HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


Price goggles

A few weeks back, a friend brought a couple of bottles of wine to dinner. It was a Caves des Papes 2006 Cote du Rhone. The label had a negociant's address in Chateauneuf du Pape and no other identifying information.

It was pleasant enough stuff. We had one bottle that night, and a week or so later I opened the other bottle for a family dinner and enjoyed it even more because I gave it plenty of time to open up. I assumed that it was just another of the mid-priced Rhones that have always been great everyday reds.

Imagine my surprise when I saw it on the shelf at Trader Joe's for $4.99 a bottle. So now there are a couple of cases in the pantry. It's my current favorite - Recession Rhone. And now it seems to taste even better.

So here's the question: when you learn the price of a wine after you've tasted it, does that change your opinion of the stuff? And by the same token, to what extent does knowing the price of a wine before you taste it affect your perception of what you're drinking?

For me, a wine that was decent when I thought it cost ~$12 is delicious when I know it was only $5. On the other hand, knowing that I'm drinking a great wine makes me pay attention and enjoy it more than I would if I didn't know that it was something special.

Maybe this subject has already been beaten to death, but have you ever had an experience where the knowledge or ignorance of the price of a bottle of wine affected your perception of the wine itself?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. >>> So here's the question: when you learn the price of a wine after you've tasted it, does that change your opinion of the stuff? And by the same token, to what extent does knowing the price of a wine before you taste it affect your perception of what you're drinking? <<<

    The late Jerry D. Mead used to give a wine two "scores." The first, on a 100-point scale, was -- like Parker and the Speculator -- an evaluation of the wine's quality. The second, also on a 100-point scale, was an evaluation of the wine's VALUE.

    Presuming I do NOT know the price in advance . . . either I like the wine, or I do not. If I don't, it doesn't matter what the price is -- I still don't like it. If I do like it, the price determines whether or not I buy it.

    Presuming that I DO know the price in advance . . . either I like the wine, or I do not. If I do not, again -- it doesn't matter what the price is -- I still don't like it. If I do like it, the price determines whether or not I buy it.


    12 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      But of the wines you like, presumably there are some you enjoy more than others. Does value have any impact on how you feel about them?

      We both know there are plenty of wines that are good, but not worth what they sell for. Presumably that's what you're referring to when you say "the price determines whether or not I buy it." But what about a wine that can fight above its weight class - that is comparable to fairly-priced products that are two or three times as expensive?

      At least for me, the little triumph of having gotten a little extra bang for my buck adds something to the experience. If the same batch of wine were to be bottled under two different labels, one of which sold for $x and the other for $2x, there's no doubt in my mind that I'd derive more enjoyment from drinking the less expensive one.

      1. re: alanbarnes

        Sorry for the delay in replying . . . I'm in New Orleans, and replying via iPhone -- well, it works, but for even medium-length posts, it's a PITA . . . .

        Two points here:

        1) >>> But what about a wine that can fight above its weight class - that is comparable to fairly-priced products that are two or three times as expensive? <<< What you are asking is "do I enjoy a cheap wine as much or better than an expensive wine?" No. I enjoy a wine that I like. Period. If I find a wine that I really like and it's (e.g.) $30, I might buy 2-3 bottles; if I find a wine that I like and it's less than $10, I might STILL only buy 3-4 bottles . . . but, depending upon how much wine I have at home of a similar type, I might buy more than that . . . maybe 4-6, maybe even a case (although THAT occurs only on EXTREMELY rare occasions -- there are simply too many great wines out there for me to [almost] ever buy a case of a single wine: I would much prefer having 3-4 bottles of many different wines). I don't enjoy the wine any more, but my wallet does. For ME, there is a distinct, separate difference between those two things. My wallet is happy whenever I find a wine I like that doesn't cost a lot of money. OTOH, my wallet simply refuses to open when a bottle of wine is over a certain amount of money . . . although, there are times (I confess) when I "have to" buy that bottle of ____________ even though it's $$$$ . . . it's just too good not to have.

