiment eight weeks after the original study, patients were given the wines to taste without any suggested prices. Most chose the $5 wine as their favorite, Rangel said. "

          This is the part I don't understand, and what was that $5 wine :)

          1. "Costlier equals tastier." No. What the article says is that if one THINKS it's more expensive, it tastes better. There's a BIG difference in those two statements.

            4 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              Still would like to know the $5 wine that people preferred to the actual $60 wine they tasted.

              1. re: WyCo

                I understand that, but I will tell you that it [probably] doesn't matter. I can probably do it with any number of wines.

                1. re: zin1953

                  You could pick a $5 wine that a majority would prefer to a $50 wine? I assume they didn't pick nasty $50 wines on purpose and that the styles were similar.

                  1. re: WyCo

                    From the New World? Yes, pretty much. It might be $6; might be as much as $10 in some instances. It might be in the $40-50 range, maybe as much as $60. It depends upon the grape varieties involved. Pretty easy to get a low-end California Syrah or Chardonnay, for example, to mimic higher end ones; harder to do a Cabernet Sauvignon, and now that most high-end Pinots don't much resemble Pinot, that would be a difficult one, too. It may be a bit easier in Australia.

                    Old World? Much more difficult. It's hard, for example, to find a Bordeaux Superieur that mimics a Pomerol; it's hard to find a Crozes-Hermitage than can mimic a Côte-Rôtie. then again, a $5 Bordeaux or Crozes is pretty hard to find as it is. Thus, you're left with vins du pays or varietally labeled zip code wines and those would no doubt fail miserably.


            2. I think pretty much anyone 'in the biz' would agree that they see this all the time in real-life situations. But it often depends on how close the wines are in relative price/quality. $5 vs. $50 is easier to predict than $30-$50 for lots of reasons.

              We do tasting flights where we provide an information sheet with prices and we're often asked to withhold the prices so that people can make up their minds without that factor's influence. The more thoughtful consumer does understand the tendency to be 'directed' by the price.

              This story was on local TV news last night (in the LA area) and credited Cal Tech with the original study. My initial reaction was wonderment that they would take the time and spend the money to conclude something that would seem to be a given from Psychology 101. Does this conclusion really surprise anyone?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Midlife

                Maybe for the next tasting, you mix up the price/btl., and see if things are noticably different, than with prior events. I'll do similar, just to test this a bit more.

                Upon reading Bloomburg, it is based on the same data, that the local paper excerpted. I'm still not sure of the validity, regarding wine, of the method of the study.

                If this held 100%, the most expensive Port, that I have had, would have been the winner. It was not. Now, based on the press, and on my anticipation, it should have been, but just was not. The event of that particular tasting should even have had a big bonus factor, but that wine came in either #2, or maybe #3, and I wanted it to be #1, hands down.

                Yes, I have to admit that it takes more for me to embrace a US$12 Cab, than a US$60 one, but when I find one that hits all the "high notes," I am pleased to comment on it. When I find these, I buy a case, and do not regret it. If they beat out wines that are 3x the price, so be it. Still, I find more wines in the upper reaches (short of the rarified air of true collectables), that I truly enjoy, than at the lower end. However, if the wine has what it takes, I do not care what it costs. Maybe I'd been a poor candidate for the afore-mentioned study.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  I am just the opposite, I expect so much more from a $50 bottle, that it is easy to be disappointed. With a $5 (well okay maybe $10) bottle I just expect it to not taste terrible, so if I run across one that is actually good, I am really impressed.

                2. re: Midlife

                  midlife, there's nothing that a government grant can't encourage! ;-)

                3. all I can say is I used to sell a nice dry touch of mineral hint of fruit white with a bit of natural effervenscence (ugh sp!) it was cheap from sicily .. under $20 a bottle at a restaurant (maybe $15-16?) no one bought it .. on a bet with a wine rep I raised the price to 21 and couldn't keep enough chilled ... wine has all sorts of "things" attached to it.. no one like to admit that a cheap wine is good, well at least in the states. Go figure