Sep 20, 2019

Expensive vs. Cheap Wine

In one study with over 6,000 taste tasters, comprising about 12% sommeliers and the rest general public, they tried to determine if people like expensive wines more than cheap ones.
It found the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training however, there are indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment.

Results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.
Consider that over 400 compounds which influence the scent alone have been identified in wine. Also, temperature by itself can make a huge difference to taste, because of how this can affect smell and taste. As wine enthusiast David Derbyshire notes, “Serve a New World chardonnay too cold and you’ll only taste the overpowering oak. Serve a red too warm and the heady boozy qualities will be overpowering.”

As for the wine experts, while they may have honed their skills with sometimes thousands of hours of study into all things wine, they still have the same brain as the rest of us. Wine expert and journalist Katie Kelly Bell, was traveling with a fellow group of wine connoisseurs. While at Waters Vineyards in Washington State, the owner poured everyone two glasses of white wine and asked them to identify what types they were.

Bell sums up: "We swirled, we sniffed, and we wrinkled our brows in contemplation, some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an unoaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right); he was pointedly demonstrating the power of just one element in the wine tasting experience: temperature."

A test conducted at the suggestion of winery owner Robert Hodgson at the California State Fair wine competition. Panels of 65 to 70 expert judges were given a huge variety of wines to rank as per usual, but what they were not told was that they were actually given each of the wines three times and from the same exact bottle.

After running this same experiment four consecutive years, what Hodgson found was that, to quote the paper published on the experiment, only “about 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group.” In fact, he even found about 10% of the judges were so far off that they switched a Bronze rating to a Gold for the exact same wine from the exact same bottle.

In another experiment, Brochet also gave a similar panel a glass of white wine and a glass of red wine and gave them a list of common words used to describe white and red wines and told them to assign them appropriately to the two wines in front of them. It turns out the red wine was actually the same as the white wine except dyed red, and only a small percentage of the testers were able to accurately identify that both wines tasted the same in the descriptive words they chose to identify each wine. Not all of the taste testers got it wrong.

Bottom Line - Wine tasting is subjective and what about a given type appeals to you is all that matters. If knowing you paid $200 for that glass enhances your experience, great. For others buying several bottles of Two-Buck Chuck so they can enjoy many glasses with friends may make that one all the more enjoyable. The only thing that matters with regard to a wine is whether or not you like it.

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