        I will admit, however, that a) those occasions are increasingly rare, and b) usually confined more to bottles of specific spirits than to bottles of wine.

        2) >>> If the same batch of wine were to be bottled under two different labels, one of which sold for $x and the other for $2x, there's no doubt in my mind that I'd derive more enjoyment from drinking the less expensive one. <<<

        Do you know what a T-test (or triangle test) is? UC Davis used to (and perhaps still do) run these tests in their sensory evaluation classes and labs. Simply put, take two wines of the same type (e.g.: two California Cabernets, two California Chardonnays, etc.) and three glasses. Pour one of the wines into a glass; pour the other wine into two of the glasses. Serve blind to an individual taster. IIRC, the on-going results were (are) pretty much the same as a random guess. That is, most people have a REALLY HARD TIME telling which of the two glasses are the same . . . .

        I can't speak for you, but "If the same batch of wine were to be bottled under two different labels, one of which sold for $x and the other for $2x," there would be no doubt in MY mind that most people would think they were two different wines!


        1. re: zin1953

          Oh cool, the triangle test sounds fun! I'll have to give it a try for a few months (assuming my glass preparer is recruited willingly to this silliness).

          1. re: tmso

            Glass preparer? Is that a new rank in the wine hierarchycal ladder?

            Perhaps between stems washer and corkscrew handler ?

            1. re: RicRios

              Well, if I don't come up with a better term than "lab monkey" for my companion's role in this, I don't have much hope of her playing along ... better suggestions are of course welcome :-)

              1. re: tmso

                Oh, just concentrate on the "fun" quotient. Tell her you saw this on "Oprah," or whatever. It is all in how you "sell" it.

                Good luck, and please report on your "findings."


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Okay, I've got the experimental design done up, got an indulgent accomplice who fortunately thinks it's amusing how excited I get about silly experiments and the chance to do a little stats, and I'm ready to go. Actually, I had a false start last night: took one look at the three glasses of Hautes-Côtes-de-Nuit and could immediately tell from the color which was which. So! It's going to be Bordeaux and Côtes-du-Rhone for this test, no Pinot noir and no Nebbiolo.

                  In case anyone else wants to play along, here's how I organized things. The glasses get labeled 1-2-3, and two bottles of wine are A and B. I made up a table repeating the pattern: AAB, ABA, BAA, BBA, BAB, ABB eight times. Each line gets labeled with a playing card, has a blank for the date when it's done, and a blank for what my guess is for the pattern. I took the aces out of a deck of cards and shuffled them well. When doing a trial, my lovely assistant draws a card from the pile and goes with the corresponding line in the table. Easy, random, well distributed. There's no need to actually do all 48 lines to get a good sample, 20 or so should suffice, assuming you keep doing a similar style of wine.

                  That said, this will take some time to do. I won't be doing it every night, and currently have two 3/4-full bottles of burgundy to drink before I can even get started for real :-). Oh, and the results should be completely blind to the taster (ie, you don't get to see if you're right or not) until the end.

                  I'll write it up in a few months and post the results.

                  1. re: tmso

                    SERIOUS THREAD DRIFT . . .

                    Once upon a time, when the San Francisco National Wine Competition (now the SF International Wine Comp.) used to test their potential judges, a T-test was a part of the judging test. So, too, was an "identify-the-flaw" tasting. Apparently, either it was too difficult, or there wasn't a budget for it, but they stopped testing the judges when Wilfred Wong ceased being the Chief Judge.

                    The California State Judge still administers a potential judges' test, and while it does not include a T-test, is much more rigorous than the SF test was . . .

                    1. re: zin1953

                      Essentially the T-test was the basis was for the "price suggestibility" test at
                      Caltech I mentioned below.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        How ironic, given that it sounds like they could have had a much better control on their subjects' perceptive abilities if they'd combined the two test.

