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04.17.2008

Does Expensive Wine Taste Better Than Cheap Wine?

Regardless of your level of wine knowledge, and independent of the price you normally pay for a bottle of wine, I'm willing to bet that you'll agree with the following statement:

On average (which is to say, not ALWAYS) a bottle of wine that costs $150 will taste better than a bottle that costs $2.

That's what I would assume, at least. And built into that assumption is another assumption -- that many people (though certainly not all) would be able to tell the difference between the two.

According to a recent paper from the delightful folks at the Journal for Wine Economics, I couldn't be more wrong.

Not only can a random sample of people presented with several glasses of wine (and no information about the wines) not tell the difference between a $2 bottle of wine and a $150 bottle of wine, they tend to think that the cheaper wines taste better (without knowing anything about the prices).

Gulp.

Which means, of course, that for most people, the right amount to spend on a bottle of wine is as little as possible.

I can hear Fred Franzia rubbing his meaty hands together in glee.

But don't despair, wine lovers, there is hope for the masses. While this paper's results, which seem to be extremely rigorous and well arrived at, might call into question the value of many things in the wine world (not the least of which are wine critics), it seems that there exists a significant difference between the preferences of the average person and those who know a thing or two about wine.

Yes, a little education goes a long way, apparently. The economists learned that those who actually knew some things about wine, because they had taken classes, or were just passionate consumers of wine, reported that the more expensive wines tasted better to them.

So you don't have to go smash all those expensive bottles you own in despair. You simply have to learn more about wine so that you can enjoy them properly. Which, in the end, is true about so many of the finer things in life: music, film, food, and even sex.

Read the full paper.


Thanks to Arthur for tipping me off to the study.


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