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Does Wine Taste Better if it Costs More?

winetrialsbook.jpgOn a freelancer's budget, we have long been proponents of wine bargains. There's something fun about discovering a really nice wine that's only $10. In fact, it's rare we pay over $20 retail for a bottle of wine. Now some studies are confirming what we knew all along: sometimes paying a lot for a wine is overrated.

Food writer Robin Goldstein got 500 volunteers (including wine experts as well as everyday wine drinkers) to do blind tastings of more than 6,000 glasses of wine. The results? 100 wines under $15 consistently outperformed their more-expensive cousins. The results are detailed in a new book to be released May 1, "The Wine Trials: 100 Everyday Wines Under $15 that Beat $50 to $150 Wines in Brown-Bag Blind Tastings."

In another study, done by the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University, found that changes in the stated price of a  wine influenced not only how good volunteers thought it tasted, but even the activity of a brain region that is involved in our experience of pleasure. Volunteers tasted five wine samples which, they were told, were identified by their different retail prices: $5, $10, $35, $45, and $90 per bottle. While the subjects tasted and evaluated the wines, their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. The subjects consistently reported that they liked the taste of the $90 bottle better than the $5 one, and the $45 bottle better than the $35 one.

There was a catch to the experiment, however. Although the subjects had been told that they would taste five different, variously priced wines, they actually had sampled only three. Wines 1 and 2 were used twice, but labeled with two different prices. For example, wine 2 was presented as the $90 wine (its actual retail price) and also as the $10 wine. When the subjects were told the wine cost $90 a bottle, they loved it; at $10 a bottle, not so much. In a follow-up experiment, the subjects again tasted all five wine samples, but without any price information; this time, they rated the cheapest wine as their most preferred. Here's a link to an article on the study: http://pr.caltech.edu/periodicals/CaltechNews/articles/v42/price.html

Posted on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 10:05AM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in | CommentsPost a Comment

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