                    2. re: tmso

                      Well that was a bust. It was fun at first, but after 16 tests, I was feeling a bit too confident in my picks. So after doing number 17 last night, I looked at the results. 16/17 correct, with the only mistake being when I had two horribly corked bottles of 2004 Crozes-Hermitage.

                      The tasting was fun at least. Just wish I had results worth graphing :-)

            2. re: zin1953

              I gotta' get me one of them there wallets. It is obviously smarter than I am, and will make my wife a happy woman.

              I expect to see some reviews, upon your return from NOLA, on that board.

              Safe travels, great food and some wonderful wines, that you have never tasted - as if that is possible... !

              Could well be right about the perception, by the public, of the same wine with two different price-points. Maybe, as a test of this, I can do two totally different labels and replace them. Print out a price list with some abstract comments, and serve them to the IW&FS, at a tasting. It would be interesting to see the note cards after the event. Now, I might get kicked of the board, should I do such, but maybe I'd learn something and have some fun. If I build up the courage to do this, I'll do a report on the results. Maybe do a "triangle test too," but gotta' keep 'em from peeking.


        2. Price goggles don't get me anymore. Now it's the familiarity with the producers and the region+vintage that tends to trick me. Recently tasted a few champagnes, and completely dismissed a NV Veuve Clicquot as just okay to sip, but found myself actually liking it after awhile. I thought: Say what you will about Veuve, and how at its price, one can certainly find better. But if you want a well-made bubbly, without wanting to put any thought into it, you could do a lot worse.

          Nowadays, I don't even want to know the region, grape or vintage if I'm to judge it completely objectively.

          1. We have a group that does blind tastings every month and it is always a great thrill when someone brings in a <$10 bottle that's a big hit. The last one I recall was a Sierra Cantabria Codice Rioja.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Frodnesor

              Isn't that Sierra Cantabria just beautiful??? Recently tried it at suggestion of nice wine shop dude...he said he can't keep it on the shelf.

            2. Alanbarnes, I've become completely hysterical when drinking a reasonable bottle at a ridiculously low price. Once was upon drinking a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, after remembering I had bought 2 bottles of this wine for less than a small container or chocolate covered fruit. The second time, it was while drinking a 1.79 Euro bottle of Alentejo while in Portugal. Both of these bottles were so much better than I thought they would be, and yet they were as cheap as pop. As a result, these wines have reached a semi-mythical status in my head (before others poo-poo my appreciation of 2 buck chuck, please keep in mind that where I am from, this is a rare wine).

              I live in a place where it is the cheapest bottles still run a minimum of $5-7 dollars, and those bottles are pretty raw. But I've had my share of super-inexpensive wine during travels abroad, and most of the time (to paraphrase ex-coach Dennis Green) "They are who we thought they were". So when you find a $2 bottle that shines above the rest, it is so easy to become completely enamoured. I wish it happened more often. Unfortunately, I tend to have expensive tastes, and while I can drink almost anything put in front of me, I trend towards preferring the pricier bottles (yes, even when tasting wines blind. I can routinely pick out the most expensive one of the lot. I really wish I could shake this habit.).

              I would agree with Zin1953's post. Price does not determine whether I like a wine or not, but does affect whether I'll buy it. If something is inexpensive and tasty, I'll pull my wallet out faster than Annie Oakley! (Canadian version of the right to bear arms... being from Winnipeg, if there is a good bargain, watch out! Don't get in my way).

              1. Like others commenting here, when I taste a wine, I decide how much I like the wine without regard to its price. When I am shopping for wine, I generally have a price range in mind that I am willing to pay. If I find that a wine I like is fairly expensive, I might choose another wine that I like almost as much if it is somewhat to significantly less expensive. A small price difference would not affect my decision. On the other hand, I am always happy when I find a wine that I like that I can also easily afford. Of course, this is the same way I approach any buying decision ( wine, coffeemakers, automobiles, televisions, etc.) I also admit, that there is not an absolute linear relationship between the quality and price of wine for me. That is, I don't have to like a $50 wine 10 times as much as a $5 wine or 5 times as much as a $10 wine for me to buy it, but I still have to like it significantly more than the $5 or $10 wine.

