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Does anyone know good wine?

November 1, 2007

This article highlights a study that seems to confirm what many of us already knew: most people who think they know good wine are full of it. At a restaurant, diners were given a free glass of wine to accompany their meals. Half were shown a bottle with a California vineyard on it, and half were shown a bottle with a North Dakota vineyard on it. All diners were actually given a glass of Charles “Two Buck Chuck” Shaw wine from Trader Joe’s. Those who thought they were drinking California wine rated the food, the wine, and the restaurant better than those who believed they were given North Dakota wine.

The authors repeated the California vs North Dakota experiment again, this time with a group of MBA students at a wine and cheese party. Surprise, surprise, the MBAs said the “California” Two Buck Chuck was 85% better than the “North Dakota” Two Buck Chuck. They also said the cheese tasted better when they thought they were drinking California wine.

Now, if you are like me, you may be thinking that general public is one thing, but serious food connoisseurs are quite another. Surely they will not fall for such trickery. You would be wrong:

“Small cues such as origin or a wine or whether the label or name catches your eye often trick even serious Foodies,” said co-author Dr. Collin Payne. “He (Wansink) has even conducted demonstrations of this at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and Apicious Culinery Institute in Florence.”

What’s the moral of the story? If you are looking to impress someone, whether it is a restaurant customer, a date, or a group of friends, the label on the bottle of wine is more important than the wine inside the bottle. Buy a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and pour it into a nice decanter before your guests arrive and they will never know the difference. Perception is everything.

Either that, or people hate North Dakota.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. andy permalink*
    November 1, 2007 2:54 pm

    This reinforces what I’ve always practiced: buying the cheapest wine possible. None of it really tastes all that great; all of it will get you drunk. And it all enhances the taste of food, because food is better when you’re drunk.

  2. Richard permalink
    November 1, 2007 3:37 pm

    There is no doubt that perception plays a role in evaluating almost anything that is basically subjective; good or bad wine is often in the “nose / mouth of the beholder” so to speak. But I completely disagree with buying the cheapest wine available. Good wine does not have to be expensive as price does not quarantee quality, and even if it did, many people who say they like wine really have limited exposure to wine in general and since “taste” is subjective, may not like a type of wine regardless of how well it is made. But there is most definitely a difference. Fred Franzia may not want to admit it, but mass produced wine from high yield vineyards with less than optimum care does not stack up to well made wine from a well run vineyard and experienced wine maker. Last comment – I agree that food most definitely taste better with wine… but I don’t believe it is simply because of the alcohol – wine has been grown for centuries around the globe in a prescribed way .. preciously because it complements the available foods in that region. In fact, many wines only really shine with food and have trouble standing on their own.

  3. Keri permalink
    November 1, 2007 8:11 pm

    I’m not surprised. I saw this show recently where they filled expensive bottles of water with tap water from a garden hose outside and then had a water steward (instead of a wine steward) present them to people at the restaurant at $7 and $15 a bottle. He let them taste two telling them the price, and had people compare it to the same water presented as tap water. They all said they could taste a big difference and really like the more expensive exotic waters.

    That said, I think there is a big difference between good and bad wine. The thing is, most people couldn’t tell you what that difference is. I know what I like and I’d say most merlots are bad. I’ve been told that’s because I’m not drinking the right ones. Probably right.

  4. November 1, 2007 11:20 pm

    I would love to have been behind a two-way mirror to watch that experiment. I would also be curious about the average wine knowledge of the diners. An MBA does not mean you know anything about wine.

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