The Only Reason not to Become a Wine Expert…maybe
August 26, 2008, 6:39 pm
Filed under: Wine News

We tend to think of wine prices as rough indicators of quality, but a recent study shows that–without knowing the price of a wine–non-expert wine drinkers derive equal utility regardless of price. If tasters know that a wine is expensive or if they see an attractive bottle, their enjoyment will increase. Essentially, expectations determine enjoyment. Given 3 glasses of wine, two from the same bottle and one from a similar bottle, only 1/2 of tasters could pick the ‘odd’ glass. Of those successful tasters, only 1/2 could then match each wine to a wine critic’s description.

Scholarly paper with statistics and equations

Article discussing results

There is one excellent lesson from this study: always buy pretty but not necessarily expensive bottles for gifts, parties, or anytime you want to impress. Unless Robert Parker comes over and starts calling you out as a cheapskate, most people will enjoy the wine more–or at least no less.

But I have a problem with this paper: where the hell did they get these 6000 tasters? The smoker’s lounge of regional airports all over America? These people can’t taste their collective way out of a paper bag. These researchers must have a very loose definition of expert. If you’ve had 15 glasses of wine in your life, you can taste the difference between Two Buck Chuck and something a few rungs up. These ‘tasters’ (yeah they’re getting snobbish quotes now) barely did better than guessing. In fact, they liked the cheaper wines more than the expensive wines.

I think we need to do a tasting of our own and sort out the facts here.


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