                Like you, if I find a wine in the $5 to $10 range that I like, I am very happy. Buying a case would be an easy, low risk proposition.

                1. Alan, I don't think you're going to get a very useful answer from people here because I have a feeling that a lot of the effect of price on opinion is subconscious. Like everyone here, I don't let price ALONE affect my conscious opinion of a wine, but I'm sure that there's all kinds of drama going on below the surface. That said, I do have a special level of enjoyment for expensive wines paid for by *someone else.*

                  There have been studies that show that the price of a wine (or a perceived importance of the wine) do greatly affect most people's enjoyment of that wine. Here's a link:

                  1. I suspect that I, and many others on this board, have become "price-blind."

                    Meaning, we've tasted so much wine through the years that neither hype nor price influences our opinion of the wine. It's very easy to pick out an overpriced wine, one that doesn't deliver on an expected amount of flavor for a high price.

                    Likewise, it's easy to give full credit to a wine that tastes like it cost far more than what it does. You just gave an example of this.

                    What's most interesting to me is to do a critical price/flavor analysis. If Cabernet #1 costs $40 and Cabernet #2 -- which tastes slightly better -- costs $65, is the additional flavor worth the extra $25 or not? I always love that type of question.

                    I often drink wines blind -- just pull something from my cellar, or drink something that's been given to me -- with no idea of price. I always decide the value of the wine independent of price.

                    1. I always break down tasting ( blind or otherwise ) in three steps:

                      1) How much do I like it?
                      2) How much does it cost?
                      3) What's the ratio of 1) over 2) ?

                      I keep all 3 figures in the back of my mind.

                      My evaluation (most probably) goes in this order:
                      1) : the higher the better, then
                      3) : the higher the better, then
                      2) : the lower the better

                      1. Alan,

                        For me, it's about the wine. Now, I know the prices of most of the wines that I drink, because I purchase them. It's seldom a blind tasting, from that standpoint. If it is inexpensive and gives me a lot to love, I am pleased. If it is expensive, and it has nothing to love, I am depressed.

                        Now, there was a recent "test," regarding the perception of the quality of wine, based on knowing the price. Cannot recall who ran it, but it got a bunch of press about a quarter ago. This test indicated that people favored higher-priced wines, and rated them higher, if they knew the price beforehand. IIRC, it also indicated that some of the lower priced wines got higher marks, if the price was not known. Do not know the exact details and may have mis-stated some of the findings. I also do not know how scientific the tests were, or even recall the organization. Someone else will pop in with the correct details.

                        A couple of years ago, a gentleman in Costco looked into my basket and saw some high-end reds (seems I had just bought some Grange, plus others). He asked if I had any problem with SA wines. "No, I love many that I have tried." He took me back to the red wines, and told me, "don't look at the price, but do try this wine." He handed me a tissue-wrapped bottle. I peaked at the wine, and it was Glen Carlou Grand Classique, a Bdx. blend. I looked at the price. "Please, do not look at the price, or you will not buy it," he said. On his rec. I bought two bottles at US$12/btl. I opened a bottle that night and both my wife and I loved it. I went back and bought a full case. As I gifted some of these, Costco sold completely out! It's only been recently, that my Costco stores have been able to get more.

                        For me, a great price with a really good wine equals just that, a really good wine at a great price. The price does not influence me, other than to indicate that I will probably buy this one again, provided that it's good to begin with.


                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          That was a Caltech study on wine price and perception. But the study was flawed because the 20 college student volunteers knew little about wine, and so their suggestibility was increased. They were swayed by price.

                          Here are two short write-ups of the study, and the complete published .pdf doc:


                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            Thank you for the info. I could not come up with the source, but also recalled that many had "poo-poo'ed" the results, probably for the reasons that you mention.